Maleficent and Benghazi

Last night I had a date with my one-and-only, and for reasons I won't discuss we ended up seeing this damnable new take on Sleeping Beauty.

Now I wasn't expecting much. What little I see of current Hollywood doesn't leave me impressed with its imagination; and "reimaginings" without imagination don't do much for me. But I walked out of this one spitting mad. Indulge me a moment while I say why.

If you haven't seen it (lucky souls), the concept is perfectly simple. The king from Sleeping Beauty owed a great debt to the "bad fairy," but instead betrayed her to gain power for himself. (The poor thing didn't understand how greedy men were 'til later...her Green credentials are spotless.) It relates to his desire, and his father's, to steal the peaceful woodlands from the magical creatures who inhabit them -- and if they'd only leave them alone, or make amends and give back what they stole, all would be well. The fairy's curse is a burst of understandable righteous anger at the king's perfidy; but he's able to get a measure of mercy out of her just by begging on his knees, that being the right position to check his privilege. And later on the conscience-ridden Maleficent does everything she can to fix the problem. And in the end "true love" is revealed to be, not a romantic attachment between man and woman (which our female lead denies, and she's never proven wrong), but pity and remorse for a victim.

I expected some genuflections to the prevailing orthodoxies of PC and "Cultural Marxism." I didn't expect them to replace the whole story. If you're a civilized ruler under attack...white male type...well, that settles it, you must have provoked it. In a classic heroic fairy tale (or even a healthy cartoon version), there's evil in the world and it's got to be fought, and kings, princes, knights, and soldiers have an especial duty to do so. In this? There's no evil but what you create yourself; no one's out to attack you unless you provoked it; the "victim card" not only explains but excuses every evil; and those who can play it have all the noblest sentiments. In fact, no one except victims has any noble sentiments, not in this film they don't. The story's been rewritten to include hundreds of soldiers, but they're either villains or faceless dragon fodder, and everyone from king to peasant would be better off without them. The cartoon was truer to life.

It seems to me this new take on the classic tale is the same viewpoint that inspired certain parties' incorrect assertions on the subject of Benghazi. I don't think they invented the "video" story out of whole cloth. I think it was their first instinct. Americans under attack by Muslims? It must be our fault. We must have provoked them. Send in the troops? Get our people out at once? Perish the thought -- that might provoke them some more. Better to show an appeasing image. And when the first instinct turned out to be was still the natural story to run with. Teach every child that view; then our future leaders are secured.

Apparently now not only our schools and our press, but our fairytales as well, must teach suicidalism.. This civilization's going to be hard to rebuild. I think all that's left for Hollywood is to retell Aesop's fable of the Wolves and the Sheep to explain how it's all the Sheepdogs' fault. Which, come to that, is just what the wolves were saying.


Grim said...

This mode -- deconstruction -- is at this point so common that it's lost any sense of even being clever. It was still surprising enough to seem clever when Derrida was doing it. (Although it wasn't new: Chaucer himself used the inversion of norms several times in The Knight's Tale, as for example when the young woman for whom the two knights are competing goes to the temple of Diana and prays to the goddess to please let her remain an unmarried version and pass to neither of these two knights.)

It's a one-trick pony, and so predictable as to be boring to me. But a thing repeated regularly doesn't always become boring; sometimes it becomes ritual. I think that's what this is for our cultural Left, now: it's a ritual they delight in, and are happy to do over and over and over to everything, every beloved story, every valued institution, all the time.

David Foster said...

Linked at Chicago Boyz:

raven said...

Thank you for the warning. I went to see Avatar and left with the same feeling. Sometimes I think the only thing that will restore the necessary virtues in the US is if we are over-run, and all the horrors of war visited on us. Then, perhaps, we will recall why all of those "evil white man" traditions were of value.
Some, of course, would prefer to be slaves.

Ymar Sakar said...

"I don't think they invented the "video" story out of whole cloth. I think it was their first instinct. Americans under attack by Muslims? It must be our fault. We must have provoked them. "

Technically, they did provoke them. As Nao whatever his name was, worked as a Muslim agent and the State Department commissioned the video, latest information provides.

So when Clinton said "The State Department had absolutely nothing to do with the video", they were doing a pre shadow.

Since Hollywood pays almost no taxes, they can get even more profit for their War on Humanity if they go after patents that no longer require loyalties or expired copyright topics entirely. That includes Greek myths such as Titans, 300 Spartans at the Gate of Thermopylae, as well as fairy tales and fables. Although they would be willing to pay for the copyright lease on a Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, if they had nothing better in store. Guaranteed name recognition and demographic draw.

The only recent Disney esque fable I've liked was Stardust and Snowflake thingy... what was it called, Frozen?

Sword of the Stranger was much more interesting a fable deconstruction.

The slaves think they are free. They have Amazon, kindle, starbucks, and they can vote in their Congress critter when they feel like it. They feel no shackles on their hands or feet. They sense no shackles on their mind and heart. They are free, the Slaves believe.

David Foster said...

Most people in the entertainment and writing biz, and most academics, aren't super-creative...that's not a slam, it's only to be expected, most people in *any* field are not going to be super-creative. But people in the aforementioned industries *are* under heavy pressure to produce things that are in some way original. This is a lot easier to do if you have a pre-created "deconstruction" apply; such frameworks allow kind of an assembly-line creation of apparent Newness.

E Hines said...

people in the aforementioned industries *are* under heavy pressure to produce things that are in some way original.

In what way is the America is bad and Americans are stupid in any way original? This has been the Progressives' meme since Croly, Roosevelt, and Wilson. Today's Progressives should be suing Hollywood for copyright violations.

The "Newness" seems so only to products of modern public school education.

Eric Hines

Grim said...

I think the sense of novelty is one of the emotions generated by the ritual. Generating emotion is one of the purposes of ritual, so we can generate a sense of community by all having the same experience (more or less).

So it isn't actually novel: it's a ritual. But the ritual is built on a mythic structure -- the evilness and stupidity of the traditional West, not just America -- that allows them to feel that repeating the ritual is something new, because it's rejecting something old.

Ymar Sakar said...

Hollywood has writer and perhaps even actor unions. They call them guilds, being the cuteness that they are, but they are unions.

Union work these days, isn't very quality intensive.

PC gaming publishers have the same problem, which is why the guy that made Babylon 5 would probably have had better experience with Kickstarter than Fox. Freed of the Hollywood corporate, MPAA, structure, things can start getting done.

Hollywood's strategic tasking is to destroy American morale, and convince every foreigner that Americans are gun loving, criminals that kill everybody on the street like some Wild West shootout. In order to fund their strategic aims, they need profit and money, a lot of it. Which comes from using real guns to create Fast and Furious like propaganda to disarm guns from the population, so that their gang lords have easier targets and their BodyGuards have an easier job protecting the important class, the aristocrats.

Hollywood couldn't make anything original if their life depended. Originality requires thinking. Being a zombie is a requirement of the job for their strategic goals, however.

Texan99 said...

I like science fiction and fantasy so much, and so enjoy seeing them well-staged in movies or animation now that new techniques are available, that it's a real disappointment to watch them these days and constantly find myself saying, "Oh, please. Oh, PLEASE."

In the same vein, I don't ever want to see any more updated consciousness-raised movie versions of Jane Austen. On the other hand, I detested the novel "The Last of the Mohicans," but quite enjoyed the movie, which was unfaithful to the original in many ways large and small, mostly in a bid to capture the interest and sympathy of a modern audience. That particular remake totally had my number.

David Foster said... take the predefined pattern and apply it in different ways, to generate the feeling that you have done creative work.

Moreover, I do think many of these people think the pattern itself is something new to the viewers/listeners, even though it rarely is anymore. In academia, for example, a professor may assume that his kids grew up in Zenith, when Dad was a glad-handing salesman & a member of the Rotary, while Mom was a devout Christian specializing in cookie-baking. Actually, Dad was a guidance counselor at a school and Mom was an HR person for a government agency, and the "new ideas" that the prof is propounding are the same ones that the kid has heard every day of his life.

Grim said...

I detested the novel "The Last of the Mohicans," but quite enjoyed the movie, which was unfaithful to the original in many ways...

That one is such a terrible book, it's great that someone managed to do something with it.

Texan99 said...

Academic lecturers do seem to be stuck a few generations in the past, rooting out notions almost none of their students have had for a really long time. If they really wanted to be avant-garde, they'd ask their students to get empathetically and non-judgmentally inside the heads of the Rotary-cookie-baking set.

David Foster said...

Tex, several years ago I sat in on a philosophy course at Georgetown U where the professor actually *did* do something to shake up the students in their received and unexamined beliefs...he challenged the whole idea of cultural relativism, and developed a pretty sophisticated critique thereof. The students were shocked!...almost to the point of being disoriented.

Not a common approach, though, I'm afraid.

Grim said...

How did he go about building his critique, David?

David Foster said...

It was a few years ago, and I'm having trouble distinguishing between items included his original critique and those in my enhancement thereof. I remember that he mentioned the Midgley essay about trying out one's new sword, which I just found on-line:

...referring to the (alleged) Samurai practice of testing out a new sword on the first peasant who happened by.

There was also discussion of the point that cultural relativism is of no use as a guide when multiple cultures meet: whose rules are to take precedence? I think I suggested that multiple cultures can exist even within a single individual--consider for example a German officer circa early 1940s, who was considering joining the plot against Hitler. This man might simultaneously be a member of many different cultures, including:

--Prussian military culture
--European Englightenment culture (Gen Ludwig Bec, for example, war extremely well-read and a member of a scholarly discussion group)

...and probably a few more, all of which might be implying that he should do different things. Strict cultural relativism would seem to be useable only in circumstances where the individual is a member of, and identifies with, only one "closed" culture.

Grim said...

Your own point is an excellent one.

Joseph W. said...

Raven - Agreed. That one really offended me the most when attacking the cute elves' cultural icon was the definition of "shock and awe" was like blaming us for blowing up the Golden Mosque of Samarra.

Chaucer himself used the inversion of norms several times in The Knight's Tale, as for example when the young woman for whom the two knights are competing goes to the temple of Diana and prays to the goddess to please let her remain an unmarried version and pass to neither of these two knights.

I liked the tale Chaucer himself claims to have exaggerated arid tale of a peasant seeking revenge on his enemies, that reads like a theological debate. I always thought the point was, "Okay, you don't like my natural, bawdy tales. You think storytelling should look like this instead?"

douglas said...

I also appreciate the warning- and I was concerned it would be something like this. At least I can tell those of you with children that 'How to Train Your Dragon 2" is better- much better. It's fairly simple in many ways, but it stands out in this way- The young hero, Hiccup, who is coming of age finds himself wanting to be a peacemaker when he finds out about a distant warlord coming towards his home village. He sets out, against his fathers warnings about this warlord and his lack of reason, and ultimately (major spoiler alert) after causing his fathers death, comes to the realization that Dad was right- a Chieftain protects his people, and some folks just need killin'. He actually says (I almost can't believe I heard it in a Hollywood movie) "...and I'm not the peacemaker I thought I was...". Obama could learn a thing or two from 'Dragon 2'.

Don't get me wrong- it's still no rightwing propaganda piece, but it's a significant shift from the likes of Maleficent in my eyes.

Ymar Sakar said...

Right before the modern era of the 21st century, the Japanese used to tie criminals on death row together, then use an expert swordsman to cut through them to test how good a blade's razor sharpness was. However, the blade would still chip in the hands of an inexperienced individual, as it catches on bone at a bad angle.

Japan had two problems, sword and criminals. Now they used one solution to fix both.

Later on this was outlawed and considered bad, so they started using bamboo wrapped in omote tatami to simulate things.

Ymar Sakar said...

Also before the 20th century too.