HOLLYWOOD'S HATEFUL HOOEY ABOUT THE SOUTH
Confronting Tolkien's mediocre, myth-obsessed mind, Hugo Dyson, a member of Tolkien's inner circle, let rip with a spontaneous slip of the tongue. As related by writer Kevin Michael Grace, Dyson "once reacted to a Tolkien reading with, 'Oh no! Not another f---ing elf!'"
My response was a little more muted. "Lord of the Rings," I had written, "appeals to adults with a proclivity for hobgoblins and gobbledygook."
Recent ferment makes the nation's entertainment choices even more alarming than I had previously thought.
In fact, it is particularly significant that a country which has created its own fable of reality in
Having said this, let me offer a correction: Tolkien appeals to adults who believe in hobgoblins – the kind who believe that hobgoblins can make WMD vanish and can also unleash democracy from a genie bottle.
While I don't often visit the surreal cinema, I do make an exception for films about the South. The reason is simply this: The road to national sanity leads through the South. The republic, RIP, can only be revived once the central government – which voided the Constitution to invade the South and, by legal extension, the rest of the once-sovereign states – is driven back. If
The latest epic about the South, sadly, leaves little confidence in such an epiphany.
Director Anthony Minghella once turned a soporific, indecipherable book called "The English Patient" into a rather good film. With "
This, of course, is not an unreasonable scenario considering that
The book's insipid author, Charles Frazier, boasts some sort of ancestral connection to the main protagonists. He, however, porcellanizes the Southern identity of the lovers by painting them as ideological pacifists.
So it is that Confederate soldier Inman (played by Jude Law) is asked by his lady love, Southern Belle Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman – better an Australian actress than a Yankee), if "he had ever seen the great celebrated warriors." Inman replies that he "wished to live a life where little interest could be found in one gang of despots launching attacks upon another." While the standard contemporary plumb line – South evil, North good – is averted, a Southern hero remains neutral about one of the few just wars Americans have fought.
Aside being depicted as coarse (incessant potty talk), the portrayal of the apparently hooligan-like home guards plays to the stereotype of the murderous Southerner – most Southerners killed in the film are killed by their own.
Clyde Wilson, professor of history at the
In fact, their leaders were personally picked by Gov. Vance, who was a native of the mountains and knew the people well. Consequently, he selected the most respected old men in the communities. While they were definitely serious about finding deserters and persuading them to go back, the point was to return men to the army, not kill them.
Attempting to murder a black woman whom you've impregnated was evidently yet another Southern pastime. One of two men-of-faith in the film is caught red-handed preparing such an execution. Commentator Steve Sailor corrects this slander: "Contrary to popular ideas about steamy nights of miscegenation on the old plantation, African-Americans in the rural South are the least admixed with whites." Strom Thurmond, says Sailor, was unusual, not least in love and longevity.
After being wounded in the
Back at the ranch,
The historically superimposed Girl Power message of "
The intrepid Ruby Thewes (courtesy of the very able Renee Zellweger) arrives to "teach
There's a magnificent scene in "Gone with the Wind" where the now-indigent Scarlett O'Hara finds out that the New Class has imposed enormous taxes on her
Well, the postmodern author of "
At the film's end, the Old Order has been inverted. The air is now thick with the smell of the herd: The mistress, sharing and shacking up with her new friends, has turned into commune member.
©By ILANA MERCER
January 2, 2004