Saturday, June 27, 2009

An Understated Stoning

The reviews of “The Stoning of Soraya M.", a movie that tells the true story of a woman being stoned to death in fundamentalist Iran, are in... and the critics seem to have a common complaint, that the movie is just too outraged by the whole stoning business.

At the Boston Globe, critic Wesley Morris complains that “The Stoning of Soraya M." is "less a movie than a blunt instrument, a bit of political parable, a bit more outrage, and nary a scrap of real drama or finesse."

In other words there just isn't enough finesse to the whole blunt stoning business. It lacks the kind of nuance that a John Kerry or Barack Obama could bring to the story of a woman being stoned to death.

At Slant Magazine, Nick Schager posits that the movie, "...requires a defter hand than that shown by Nowrasteh, who—aside from a nicely surrealistic aside involving a travelling carnival troupe—resorts to such overblown histrionics (wailing music, kneeling characters beseeching the heavens, Saturday Morning serial-evil villains, an embarrassing "triumphant" coda)"

Yes sadly there just aren't enough surrealistic asides, instead there are evil villains, regional music and kneeling characters praying. Which continues the theme of "there's just not enough nuance".

At the Village Voice, Vadim Rizov dismisses it as a movie for those people "ambivalent about whether stoning women to death is a cruel punishment or not... self-congratulatory fare for people who feel more 'politically conscious' when reminded that women in the Islamic world can have it rough". Because naturally the only justification for a movie dealing with the consequence of Islamic fundamentalism in Iran is for people who are "ambivalent" about it. Meanwhile good progressives who are already know about it and have dismissed the issue in favor of more vital stuff, like agitating for Leonard Peltier, can sneer at anyone who still cares about it for not being truly "politically conscious" like them.

Scott Tobias at the Onion A.V. Club however discards with all the ducking and weaving of the previous reviews to say what they really mean;

It takes zero political courage to speak out against the obvious barbarism of public stonings or the oppressive patriarchy of sharia law , but the film whips out the megaphone anyway, eager to extrapolate the martyrdom of an innocent woman into a broader condemnation of the Muslim world.

Get that? It takes zero political courage to speak out against Sharia law. Which the growing death toll in Tehran testifies to. Now though it takes zero political courage for Hollywood to attack the War on Terror, the Onion A.V. Club praised "In The Valley of Elah", Uncovered: The War on Iraq, War. Inc, Body of War, Stop Loss and just about any half-assed rant against the Bush Administration hammering the same message into the ground. By contrast with Phil Donahue's propaganda piece or an MTV movie against the war, “The Stoning of Soraya M." clearly lacks "political courage."

Except of course the slams from left wing movie critics demonstrate the exact opposite, that it takes far more political courage to create a movie condemning the murder of countless women in Iran... than it does to trot out another self-congratulatory Hollywood movie or documentary based on a mostly fictional article in a trendy magazine some producer read while waiting for his dentist's appointment.

The arrogance of a white liberal film critic condemning an Iranian-American filmmaker for lacking political courage by making a movie protesting against the abuse of women in Iran is truly stunning. So stunning that I suspect Tobias would never get it. In his narrow leftist little world the only Iranians who have political courage are those who denounce George W. Bush.

Tobias complains that the movie extrapolates this to the entire Muslim world, which of course naturally takes even less political courage, what with criticizing Islam being a criminal offense in much of the Muslim world. He follows this up with a series of by the book leftist smears that remind you that the progressive left so often trades in dogmatic ideological condemnations for actual original thought, that no content remains.

"The Stoning Of Soraya M. has a neocon’s sense of good and evil, which could politely be called “moral clarity,” but is more accurately described as narrow, tone-deaf, and thoroughly banal."

This is a variation on the complaint that "The Stoning of Soraya M." isn't nuanced or subtle enough, it has a sense of good and evil, rather than being broadminded and sophisticated enough about stoning women to death.

How would one go about making a broadminded and sophisticated take on stoning a woman to death. I suspect that it would involve her husband working for the CIA and the oil companies, and the entire movie turning on the revelation that it was American colonialist involvement in the region that was responsible for her suffering. Plug in a guest starring role for George Clooney as a slimy oil executive and CIA agent, it would be a lock for next year's Oscars.

Now that would be true "political courage".

With a more shrill outlet at his disposal, Tobias takes the offensive with a preemptive attack of "neo-con", which follows up his earlier claim that the movie is an attack on the entire Muslim world. Which of course means that supporting it makes you a genocidal warmonger just like George W. Bush.

Tobias finishes this off with, "There’s no denying the dramatic force of the killing—just as no right-thinking person would endorse the odious practice, or the outrageous miscarriage of justice that leads to it. But Nowrasteh constantly overplays his hand, not realizing that some horrors speak for themselves."

But of course how exactly do horrors speak for themselves anyway? And isn't "some horrors speak for themselves" really just a subtle way of saying, "shut the hell up about those horrors already, because these aren't the horrors we're interested in."

All this call for nuance, for an understated stoning, was absent when it came to the shrillest anti-war movies and documentaries. Which was par for the course when it came to lambasting the Bush Administration. But when it comes to “The Stoning of Soraya M.", it's suddenly a time for nuance, for subtlety, for being broadminded and sophisticated about it. It's not a time to be blunt about what happens to women like her under Islamic law.

Tobias claims that "no right-thinking person would endorse the practice" and yet by attacking a movie on the subject matter alone, as Tobias, Morris and Rizov do... that is exactly the message being sent. They may not endorse stoning a woman to death, but they endorse a politically enforced silence on the topic, a whitewashing by default.

It isn't murder, it isn't an outrage, it's "the practice." What better way to render a gruesome act into neutral colors than to describe it as "the practice."

And it is of course precisely reactions like this that justify The Stoning of Soraya M's so called heavy-handedness, and its forcible outrage. Because the truth of the matter is not nuanced or sophisticated or deft. It isn't sipped over cocktails or reduced to a neutral formula. It isn't "the practice", it's blood, bone and flesh being spilled, broken and torn.

It's a good rule of thumb that people want to see blunt depictions and and an uncompromising stand on the things that outrage them, and want to see finesse, nuance and deftness on the things whose blunt depiction make them too uncomfortable and conflict with their politics.

It's why progressives wallow in endless depictions of Bush's decision making and the hunt for WMD's, because it diverts them from having to deal with the reality of Saddam's brutality and the extent to which their anti-war activism was complicit in it. And remains complicit in dictatorships all over the world.

It's why the reality of Islamic law is such an uncomfortable subject that it has to be finessed by claiming that only the naive and the unsophisticated need to see a movie about it. The progressives have condemned it. Finished, now let's move on. But no, the killing continues and we can't move on.

So if “The Stoning of Soraya M." can remind morally deadened progressives of the blunt reality of the "practice" they would rather deftly finesse, so much the better.


Lemon said...

Reporters and critics are snotty.
That's a given.

Journalists long ago forgot to report just the facts and began to add in all sorts of nuance and opinion to their 'reports'.
Basics elude them now.
They think they are the intelligencia.
I don't care what a journalist thinks about anything.
Journalism is a job any 8th grader could do .but journalists don't realize that . too bad.

Udiyah said...

They have no idea the depth of the brutality or depravily plumbed in the name of Islam. Or they can't be bothered. I'm including a link they should be forced to watch. But like all PC jackasses they fall all over themselves explainging to us lowly unsophisticated peons that it's just a small minority of the Muslims -- a small percentage plowing humanity under.

If you don't post it, I'll know why.

beniyyar said...

Actually there is a Middle East country, a democracy with free and fair elections and real freedom of expression, which is figuratively "stoned" all the time with unfair, unjust, false, unreasonably bitter criticism, even by her supposed allies. But I won't name any names here.

Anonymous said...

Imagine making a movie about a Jew murdered by Islamic fanatics, let's say, like the rabbi & his preganat wife tortured, sexually abused, & then slaughtered by Islamic thugs in Mumbai?
How about a movie about Iraqi Christians or Egyptian Copts?
You would get the same reaction.
How about a movie about a gay man in a Muslim country?
Leaving for a moment the abomination of the stoning of an innocent woman, just make a movie about the every day life of a few Muslim women, something that I saw EVERY DAY when I lived in an Arab country - the abuse, exploitation, the crushing of the human spirit, the psychological oppression, the insecurity, the deep depression of many leaving them apathetic & passive.
These movie reviewers are glib morally dead fools, lost in a delusion, spouting meaningless BS about things their intellectually shallow minds cannot comprehend.


Keli Ata said...

Steven Spielberg certainly had no trouble being blunt in the final scene of Munich in which the character Avner walks away, with the WTC towers quite prominent in the background.

Subtle as a train wreck.

Liberals are hypocrites. First they want us to be understanding towards Muslims. Little catch--they want us to be sympathetic to violent Muslims, not their victims.

It makes me wonder how Hollywood would film the ending of the film Midnight Express in 2009.

Would they have the American prison Billy Hayes beat the Turkish guard, put on is uniform and walk out to freedom and escape to Greece?

Powerful movie ending BTW. Sigh. I often wish Gilad Shalit's ordeal would end as Billy Hayes' did.

Shavua tov, Sultan:)

Anonymous said...

One of the reasons why Iranian people have been unsuccessful in changing the Islamic laws is becuaes of the heavy support that these Western Leftists give the Islamic government. for years activists have tried to make molesting children over the age of 9 illegal(its considered mariage). but they can't becuaes the prophet ! of Islam liked to molest children. These activists can't make too much noise becuase they will be imprisoned, savagely tortured and even killed for 'destroying the honor of Islam among the Western enemies'.already too many stonings have happened during the last few years, some without prior notice becuase they didn't want a riot by people and no one was able to stop them.
If the people who made these movie ever step in Iran, they will be killled. They are even facing danger in the U.S. They are extremly brave.

Keli Ata said...

You're absolutely right. The film makers and the activists are very brave.

Liberals harped on the WMD issue with Iraq but totally ignored the matter of S. Hussein's 200,000 murder and torture victims and how one victim wasn't allowed to testify at his trial because he was too young at just 10 years old.

When you hear the blood curdling screams of Iranian women when they're arrested by morals police and the fate many of them face you can't help but care.

Mousavi might be no better than Ahmadinejad but I have no doubt in my mind that the protesters are fighting against more than a rigged election.

The screaming these women do when they're arrested is deeper than fear or anger--it's abject terror.

Boop said...

not sure if this is relevant but this post made me think of something Rav. Kook said in the book Orot:

(I'm paraphrasing): Some nations are using their power of imagination too much and the intellect is diminishing. The problem w/that is that that type of imagination (not stemming from Torah bases) lead to judgments (din)in the world.

I'll add poor judgment on the part of the nations!

Also, in Pirke Avot it state that the world stands on three things, among them is kindness. It seems these stoners, etc., are trying to make the world stand on the opposite of kindness!

Will48 said...

There was this joke in Soviet Union about freedom, "an American tells to a Russian, ''we have freedom! I can go to the White House and shout out 'Reagan is a stupid fool!' ''. Yes, yes, replies the Russian, we have freedom too! I too can go to the Red Square and shout out: 'Reagan is a stupid fool!' "

Kinda what moronicliberals do today with their allowed groupthink recitations which replaces free thinking for them.

Anonymous said...

Stunning, depraved hypocrisy from the leftist "critics". We live in an upside world, where black is white, good is bad and terrorists are just missunderstood oppressed people. Why should those critics see anything of value in the struggle of this Iranian woman to make westerners understand the depravity of Islamic laws? Their world, empty of values is too dogmatic to let reality spoil their vision

Will48 said...

OT but important: have you seen

and related videos?

It's the Brzezinski's Grand Global Management Strategy for Obama to implement.

It is UNIFY (with EU top 3), ENLARGE (by including China, Russia etc), ENGAGE (regional powers like Iran by ACCOMMODATING them) and PACIFY (Israel, specifically).

All in the name of Stability.

Maggie M. Thornton said...

It is unimaginable to think that you might be stoned to death. There is no way to nuance it or any other death by torture. How would a filmmaker portray this but as a blunt instrument? Not a scrap of real drama or finesse? There is no way to finesse a stoning, and if the scene does not depict real drama, then what could? Obviouly, this film didn't have that artsy "Indie" feel to it that critics love so much.

You are right Sultan. The Left doesn't want their little world rocked with the cruelty of Islam - not just cruelty to women but to men and young boys also. And they certainly do not want to "need" to defend Islam, because that is what they feel they must do, when push comes to shove. It's much easier to have no movies, no stories, no blogs about the true nature of Islam. It's just a nicer world that way.

Sultan Knish said...

it's not the issue they want to attract attention to, because they can't make it work for them

Will48 said...

It is said that every normal person is liberal in their youth:

"if you weren't liberal when you were young you're without heart; and if you're not a conservative when you've grown up, you're without brains."

Listening to the brilliant Evan Sayet's lectures about Why Liberals Always Support the Worst, and remembering my own past illusions and dreams, I've come to see the liberals as holding on to their youthful dreams of "good world", unwilling to wake up to the Reality around them, holding fast to their PINK GLASSES.

Here's the CORE of it all: if the world is Good and people are Nice, I'M NO BETTER than anyone else. The terrorists are no worse than whom they kill; it's their victims fault - the Jews, the neocons, the stubborn "redneck" patriot "warmongers" fault.

That's the vision that their DENIAL preserves - if the most cruel are actually nice but misunderstood people, all is well in their Fantasy World and life is Nice and Easy and the World makes sense again, as it once did in the protected, cushy 3 years old's Home.

sammish said...

I have seen the mov on the movie this past weekend. It was an incredible movie. If it is not a piece of realism at its best, I do not know what could do justice to such a despicable practice fulled by deep mysogynistic impulses covered by religious bigotry and hate.

As for the film critics, the moonbats are what they are, and do and think what they do and think regardless of the facts. To suggest that the movie lacks nuances and and subtle messages about stoning is ridiculously naive...

What bothers me the most is the dead and mute silence of the feminist movement, the so called leftist gender equality movement. But who cares, once they reach their ivory towers and their academic publications anything that does not fit the pre-ordained paradigm is not worth mentioning even in clear evidence of perpetual mysogynistics cultural practices in Islamic countries.... what a shame.......

Anonymous said...

Or maybe we're over-analyzing the patronizing class. Perhaps their common motivation is not so complicated. They are simply more terrified of being uncool than of anything. And on the campuses that sprout these vegetables, Islam is where it's at. It would be social suicide (forgive the expression) to dare to try on a new attitude. Especially those who have struggled since their dorm days in the skins of the terminally uncool: White Americans, White Europeans, Light skinned Ashkenazi Jews, all the products of unexotic, unsuffering, unpoor, uninteresting homes. We really ought to empathize more, in a nuanced way of course. These sensitive souls are so unoppressed. Let them, at least, have Islam.

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