Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Thirty Shades of Grey

Today's column for the Daily Banter takes a look at the debate over torture and Zero Dark Thirty, which opens in wide release in two days.

Here's the opening shot:

"Just before the limited release of 'Zero Dark Thirty,' I wrote a column for this site that took to task those who hadn't seen the film yet but were already howling about its portrayal of the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques -- torture by any other name -- and their effect on the manhunt for Osama bin Laden. The criticism ranged from those who believed that by taking no moral stance on torture and instead simply presenting it as a fact of the times, director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal were in fact issuing tacit approval of torture, to those who couldn't fathom how any critic could detach him or herself from the content of the film and laud it despite knowing that it seems to falsely link torture to the capture of Bin Laden. My point at the time was simple: shut up until you actually see the movie and know what the hell you're talking about. I hadn't seen 'Zero Dark Thirty' and therefore knew I couldn't comment on it with any kind of intellectual honesty so I was willing to give the filmmakers the benefit of the doubt until such time as I had the chance to take in what I assumed would be a complex and potentially unsettling moviegoing experience for myself.

Well, yesterday I saw 'Zero Dark Thirty.'"

Read the Rest Here


namron said...

You obviously understand the difference between a work of art and the historical record. But, because the art gets to go first, the history suffers. The Battle of Little Big Horn is an example. The media of the time, responding to the pu...blic's voracious appetite through "dime novels," produced all kinds of inaccuracies and myths that took historians decades to sort out from the actual evidence. In the meantime, the perceptions created by popular media fiction actually influenced public policy towards Native Americans and helped create the conditions leading to the virtual annihilation of that population. Cowboys (good) - Indians (bad) was the constant theme of our westerns and our high school history books until well into the 1960's. I haven't seen "Zero Dark Thirty" so I will trust your opinion--which is remarkably trustworthy-- that it is good art. I am not certain that it won't be bad history.

Marc McKenzie said...

Great piece, Chez. I plan to see ZDT for myself, but thanks for pointing out that the best way to judge the film is to see it first.

Juan said...

Doesn’t the ambiguity that you mention only qualify as delicious to the palate of a well-informed spectator? In other words, don’t you fear (especially because it is a film so extraordinary in its narrative and production details) that the moral nuances you highlight might be completely lost to someone unaware of the fact (expressly confirmed by the Director of the CIA and relevant members of Senate) that the information that led to OBL’s location was not obtained through torture (which, I suspect, may be the majority of the film’s audience)?

Chez said...

You can't create art while keeping the lowest common denominator in mind or those who will, again, "take it the wrong way." The people who believe that torture works may not be dissuaded by anything Zero Dark Thirty has to say, or they may be so shocked to see what torture really is that it challenges their beliefs. Those who oppose torture may be left wondering whether there's ever an instance when it's acceptable, as well. I like that all the way around.

Anonymous said...

I think it's worth reading (and addressing) Matt Taibbi's comments on the movie: