Next issue June 1, 2009
In this issue:   Caroline Sutherland,  Power of Addictions   Daniel Linder, Me, You, Us   Sharon Elaine, Affirmations for Life   Darlene Braden, The Incredible <Pause> Button   Guy Finley, Your True Nature is High   Robin Silverman, Something Wonderful   Indra Reinpuu, Fading Future   Mother Teresa in Quotes   Neel Raman, Book Behind The Secret   Wider Screenings, Angels to Demons   Events   Reviews   Earlier issues   Submit Article
Issue 6,  May 23, 2009     —      Wider Screenings, From Angels to Demons

with Robert Cettl      

Self-Help, Political Criticism and Crisis of Faith Melodrama:
from Angels to Demons

40 Inspirational Speeches in 2 Minutes
Courtesy Matthew Belinkie


In spite of the genuine insight into human capacity, achievement and drive towards success underlying New Age Spiritualism, the recent screen release of the bestselling self-help adaptation He’s Just Not That Into You (read more) is a dangerously simplistic reduction of the psychological revisionism underlying the self-help movement.  Directed by a opportunistic veteran trained in the John Hughes Pretty in Pink era of Molly Ringwald idolatry, He’s Just Not That Into You, despite its potential contribution of “being the exception to the rule” to Gen Y dating folklore, charts one young woman’s frankly rather incomprehensible reluctance to believe that if a man doesn’t call her back after she gives him her card it means that he is not interested in her.  Just why it would take her almost two hours of screen running time to accept this as the key to her self-fulfilment is not, however, quite as amusing as the casting of Justin Long as her Romantic interest – the slick actor simultaneously on screen as a gay porn star in Kevin Smith’s delightful Zack and Miri Make a Porno (read more), which says a lot more about Romance in Gen Y relationships than the vacuous upscale optimism of He’s Just Not That Into You, sorely compromised in its allusions to Sex and the City.  

He’s Just Not That Into You works, however, because of relentless positivism, its belief that romantic interpersonal fulfilment is possible and its central relationship is as evocative of Nora Ephron’s timeless question in When Harry Met Sally over whether men and women can sleep together and remain friends as is, ironically, Zack and Miri Make a Porno.  To those familiar with the borrowings of such as He’s Just Not That Into You it is complete artifice in comparison to the coarse honesty of Zack and Miri.  What essentially condemns He’s Just Not That Into You though is its superficiality.  Kevin Smith, no matter how crude his humour may be, has a political purpose – the re-definition of human sexuality in inter-personal relationships for a generation bred on the adult film industry.  In that, Smith’s implicit criticism of the authority that would condemn the amiable protagonists on moral grounds finds a peculiar echo in Oliver Stone’s satiric indictment of the Bush War on Terror era in W. (read more).  Here, Stone portrays Bush as the ultimate moralizer – sanctioned by God in a Born-Again Christian zeal that coincided with Karl Rove’s careful manipulation of the evangelical Religious Right.

This notion of the Bush Presidency as God’s elect for a Theist America is a worrying conceit in light of the Islamic fears of a Holy War. Just as Stone stages scenes of the former President (well played by Josh Brolin) regularly stopping White House routine for prayer, a scant few months after the release of the film, recently published secret memos between George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld following a staged rescue attempt in Iraq reveal Biblical quotations inscribed as possible manipulation.  The view that Theism, particularly Christianity, is responsible for the current situation in Iraq implicit in W.’s critique of the fusion of Church & State in American Politics counter-balances the view that Bush’s foreign and domestic policy ethics in violation of the Geneva Convention implicate his government as war criminals in the Abu Ghraib documentaries of Taxi to the Dark Side (read more) and Standard Operating Procedure (read more).  These films individually do not implicate Theist belief as validating the Dick Cheney loosed ethic of torture threatening to now compromise both American Constitutional ideals and inherent UN Human Rights principles.  Collectively, however, they represent an ideological challenge to faith-based politics in contemporary America – the sheer madness of evangelical fervour being frighteningly depicted in Jesus Camp (read more).

Faith-based politics, Patriarchal responsibility and the contribution of Intelligent Design to sci-fi based eschatological allegory dominate Hollywood’s latest bestseller adaptation Angels & Demons (read more), now released worldwide.  A sequel to the smash hit Dan Brown adaptation The DaVinci Code, Angels & Demons reunites star Tom Hanks and director Ron Howard for a Vatican bomb plot both ludicrously fanciful and ethically contentious in its evocation of the traditional clash between science and religion (no Vatican thriller being complete without an allusion to the persecution of Galileo).  With rumours of the Vatican protest against the making of the film an exaggeration – there was no chance Howard would ever be allowed to film within the Sistine Chapel – Angels & Demons is a combined detective story and crisis of faith meditation on the challenges that science pose to religious faith in the wake of the publication of radical atheist authors Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett (the so-called “four horseman”).  Never credible, its relentless narrative propulsion nevertheless facilitates what by the end of the film is a reactionary conservative validation of Catholic Patriarchy as ethical (if perhaps not moral) authority worthy of respect and deserving of individual ideological sublimation.   ###

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