Thursday, October 27, 2011

ANONYMOUS and the Rise of "Me-Centered" Culture.

The poster isn't even interesting
There's a movie opening tomorrow called Anonymous. It's a Elizabethan-era political thriller about the idea that Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford was the true author of Shakespeare's works, which he could not publish under his own name, because of his status and position in the court. This is a theory that has been around since LONG before Roland Emmerich ever decided to make a movie about the subject.

Now, you're forgiven if you haven't heard about this film. Frankly, no one seems to care about it's release other than Shakespeare experts and theatre folks, who are all apparently mortally offended that anyone would DARE make a movie about this subject. Who can't stop picking apart every inaccuracy or offensive supposition, but can't seem to grasp the main fucking point.

It's a Goddamn MOVIE. It's not a documentary. It's not claiming to be anything but fiction based on real people and events of the Elizabethan age. The synopsis on the official website reads:
"Experts have debated. Books have been written, and scholars have devoted their lives to protecting or debunking theories surrounding the authorship of the most renowned works in English literature. Anonymous poses one possible answer..."
The emphasis there is mine. Hell, the tagline on the poster...
"Was Shakespeare a fraud?" a question, not a statement. It doesn't say, "Shakespeare was a fraud."

Not to mention the fact that the vast majority of the people who are up in arms about it likely haven't seen the movie at all.

The Anonymous of 1991
All in all, it's a case of, "why the hell would you be personally offended by this?" Jesus Christ, how many HUNDREDS of people has Hollywood laid the assassination of JFK on? How many odd offshoots of the events at Ford's Theatre have we seen in movies? Hollywood has been using trumped-up offshoots of "real stories" for years, why is it suddenly a problem because they are mucking with your little pet subject? Hell, does it even matter? I mean, suppose the Earl of Oxford DID write all of it? Does that change the plays?

In the interests of disclosure, I think the Oxford theory holds no water, and I think Roland Emmerich is a hack. So, therefore there's no reason for me to think about, let alone go see this movie. So, in my opinion, you're not only up in arms about a fictional movie, but likely a BAD fictional movie. If it wasn't for the numerous refutations of the film I've read, and the snarky internet comments, I'd have given no more thought to it. However, since I have, now I have thoughts about it.

I've long held that, if William Shakespeare was writing today, there's only one place he'd be plying his trade...Hollywood. We like to re-position Billy Wiggle-stick as a "great artist" with an uncommon grasp of the human condition, which he absolutely was. He was also a showman who wrote what the audience wanted to see, he wrote for the groundlings. He inserted sex and violence liberally, because that's what sold. He took historical tales, amped up the dramatic elements with little concern for actual events, splattered it on the stage with as much grandiosity and spectacle as possible.

In other words...Something, conceptually, like Anonymous. Granted, Shakespeare was a genius, and Emmerich is...the guy that fucked up Godzilla (how the hell do you fuck up GODZILLA?!?!). Still, on an IDEA level, there's not a lot of difference between Anonymous and Henry V, both are based on historical events, and both are about as historically accurate.

Does everything have to be at his level?
Then, of course, there's the "people might believe this is accurate" argument. Well, sure, if they're stupid. Y'know that the death knell is for art? When everything has to be vetted against the fear of how the dumbest, most easily influenced, and least informed members of our society might take it. Top that off with the fact that these people, if they know anything about Shakespeare at all, it's "that dull English dude." Or, they think he's one of the knights at Medieval Times.

Those folks also probably would never have gone to see Anonymous, at all. The refutations of the film have likely doubled the press this was getting.  So, congrats folks, your outrage has successfully increased the film's media footprint. Way to go!

Proof? I would never have written ANYTHING about this film, if not for the whining about it. It would've slipped away, unnoticed. So, thank you for making me think about the social implications of a fucking Roland Emmerich movie.

At the end of the day, this is just another "outrage" to be heaped on top of the all the others where someone, somewhere sees something in the media that they don't like, and immediately decides there's something wrong with anyone, anywhere, seeing it. Oh, there may not be calls for an outright boycott, as with The Playboy Club (which deserved to go, not because it was offensive, but because it was not good), but the passive-aggressive insidiousness of the editorial essay (and, yes, I realize I'm engaging in the same thing). The snobby retaliation of the expert unheeded.

The media isn't supposed to reflect you, or me, it's supposed to reflect US. That means part of your unspoken contract as part of "us" is to sit and listen to people with crazy ideas that you absolutely don't agree with. Or, hey...turn it off. Likely, there's a venue for your crazy ideas that they don't agree with (think O'Riley vs. Maddow), which they can turn off.

In this case, if you're looking for a dumb, historically inaccurate, movie where Shakespeare DID write his plays and sonnets, I suggest Shakespeare in Love. There you have democracy of the media. It's nothing to get so up in arms about, people, especially when the great sin amounts to nothing more than trying to make an entertaining movie out of an inane historical conspiracy theory.

Don't go see it. Do something positive. Go see a Shakespeare play instead.

1 comment:

  1. There is a difference between being mortally offended and having an eye roll and a chuckle. Gwyneth Paltrow: Mortally offensive. Shakespeare Conspiracy Theories: Eye roll.

    The only problem with entertaining conspiracy theory movies is that there are people out there who BELIEVE the conspiracies. One shooter, people. Get over it.