Thursday, April 27, 2006

Question:

First off, in my last post I forgot to give Maria grief for Sunday. Not because she got home well after 5, even though she explicitly promised me she'd be home by then so I could have the car in order to see the Johnnie crowd. No, not because she delayed us, but rather because she didn't hang out with us on Sunday. She had only 1 day to hang out with her brother and sister-in-law, and she chose to go over to her boyfriend's. The very same boyfriend who she had just spent prom with, the night before. She picked the guy she sees all the time, and can see all the time, over the brother she never gets to see. And that hurt our feelings. Maria, you're on notice.

Ok, but here's the question:

Should The Da Vinci Code have a disclaimer before it's shown in theaters? I haven't read the book, but I'm pumped to see the film. Hanks and Howard are a great team, and it looks like an excellent and exciting movie.

But should the film have some sort of notice, telling fans that the movie is a work of fiction, and that the historical theories are not being presented as fact? Or are those theories actually meant to be taken as fact? After all, there are people out there who actually believe and support them. Even regardless of how people take the theories, should there be some sort of disclaimer regarding the negative portrayal of Catholics and Opus Dei?

Certainly there is some precedent for these types of negative religious portrayals. When The Passion of the Christ came out, there were massive calls for a disclaimer regarding that film's treatment of the Jews. In response there was a waiver placed before the film, and I think that was a right and sensitive decision. So what about in the current case? The Code is clearly more fictional than The Passion, but the negative portrayal of a religious group is still putting some people on edge?

What do you think?

Well I ain't feeling happy 'bout the state of things in my life
But I'm working to make it better with a six of Miller high life

6 comments:

Jeff said...

In a word, no. DVC is a work of fiction. Everyone knows that. Sure, it's based on theories held by some people, but then so was Battlefield: Earth. If people want to believe Brown's fanciful theories, whatever. A disclaimer ain't stopping them.

Having read Da Vinci Code, there aren't any negative portrayals of Catholics in general. (Opus Dei, yeah. But not your average Catholic.) But you don't see disclaimers warning people about anti-Arab sentiment in any of the myriad action movies in which Arab terrorists are the villains, even though such films undoubtedly contribute to negative stereotypes of Arabs. And you don't see disclaimers in front of conspiracy-theory movies where the U.S. government was doing the covering up. Why should there be one when the Catholic Church is put in that role?

Also, there was a waiver placed before Passion? Granted, I haven't seen it... but seriously. Any Jews who expect a philo-Semitic passion play are deluding themselves, especially if it's coming from someone with as conservative a view of Christianity as Mel Gibson. It's a sticky issue, especially since so many Jews have died in pogroms incited by passion plays. But it seems to me like a big "watch out for anti-Semitism" warning sign would interfere with the viewer's enjoyment of the film while accomplishing nothing. More effective would be a public-forum debunking of the deicide myth.

Of course, unlike DVC, Passion isn't a work of fiction. There's something to be said for warning people about a fudged portrayal of historical events that creates antipathy towards a certain group of people who are still around. We all should know that Hollywood takes artistic liberties with history, but there's a better argument for putting a disclaimer on Passion than on the blatantly fictional DVC, even if I ultimately reject it.

Matthew B. Novak said...

Yeah, that's the whole argument against a disclaimer, and I think it's a strong argument. But at the same time, I'm pretty sure the flick will be using a dishonest portrayal of Opus Dei (I mean, if I'm seeing self-flagelation in previews, I can only imagine what else the film will have...). Not a ton of people know a lot about Opus Dei, so an inaccurate portrayal could do quite a bit of damage.

And the problem is different than the portrayals of Arabs as bad guys, etc. Because here there is an actual historical theory being presented. It's a work of fiction, sure, but it's a work of fiction that explores a historical theory. And in that way, it's quite a bit like The Passion which was based on a true event, but (and I think even Mel acknowledged this)was an interpretation of that event, and thus was laced with elements of fiction.

In both cases you've got a fiction/history hybrid being presented in an accessible fashion to large audiences who have little education about the actual historical views. Why a waiver for one and not the other? Especially when they're both going to cause damage to the reputation of a group of people?

So yeah, your argument is strong, but in my mind so is the flip side. That's my conflict.

Oh, but good call on the Battlefield: Earth parallel. Of all your reasons for why this shouldn't have a disclaimer, that parallel worked the best for me because it showed just how wide-spread these disclaimers would have to be. And that would be dumb. So I'm leaning your way, but my mind ain't made up yet.

the marvelous patric said...

i read the davinci code. i really didn't think it was all that great. the chapters were like 2 pages long and it sprinkled in nuggest of "fact" like some sort spice for an otherwise bland meal. all in all, the book was written like it was trying to make people feel smart when they read it. the puzzles and mysteries were lame. the climax of the book and the great mystery of the book were TWO SEPERATE EVENTS. the only reason so many people have read that piece of crap is because people like to think they're smarter than they are (which this book was designed to make people think) and because of all the hype surrounding it. i only read it for the hype. it wasn't worth it. if people need a disclaimer for this movie, then humanity is even dumber than i realized.

moooooo! mooooooo!!! moooooo!!!

the marvelous patric said...

oh, and the people who say davinc code changed their life need a bigger life change than that book provides.

Nate said...

disclaimer schmisclaimer. The "DaVinci Code" is a self proclaimed work of fiction and that should be all the disclaimer that is necessary. Interestingly, I have actually met a member of the Opus Dei, whilst in Spain. Lets just say that he came off as a manipulative crafty individual and I had to give him a fake email address.

Greg said...

I'd really hope that it wouldn't need a disclaimer, but I can say that there are likely people who wouldn't be able to distinguish it from fact. The middle school youth that I help teach at church showed me that. We had a lesson on the Renaissance in the past week or so, and I was talking about Leonardo Da Vinci. Once it was established that he was the topic of the discussion, one of the youth there was quick to say: "Isn't he the one who invented the Da Vinci Code?" The way they said that implied that they thought that it was real.

That being said, I'd hope that people could tell the difference between facts and fiction. Unfortunately, I have seen people enough (and am cynical enough) to think otherwise. After the movie: "The Matrix" came out, some people have been speaking as if the Matrix was real, with no doubt about it. Similar things with Star Wars. Though it wasn't granted official status, an estimated 1.5% of New Zealand marked it on their census. Yes, much of that could be marked up to people snubbing the idea of a census, but it seems that there must be a few people who seriously consider that to be their religion.

Even though I have said so far that it isn't unreasonable to think that some people might take everything in this movie as fact, I don't think that there should be a warning. I'm fairly adamantly opposed to the idea of dumbing down society as a whole to the lowest common denominator. The amount of warnings on obvious things is getting ridiculous. For instance, a Nut Goodie bar saying: May contain Peanuts. It better contain peanuts, or it isn't a nut goodie. I understand that people have severe allergies to peanuts, and that it is necessary to have these warnings on many products, but at what point is enough enough? I think that a warning before a movie that says that it is fictional is too much. It should be reasonable to say that a movie that does not claim to be a documentary is mostly fiction. I think that the movie Titanic contained more fact than this movie will, and there was not a warning about confusion on that. I'd hope that everyone who sees this movie might realize that it isn't real.