Wednesday, September 28, 2005

On Offensive Film Depictions

(Spoiler warning: Although I'm trying to keep this entry vague, there's really no way to comment without revealing key information about FLIGHTPLAN.)

Is it possible to make a film without offending any special interest group?

From today's Los Angeles Times:
Three flight attendant groups are calling for a boycott of "Flightplan," which debuted at No. 1 last weekend, claiming that the depictions of a flight attendant and air marshal are outrageous and disrespectful.
According to a statement, the groups were also troubled by the depiction of the non-villianous flight attendants, who were "rude, unhelpful and uncaring."

Early in the film, flight attendants are seen rolling their eyes over a family with boisterous children, with one telling another something like: "It's OK to hate the passengers."
So I suppose the Arab passengers should have been the bad guys, right?

I think audiences are capable of distinguishing between fiction and reality, so flight attendants shouldn't worry that air travellers will now suspect them of being terrorists. If you're not a "rude, unhelpful, and uncaring" worker, then such a depiction in FLIGHTPLAN probably isn't going to trigger a sea change in passenger attitudes.

Look, I understand that how people are portrayed in films can affect attitudes and matters to those reflected on screen; however, if you take every complaint like this to its logical, offense-free end, then any less-than-perfect behavior, not to mention villains, must be banished from cinematic depictions. The flight attendants would have a point if there were rampant examples of films showing them to be terrorists. It's hard to make a case that having one flight attendant in one film characterized in such a way causes undue harm.

I can only wonder what the nation's restaurant workers will have to say about WAITING, a toxic "comedy" that paints them in the most unfavorable light possible.

Overall, though, everyone needs to cool down about perceived slights and digs in movies. The most innocuous things are getting overpoliticized. Luckily JUST LIKE HEAVEN wasn't released in the midst of that outrageous Terri Schiavo situation. I'm unaware of any group hijacking the Reese Witherspoon romantic comedy to promote their agenda--a silly tactic since the film is one big flight of fantasy--but in these increasingly hostile and polarized political times, it wouldn't surprise me if an organization did. Conservatives and liberals need to accept that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and not a call for the dismantling of corporate America or the expression of individual choice.


  1. In a related incident...

    BOSTON, MA., September 25- "The Massachusetts Establishment of Alternative Tastes (MEAT) recently granted a Lifetime Achievement Award to Anthony Hopkins at their Annual Awards dinner. A press release announcing the award commended Hopkins' ongoing work in 'broadening the public's perception of cannibals and cannibalism for over a decade.' Hopkins politely declined to attend the event, claiming that he was shooting a film an undisclosed location, but he accepted via satellite."

  2. I assume you're joking or that this is from The Onion. Surely it isn't for real. I did a couple quick searches and couldn't find the story, but if you have a link, do share.