Sunday, October 31, 2010

Offensive gay joke removed from The Dilemma trailer

Many on the liberal left say that they are not actually censorious; that it's the people on the other side you've really got to worry about. But the examples of liberal bullying and intimidation are far more numerous than any other kind in the west. And the pettiness of their complaints often reaches a surreal degree.

Take this recent furore about a gay joke in the trailer of the movie The Dilemma starring Vince Vaughn. Gay rights activists managed to have the gag taken out of the film's trailer. Director Ron Howard, who is hardly a conservative, is not backing down any further, and insists on keeping the gag in the film itself.

I suspect even many liberals are shaking their heads in disbelief at the sheer intensity of the outrage over just one line of dialogue - in a comedy. You'd think the zealots at GLAAD would have much more important things to complain about.

Jim Davidson and political correctness in comedy

It's interesting that even in these right-on times, comics such as the Brit Jim Davidson still do a lot of politically incorrect material. The reason: people find it funny.

Laughter is not something you can fake. And no matter how hard you try you can't attitudinally reconstruct your sense of humour to make it more culturally sensitive. That's why so many right-on, leftie comics are so painful to watch. They are self-important and deluded. They think their gags have the power to change society. What a joke!

Also, I suspect that even a lot of their most avid supporters are actually faking their response to some degree; guffawing loudly to make it known just how concerned and compassionate they are.

That's why it's good to know that old troopers like Jim Davidson are still going strong, even if the TV gigs have pretty well dried up.

This interview with him in the lead-up to a couple of recent live shows is interesting. The writer of the article confesses to loving Davidson's TV shows as a kid, but feels compelled to repeatedly ring the leper's bell about how offensive his live act is.

Here's some of his comedy. It's probably one of his routines deemed comparatively benign by the perpetually offended, since it's about that oft-covered comedic subject, farting.

Still, this could change one day. If the climate change zealots have their way, such routines might be deemed anti-green, since they trivialize the issue of methane producing flatulence. (And that's not as ridiculous as it sounds. There are plans afoot in New Zealand to tax farmers for cow farts, after all.)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Tao Wells, Creative NZ, and art as a welfare scam

One criticism often made about artists is that they are glorified welfare recipients; that their claims of being sensitive, creative souls enriching society with their heartfelt contributions are merely part of a ruse to get some easy money from long suffering taxpayers.

Much of the time I don't think this is true. Many artists may be wrongheaded and not very talented. But a lot of them do work hard, and sincerely believe that they are contributing something of value (even if most of the people footing the bill don't see it that way).

However, there's a case in which the welfare scam accusation seems justified. An "artist" in New Zealand called Tao Wells (who was on benefits, not surprisingly) received more government funding in the form of a grant from Creative NZ. As part of their Letting Space public art series, Wells set up the Beneficiaries Office. This "office" claims that work is slavery, and urges people to give up their jobs.

The obvious point to make about this is that without people working to create an income, which is then taxed, Wells simply wouldn't have the money to fund his "public art project" in the first place.

Also, notice how nothing has actually been created specifically for the project. Wells hasn't bothered to paint, draw or perform anything. That's not surprising, since he seems to have little talent in this regard. The "art" that he's received the grant for is merely the daffy, pretentious concept that he's "created".

(To be fair, the official site does mention that there will be a performance of a theatre show which has "actors and a script but no rehearsals". However this show - almost guaranteed to be excruciatingly bad - is separate from the main project, and has been performed before.)

That such lazy, pointless and parasitic projects are being given money says much about the culture of Creative NZ - none of it good. You'd think they'd want to deconstruct the image of artists as dole bludgers by refusing to give grants to people like Wells. But they've gone and done the opposite. Really, it would be hard to make up anything quite so ridiculous.

(Which begs the question: Maybe that's the intention? If it is, they've managed to turn the whole department into a satirical, self-parodic masterwork - which would of course be brilliant! Hmmm ... Maybe I should suspend my criticism?)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Artist Gil Vicente and his list of enemies

Artists in democracies the world over are forever trying to shock and offend their audiences. But they are usually pretty careful to provoke only those who won't really nail them for it. Sure, they might cop some bad press, a torrent of angry letters and the odd demo outside the gallery showing their work. And very occasionally their art is censored. But these reactions only serve to lift their profiles and give them an aura of rebellion and danger - and at no real cost to them.

Here's another example of this. Artist Gil Vicente has depicted himself assassinating nine world leaders including the Queen, George Dubya Bush and even the president of his own country, Brazil.

Vicente's motivation for the work is that since these leaders have killed so many people directly and indirectly, he wanted to show them marked for death.

The list certainly does seem varied. And he's sure to offend a whole range of people. Maybe he saw an episode of The Chaser's War on Everything on YouTube, and was inspired by the title? Who knows.

But it's the very variety of the list that makes it seem contrived. Does he really detest each of these people equally? I doubt it. He seems to be going out of his way to not seem one sided or prejudiced, thereby covering his artistic arse, so to speak. It doesn't seem honest to me, since we all tend to see things through a political or cultural prism, and are more likely to focus our rage in one or two key directions.

It's also odd that he's chosen the former leaders Kofi Annan, George Dubya Bush and Ariel Sharon. They are all quite passe. Surely President Obama would have been a more provocative choice for the obligatory American representative. He's still in power, and carried on Bush's wars, after all.

Maybe Vicente figured that he'd offend too many influential arty types if he included The One in his hit list. Or perhaps it is because now that Obama is so on the nose with those who so deeply admired him before, including him wouldn't have been provocative enough?

Then there's the absence of Osama bin Laden. If anyone was directly responsible for mass murder it was him. But I suspect Vicente figured that portraying the terrorist leader being executed might put Al-Qaeda on his tail. So, too big a risk there. (He did include President Ahmadinejad, though. So he deserves some cool points for that.)

He also deserves respect for his real skill as a representational artist. A realistic drawing is something you almost never see nowadays from so many of his ilk. I suspect most of them are just simply not capable of it. When you can find not only artistic inspiration but the actual artworks themselves in your own toilet, then learning how to painstakingly create accurate likenesses of people and things must seem too much like hard work.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The 10:10 mini-movie, satirical comedy and Monty Python

Regarding this grotesque and revealing 10:10 mini-movie No Pressure, in which carbon sinners are so spectacularly offed: No doubt many greenies and lefties are saying of the disgust and outrage it has provoked: "Oh, those conservatives are so literal minded. It was all just meant to be a bit of a laff."

No, it wasn't. And it didn't get many laffs - certainly not from the growing number of climate sceptics. I suspect that many of those who are sympathetic to the group's aims weren't exactly rolling on the floor laughing, either. It was just witless, nasty and disturbing.

See, it's not just a bit of light entertainment that's meant to have some pithy social commentary thrown in for good measure. (And even if it were, the detonators instead of the detonatees would have been the butt of the joke, surely?)

No, in this film the satirical targets are the literal targets: those who won't get with the program. But look at who gets blown up in other comedy sketches. Take the Mr Creosote segment in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life.

The butt of the joke - the target - is a big fat rich bastard dining in a French restaurant. He's a farrago of many widely reviled characteristics including extreme rudeness, greed, and gluttony. And he brings his spectacular intestine-splattering fate entirely upon himself. That's what makes it okay and we can laugh at it. Also, it's not asking us to change our entire lifestyle after we've seen it.

But the 10:10 mini-film is. Its primary aim is to promote a campaign that is, er, deadly serious. The very clear subtext is this:

We are determined to get you to change your behaviour to our requirements immediately. If you won't go along with this then we believe you deserve to be blown to bits. Of course we won't actually do that. But we fantasize about it, and we know that others do as well. If we can get enough people sharing our committed, vengeful attitude on this then the rest of you will feel so intimidated that you'll just have do what we demand whether you like it or not.

That's totalitarianism, pure and simple. And there's nothing remotely funny about that.

And if you think that it's a bit of stretch to say that greenies do actually fantasize about killing people who don't share their crazy views, then read this blog by Hollywood socialite and greenie Siel Ju. She clearly concurs with the ad's malignant sentiment, but sensibly advises that blowing up people should be "kept an imaginary fantasy".

Many lefties no doubt think that the ad was justified, since they believe that those on the other side are far more mean-spirited. But has there ever been a conservative ad which included scenes of greenies being slaughtered like this? Obviously not.

This is because conservatives, while no fans of the left, just aren't that full of loathing as a rule. And in the unlikely event of anyone on the right actually managing to put together something like this, well it just wouldn't see the light of day.

The ugly truth is that not only are deep green zealots more likely to create something this vicious, their sick visions are also much more likely to be (slickly) produced and shown to the world (even if they're ultimately pulled from view because of complaints, which occurred in this case). This is because the media establishment is dominated by politically correct types who support their cause. Therefore it's no surprise that 10:10 got the required cash (some of it from government, apparently) and film industry heavyweights such as Richard Curtis and Gillian Anderson were happy to be involved in the ad's creation.

But isn't it sad that green totalitarians have such heft in the so-called "creative" industries (such as film and TV) in the West? Wasn't art about imaginatively celebrating the human spirit and its astonishing ability to keep rising above primitive and destructive instincts, not vividly portraying the gory culling of those deemed guilty of anti-planet thought and lifestyle crimes?

As any thinking person in the arts world knows only too well, there's something truly sinister about this dominant culture. And it's been this way for a very, very long time.