28 Sep 2007

Liberals Fantasize of Violence

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Kyle Smith in the Wall Street Journal discusses the recent Jodie Foster remake of Death Wish (1974).

What has come over liberals? Suddenly they’ve turned bloodthirsty. And they’re not just lobbing “Daily Show” coffee mugs or brandishing the rusty business end of their DEAN 2004 campaign pins. Liberals are locked, loaded and licensed to kill–at the movies.

The new Jodie Foster film, “The Brave One,” is the latest in a string of left-wing Bush-era movies about violence. These films–which range from popcorn flicks (the “X-Men” series, “The Hills Have Eyes 2”) to more ambitious works and Oscar nominees (“A History of Violence,” “V for Vendetta,” “Munich,” “Blood Diamond”)–so deeply entangle killing with liberal idealism, though, that at times their scripts are as muddled as EEOC directives or U.N. rules of engagement. For all of the critical acclaim that attended most of these films, few are as effective as “Dirty Harry” or “Death Wish.”

In “The Brave One,” for instance, possibly the first vigilante movie to feature a Sarah McLachlan soundtrack, a New York radio personality (Jodie Foster) specializes in monologues about the sounds of the city. She speaks with a maximum of NPR narcoleptic condescension, chewing each syllable of her airy drivel (“Are we going to have to construct an imaginary city to house our memories?”) as if reading to a toddler out of “My First Book of Cultural Anthropology.” Strangely, however, she is not the bad guy.

After her fiancé (apparently a Briton of Indian descent) gets killed when both of them are jumped by vicious white youths, Ms. Foster’s character spends weeks in a coma. One of her first remarks when she wakes up is directed at some white cops: “You’re the good guys. How come it doesn’t feel like that?” Shattered, she helps regain her poise with the aid of a black cop (Terrence Howard) and a saintly black woman friend. Meanwhile, in addition to the murderous gang of white kids, another villain emerges: a white businessman who owns parking garages.

This is more a checklist than a plausible plot, particularly when Ms. Foster’s character goes on a “Death Wish”-style rampage that requires the New York of 2007 to be portrayed as a place where you’re liable to witness a shooting every time you walk into a deli for a pack of gum. Nevertheless, she takes action, sometimes in self-defense but also by launching a pre-emptive, non-U.N.-sanctioned war against big-city thuggery. Behind her she leaves a trail of surprised-looking corpses, the audience cheering each one.

How can this be, since liberals renounce violence, even when directed against antlered pests or convicted serial killers, and greeted Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s crackdown on crime with, at best, sullen silence? The movie lets its heroine off the hook by implying that victim status has left her without control of herself, a notion she articulates with more NPR-speak (“inside you there is a stranger, one that has your arms, your legs, your eyes–a sleepless, restless stranger”).

This paper’s movie critic, Joe Morgenstern, derided that element as “modern-day Jekyll and Hydeism,” but it dovetails with two favorite liberal habits: to follow the psychological chain of causation behind a crime so far back that responsibility disappears in a blurry landscape of greater evil, and to maintain a fig-leaf of deniability for lawless actions.

Read the whole thing.

The film’s star, Jodie Foster, editorializes with the same profundity characteristic of many members of her profession:

Entertainment Weekly: What do you think is the larger social commentary of The Brave One, which in some ways plays as a straight-up Dirty Harry revenge movie?

Here’s my commentary: I don’t believe that any gun should be in the hand of a thinking, feeling, breathing human being. Americans are by nature filled with rage-slash-fear. And guns are a huge part of our culture. I know I’m crazy because I’m only supposed to say that in Europe. But violence corrupts absolutely. By the end of this, her transformation is complete. ”F— all of you, now I’m just going to kill people with my bare hands.”


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