Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Sometimes...I Rant Incoherently. Shut Up.

There was a time, up to this moment, really…when I felt like if there was ONE more WWII movie made, or ONE more documentary about the Holocaust on PBS, or hear ONE more person talk about The Diary of Anne Frank being their favorite book, I was going to scream. And this disturbed me. It wasn’t that I felt like this part of history wasn’t worth knowing about or learning from…it was more like these accounts were presented for mass consumption ad nauseum, to a point where I stopped being moved by it. For example, the span of time between Shindler’s List and The Pianist was the difference between my blubbering saddened incoherence continuing 15 minutes after the film had ended and an almost apathetic loathing for a character who, compared to some of the other survivor stories I’d heard, was too lucky to warrant his own biographic film.

This alarmed me. I consider myself a sensitive person (under the appropriate circumstances) but I was going out of my way to avoid having to hear any more about this point in history just so I wouldn’t have to feign interest. Though I think the words “compassion fatigue” are a bit strong for this, it’s what comes to mind. “Desensitized” is definitely on the mark.

There are a lot of factors that I blame for this state of mind. Movies like Pearl Harbor (god, it is SO FUCKING BAD) are a good example. But bottom line, I had made a conscious decision that I had learned enough. I was done. I didn’t want to hear any more about WWII, The Holocaust, Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, etc. Too much of anything is just, well, too much. That was until recently.

This morning, as I was getting ready for work, I listened to a report concerning the extreme right movement in Germany. This is a group of people who feel as though Hitler had the right idea and that they need to continue down the path that he blazed 60 years ago. Here in America, they’d be called neo-Nazis, skinheads or members of the KKK; groups of asshats that I felt were fairly easily dismissed as mentally stunted morons who were not cuddled by their mothers as infants. Easy not to take seriously. However, it’s when I hear that this fucked up point of view is farther reaching than I imagined (i.e. the Holocaust denier hootenanny in Iran earlier this year), and it makes my skin crawl. I think about the danger that lies in apathy. And I’m ashamed.

Coincidentally, my mum loaned me a memoir of a Jewish German woman who was a teenager in occupied Poland during the war. I can hardly put it down. It’s a humbling account, and I’m only 1/3 of the way through it. Though this woman is still alive, so many of that generation are gone or (on their way out, the ol’ spitfires). These first hand accounts are becoming few and far between. They’re special. And they need attention. I think that’s been the problem all along. Shit like Pearl Harbor (ugh, it is just SO AWFUL…Ben Affleck’s hair was HUGE) gets mixed in with the beautiful, true, heart-breaking stories and fucks with the pH balance.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that I’m going to make it my life’s mission to keep Michael Bay from making movies. I’ll put together an army if I have to.

Thank you all. You may go on about your business.

15 keep(s) me blogging:

Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

The new Ken Burns documentary is a mammoth but is done not from the eagle's eye point of view that is official history, it's more of a bottom up approach.

I was gripped. It was nuanced, horrifying, deeply moving but not ever straightforward. It didn't even try to pretend war is anything but a mess: a jumble of bodies and hate and pain and really, really bad decisions by people that History still lionizes.

The reason it cuts right through a lot of the other WWII stuff we get is because it is never simplified; it's rarely even all that noble. It shows very clearly that war is hell and that very often "honour" is poor recompense for that - not the be all and end all. It doesn't seek to pontificate or teach or moralise or anything. It just is, because it's just people talking about what happened to them - very frankly and modestly and with the authenticity a lot of films and documentaries just fail to nail. It shows war for the mind-blowing, life-shattering meat-grinder it is without glorifying battle-strategies or generalship or adding any fancy emotive editing tricks or any of that.

I thought it was cool. Hellish long though - 10 hours or something.

Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

I couldn't bring myself to watch Pearl Harbour. I like Ben Affleck but, my God, he is a terrible actor.

I've often had the same sort of war ennui as you. I think it's because there's always the suspicion you're being manipulated, titillated even, by horrors from the past. And also the suspicion that it's all too simple, given the complexity of the human condition; and filmmakers just aren't getting it right. That they're missing a hell of a lot of grey.

Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

God, I can really blether on, can I not?

froelica said...

I agree. Michael Bay needs to be stopped. Who keeps funding those crapholes anyway??

The Future said...

It's all about mass appeal. You have to admit, very few people have the same discerning taste as that of present company (all of us). The way to keep Michael Bay from making any more movies is to prevent absolutely everyone from seeing them in the theaters and/or renting them and/or buying them. Good luck with that one. It seems like the better approach might be to submit some editorials on the subject to various widely read publications. There are probably many others who would agree but don't know they have much support to turn the tide.

Gorilla Bananas said...

No WW2 documentary will ever better "The World at War" by Granada TV. It was made in 1973, so many who lived through it were interviewed. Thanks for the review of Pearl Harbour . You've saved me a couple of hours.

Macoosh said...

i agree with everything you just said.

Amber said...

two words: contracted assassin.

As for Pearl Harbor, well there are no words.

I agree completely.

Kara said...

sam - i refuse to believe that ken burns knows so very much about jazz AND WWII. i mean, have you SEEN him? he has horrible hair.

fro - people who are, themselves, crapholes. wanna join my army?

future - but people are stupid! damnit!

goranas - were you alive in 1973? you know, the funny thing about that is...i don't think i've even seen all of Pearl Harbor. it was just the only example that kept popping up in my head.

macoosh - well where the hell is the fun in that?

amber - i like the way you think, lady. i think you've missed your calling.

froelica said...

Indeed I do Kara. This could give my life the meaning its been lacking for so long.

Rachel said...

Sometimes you may rant incoherently. This is not one of those times.

Very impassioned and effective rant against commericialized warflicks/docudramas.

I agreed with every word you said,(including the ennui towards war films and wwII) and I would happily join your "kill ken burns" army.

Mary Witzl said...

I know just what you mean about feeling as though you've read it all and seen it all. You just get so sick of examples of how depraved humanity can be that you hit a limit. Sam is right: you feel as though you are being manipulated.

Pearl Harbor was a crappy movie. Wish someone had warned me not to see it.

WWII is what I am currently writing about, and one thing you will soon find out if you don't already know it, is that there were TWO holocausts, one in Europe and one in Asia. The Asian holocaust was absolutely huge and involved China, Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia, and there were crimes easily as heinous as those that occurred in Germany, Poland, etc. -- some arguably worse. Sadly, it has been largely ignored, thanks to post-war whitewashing on the part of the U.S. America's desire to secure Japan as a cold war ally and convenient base meant that Japan had to be quickly gotten on board. Many of the victims were dead, or too shell-shocked and horrified to want to talk about what had happened.

Sorry to give you yet another example of man's inhumanity to man. Ignorance may be bliss, but when people get away with this sort of thing, that makes it all the easier for it to happen again.

Anonymous said...

Wait - "Pearl Harbor" isn't a documentary?

I think some of the fascination with WWII comes from the fact that it was the last war in which there was a clear 'bad guy' - it's so hard for so many of us to fathom what happened. You are right though that places like "the hitler (history) channel" desensitize us to the terrible facts of the war itself. It really is important to get first-hand accounts to remind us that this can't happen again.

I was rivited by the Ken Burns documentary. But my favorite WWII related movie? "Life Is Beautiful."

Orhan Kahn said...

You closing comments remind me of the impersonation the South Park boys did on a recent episode. "That's not an idea, thats a special effect!" OMG LOL. Guess you had to be there?

I do agree with you on some points but I don't understand why so many people hate Paerl Harbour. I've only seen it once and it is very long but I liked it. To be honest I didn't really know who Ben Affleck was when I saw it but I don't remember hating him. It's okay Kara, you can hate on me for it. I forgive you in advance.

apterix55 said...

You didn't know my father, grandfather Clyde, had he lived long enough. He was in WWII in the Navy.. through the whole schlog. Never talked about it. NEVER. What I know about his exprence was told to me by my uncle Marsh. He was on the Enterprise (the origial, not the Star Trek). Years later he told me once that he was invited to join the American Legion. He was discusted by it; a bunch of dumbshits who put on army hats and marched around pretending. He was in the real war and his way of dealing with it was pretending that it never happen. But it happened, to him, anyway and he was fucked up by it the rest of his life. No PTSD, no VA or counseling. Just go home and forget about it. Get married, have some kids, have a drink after work, then another, then another and forget about it. Everybody who immortalizes WWII, how heroic it was, they weren't there. Nobody who survived Pearl Harbor made a movie about it. Nobody. The people who weren't there, they are the ones who won't let us forget about it. They are the ones who make us repeat history.