Sunday, March 02, 2014

What Would You Have Done

Yesterday Joe and I hopped on the subway to head down to the movies. We were going to see Stalingrad playing in IMAX 3D. Neither of us particularly like seeing films in either of those formats, but it was the only option and we're both interested in World War II stories. The theatre was far from full during the showing but there was a young couple who were seated with only a vacant seat between Joe and the young man.

It was only minutes into the film when the 'R word' was used three times in fairly rapid succession. In it one character says that they don't have 'Rword' people in the USSR. To which I rapidly thought, yeah and you don't have gay people in Sochi either. I noticed, however, that when the word was used, it seemed worse because it was written in the subtitles, the couple next to us gasped right along with us. They didn't like the word either.

Then comes the few minutes of deciding what to do. Do we leave? Do we make complaint? Do we stay? Part of me wondered if this wording was in the script or if it was the work of the sub-title department. Whatever. We ended up staying. The word was never used again, though, admittedly you never really relax if it was used once.

Apart from that, the movie is visually incredibly powerful and, though it's been criticized for the plot line, we liked how the character of Katya humanized the soldiers who were in battle. I liked her character and I liked the interactions that the men had with her. In all, I liked the movie.

What encouraged me, though, was the gasp from the people next to us. They, and we, responded immediately, violently and negatively to the use of the word. There was a time where we'd have been alone in our reaction. Who knows who this young man and this young woman were, who knows how they came to be sensitized, but it doesn't matter, they were.

A little more time and a few more gasps and there will have to be a response by those who make films and who also want to make money.

Joe and I are still talking about whether or not we should have left.

I don't know.

Should we have?


Jim Currie said...

No you shouldn't have left. The negative actions of characters is saying something about them and sometimes characters are not nice. This does not mean that the film does not have merit.

Are you in the habit if leaving war films because one charaater kills another?

Anonymous said...

I would have stayed, as you did. When I hear the 'R' word being used today, I am shocked by such insensitivity- recognizing that I am also shocked when I do hear the word being used because I don't hear the word used nearly as much as I did growing up. This speaks volumes to the advocacy being done to eliminate the use of the 'R' word.

Belly (Liz McLennan) said...

Take heart in knowing that a younger generation responded to the "R-word" with gasps and enjoy the rest of the film - that's what you should have done, that's what you did.

Anonymous said...

I doubt there's much mileage in walking out of a film unless the whole thing is offensive. The owners and managers have no editing power.

Walk out of a politician's speech on the same provocation and that says something.

Unknown said...

It depends what the point of walking out wouldve been. Leaving wouldnt have done anything except deprived you of being able to watch the film that you paid for and later enjoyed. If it had been a live performance it wouldve been different but with a film nobody but you would even know why youd left,and your tickets had already been paid for so it would have no effect on anyone but you.

If the point wouldve been just to remove yourself from a situation that was uncomfortable thats different, but you wouldve left if that had been the case. But leaving as a protest move wouldnt have been effective in this situation

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately it was said in context with the opinions and in keeping with the time of the story. Just as 12 years a slave had to use the "n" word because of the history it was portraying - this movie used the word in a way that it would have been used at the time. The gasp from the couple next to you gives me hope that the efforts of the anti 'R" word community are having an impact on hate speech.

Jayne Wales said...

Language for its time, in context , should never be edited. or censored. It teaches us.
If it was use of language today then how did that work with the whole of the film? Films have to be seen as a whole not the beginning. You were right to stay and discuss. That's what freedom of speech allows us to do.

Anonymous said...

When you go to a movie you are paying for "entertainment". If you are educated in the process, all the better. I too dislike the "r" word, dislike the "f" word, or the "n" word. I dislike women being used and abused. I dislike violence being distributed on the helpless. I dislike the abuse of animals. Yet, if I go to a movie I am opening up myself to the experience. Yes, I can leave, and I have, but if I go to a movie, like the "Wolf of Wall Street", where I understand there is over 500 "f" words, I really have no grounds on which to be shocked when I hear the "f" word. (I didn't go by the way because of that and other aspects. Not getting my money.) Like wise if I went to a movie that takes place in war times with characters we know are less than stellar, I would have to expect behavior that is shocking to me. After all, that is what the allied forces were fighting. You knew what you were going into before you went. So leaving would do nothing except perhaps making you feel better. And indeed you did learn something, there are others who are listening and become more sensitive and reactive to slander and abuse. This is good!

Mary said...

I think it was appropriate use.

Why do you hate the R word? Because it's hate language. Because acceptance of it implies that it's okay to see those to whom it applies as "less than".

So, going to the context of WWII, the character says:

"They don't have (derogatory epithet for a certain characteristic) in (country which locks away and/or eliminates people with that characteristic)."

And the reason the regimes got away with the abuse, incarceration or murder of those groups? Is because society as a whole did not see the victims as equal, and thought it was completely okay to consider the victims sub-human and to use such derogatory epithets...

That hateful language like that about certain groups was "mainstream" was part of what allowed the hateful treatment of those groups to be hidden away, ignored, or in some instances, excused.

Andrea S. said...

As others here have said, as a protest move leaving wouldn't have done much good if any. Better to stay to gather more evidence about the film so you can write a more fully informed letter of complaint or review later on. Unless you were simply too uncomfortable to remain for any longer, then there would have been no need to inflict yourself any further.

Ron Arnold said...

I adopted a child from Russia in 1998. He has multiple physical issues he deals with (present at birth) - which is why he was orphaned in the first place. He was placed there when he was 2 days old. His birth parents did not want him because of his birth defects.

While I was there, we had an opportunity to spend time in the orphanage and get to know a little bit about Russia. A couple things stood out.

Folks with ANY type of disability are not 'visible' in society, unless they are begging on the street (which was the case with some Afghan vets selling pencils on the sidewalk). When I was at a courthouse, I walked by a fellow who was having a seizure. I would normally stop and help a person seizing by protecting their head, making sure they were in a safe place to seize (clearing obstacles), etc. - and when I tried to do this, my translator yelled sharply: "NYET! Do not help!" No-one else around the fellow moved a finger. And many were staring at me for moving to help him in the first place. The translator explained that I should not stand out as a foreigner there as I would be a 'mark' and helping someone having a seizure would certainly make me stand out. It was an odd experience. As we walked away - the fellow was still seizing. The translator was PISSED at me.

I saw NO adults with any type of developmental disabilities anywhere in public. However - I did see children in the orphanages. Many of them had fetal alcohol issues. There were a few that had Down Syndrome. There were many children in the orphanage my son was in with multiple issues - physical / developmental. (It aches to think about it and I'm tearing up a bit at the memory of a few of the kids as I write this.)

I could go into some heartbreaking things my son told me - but I won't. Suffice it to say, it really seems as though folks outside the norm in Russia are 'kept' but they are also kept out of sight. And yes - the word "retarded" was the English word they chose to describe that particular group of folks - including some kids that had sole issues with physical disabilities.

However - that's NOT to say that the women (and some older men) working in the extremely difficult situation of the orphanages weren't compassionate to the kids - because they were. That was just the word they chose to describe them . . . that was their word. Honestly - I don't think the kids in the orphanages cared so long as they were being fed. My son certainly didn't. (Meals consisting of cabbage soup for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a little kielbasa every couple of days when they were lucky.)

All that being said -

As far as the word being used in the film - I don't suppose it would be any different than the 'N-word' being used in an American Civil War drama. Appropriate for the place and period - even though it doesn't sit well today.

As far as 'what would I have done' in the movie . . . given my personal context and experience - nothin'. I would've taken it for what it is and afterward continue to do the small everyday things I do for individual justice' sake . . . .