Skepticism

Skepchick Quickies, 7.28

Jen

Jen is a writer and web designer/developer in Columbus, Ohio. She spends too much time on Twitter at @antiheroine.

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74 Comments

  1. I think saying that The Triumph Of The Will is “well-regarded and highly respected today by film critics, scholars and historians” is a little misleading. The critics respect Reifenstahl’s filmmaking prowess; she made one of the most powerful propaganda films ever. For a film student, it’s got a lot to offer in terms of technique. However, I don’t know anybody who has watched it without being fully aware that it’s about frikkin’ Nazis, and their respect for the filmmaking doesn’t extend to the film’s subjects.

  2. Those church group members taking the Leviticus Challenge are a bunch of pansies. If you’re going to be Xtreme™ about Leviticus, you have to follow the whole book. That includes not allowing any handicapped people near the altar of the Lord and burning to death any man who sleeps with his wife and mother-in-law at the same time.

    On a related note, this is my new favorite bible quotation:
    If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity.” DEU 25:11-12

  3. @ Immyr re: “…and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity.”
    Sounds like this comes from personal experience. Makes you wonder what the writer of Deuteronomy did in his spare time.

    The link to the offensive movies reminded me, has anyone seen The Fall? The trailers seem to indicate that Charles Darwin is one of the 5 heroes.

  4. LBB – I’m an amateur film student, and while I think that it’s absolutely necessary to know and discuss the deplorable context for a filmmaker like Reifenstahl (or D.W. Griffith, or even Sergei Eisenstein), I also think it’s possible to appreciate the film’s technical achievements apart from that. That particular post is from a film blog, so they (and I) might have considered that separation to be taken for granted. Thanks for bringing the point up, though.

  5. I recently read “A Year of Living Biblically” by A.J.Jacobs, describing his attempt to live for an entire year following every rule in the Bible. There was a lot in the book that bugged me, but one of the funniest moments was when his wife got fed up and pissed off with the purity rules and sat on every chair in the house during her period. A.J. had to sit on the floor until he could get his own special chair.

  6. I once had to watch The Triumph of the Will THREE times in one academic year. And this was as an English undergrad, not during my Film Studies MA. Professors screened the film in a German Film course, a German Culture course, and an English course about George Orwell. I thought maybe UConn was a front for the Reich trying to get new recruits.

    I agree with what has been said, though. Amazing film, technically, and undeniably influential in a lot of film and TV coverage from that point forward. But it isn’t something anyone really watches for pleasure, and its subject matter is, in a word, loathsome.

  7. On the subject of Triumph of the Will, i don’t think it’s deliberately blasphemous in the way of Dogma or Life of Brian. It isn’t really concerned with criticism of the Jewish religion, it simply supports the notion of the extermination of a racial/religious group, and it’s probably the only out and out evil film on the list.

  8. My wife often recounts the story of when her parents saw Life of Brian on opening night. It was the only night that particular theater showed the film. So many people complained that they had to remove the film.

    They replaced it with Story of O.

  9. Jen: My undergraduate study included a lot of film courses, and, at least in that environment, the separation was definitely not taken for granted. There was a lot of debate about whether studying a propagandist’s work implied some endorsement of the subject matter. I don’t remember anybody getting worked up about Battleship Potemkin, but Triumph Of The Will and Birth Of A Nation got me into a lot of arguments.

  10. Imrryr,

    Yeah, cause the last time my partner was in a fight, my first helpful instinct was to grab at some penis and/or ballsack. I was like “What, right now, in this moment, would be the most helpful thing to do?” and the answer was clear: fistful of junk.

    The poor grammar makes it unclear whether the wife is trying to help her husband by grabbing his junk or the assailant’s. So I guess we’ll just have to make sure we’re doing God’s will by cutting off the wife’s hand no matter what penis and/or ballsack she instinctively grabs. If they’re not married though, I guess she’s allowed to go after whatever junk she wants?

  11. I think The Drunkard’s Walk is a development of ideas first aired in Stephen J Gould’s book Full House.I think The Drunkard’s Walk is a development of ideas first aired in Stephen J Gould’s book Full House. But without actually reading it I can’t be sure. But without actually reading it I can’t be sure.

    No, it’s a basic introduction to probability. The idea of modeling systems as random walks long antedates Gould, as well (hint: Einstein, 1905), and Mlodinow mostly talks about different stuff than Gould. The books are more complementary than overlapping.

  12. Question about a wife grabbing someone’s genitals when there is a fracas:

    Who judges if she was grabbing? What if the wife was just attempting to shield the holy of holies from a below-the-belt attack?

    Does this go to the high priest to be sorted out or do we just cut her hand off and let God reattach it if we were wrong?

  13. Peregrine is talking about censorship.
    Blake Stacy is talking about probabilities and modeling.
    Kimbo, Imrryr and I are talking about genital justice.

    Here’s a adjective for Skepchick: eclectic.

  14. LBB – In my experience, it’s only the more conservatively-minded who still tend to get worked up over Eisenstein. (He’s a commie!) Whereas the other two definitely cause more widespread contention, and rightly so.

    Maybe separation wasn’t quite the right word … distinction, maybe? The choice of word also could have been colored by my own opinion – I happen to think that if we dismissed completely any work of art whose creator was less than admirable, or even downright evil, we’d lose a very large chunk of our great works. I’ll gladly point out the brilliance of Birth of a Nation while also pointing out the racism at the same time. I do the same thing with plenty of modern films that have poor, to the point of offensiveness, representations of women (and if I started a list of those, I’d be here all day).

    This might be an interesting idea for a full post though – what are we willing to forgive and/or accept in great thinkers and technicians?

  15. I agree with you, durnett, that that verse of the bible reads like it was added due to something that happened in the writer’s personal experience. If I were trying to stop a fight and I felt like grabbing one of the fighters I think I would grab the guy’s arm or torso or something that was large and easy to get a hold of, since generally a male’s private parts aren’t the largest parts of his anatomy. For that reason I can only assume that this verse was included by the writer of Deuteronomy to subtlety record for posterity the fact that he had an enormous wang. Or perhaps people just had larger privates back then?

  16. Jen: I think your choice of words was fine, and I agree with your perspective. I just wanted to point out that there are people who don’t agree with us. I always figured that a student who couldn’t separate the morality of the content from the technique of the filmmaker should have been studying Philosophy, not Film Production, but there were quite a few people who took issue with that.

    I heard two arguments most often. 1) Assigning a student to view either Triumph or Birth is somehow a tacit endorsement of the content. B) It isn’t fair to require a student to view something that’s morally objectionable to them.

  17. @LBB – Wow, this is going to sound so snobbish – but I really don’t think the alternative view on this holds up. I totally see that someone could react like that at first, and even try to argue it – but, if you follow it to its logical extreme, I don’t think it works out in the end. But as long as we’re in agreement, it’s cool :)

  18. Jen: Doesn’t sound snobbish to me. I thought both arguments were rubbish, and I always said so. Although I often used slightly less polite words.

    Frankly, I think being able to shelve analysis of the content and examine the technique has to do with a measure of maturity. I figure the same folks who can’t look at Triumph Of The Will without thinking “zOMG NAz1s!!!” probably couldn’t look at Muybridge’s early photography without thinking “zOMG BooB1es!”

    Or maybe I’m just a horrible moral relativist.

  19. Well, nobody grab anyone’s penis in public just in case the Liveticus Challenge spurns a copycat group (I suggest “The Deuteronomy Dudes”) that indiscriminately chops off hands for protecting the family jewels/copping a feel during a fight. We must restrain ourselves no matter how much instinct tries to take over. Just because it *looks* like a lever doesn’t mean it opens a hidden door to the Bat Cave.

  20. Peregrine is talking about censorship.
    Blake Stacy is talking about probabilities and modeling.
    Kimbo, Imrryr and I are talking about genital justice.

    Here’s a adjective for Skepchick: eclectic.

    Ha ha! First comment in the running for COTW.

  21. You guys, we film snobs are TRYING to have a serious discussion, and it’s just penis joke after penis joke around here.

    You guys are awesome.

    Hey, what’s the part of the Bible with unicorns? Can we do that one?

  22. “God brought him forth out of Egypt; he hath, as it were, the strength of a unicorn. He shall eat up the nations his enemies, and shall break their bones and pierce them through with his arrows”. -Numbers 24:8

    Unicorns and slaughter on a global scale… sounds like the bible to me!

  23. You know at first I was just going to post that the only thing offensive about The davinci code is the fact that is was crap movie based on a crap book. But then I keep reading about fistful of junk. I can see Clint Eastwood in one of his no name rolls riding along on a horse in the desert. The cheesy italian music comes up and then the voice over starts. “Where he came from nobody knows, where he is going is a mystery but why he rides is a legend. He is rides to earn ‘A FISTFUL OF JUNK’. Coming Christmas 2008.

  24. Jen: “Hey, what’s the part of the Bible with unicorns?”

    The same part with the green alligators and long-necked geese, humpty back camels and chimpanzees.

    Thanks. Now I’m going to have that song stuck in my head ALL DAY.

  25. Quotes from “A Fistful of Junk”:

    “Slap leather!”
    “Reach for it, pardner.”
    “You got a piece, but can you handle it?”

    Sequals to “A Fistful of Junk”:

    “For a Little Junk More”
    “The Long, the Hard, and the Ugly”
    “The Outlaw Peter North”
    “Young Guns” :)

  26. This just in from Comic Con. Sam Rami is set to remake the classic “Fistful of Junk” Rami said that he is in negotiations with Bruce Campbell to reprise his role as the nameless junkman. Rami reportedly is very excited at the chance to remake a cult classic with a bigger budget. Rami was quoted as saying “With the advatage of CG the ‘Junk’ will be amazing.” Rumors continue to swirl that Christian Bale will be attacthed to the project in the roll of Sherriff of Junkville the part first made famous by Jimmy Stewart.

  27. Jen,
    Do you want a part? You could be the bar maid who saves Bruce when he is fighting the whole bar. Remember Bruce had his handful and then the bar maid hits the deperado who was coiming up behind Bruce and she gets a fistful of junk so Bruce could free up his hands to fight some more?

  28. Ooh! I want to be the mysterious stranger who knows everything but no one listens to me because I act so crazy. Like, I’ve got all this junk lore stored away in my wise old mind, but because of my wild hairstyle, odd smell, general air of malevolence, and unusual style of dress people find it hard to take me seriously so a bunch of them die and I get to point my scraggly arthritic finger at the rest and go “I toldjas! …toldjas it was no good! The junk will get us all in the end, it will!!” And then I somehow get axed in the back just before I reveal some piece of necessary information to the remaining main characters. And now they have to find out about junk lore the hard way…

  29. Kimbo,
    You’re in. Sounds like you understand this part already. Bruce will find your diary when he is draging your body out od town and it will give him the clue he needs to fight the junk. I think this movie is changing from a spaghetii western to slapstick horror flick. Josh we need new dialoge.

  30. Bruce should find the missing magical Sauron the Roosters cockring which must be destroyed to save mankind. He seeks help with an Elfish race who present him with the book titled to serve mankind. He stays up all night to translate it only to discover it’s a ….. cookbook!

  31. Brisco County Jr FTW! And I second Gabriel: Kimbo is sooooo in. If you die, though, you’ll need to come back as a recurring character anyway. Do you prefer ghost, zombie, or other? :)

    “Good. Bad. I’m the one with the junk.”
    “I’m here to grab junk and chew bubblegum, and I’m all out of bubblegum.”
    “We’re gonna need bigger junk.”
    “…..juuuunk….juuuuunk…..”
    “Get your stinkin’ junk off me, you dirty ape!”

  32. I guess I should have said “it’ll take philosophers 1000s of years to decide an official list of questions that makes it appear as if they’re trying to figure out lolcats without actually saying anything concrete or useful”. :)

  33. Kimbo,
    Yes I think that is sufficient.

    Y’all want to continue with the “Fistful of Junk”? Okay. I think we need to write a script for the movie and you mivei makers can film it.

    We start with a shot of the desert. In the distance we can see a loan rider. The music from The good the bad and the ugly comes up. Bruce Campbell rides into view dressed in his cowboy outfit from Brisco County Jr. Then the title slams up on the screen in giant yellow letters. The title knocks his hat off and he has to go back for it.

    Camera pivots around him an the moves to get around the title letters. We can see that Bruce is riding into Junk Town. Home of the worlds largest junkyard and the best junkmen around.

    Bruce rides now the main street to the Junk Town Saloon. The saloon has a sign hanging from an overhead pole. The pole would be pole shaped and another pole would be painted on the sign with attached junk. Bruce pulls up gets down from the horse and ties it to the hitching post.

    The request bad guys amble up the board walk.

    And lunch is over I have to get back to work. Someone jump in and continue the story. I’ll post more after I read where you take this.

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