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Volume 71, Issue 143, Thursday, June 15, 2006

Opinion

List of divisive films released

Christian Palmer
Opinion Columnist 

What do you get when you cross Spike Lee, Stanley Kubrick and Oliver Stone, besides all-out war over who is the greatest director? Who's who in the world of hullabaloo.

This week, Entertainment Weekly's cover story is its list of the 25 most controversial films, which furthers a "media bad" mentality. Many of the films listed have (apparently) overwhelming themes of sex, violence or both, and lots of urban or racial or class discontent. As far as many of the world's governments and communication ethics boards are concerned, there's no room for such repulsion on the screen.

But the war against such unsavory ideas is nothing new. Everyone has heard about the banning/burning of books and Tipper Gore's crusade against rap music. Maybe film's wild success and relentless persecution is because it is stories paired with images and sound.

Some of the most well-known flicks on the list include A Clockwork Orange, The Last Temptation of Christ, Deep Throat, United 93 and Natural Born Killers. Anyone who has seen these movies can understand why they might kick up some dirt among audiences, but something should be said for discretion and the fact that the films have something important to say. 

For example, the entry for 1995's Kids (No. 23 on EW's list) on the Internet Movie Database features a review that essentially says kids could stand to learn a valuable lesson from the film, despite its graphic portrayals of the darker side of human nature. The film deals explicitly with issues concerning the "invincible" teens and was obviously made with them in mind -- for their safety and $8.50. But ironically, many parents and the Motion Picture Association of America wouldn't want kids exposed to all the scary realities being put forth specifically because of their gruesome verity.

One strange thing about the list is that 16 percent of the noteworthy films were made in this decade. The rest of the data indicates that "controversial" films were a rare thing in past decades, with statistically freaky showings in the 1970s. This recent surge in movies deemed controversial might speak to our growing willingness to speak the truth, push the envelope and "go there," or maybe this signals a change in what we consider controversial.

The list omits films such as Dr. Strangelove, Pulp Fiction and Apocalypse Now, but has no qualms about including 2004's Fahrenheit 9/11 (at No. 3, I might add) and this year's release of the infamous The Da Vinci Code, which has received a lot of press lately.

A lot of people have personal objections to Da Vinci for its assertions -- among them that Jesus was married and had children, which would turn the Christian establishment on its head. But the fact of the matter is, the book is fiction. The trail of facts and inferences leads the protagonist, Harvard professor Robert Langdon, to the Louvre, where he figures out the "real" Holy Grail is buried. All you'd have to do to prove the book wrong is dig up the museum and see for yourself.

But obviously, that would be ridiculous. Maybe we should learn to take things like this with a grain of salt. Maybe Dan Brown's only objective was to get people to think and to inspire literacy. Maybe that's what EW meant by "controversial."

Palmer, an opinion columnist for The Daily Cougar, 
can be reached at pogsandjello@gmail.com.

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