At the movies

With so much going wrong for the results of real world arguments of his Republican fans (Iraq, Katrina, Scooter, DeLay, Cheney’s aim, illegal spying, and so on), Charles Krauthammer has turned to the art of fictional film criticism. His piece takes aim at *Syriana* in particular (though he also mentions *Paradise Now*, a foreign film about suicide bombers, as well as Spielberg’s *Munich*). Reading his piece we were reminded of the subtle work of another newspaper blowhard–Richard Roeper. Roeper’s frequent complaint about films is that he “doesn’t buy it.” Poor Roger Ebert must then remind him that it’s a fictional film, so it’s not true, and there’s nothing “to buy.”

Sure, films like that can level criticism, but one way *not* to read it is this:

>The most pernicious element in the movie is the character at the moral heart of the film: the beautiful, modest, caring, generous Pakistani who becomes a beautiful, modest, caring, generous . . . suicide bomber. In his final act, the Pure One, dressed in the purest white robes, takes his explosives-laden little motorboat headfirst into his target.

For Krauthammer, anything short of spitting condemnation of terrorism constitutes self-loathing anti-americanism. The film’s failure to condemn the bomber constitutes an endorsement to Krauthammer’s woefully shallow dichotomous mind. For our part, the youth’s falling in with radical Islamic terrorism was a tragedy in the real sense of the term. His generosity and spirituality were exploited to nefarious ends. And, as is the case with all tragedies, he was the agent of self-destruction. The view identifies to some extent with him (but not his aims) because that is what fictional tragedies are all about. So, at the very least, Krauthammer is guilty of genre confusion: fictional tragedies must be assessed in different ways than actual documentaries.

At the moment, there are too many real world problems caused by views akin to those of Krauthammer and his Republican friends for him to be trying to unearth evidence of Hollywood anti-americanism. Perhaps he should turn his attention to those and save the aisle seat for Roger Ebert.