Friday, October 03, 2008

What is This, Maher for Theocracy? by Anthony McCarthy

Note: This isn’t a movie review. It’s a movie promotion campaign review.

Here’s a rule of life, when Bill Maher has taken it up, you know a fad has just about run its course. I might watch him if I don’t have to wash my hair that night, but not if I’ve got to pay for it. I’ve seen Maher’s act and didn’t find it very good. He’s a bargain basement George Carlin - Gary Collins IVF clone as seen on TV.

Being antsy (and, yes, very grouchy) about this upcoming election as it is, suspecting it’s only things like the future of democracy here and possibly the fate of the planet at stake, I’m not happy to see that Bill Maher has a movie opening this week that jumps on the seriously old band wagon of religious mockery. And it has gotten old. I’ve yet to hear or read any of the latest crop that Bertrand Russell didn’t say better twenty years before even I was born. But then old Bertie generally had an idea of what he was talking about. At best, the new crop might have read a bit of Russell on religion, though most likely filtered and watered down through, well we don’t have to get into them here again.

I’ve got nothing against mockery, it’s one of those things ideas should be ready to defend themselves against. But it’s got to be accurate, fair and actually funny in a way that hasn’t been done to death. Without those, it starts off stale. Maher’s other stuff has the ambiance of the day-old rack as it is. What I’ve seen in the promotional material for this movie, one would imagine some of his best stuff, it looks pretty boring. Another thing, mockery that has a potential to cost something, has to be worth the risk.

My fear is that coming a month before this enormously important election, with the pathetic McCain campaign looking for any dirty trick and trumped up opening they can dream up to get them the margin of victory, having a jack ass release a much hyped movie on this subject is tailor made for Republican use. If they don’t see that this would go right along with his Palin ‘values-voters’ gambit, they’re too stupid to be in charge of movie releases. As one seems to need to always remember, it doesn’t have to work with everyone for it to throw the election, it just has to work with those it might work for. It doesn’t even have to be a worthless and lousy movie to do that. It just has to have that effect.

It would be a minor irony if Maher’s movie did what Ben Stein’s earlier one apparently failed to do, generate a cause celebre for the Republican right and influence this election in their favor. With their previous stated experience, I don’t believe that the guys doing this release couldn’t have anticipated the possibility of something like that happening. I believe they are hoping to cause a big stink before the election and to financially benefit from it and that it’s what their timing is all about. If I’m right about that, what a bunch of irresponsible jerks.

As predictable as anything, some who might read this will say that I’m calling for censorship. No I’m not. This is a call for responsible timing for a commercial release of what is almost certainly a movie of no informative value.

Did they even consider a Christmas season release date, when it would have gotten them a similar bang for the schmuck effect but after it couldn’t carry the clear and present danger of doing what they purport to be trying to prevent, electing religio-fascists at the polls? By all means set off William Donohue in December, what Christmas season would be complete without him taking a semi-coded swipe at “Hollywood Jews”. That background music is as familiar a part of the season as “Cha-cha-cha-chia”. We just don’t need it this month.