A lot of people whom I like and read every day spent Monday afternoon harrumphing over Kathryn Bigelow’s new film Zero Dark Thirty solely based upon a few articles written about the film and (even though they should know better) the caffeinated banalities of Joe Scarborough’s Current Events for Housewives morning show. By the end of the day Bigelow had been turned into “torture apologist” pin-up girl (much to the dismay, no doubt, of Marc Thiessen who wears everyone else’s war wounds like a crown). Lost in the the high dudgeoning and moral grandstanding of most commentary was the admission by many of these commentators that they really hadn’t, you know, actually seen the movie, but they know this guy whose cousin has a friend whose sister dated a gaffer who worked on the movie and yeah, torture and shit is in the movie, so it must suck.
But, oh look, here is someone who has actually seen it:
Kathryn Bigelow’s new film about the decade-long manhunt for Osama bin Laden begins with an unsparing, nauseating and frighteningly realistic look at how the CIA tortured many people and reaped very little intelligence. Never before has a movie grappled with post-9/11 torture the way Zero Dark Thirty does. The torture on display in the film occurs at the intersection of ignorance and brutality, while the vast, vast majority of the intelligence work that actually does lead to bin Laden’s downfall occurs after the torture has ended.
You wouldn’t know this from the avalanche of commentary greeting the film. Bigelow is being presented as a torture apologist, and it’s a bum rap. David Edelstein of New York says her movie borders on the “morally reprehensible” for presenting “a case for the efficacy of torture.” The New York Times’ Frank Bruni suspects that Dick Cheney will give the film two thumbs up. Bruni is probably right, since defenders of torture have been known to latch onto any evidence they suspect will vindicate them as American heroes. But that’s not Zero Dark Thirty.
Remember a few years ago when wingnuts went off the deep end because Hollyweird was going to make a movie about Margaret Thatcher starring liberal (and therefore America-hater) Meryl Streep, which was going to portray Thatcher as a stark raving bonkers bed-headeded bedlamite based upon a few pages of early version of the script that someone came across? And then the movie came out and everyone was all, “Oh. Good show! Lovely”.
Yeah, well some of you guys are soaking in the same end of the pool.
Kudos, by the way to Kevin Drum who updated his post.