The conundrum of movies one might disagree with
A day or two ago, I posted about a German-promoted film that gives every indication of being so mindlessly hostile to Israel that it veers into anti-Semitism. I got a comment telling me that it wasn't very open-minded of me to lambast the film sight unseen, based on someone else's say-so. That was an interesting comment, since it touches upon the conundrum of boycotting movies -- which is that a boycott is effective only if huge numbers of people refuse to see a film based solely upon they've heard about it. You see, if each decides to educate himself about it, and buys the ticket, there is no boycott. In this case, I believe that Davids Medienkritik, which gave the review I relied on, honestly and reliably reviewed the film, especially since the review is extremely detailed. I'm even more comfortable with this reliance because the information the review gave about the film meshes with information I've heard about the film from other sources -- and those were not necessarily critical sources. This word-of-mouth approach, of course, is entirely consistent with the way people have always approached movie going. We often go to movies because we suspect we'll enjoy the subject matter (I like chick-flicks) or because we like a specific actor or director. Likewise, we'll stay away from them if we found the subject matter unappealing (I don't like gangster moviews) or dislike a certain actor (Tom Cruise -- yuck). We also go to movies because a movie critic whom we trust has given the film his approval. And we stay away from those movies if someone we trust gives them a thumbs down because it is, in some way, a bad movie. That's a quality based boycott, and it warns the production companies away from making a movie of similar quality (although many can't seem to help themselves). When we boycott movies on our perception about a movie's moral quality, we, as consumers, are also issuing a warning to the producers. In that regard, it's irrelevant whether the movie actually has the moral failure at issue. It's enough that the movie is perceived as having that moral failure and, based on that perception, people won't see it. If the producers understand that this perception is affecting their box office, those producers with an eye on the bottom line will shy away later from movies that might even trigger that perception. Of course, in the case of Paradise Now, the market forces are skewed by the fact that the German government helped fund the movie, and couldn't care less about market returns. It's also using its control over the national media in Germany to try to flood the theaters with viewers, which is a different, and equally distasteful, subject altogether. So, if you think a movie is going to be awful, either in terms of its quality, or in terms of its subject matter, feel free to stay away. The movie business is all about buzz, and if the buzz is bad, it serves the movie maker right.