Monday, May 22, 2006

Hype

Okay, Bush, since we're in movie mode it's time for us to weigh in on "The Da Vinci Code." I haven't seen the film, of course, but that fact has not prevented most of those other people who feel qualified to put in their two bits. So why not me?

First off, I confess to having read the book. Curiosity, really. As you may know, Bush--or may not know: why should you?--I have written a couple of art mysteries myself, and I wanted to know why Dan Brown should be raking in the all those zillions whilst I... No matter. Call it envy.

In all objectivity, then, I can report that the book was dreadful. The plot, to begin with, was absurd beyond belief. The research, the sense of history, the theological underpinnings--all outrageously wrong or oversimplified beyond all recognition. Jesus, married! Christianity based on a lie! What a notion! And to Mary Magdelene! And a child! And now, today, after all these centuries, but a single survivor of the line! I realize this is a work of fiction, Bush, but so much for verisimilitude. And the dialogue, the bland, stilted descriptive passages... The "characters"!

Ah, Bush, a truly dreadful book.

Did I forget to mention it was also a page-turner? I blush to say it, but I actually did read the whole damn thing, cover to cover. I can't speak, then, from a position of elevated aesthetic superiority.

What galls me nonetheless is yet another demonstration of the success of marketing regardless of quality. It seems that millions of people flocked to the theaters this past weekend to see a movie that was royally trashed by every review I read or heard. An estimate take of $220 million world-wide! Not quite a domestic box office record, I hear, but close--and the best weekend opening of the current year. A smash.

And you know who's to thank for the success? The folks in the PR department who managed to sell religious outrage as a marketing tool. Their strategy was immediately embraced and eagerly promulgated by all those people who pronounced themselves offended by the very idea of the movie. The outrage of the churches, high and low, from Rome to Alabama, was precisely what was needed to hype this piece of trash (oh, sorry, a totally unfounded prejudgment: this as yet unwitnessed media event) into the cultural (and financial) stratosphere. This fictional extravaganza became, believe it or not, a "teaching opportunity"! Shades, Bush, of "The Passion of the Christ"!

All of which goes to show that you can sell anything to the gullible public these days. As Groucho Marx is reported to have said on the occasion of the well-attended funeral of a widely-feared and hated Hollywood producer: "Give the people what they want and they'll flock to see it." Which is fine with me when it comes to movies. I'm just a bit envious of all that cash flowing in to the author's pockets.

Oh, but Bush, it's different, isn't it, when it comes to Presidents and the same principle applies? It's different when pollsters, spin doctors and cynical hacks like your Rove succeed in selling the American electorate a President of the United States who is hopelesly unprepared for the job. Then it gets serious. I know, I know, it's still about the money. It all comes back down to who gets to rake in the most dollars and keep them in his pocket.

Still, you buy a lemon at the car lot and you're stuck with it, even when it begins to fall apart.

But at least "The Da Vinci Code" does no worse than offend the sensibilities and indulge in essentially harmless--because fictional--untruths. A United States President sold to the public no less by hype and outright falsehood... well, Bush, such a man would be capable of infinite damage in a vulnerable and shrinking world. Not true?

Have a good week, Bush. Bear in mind that infinitely wise first rule of doctors and Buddhists throughout the known universe: first do no harm.

5 comments:

David said...

Peter, I have to confess that, like you, I read the book (it was given to me), and I also found it to be a poorly written page-turner.

I had something of a conflict, however, about whether to go see the movie. I generally won't go see a movie based on a book I liked, because I don't want to see movie stars' faces on the characters that live in my mind's eye. And also, a movie can't begin to capture the level of depth, not to mention the flow of language, that make a well-written book so satisfying. But obviously this was not an issue w/ the Da Vinci Code.

On the other hand, I generally feel compelled to see any movie that people are protesting. But these protests, as you mention, seemed engineered by the PR department to generate publicity, so again it doesn't count. In the end, I've decided not to see the movie. Its one hope was that it could be improved in the screenwriting process, but the main criticism I've heard of the film is that it stuck too closely to the book (so as not to offend its fans). Plus I don't want to be responsible for the over-rated author getting any more money.

On a related note, a friend of mine who works at New Line told me that they're making a film based on Love In The Time Of Cholera. I definitely won't be going to see that one. I may just send a check for the price of 2 tickets and a nice dinner directly to Gabriel Garcia-Marquez. Do you have his address?

PK said...

Oh dear:), you have someone here who loved the book...:D The movie I probably won't be seeing, as David said, I already have pictured in my mind the people I read about. It was only a novel, so as far as all the hoopla... why? If the people aren't strong enough, to weak, in their beliefs, that this would swing them out, then they have a bigger problem, and it's not the book or the movie. Just tell someone they can't do something and by the gods, they'll do it:). I don't really think they tried for this PR, it just fell into their laps, and kept falling. 'The Passion of Christ' was suppose to be an awesome movie, I never saw it, I'll wait for it to hit TV:). Look what happened there. It was finally embraced just to stop the bad PR. I don't see that with Browns book, but I wish everyone would get a grip, it's only a novel, and it's not real, and neither is the movie. Most of what's in the book has been rehashed for so many years that I just don't see why the big uproar over it now.

Anonymous said...

I also read the book and really enjoyed it. Agree with Peter & PK that the book was a page turner. Friend saw the movie and said it was bad, I’ll wait for video.

I guess only another author would look closely at the earnings of another author. The rest of us are just looking for a good time and move on afterwards. Cheer up Peter.

Just curious though, when people speak of Jesus, don't they only know 2 or 3 years of his life, the rest is just a guess. Maybe this will show my ignorance, as I have only read the Bible twice and none of the other stuff.... If this is the case, could he not have had children and a whole host of crazy stuff?? After all, I don’t think many people ever paid him much attention at the time and the few dozen that did were probably much like our own spin doctors of today, trying to get their chosen leader depicted in a favorable view. Not to mention a few kings over the centuries who had a free hand at destroying what they did not like and writing what they wanted. With that said, one of my favorite people in history to sit down with, would be Jesus, to see if I liked him or he liked me, if he was sane or insane, smart or ignorant, dirty or clean, nice or mean ect..

What is kind of funny is this; if Jesus were to appear tomorrow and you were to ask him if he was Christian, he would probably look at you bewildered and say "No I am Jesus, who is Christian?"

Took $200 million to get a complete idiot elected president. In fact, you know how some people say we have not found the Missing Link to explain evolution; ironically, I think some of these same fundamental religious people may have ELECTED the Missing Link President!

Fred said...

Unlike all you smart people, I went to see the movie last weekend. It was dreadful--deadly dull and boring. The pace and rythym were glacial, and I thought it would never end. None of the above will keep it from making $300-400 million or so.

PK said...

Hi Anon.:). Jesus could have been married before he left for India at 15. That's when they married back then. He was studying there till he was about 29 or 30 and then came home. Read "The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ" by Nicolas Notovitch..ISBN# 0-9602850-1-6, it was written in 1894. Very interesting read. Not only that but there are plenty of Indian people I've spoken to that also know of this. They called him 'Issa', and still do. They have it in all their scrolls in the temples. I run with an open mind:D. Give it a go... She may have been his wife all along, that's why she was always beside him:). The men folk didn't like that, it wasn't done at the time, any more than it is today over there. He didn't tell her to get away, so who knows:D. No one has come back to let us in on it all, we just have to keep hunting down the answers to those pesky little questions...