Lars Von Trier is being vile again. In other news, water is wet, I suppose. I haven’t seen the trailer to his new movie, much less the movie itself, but I’ve heard enough to know that I’m not interested. The idea of a movie wherein women are horrifically mistreated from a director known for mistreating women doesn’t appeal. According to Guys On The Internet, though, backing away from this is going to bring an end to provocative cinema.
If the only thing you’re provoking is anger, though, isn’t that just kind of trolling? And couldn’t we generally do with less of that? And if you’re trying to get people to really think about what you’re saying, maybe you should be aware of what it means when the people you’re supposedly defending walk out on your movie in droves. And maybe if you’re accused of harassment by multiple women, you’re not the person to defend them except from yourself.
You have a right to make the most disgusting and offensive films you want. No one’s stopping you. At least, not in a lot of countries. You aren’t guaranteed financing or distribution, but you can make the things. Conversely, other people can complain about them. That’s how all of this works, after all. No free speech without the freedom to criticize others’ speech and all that. So that’s the first and most obvious point, one which gets brought out to the point of tedium—tedious, I think, that we have to keep mentioning it.
What’s more, somehow, it’s considered other people’s fault if they’re offended in some circles. As in, you should never consider if they have good reason to be offended—if you shouldn’t have said the thing you said. Being provocative without thinking about what you’re provoking or why.
I believe a truly provocative film shouldn’t just be edgy for the sake of being edgy. I believe it only matters if it serves a greater point. It should make you think about why you think or feel what you think or feel. It shouldn’t just gross you out or piss you off, not just of the sake of grossing out and pissing off. It should make you consider your reactions. It should make you see the world in a new light, if at all possible.
The fact is, pissing people off isn’t difficult. Nor is grossing them out. Appealing to people’s baser emotions is easy and always has been. Not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with doing that. Especially not if you do it well. Some people like to be scared or pissed off or grossed out. Just as some people like to laugh or cry. But how we make people laugh or cry matters, and if you try to make people laugh by telling them racist jokes, you’re going to get judged for that, and rightfully so. If you’re trying to make people cry by hurting them, you’re a bad person—unless they’re okay with that sort of thing, of course.
There’s more to life than edgy. There’s more to art than edgy. An edge without a handle is not a terribly useful tool; you have to be careful to be sure you don’t cut yourself. You add a handle to it, you can cut what you’re trying to cut with a little more ease.
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