Sunday, June 15, 2008

Correctly politically incorrect

We’ve already established that Anthony Lane in The New Yorker took everything waaay too seriously in Sex and the City, thinking of it more, perhaps, as a documentary about four women than a farce. Lane is horrified by their political incorrectness, as in what may have been the funniest line in the film, which he describes as “Miranda’s outburst as she hunts for an apartment in a mainly Chinese district” where she says “White guy with baby! Let’s follow him!” He follows with the comment, “So that’s what drives these people: Aryan real estate”—although you’d have to be pretty cloistered in your own Aryan ivory tower not to know that the “Chinese district” is called Chinatown.

I’m all for political incorrectness if it’s an agent for social change which, strangely, “Sex” is, in the way the film emphasizes real values behind a façade of exaggerated consumerism. But I guess there will always be people who have trouble making the distinction.

A case for distinction was made the summer before last in Berkshire County, the third bluest in the nation, when filmmaker Mickey Friedman became annoyed that the drivers whizzing past him to shop at the most politically correct grocery store ever, the Berkshire Coop Market, weren’t joining him in his weekly protest against the Iraq war in front of Great Barrington’s town hall. That they might honk to show that they agreed just made it worse. He complained to his friend, Rudi Bach, who suggested that perhaps Mickey and his signs had become part of the scenery, and promised to do something about it.

The following weekend as Mickey was taking up his lonely post, he saw another protest forming across the street, a group dressed in combat fatigues holding American flags and beautifully lettered signs with slogans such as “Screw Peace,” “Gandhi was a Wimp,” “Peace is for Losers,” “God Supports US, not Them,” and my personal favorite, "It's Our Oil." Rudi and his friends took vigorous abuse from the pro-peace ranks, who gave them the finger or yelled from the windows of their Subarus and Volvos, but within a few weeks Mickey had all the company he wanted.

In the end, a returning soldier took offense at the counter-protest and introduced himself to Mickey, who ultimately made a film about his experience: Spc. John Flynn’s War in Iraq.

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