by Betsy Chasse
Last week the whole BLEEP crew was in Portland for my birthday, and someone tells us about this review in the Portland Mercury of a new film out called Illusion, produced by Mark Vicente – which is kind of a surprise to all of us, because Mark didn’t even work on the film. So we get the paper and here is what we read:
“Any film that sports a glowing rave on its cover from Mark Vicente—one of the directors of the integrity-free new-age cult propaganda flick What the Fuck Do We Know?—gets an automatic red flag. In the case of actor/filmmaker Michael Goorjian's Illusion, the flag is bright, screaming, magenta-pink red, as Vicente also happens to be one of the producers. I guess the only positive quote the Illusion team could find was... from one of its own members. Or maybe that team has simply given up the façade and accepted its status as the least reputable filmmaking organization in America. Regardless, I forbid you from supporting Illusion, a shameless piece of "spiritual," father-and-son reunion crap centered around a stroke-addled Kirk Douglas, whose mush-mouthed performance is not a touching last hurrah from a legend, but downright discomforting to watch. Fuck you, Vicente. You make me angry. (Justin Sanders) Hollywood Theatre”
Now, there should always be room for constructive criticism. I think in any society there should always be room for people to have their opinions. If somebody doesn’t like something based on content, meaning that they don’t agree with me on this concept, or on that particular idea, and here’s why … I think that’s constructive. There’s nothing wrong with that.
I’m even willing to allow for personal taste – that it’s OK for somebody to just plain not like something; they like something else. That’s why there are so many different flavors of ice cream on the planet. Right? But frankly, I think it’s detrimental to society when we begin to accept the kind of behavior displayed by this critic. This particular piece is really a microcosm of a macrocosm of what’s going on with all of humanity.
First of all he accuses Michael Goorjian's team (or maybe he was talking about the BLEEP Team or both) of being the most disreputable filmmakers in America. And then he goes on to misinform his audience. Then he reduces himself to an angry tirade of self-righteousness because apparently doesn’t like what we had to say, and therefore concludes we have a hidden agenda. But what is his hidden agenda? And what is the hidden agenda behind his editor for allowing such a piece? And what is the hidden agenda of the paper that permits blatant hate attacks to go to press?
People ask me, why our society is the way it is, and here’s a classic example. Most editors will tell you that sex and controversy sell. That’s what sells most newspapers, or at least a lot of them, all around the country. And if not blatantly selling sex and controversy, they’re at least cynical and a sarcastic, because this is our reflection as a society. But is it really? I meet a lot of people. By far and away most are good, sincere people trying to do and be their best and get through life as happily as possible. They’re not blatantly angry, they’re not sarcastic, they don’t thrive on controversy – they want peace, and happiness, and self-respect and to get along with others.
It’s like the chicken and the egg. Yes, of course there are violent and corrupt aspects to our society. And of course the media should not ignore these things. But if the media keeps holding up a mirror that society is corrupt, indecent, angry, and manipulative and nothing else, this is what we start to believe about ourselves.
To be really clear, I’m not blaming this newspaper for anything. I’m just using it as an example and saying that if we truly want to change the paradigm, then we have to say, “Enough. I don’t want to promulgate hate for the sake of selling newspapers. I don’t want to abuse other people just for the sake of being able to mouth off and be a jerk.” Because all of that just puts hate out into the universe.
And it’s not like I’m not immune to being a jerk myself. I just had the funniest experience with Will the other day. We were dealing with something, and somebody emailed an answer to us that was just ridiculous. And we’re like frothing at the mouth saying, “He’s stupid. He’s wrong! Blah blah blah,” and our first reaction was to get on the phone and tell him so. But before we both jumped in our anger boat and rowed away, we calmed down long enough to look up the information we needed. And the guy was right. And we were … well, we were wrong.
But how dare we be wrong? How could we be wrong when we were both too busy being bleeping right and knowing it? And we ended up both laughing at ourselves for just swimming in our chemicals and identifying with that position. Thank God we were both willing to at least peek at the possibility of being wrong, you know?
In our society we are very quick to chop heads off. Being right is an agenda. We all do it. The Democrats and Republicans do it. Most political speeches are all about make wrong and make right. And it really hasn’t gotten us very far. I think it’s time for us to step back and contemplate these things.
Let me give you another example. I happen to be a CNN junkie, and I think it’s on Sundays that they review the week and talk to reporters about different stories they’ve written and why they wrote them, and to get their inside perspective. And they had this guy on who had written a series of articles for an army newspaper about the good that the soldiers were doing. And that paper got slammed by every major media organization in the country for producing propaganda. It became a huge make-wrong.
Now, I don’t agree with the war in Iraq, but that reporter on CNN, bless his heart, said something that struck me as being completely right on. He said, “You know, you’re not sitting in a foxhole with a weapon by your side reading this newspaper. These guys are. That’s what they’re doing, whether they like it or not, that’s what they’re doing. And you know, I don’t want to always give them the bad news, because they are doing some good. And what does it hurt, every once in a while, to promote some of the good that people are doing?”
(Have you noticed that the good and positive stories are always a side note? And have you noticed they are almost always delivered with rolled eyes or a joke? Or is it just me?)
Anyway - this is my first shot at having a public voice, and forgive me if I’m a bull in a china shop sometimes. But a few months back in this column I said, “Stop bitching and start a revolution.” And I got a lot of letters about that! But I’ve finally come to the conclusion that this is the revolution I want to start.
I think that all of us who read, and watch TV, and listen to the radio should start paying attention, not just to the content, but the intent of newspaper articles, and talk shows. And I think it’s time for us to start writing letters. Not hate-filled letters, but rather letters to tell editors that we would rather have a more intelligent dialogue than what has been provided. As a society, we deserve and demand a better dialogue than, “Fuck you, you make me angry.” That is just is not going to cut it for us anymore.
So when you read an article, or when you see or hear somebody reporting and doing a show that is filled with hate and anger, give them a different reflection. It’s so easy – as I well know – to jump on the chemical bandwagon and get all riled up and get the juices flowing. But where does that get us? Their editors need to know that, while we respect and appreciate their valuable opinions about films or whatever it is they’re talking about, that anger and hatred isn’t going to work for us anymore.
It’s time for everybody to stop and go, “You know, before I say this, before I do this, before I write this, before I publish this … What does it serve? How does it evolve me? How does it evolve humanity? I think we need to ask these questions a lot more
Just like our audiences showed Hollywood that films like What the BLEEP!? can be successful, we need the world to know that good news makes more good news. So that’s what my call to action is.