Thursday, March 16, 2006

Brokeback Rant

Remind me never to do this: Brokeback Author: We were robbed. (From AP Wire)

There's just something about this kind of response after not winning a contest that always makes a person come off as a sore loser whether he's actually a loser or not — and I would energetically disagree with anyone who says that the people who worked on "Brokeback Mountain", including Annie Proulx, are losers in any sense of the word. That's what's so unfortunate about her rant. It makes her look like one.

Why? I suppose it's partly because no one can possibly believe in a writer's objectivity when her tone sounds more like a rant than a refutation. To be fair, Proulx does make some interesting points in her commentary. For example, I do think it's most odd that Brokeback seemed to win so many other awards (and nominations), while Crash received only a few. If the Academy were so keen on Crash all along, one would expect them to have shown the reasons behind their appreciation by selecting Crash as the winner of more awards. Or perhaps they did exactly that and no one was paying any attention to the signs.

To that end, I checked the nominations and winners listed on the Academy's website, and it turns out that the score was more even than I thought:

Crash — 6 nominations, 3 wins
Brokeback — 8 nomination, 3 wins

Maybe too many people simply had the impression that Brokeback received more nominations than it actually did, perhaps because it had quite a winning streak leading up to the Academy awards. Maybe it was because Ang Lee won best director. Or maybe it was just all the media buzz surrounding the film. If it was this last point — the popularity of the film — that made so many people expect a winner, then perhaps that tells us something unexpectedly positive about the Academy: that they chose a winner they believed in despite knowing that their decision would upset a lot of people.

The real trouble for Proulx is that she evidently hasn't considered any of these possibilities. Here's where she betrays her membership in one of the worst intellectual "cults" to have ever infected the great liberal tradition: the Cult of the Ad-Hominem Blowhards. Let me explain what I mean:

Proulx says of the Academy: "It was a safe pick of 'controversial film' for the heffalumps." Okay, so the folks at the Academy are heffalumps. They're pickers of safe films. They're choosers of faux — and therefore non-controversial — controversial films; in other words, they're shallow-minded. Elsewhere she calls them "conservatives." Ouch! There you can see just how angry she was. Just imagine if you were to rail against a bunch of card-carrying liberals (like the ones who voted for Crash, which is hardly a family-friendly Disney flick), what name would you call them in order to do the most damage? Why, a conservative of course.

Ad-hominem, character it what you will; this woman is following (or leading?) a trend that has all but overtaken the dialog coming from the Left. She's an Ad-Hominem Blowhard.

Imagine, for a moment, what a conversation between these types of people might be like: "Okay, my fellow Leftists, the world is just crawling with conservative conspiracies, so let's team up and start tearing them down. But remember: We intellectual superheroes don't actually have to understand anyone else's ideas. All we have to do is accuse the people we don't like of 'selling out' or 'having business relationships' or 'wanting attention' or some such thing, then we're done with them. Never mind that they may have reasons for their actions. We simply refuse to recognize anyone else's ability to have any real ideas whatsoever. Only good, cynical Leftists like us can have reasons, and that's because we're always so sophisticated no matter what we say or do. Everyone else is stupid. Isn't it great to be a superhero?! Everything is so simple."

That's what's so shocking about Proulx. She does have something constructive to say. Since I first read her work at least ten years ago, I always thought she belonged in a class far above the blowhards like Michael Moore even when I didn't agree with her, which was more often than not. Maybe she just plays it best when she sticks to writing stories about other people; maybe that keeps her honest. I don't know. All I really know for sure about her is that I'll never see her in the same light again.

[Reposted 17Mar06 because yesterday's edition was a mongrel mass of mixed metaphors and muddled messages, i.e., it sucked.]