LJ 2009-05-31 18:53:00
I’m aiming to write about movies when I see them.. it seems like something positive to do, and means that if I ever have an experience like Mamma Mia again, then at least I’ll get to use that negative energy in some sort of spiteful rant..
So, last night, I saw A Time to Kill, which was kind of good in the sense of entertainment.. Quite the all-star cast too, though at the time Sandra Bullock and Matthew McConaughey probably weren’t quite so well known as they are now, I dunno..
Anyway, I do have one serious issue with it. The whole point of it is that Samuel L Jackson is on trial for the murder of two men who raped his ten year old daughter. The trial is taking place in the deep south, amid lots of racist sentiment, KKK activity, all that.. We’re basically put in a position where the choice is between finding him guilty (a victory for racism) or finding him innocent (a victory for vigilantism). Given the circumstances around the trial, a guilty verdict will lead to him being executed, so we’re operating within a pretty black and white framework, if you’ll excuse the unintentional pun.
What bothers me is that the movie then spends an awful long time saying “racism is really bad”, and through our desire to avoid a victory for the racists, we want to see him acquitted. We’re asked to forgive him for his actions and relieve him of any legal responsibility for them, not because his actions are being justified in themselves, but because to do otherwise would be racist.
Effectively, the movie presents us with two extreme options, no middle ground, and then sets about really pressing home the point of how bad one of those options is. Which really did kind of feel like an attempt to get us to condone the other option as the lesser of two evils, without much discussion as to whether there were any moral implications for accepting that as the preferable outcome.
Apparently, at the end of the day, if you want to fight racism, you have to be okay with a double-murderer going entirely unpunished. Shades of grey are unavailable at this time.