July 24, 2000
The Patriot Sucked
Actually, I quite liked the film but I like audience
ARE SEEING WHAT?
going where?" my leftwing (but surprisingly intelligent) friend
said. Surprised, and more than a little amused by this reaction
I repeated that I was going to see the
Patriot. "You're giving money to Mel Gibson?" Well, yes.
I was surprised, for while not the self-hater that many lefties
are I would not have put him on as a rabid English nationalist.
Moreover, if the American Revolution was not a victory for progress
towards the left in some sort of way, what in heaven's name was?
I am saying this as a royalist, proudly British, religiously minded
person; republican, cosmopolitan, agnostics should see this far
more clearly. So why has a film that states that the American Revolution
was a good thing so raised the hackles in a society that largely
accepts that it was on the wrong side of this scrap?
has a film that in the end makes a uncontroversial point, that the
American Revolution was a hard fought and bitter war for a just
cause, met with so much derision over here? Brits don't care about
the same things that the American liberals care about, we don't
care about guns and kids, its Hollywood and we're used to it. The
blood and soil allusions go over our head, as do any Teutonic links
to axe wielders. So all those conservatives who have said that criticism
of the Patriot is akin to supporting Hilary Clinton are simply
wrong (and a bit silly). In addition, it is not sour grapes; Gandhi
shows that we are actually rather good at making films bashing ourselves,
thank you very much. As far as anti-Americanism goes, this really
does not wash in a market that takes just about any Hollywood blockbuster
main complaint is actually that the film tells fibs. Now before
I get one more e-mail saying "hey it's entertainment" just let me
know what was remotely entertaining about the church burning? Now
it may be a synonym for Waco, but Waco was done by the Feds not
the redcoats. Let me assure you that I fully recognise the difference
between an inaccuracy (the French banner with Parisian red in it
before the Revolution?), a genuflection to political correctness
farmhands were servants yeah, right) and downright pick-a-fight
slander. The church burning was not a jokey moment, and The Patriot
is not a lightweight film. It is intended in part to show that the
American Revolution actually meant something, and to make up an
atrocity means that many critics can now say that it means nothing.
That in itself was a bad, bad thing. Truth matters because history
matters. If we do not understand from where we spring, we will not
be able to steer where we are going. This may sound more profound
than my usual offerings (which usually means I've unconsciously
plagiarised it from somewhere) but it doesn't make it false. The
church burning was wrong because it didn't happen. Now I know we
did have prison hulks, but to argue that this justifies the church
burning is stupid. It argues for the inclusion of prison hulks (or
slave beating or tarring and feathering loyalists) and not of fictitious
church burning. I mean look at the title of this. If I called it
"The Truth Matters" or "Well, actually I rather liked the Patriot
and would recommend seeing it" you wouldn't have even clicked on
this column, would you? However, it does not make it a better column,
and in the long term will probably detract from its value.
is rather apt, in a strange sort of way. Do you remember Waco? You
know the real, live burning of a church with real, live innocent
people being burned. Well remember the sort of untruths that started
that off. They were abusing children (untrue). They were planning
a takeover of the city (laughable). They were manufacturing drugs
(if they were they'd obviously sold too many to the BATF). That
they were led by an unusual chap was true and that they held some,
well, unorthodox opinions may have been true but they did not justify
this massacre. That other religious groups in history have done
bad things also does not justify this waste of life. You see, the
truth matters, and how many of the people who watched this film
will really believe that the English did not burn the church down?
TO LIKING THE PATRIOT
my British readers may be feeling ignored here, so I will say now;
you, too, can like this film. Just follow some simple instructions:
that the American colonists were more English than the German
king they were fighting.
looks just like Peter "file" Mandelson, the Labour "spin doctor"
and future foreign secretary. That explains a lot.
battle scenes are gory but fantastically filmed.
actually acts well. Better than Braveheart any way.
sickly sentimental bits do not really come until about two thirds
of the way through.
the gratuitous inaccuracy of the church burning.
hates the film (probably because of Mandelson appearing in
film conveys, if one-sidedly, both the very real constitutional
issues involved and the love of land and neighbour that compelled
people to fight (on both sides).
was a reluctant warrior and this film in no way romanticises war.
the end, we were wrong on this one, and we deserved to lose.
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