Holocaust Imagery in Recent Films

There was a huge mound of discarded children's shoes in Pan's Labyrinth and another of peasants' shoes early in Pirates of the Caribbean 3. Mountains made of the shoes of the slaughtered (whether by a horrible Freudian monster or a monstrous government) is an easy invocation of horror and an obvious allusion to the Holocaust (one of the easiest horrors to summon for our twenty-first-century western consciousness).

These two films were so very different in focus and tone, yet both use this stock Holocaust image to magnify/simplify our awareness of Evil in the deaths of "chosen" people: children--the ultimate innocents--in Pan's Labyrinth and those who resist the government in Pirates of the Caribbean 3.

Pan's Labyrinth arguably earns its usage: the Holocaust is part of our consciousness and unconcious fears as viewers, plus the filmmaker wishes to draw connections between the Spanish fascists of the Spanish Civil War era and the Nazis. By comparison. Pirates 3 is all about shortcuts that maximize pathos with the least amount of filmic space (so we can get to the action-adventure scenes, the special effects, and the Johnny Depp scenes).

Yet I am surprised to have found this image in both films. Has anyone noticed similar imagery in other films recently?


Well Fallen, Mr. Falwell

So, Jerry Falwell is dead. May his legacy of hatred and intolerance join him in the nothingness that I believe meets us all at death. May all the wickedness, cruelty, bigotry, and hypocrisy he spouted vanish into resounding silence for the future and instant forgetfulness smack into the minds of his followers with the same certainness in which his life ended (sans rapture, I might add).

I almost wish I believed in hell at times like this, for that is surely where Falwell would be right now if it existed. In sincerity, though, I simply wish that respect, tolerance, love, peace, kindness, gentleness, honesty, concern, care, and fun would find their way into the hearts of the Religious Right, and especially into their leadership.

Morality does not necessarily come with religious faith and, often, the opposite seems true: the louder the voice from the pulpit or the pew, the more immoral and irrational. Falwell did grievous wrong to his constituency and to all those who lent him even half an ear for half a moment. We can see it in his every word, but I don’t want to reprint them here lest they pollute the internet more than they already do. (But do visit
Mark Morford’s Falwell column to read some of the saddest and most evil and know fully whereof I speak.)

When you’re through, you might want to read the wit and wisdom of that bizarre combination of iconoclast and neocon
Christopher Hitchens at Slate.com or watch him on CNN, spouting anti-Falwell/anti-religion rhetoric with more persuasive and powerful gusto and sparkling white male Britishness than anyone else on the planet can muster (well, there’s always Richard Dawkins). I am so glad ethical athiests are starting to have some voice in the media!

To conclude, let me add how much I resent Falwell for making me have to write this blog entry. We all have better and more positive things to do with our time than combat the evil he spewed into the world in his power-mongering way...evil that will continue to impact this nation's populace and leadership, sadly, even after his death.

I think today would be a good day to plant a tree in reverent honor of a future without Mr. Falwell in it. And hug your LGBT friends. (Any excuse for a tree or a hug is good, eh?)


Vonnegut's A Man Without A Country

I just finished reading Vonnegut's A Man Without a Country. It's full of powerful opinions from the Left, wise and well-earned outrage. In fact, I don't think I disagreed with anything he said, though I have my own pessimistically idealistic feeling the species won't die out in the next 100 years, even if we are speeding towards doom at a rate unprecedented or unimagined by previous generations. Each generation has doom-predictors: we're just moving faster because our technology moves faster. And, in this country, because we let the dumbest and greediest lead in every facet of life. The book reads quickly and smoothly and delightfully in a pithy, witty, and often powerful way. From religion and politics to death and the arts, I share his perspectives.

Vonnegut does disappoint me, however. Or no. I could tell where he'd go in ways that I've grown accustomed to yet regret. Old-school white male focus is my frustration. He makes reference to men and women (with only one chapter doing a bit of Venus and Mars, and then only superficially), but all the wisdom he finds -- in literature, politics, arts, sciences, and his personal experiences -- come from the minds, mouths, and pens of white men. Lincoln, Hemingway, Twain -- I could catalog it but I won't. But references to famous wise women are absent, with the single exception of one reference to a few word's from Emma Lazarus. And people of color are praised for maintaining extended families (Navaho, the Ibo) and the Blues (African Americans), but only Martin Luther King is named (in passing).

We are products of our times and places and Vonnegut's more wise here than foolish...though it would have been so nice to write this post without a caveat. Hence, I'll end it elsewise.

Kurt is up in heaven now; and if this isn't nice, I don't know what is.