Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Out-of-Date Movie Messages

From Crisis:
...One of the “lessons” imparted by Philomena concerns the harmful consequences of attaching social stigma to unwed pregnancies. Because of the moralistic climate in Ireland circa 1955, Philomena was pressured to give up her baby—an act she regretted for the rest of her life. That’s fine if you’re addressing your message to the conscience of a 1955 audience, but the filmmakers don’t seem to have caught up with the fact that we live in a changed world. Many of the problems we face today stem from the fact that there is practically no social stigma attached to illegitimacy. Indeed, there are numerous social incentives for unwed mothers to remain unwed. As a result, the incidence of out-of-wedlock births has skyrocketed and, along with it, rates of poverty, crime, drug abuse, child abuse, child neglect, and abortion. What followed in the wake of the new non-judgmental morality was a seemingly endless cycle of husbandless mothers and fatherless children. Moreover, the number of children forcibly separated from their mothers by court order far exceeds anything seen in previous eras. If the filmmakers were really serious about addressing the issues of the day, the blight caused by the sexual revolution would be one of their top priorities.

There should be no objection to a well-made movie that has a message to convey. But it would be refreshing for a change to hear a message that bore some relevance to the world we now live in, rather than to the world of sixty years ago. Consider the main event in Philomena: a child is taken away from its mother. That’s something that happens every day in the Muslim world. Islamic law and custom tend to favor males in cases of custody dispute, especially if the wife is non-Muslim. Is Philomena meant to be a veiled comment on Islamic practices? Not likely. The last time Hollywood dealt with the subject of Islam and abduction was the 1991 film Not Without My Daughter. Since then, however, the forces of political correctness have tightened their control on what can and cannot be said about Islam.

Betty Mahmoody (the real-life mother on whom the movie is based) is not the only American to undergo this experience. Last year, a Pennsylvania mother rescued her twelve-year-old son who had been kidnapped twenty months earlier by her Muslim husband while they were on a trip to Egypt. Kalli Atteya hired an agency to track down her husband, made several trips to Egypt and, finally, disguised in a niqab, grabbed her son as he got off a school bus in Alexandria, led him to a waiting car, and eventually escaped with him back to the U.S.

So, here is a true story about a stolen child, and his loving mother’s desperate search for him—a story not unlike that of Philomena. The story has plenty of drama, plenty of action, several twists and turns, and loads of human interest. The Daily Mail’s coverage of the story alone has sufficient detail to provide a good screenwriter with enough plot elements to start crafting an absorbing screenplay. Will the movie be made? Probably not. It might be considered offensive to the sensibilities of Egyptians and Muslims. And that, in the current scheme of things, counts far more heavily than the sensitivities of Irish Catholics. (Read more.)

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