Two weeks ago during our podcast discussion of Rod Lurie’s Straw Dogs, Phil and I spent a lot of time talking about the message of the movie and whether it was misogynistic or not. It is not a new debate and actually has been raging for decades over Sam Peckinpah’s original 1971 version of the film. The question we were more interested in is not whether Straw Dogs is actually sexist, but does it matter? Does a potentially anti-feminine message make Straw Dogs a bad movie, or can it still be appreciated for the fantastic arc of Dustin Hoffman’s character and its unflinching nihilism?
This debate can be applied to any movie going back a century. Earlier this decade the American Film Institute relaunched their All-Time Top 100 Movies list and the new version did not include D.W. Griffith’s influential film The Birth of a Nation. Griffith’s film was undeniably influential to the progression of cinema, but it is frequently attacked because it presents a racist message and is sympathetic to the Ku Klux Klan. Does this make it a bad movie, or at least unworthy of being recognized as great?
Modern movies that contain a conservative world view are often attacked by critics more than movies on the other end of the spectrum (with many exceptions). Does a movie that tells a compelling story deserve to be attacked because it promotes a morally disagreeable message? I suppose that depends on the issues contained within the film.
The question is not an easy one to answer, yet I am going to force you to provide a simple “Yes” or “No.” I’m more interested in hearing what you have to say on the matter, so please share some thoughts in the comments. We will be discussing this further on this week’s podcast.