Monday, October 18, 2004


i just watched dogville with jess over skype. It always takes me some
time to form my opinion about movies like that. I enjoyed it visually,
and as far as the shooting and editing went. I'm happy that to see
another successful example of cutting not for strict visual continuity.
yay! That's such a boring artifice, it's a wonder that it's survived so

as for the content: it's so hyperbolic that i have difficulty taking
seriously the moral issues that it brings up. Maybe it's because i
stayed up too late last night, and i didn't have any coffee today, but
I'm having difficulty focusing on the ethical implications long enough
to evaluate them. I recognize the interesting combination of elements -
abuse of the commons, condescension in forgiveness, the weight and
responsibility of judgment, blind adherence to ethical dogma, etc. - but
i'm totally distracted by all the rape and artifice to be able to
evaluate it. It's either that, or the fable's set up is so utterly
foreign to any reality I've experienced that it's implications for
real-world moral decisions are effectively nil.

Let me see if I can sort this out. (skip this dear reader, I'm just
working this out for myself.) There are 2 camps represented:

1. forgiveness and tolerance are good. actions are socially determined.
love the sinner. believe in goodness of people. consensual sharing.

2. people are responsible for thiner actions. forgiveness is
condescending. harsh justice respects the individual's agency.
aristocratic power.

The movie ends with the central female character being converted, after
extreme abuse brought on by the FAILINGS OF HUMANITY, from the former
camp to the latter camp.

The male lead character also makes a transition, from strict ethical
"philosopher" in camp one, to self-interested writer in denial about the
bankruptcy of his values, also brought on by the FAILINGS OF HUMANITY
(internal in his case).

Neither of these transitions even attempt believability as far as the
characters go, as they are strictly allegorical. what's most
disappointing to me is that the male character has been set up as
symbolic of ethical reasoning, but he's such a poor symbol! In the
story, his transition and betrayal rely on human character defects which
contradict the allegory it seems he represents. In the end, the story is
mostly judged based on it's allegorical meaning, and the deck has been
stacked so blatantly to make the director's point, I have to admit it
feels like a hammer.


the movie reminded me of 2 things.

About a year ago, a friend of mine told me that if he saw a dog
drowning, he knows that he would jump in immediately to try to save it.
He realized that he couldn't say the same about a person. His basic
assumption is that people are probably not all good, whereas he couldn't
find it in himself to blame a dog for it's actions. again, here the
issue is (at least partially) agency. the dog has no agency and so is

I guess my world view only really incorporates a partial or intermittent
human agency. Most of the time we're pretty animalistic. For me,
altruism is the result of the agency of the human spirit. Social
darwinism is the result of a lack of "humanity"/agency/human spirit.

good people lose. this is something I've been thinking about in regard
to the presidential debates. when you look at Rove's smear tactics,
they're totally unethical and destructive. yet it's surely a winning
strategy. That's just depressing. I think I may have written about this
recently when I overheard a conversation my mom was having with someone
who was talking about the "homosexual agenda". That kind of talk really
pisses me off, especially when the opposing side in the argument has
been overcome by tolerance so much so that they're tolerating vocalized
bigotry. People who hate can voice that loudly, but the more rational
voice of tolerance can never really raise in pitch and tone to match.
Tolerance is simply something that's difficult to scream about. You
certainly can't shout someone down with it. How many times have I heard
someone voice bigotry? 1000s. How many times have I walked up to them,
put my finger in their chest, and said, "you, sir, are a bigot." right
now I can only think of one.


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