This is the portrait of the un-offended man.
Blue in the flicker of the living room strobe light. Millisecond sound-bites of six hundred channels, like six hundred reasons to beg for something better. A few hundred laugh tracks for the same dead jokes, re-worked and re-written not to risk being funny. A few thousand hours of pre-packaged pop stars, soft-shock sex and off-screen violence. A million winded gasbags all agreeing in reverse, talking heads talking in thirty second segments.
Scrubbed down, polished and boiled. Safe, soft and suitable. Grade "A" media, fit for your consumption.
Who the hell are we kidding?
A month ago, we were a nation of Puritans, in shock over one and a half seconds of a barely discernable breast, certain that the world would be ruined by the loosening standards of sex if not by terrorism first. Now we're a nation of the vastly religious spitting venom and raising hell over a little movie about heaven, as if the bible had just been published and history rewritten.
The media is on fire these days with The Passion and the clamor of its voice has long-since drowned out any hope of clarity. I've seen the film and have no real desire to lay claim to an argument. I have no great wish to lash out at the Jews or run weeping into the arms of an off-stage faith. And I look around and take the pulse of an offended audience and wonder if the concept of offense is a new one.
Have we become such a uniformly fragile nation, safe in our blanket of softcore everything, warm in our PC petticoat, that we feel that we've somehow earned the right not be offended by the media we create? That disagreement is a disease rather than a treatment? And that one out of every two opposing opinions must certainly be better than its opposite? Did we one day wake to find ourselves so breakable?
This isn't about The Passion and it isn't about religion and it isn't about the primetime illusion of risk. This is about power ˆ the power of film and television to challenge and change, to discuss and demand, to set fire to the world and ask something of the ashes.
The wheel was never our best invention. The image was. There is no modern art-form richer in possibility or wider in scope than the moving image.
With film, nothing is impossible, everything is promised and a hundred million eyes can all see the same thing differently at so many frames per second in the darkness of a room the size of planet. We can have our fears churned up and forced into thought, our prejudice challenged by a camera in a place that we would never dare to go. We can be hurt, healed, raped, scarred, saved. We can be made, for once, to think and if we can think, we can talk, and if we can talk, we can connect, and if we can connect, then maybe, just maybe, we can attend to our problems, or embrace the idea that all problems don't require attention.
Film like a gunshot. Film like a punch. To remind you that you're breathing, walking, working, talking, right in the middle of a world you can't ignore or hope will ignore you.
But here we are, here, in our seats, on our couches, watching this rinse cycle of mediocrity, as the same trendy clothing spins by again and again, and a risk is not a risk that hasn't been market tested or profit margined.
Mel Gibson makes a movie in two dead languages about the world's most controversial person, red-meat bloody and poetically interpretive, and I'm supposed to care that people are offended? No. I don't. I'm glad. Be offended. Hate it. Tear it up. Rail against it. Remind yourself to give a fuck. Scratch out your eyes 'til your nails break off, but don't sit back and accept the general anesthetic that all six hundred channels of primetime Hollywood pump into the waiting room. Because it's the waiting that'll kill you.
Then get over it. Breathe. Calm down. Think. Listen for once. Let the other person speak. Respond, then repeat. This is how it goes. This is progress.
Respond, repeat, respond, repeat. Forever and ever. Amen.