Written by the Master of Movie Disasters, author of The Cinematic Calamity
Greetings, everyone. I have just received two pieces of tragic news: one from Hollywood, and another from Manchester. I will thus forgo my usual duty as Master of Movie Disasters, to comment on these sombre events in the form of an editorial. There will be no Cinematic Calamity this week. This decision is one I have made out of respect and solidarity for the family of filmmaker Zachary Snyder, whose daughter Autumn took her own life in March 2017. Zack Snyder, who was working until recently as director and producer of the upcoming Warner Bros. / DC Comics film Justice League, kept his daughter’s suicide a secret from the public until this week, when he delegated all his responsibilities on the film to fellow director Joss Whedon so that he could focus on caring for his grieving family, including his wife and seven remaining children. The film will still be released in time for Christmas this year, as planned.
However, in the wake of this incident and of the recent death, also ruled a suicide, of Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell, I would like to remind the readers of this column that the artists we adore or despise are people. They are human beings, who can be physically or verbally abused, who feel sadness and pain, just like all of us. We all wake up every day with our own mental health, which can be on the better or worse side of the spectrum. Famous actors, directors, composers, singers, can suffer from emotional trauma or abuse, or mental illness, and sometimes, unfortunately, the public and the media treats them with such disrespect that in the worst case, their issues may worsen. Think of Michael Jackson and Amanda Bynes, of Robin Williams and Gwyneth Paltrow, of Heath Ledger and Demi Lovato, or of British boxer Frank Bruno, whose stay in a mental health care home in 2003 was chronicled by The Sun tabloid under the tragically insensitive, misguided and harmful headline “Bonkers Bruno Locked Up”
This is why I will not make any jokes about celebrities’ mental or physical health in the pages of this column. Nor will I review any films by Zack Snyder, out of respect and condolences to the Snyder family; I had once planned to review Batman v Superman – Dawn of Justice, but this review has been cancelled and will never be written or published. Nor will I profiteer from my soapbox as Master of Movie Disaster to abuse or gratuitously insult filmmakers or actors; you won’t see the words “failed career”, “idiot”, “talentless whore”, “scourge of mankind” or “film school reject” in my column anymore. Although I loathe self-censorship, this is not a question of “political correctness”: it is a question of respect. As people finally seem to be opening up to what is often dubbed the “conversation” about mental health, and discussion of psychiatric illnesses such as depression, bipolar troubles, anorexia, and post-traumatic stress disorder is slowly helping to erase the ridiculous stigma and fear that surrounds them, I would like to make sure incidents such as Snyder’s and Cornell’s are prevented. Criticising bad films and ripping them a new one is great fun, but it must be done with respect: no matter how bad the artist’s work is, they don’t deserve to be abused.
Secondly, I would like to comment on a tragedy that struck in Manchester when 22 people died in a terrorist attack committed by a member of ISIS. I know some of you will be prompt to blame “Muslims”, “immigrants” or “Islam” for this atrocity, and to expose what you claim to be “facts” about the dangers of this religion. Well, to all of you who believe such things and want to talk about the “dangers of Islam”: shut the Jahannam up. (“Jahannam” is Arabic for “Hell”, by the way).
Islam is a religion, just like Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, or Hinduism for example, it is a faith with up to 1.6 billion followers (23% of the world’s population) according to the Pew Research Centre. ISIS is an international terrorist organisation founded on a dogmatic and fundamentalist perversion of Islam which most Muslims would view as extreme, dangerous or even downright blasphemous, and with a number of members rarely estimated to be above one or two million. Come on, try and make a harmful and offensive amalgam now, suckers. You can be as crass and Islamophobic as you like, provided you make a coherent and rational argument that integrates the numbers I have cited in this paragraph. Go on, do it! Waitaminnitdammit, what’s that? You can’t? You can’t assimilate Islam to terrorism anymore because that terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad columnist ruined everything for you? Well, maybe, that way, you’ll see that the theory of “Islam = Islamism” is a crock of old crap conjured up by the populist far-right and by that ever-unreliable tabloid press, including those despicable websites that spew “alternative facts” (read: fake news) across the Internet.
In the meantime, I continue to believe in a world where fascism, ignorance, and blind fanaticism are no more. A world ridden of the social ills that plague it, and where the only commandment is “treat others as you would like to be treated”. Of course, the natural reaction to a terrorist attack is fear, but that is also the worst possible reaction, since it is precisely what the jihadis are hoping for; anger, too, can be dangerous, if it is not contained and if it is directed at an entire religion instead of at the fundamentalist evils that can be born from extreme creeds in all religions.
It is time for Italy, the United Kingdom, France, the United States (yes, that includes the racist, sexist, homophobic, toupee-clad, soggy cracker spread with spoiled shrimp compote that serves as President) to concert themselves and launch a coordinated strike not only against ISIS, but also against ignorance, fear and hate in all their forms, to preserve democracy, not just petty national interests.
I will end the article with a quote from Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai: “If your intention is to stop terrorism, do not try to blame the whole population of Muslims for it because it cannot stop terrorism, but will radicalise more terrorists”
The Master of Movie Disasters – XOXO
Footnote: on the day the article was written, British actor and former James Bond, Sir Roger Moore, died of cancer aged 89. I am sorry to hear of the passing of a great actor and charitable man whose performances will continue to inspire us. RIP, 007.