Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Woodsman and the Root of All Evil

The Woodsman, with Kevin Bacon as a recovering pedophile. This one I liked, being a reformed pedo myself (just kidding, FBI surveillance members). It was surprising and refreshing to see everyone’s favorite “boogeyman” get a makeover and allowed ordinary human feelings, audience sympathy, and even, sort of, a happy ending. No doubt lots of people were incensed by the movie and considered it immoral because it evoked sympathy for someone who likes to have sex with pubescent girls (and even pre-pubescent, the character stipulates 10 to 12-year-olds). But it does an admirable job of telling its story first (which is really a character study, made effective by Bacon’s soulful and moving performance), and making its points second. The points it makes, predictably enough, center around tolerance and compassion, and the film shows pretty persuasively how regular folk’s fear and loathing of “pedophilia” (and the denial of their own propensity for it) only make the whole sticky problem worse, by refusing to even entertain the possibility of understanding.

The film dramatically illustrates the inevitable tension between the deviant and the society that rejects him, and how that tension itself gives rise to further deviance. It’s the oldest folly of all, the demonization of the other in order to project all our own unacknowledged neuroses, fears, and desires onto them. But oh, it’s convenient! The result is that what we fear and loath inevitably becomes more and more fearsome and loathsome the more we deny it and refuse to understand it. Because without understanding, there is no possibility of acceptance, which is the necessary prerequisite for change. If we only forgive the sinner once he has repented, what’s so admirable about that? Especially when we refuse to afford him our trust and compassion and sympathy and belief that he CAN change.

How is the sinner ever to repent, if he can’t first be forgiven, and forgive himself? All that self-hatred and the unbearable sense of being different, alienated, from others is what leads to the deviant’s neurotic drives to begin with. So it can easily be seen how society’s response to the “problem” (a problem which, after all, IT created), only exacerbates the problem further.God how I despise moralists!
"Morality is the root of all evil” - if I may be permitted to quote myself. (Matrix Warrior. Hey, it's my blog, man!)

The Woodsman is a slight, and apart from it subject matter, fairly conventional film. But it’s an affecting, graceful, intelligent work, with an astonishing and courageous central performance by Bacon; as such, it is definitely one of the best American movies of the past year.

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