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...a sweatshop of moxie

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Death Of A President

It was only a question of time.

All of us who have studiously avoided watching the machinations of West Wing, that programme which was a not-so-secret wish fulfillment of Democrats regaining control of that location they most covet, the Oval Office, have known it would happen one day.

And coming on 10 September, 2006, in the Toronto Film Festival, that "it" has finally happened:

A "fictional documentary" of the assassination of the 43rd President of the United States, George W. Bush, will be shown to an already sold-out Canadian audience.

Now, I don't know about you, but I am as game as the next person for a mockumentary.

Some, like This is Spinal Tap, which I finally did see upon the urging of a few readers, can be heaps-loads of fun, and can make subtle, but affectionate fun of the genre which they are portraying.

Some, like Dark Side of the Moon, attempt through real interviews with such worthies as Henry Kissinger and Buzz Aldrin, to give an alternate reality to the credibility of certain fact -- in this case, by suggesting the various Apollo moon landings were a Stanley Kubrick creation in a Hollywood studio.

What these two films share in common, however, is a light touch.

Comedy, not controversy, is their main goal.

That was the impression Barbara Streisand and husband, James Brolin, wanted to create, when they trotted out their own prime-time endeavour on President Reagan, until it was pointed out to them that perhaps making fun of a dying man who had long battled Alzheimers, wasn't in the very best of taste.

After much pouting by the songstress that her film was being dragged through the gutter by the "Republican spin machine", CBS ixnayed the project, until it was finally trundled off to a bad time slot on an even worse premium movie channel.

Few saw it, and even less cared about it.

Especially after President Reagan succumbed to his illness, just a few short weeks afterwards.

But this 90-minute film showing the purported assassination of the sitting US President seems to have loftier goals than just a comedic kick in the pants of a much unbeloved president.

Death of President is slated to be shown on my homeland's More4 cable channel, an offshoot of Channel 4 (the "alternative" channel), later this October.

And channel controller, Peter Dale, has made it perfectly clear that the War on Terror is the main impetus for a fictional documentary of this explosive type.

He says:

"It's quite clear from the film that the story is a reaction to American foreign policy, in particular the War on Terror and how it's subtly, or quite dramatically, changing the politics and internal culture of America.

I'd like people to think at the end of the film about what, domestically, could be the consequences of our involvement in the Middle East."

I'm sure Mr. Dale, where he to be interviewed by me as to the exact meaning of what he says, would be horrified at the suggestion that his last sentence leaves an open-ended question.

Is he suggesting that President Bush should be assassinated for what many consider his botched handling of the War on Terror?

Of course, he would counter that neither he, nor the director, nor the channel suggest anything of the sort: that merely, this documentary was made to show what COULD be a possible result of such foreign policies.

It's almost as if some intrepid filmmaker decided to show what would happen to another daring filmmaker, say, oh I don't know, Theo Van Gogh perhaps, whose controversial documentaries about Muslims, later resulted in the Dutchman's harrowing street corner death, at the hands of an Islamic fanatic.

But something inside me tells me few filmmakers would have made such a mockumentary, primarily because of the colleague factor, but also because suggesting possible physical backlash for their ideas, is not something any civilised human being could condone.

And this is where our fictionalised documentary, steps over that ethical line.

If the premise of the documentary is to make you think what would happen to a President who pursued a foreign policy not in synch with many people's ideals, then it is almost impossible not to believe that it is being suggested that an assassination is the logical consequence of such policies.

From logical, it is but an AK-47 step to justified.

It is PRECISELY this cause and effect angle, that is the most troubling to me.

I have to admit, that I have had dreams since 2003, about President Bush being assassinated when travelling abroad.

Whenever I turn on to CNN in the mornings, I half-expect to hear the fateful newsflash -- "The President Has Been Shot".

Though many people say that Richard Nixon was infinitely more hated in his lifetime, even the counter-culture generation didn't have the gall to put this wet dream of offing the Prez, unto celluloid.


It took our generation, raised on the clever graphics of Photoshop, the slick cutting of MTV, and the Bush Derangement Syndrome of Michael Moore acolytes, to put this germ of an idea into reality.

Let me remind you of a incident which happened in 1977, in one New York publishing house named Viking.

At the time, they handled Jeffrey Archer's publications, and did very well by them, indeed.

But that year, the later disgraced Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare, published a noveleta called, "Shall We Tell The President?" -- whose plot revolved around the imaginary assassination of President Edward M. Kennedy.

(In case you missed it in your 80's history class due to Tab overdose, Teddy Kennedy succceeded President Jimmy Carter as POTUS in 1980. Hah)

The book was largely panned, not only for being a rush job which showed in its writing, but because as can be imagined, various people found the premise of the book to be in the poorest possible taste.

Fancy Teddy Kennedy being assassinated!

Is there no end to the suffering of poor Rose Kennedy??!!

From Pete Hamill, to Art Buchwald, to Gore Vidal, everyone of intellectual standing rubbished or ridiculed Archer's little reverie, as nothing more than pulp fiction.

And then there was Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who had the misfortune of actually working as editor at Viking at the time.

One acid tongue even levelled a not-so-veiled attack on the former First Lady, then in her second widowhood, that "anyone connected with Viking's publishing of this book, should be ashamed of herself".

An unfair characterisation, because Mrs. Kennedy, whose pink Chanel suit and pillbox hat had once been covered with her slain husband's blood one fair Dallas afternoon, threatened to resign from Viking, if the publishing house went ahead and printed Archer's book.

They did. And almost immediately, she went over to Doubleday.

The moral of the story is this, with rhetorical flourish:

When is a scenario, a step too far, even for fiction?

Which voices of protest will be raised when transgressions of good taste and decency, are crossed?

And will it be the same voices as the ones who evinced themselves scandalised, in almost identical circumstances in the past?

Somehow, I highly doubt it.



For my first Photoshopping attempt, it's fantastic.


How Channel 4 Assassinated President Bush

Death of A President: Political Pornography

Kill the President: Why Not?


  • As ever, I could live within your thinking, savor your writing.

    But Dam - n! What have you done with two presidents with one photo?

    Did you do that or was little, what's her name, Schoompsie (Sue me) ghost editing?
    Oh well, maybe next time Preesident Bush's head will become at least two-dimensional. Still, the message comes through.
    My fervent hope is that people who glory in the demise of another (Good Guy) would feel the fear of what they propose for themselves. Might be less of it.

    Anyway, keep practicing. I'm not throwing the first stone since a boulder would fall on this incompetent graphic artist. Still, do Michael Moore next time.

    By Anonymous Paul, at Sun Sep 03, 05:53:00 pm GMT-4  

  • Paul! Is that you? :)

    We go up against each other, on Tuesday you know! ;)

    (Sad news about Roethlisberger. I like him and wish you guys well, overall)

    As ever, I could live within your thinking, savor your writing.

    Thanks, Paul, that makes waiting for feedback, really worthwhile. :)

    But Dam - n! What have you done with two presidents with one photo?

    Can I LOL at myself?

    I have to say, I royally botched up that photo -- but for all that, it's hilarious for what it is.

    Jackie Kennedy looks like she's been thrown a TD ball in the shape of Dubya's head.


    I'll get better -- maybe.


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Sun Sep 03, 07:54:00 pm GMT-4  

  • Tis' I.
    Don't be so anxious, we're not showing up till Thursday at which time we will administer a thrashing, though compassionate.
    It means nothing that my boys didn't win a pre-season game, really, it doesn't. I hope.
    Thanks for the well wishes on our season - right back at you till we meet in the playoffs.

    How come everyone knows how to spell our quarterback's name, except me?
    You know I'm teasing you, the photograph was magnificent.

    By Anonymous Paul, at Sun Sep 03, 08:40:00 pm GMT-4  

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