Cognitive Dissonance

The broken handle is a metaphor, man!Opened up the courier box to find MGM’s new special edition of “Twelve Angry Men” waiting for me, along with one of the oddest gimmes I’ve received in a while.

Like the card says, it’s a chocolate gavel.

Now, when I think of Reginald Rose’s stage play, or Sidney Lumet’s simmering screen adaptation thereof, my mind doesn’t exactly go rushing to candy; in fact, these days I flash right back to the uncomfortable experience of watching the play in Toronto earlier this year with an audience that interpreted every calibrated humiliation and power shift as the stuff of situation comedy.

(There’s a longer post to be made somewhere about the way sitcoms from “All in the Family” to “Friends” have taught us to perceive vicious, cutting insults as punchlines — I find “Everybody Loves Raymond” unwatchable, for example, because I’m always waiting for Ray Romano to deck Patricia Heaton. At least on “Seinfeld” the contempt is front and center.)

But back to the chocolate gavel for a second. Doesn’t it sound like the name of the greatest blaxploitation movie never made?

“In a city where justice lies bleeding, THEY enforced the law!”

Starring Richard Roundtree and Fred Williamson, of course …

3 thoughts on “Cognitive Dissonance”

  1. Re: your experience with the Twelve Angry Men audience . . .

    A couple of weeks ago I was talking to a group of high school students about the ways in which popular films can affect how we see the world. For one example, I pointed to the (well-known) critique of the depiction of the hyenas and Scar in The Lion King, i.e., that they seem linked to racist views of Latinos and African-Americans. This is a topic I’ve discussed before, both with university and high school groups. What totally surprised me this time, however, was the students’ laughter. They honestly thought I was being (or trying to be) funny. And successfully so at that.

    I’m still not sure why they found it hilarious to think that Disney films may reflect/promote racism, but it occurs to me your comments could be relevant here. Thanks!

    And p.s.: Congratulations on the NOW gig! Well done! There is a small group of film critics that I have always enjoyed, and since I first encountered your work in Starweek you’ve been one of them. (The others are no big surprise I think. In no particular order they are: John Harkness, Jay Scott, Roger Ebert, Geoff Pevere, and Pauline Kael.)

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