The trailer for the upcoming Death Wish remake has me holding out hope Eli Roth flubbed it and made a good, relevant even, film.
That hope got a little more slender reading Roth’s defense of it from the predictable anticipatory outrage. Like the original, the film can’t escape the charge it’s “fascist”:
“…many on social media have taken issue with the clip, with some branding its depiction of violence as “fascist propaganda”. The movie’s director, Eli Roth, has now hit back, arguing that the movie is “not about race” and that those accusations were not his intent when making the movie.
“I got to say, it’s just the ‘alt-right’ amount of controversy, because that was the number one trending video on YouTube this morning,” he told TMZ.
“Do I like it? You know what, I’m really proud of the movie, and when people see the movie in context, I think this is all going to evaporate.”
“Everyone is very sensitive, everyone is ready to take a stance against something, but c’mon guys. You have to be aware of your audience, if you want to handle that subject matter, you have to be smart about it. And we do.
“When you see the film, you’ll see exactly how we handle the killing, how it’s not about race. It’s about good, it’s about bad. He’s going after bad guys, he’s going after the guys that did this to him. But you know what, everybody gets a taste of justice in this movie.”
Roth’s lame-punning name-checking of the alt right shows just how much times have changed. Before Trump the average normie didn’t know from “alt right”; now it’s a Thing. But the director has another problem: he might accidentally create the first alt right classic.
It’s remarkable: just as with the original, the film’s liberal detractors now are reading race into the story for us, and making the “racist” assertion that crime is necessarily a black problem.
The first film over-represented white or white-ish bad guys, including the primary villains. Roth’s trailer reassures us almost all of the villains are white, and the one black bad guy we see getting smoked we can confidently tie to the adorable black waif in the hospital who tells Bruce Willis about the drug dealer who won’t let him walk to school (the Ice Cream Man).
It’s enough for some to see a white guy wielding a gun, of course, but in rejecting the authors’ proffered white villains, the liberal critics are comically implying the worst, essentially saying: of course you’re talking about black criminals. You’re not dealing with morons here.
The first Death Wish came out in 1974. The very first–let’s call it–urban fascist western came out in 1971, Dirty Harry. That film followed the same pattern, sort of controlling for race to make it about “crime” by making it ultimately a story of a white hero and a white villain.
Somewhere along the line this genre went away; now you couldn’t make Dirty Harry. But then I would have thought that of Death Wish. Come to think of it, that’s exactly what the film’s detractors are saying: you can’t make that film now.
The Left wasn’t buying it then and they aren’t buying it now: these films were right wing paranoid fantasies about black urban savagery. Of course they’re right about everything but the paranoia part.
By 1970 white America had gotten its first real taste of the black boot. The riots of the late sixties and the first massive pulse of black crime released by enlightened policy and liberal judges was emptying out the inner cities; white America was still being introduced to the humiliation of black malice. Of course we wanted a film about a gunslinger who goes in and straightens them out (and still waiting, really).
The “fascist” charge was always pointless. The problem then, as now, is you’re not allowed to offend blacks. Call the films racist (by implication, again) all you want, they are, I don’t care, but Callahan–like Paul Kersey–is a rogue set against the state and society. Do the stories of Kersey and Callahan impugn the liberal state, and imply the necessity of authoritarian control? That might qualify them as “fascist”, but I think only if you think liberal democracy can inflict no degradation on society and order that is too great. There’s never been a better time for a revisiting of these films, but they would have to be “fascist” and certainly racist to be worth a damn.
Both films are laments of the helplessness of modern man in the urban environment at the onset of the Seventies, abandoned by a corrupt state to the mercy of a perverse and cruel enemy. It’s forty-odd years on, and the America facing the catastrophe of black urban violence now seems positively quaint in comparison. The enemies have only multiplied.
Dirty Harry introduced the trope that became a cliche–the bad guy gets out on a technicality because of a liberal judge. Well, was the US legal system not letting a lot of bad guys out on the streets in the name of liberality in the Seventies? The liberal critics were entirely right that the films arise out of white fear of black crime. That, to them, is enough. They wouldn’t allow then that this fear was justified; they won’t allow it now, four decades later.
It’s still enough, only now, where there was once the dull, cheery confidence of those disastrously naive Norman Lear-era liberals we have the mean, unflinching paranoia of black Twitter and the whole brood of aggrieved they somehow spawned. Not a one of them bears a resemblance to their nice white parents. They must have adopted them from the Third World somewhere.
Social justice has taken on the role of vigilante, punching nazis, assembling mobs, assassinating cops; and it won’t have any cinematic vigilante justice that isn’t socially conscious. Of course at this point many a story has been degraded by social justice, and we can expect it’s only the beginning.
Will it be that Eli Roth “ruined” Death Wish by laying it on too thick?
Or will it be that he couldn’t help himself?
He doesn’t even have to cast racially accurate bad guys. The Left helpfully reminds us if not who he’s talking about who he should be talking about. They document it for posterity. Without them, future generations might read from these films that crime really wasn’t a black thing in our time.