Feminisim in the 1950s

In 1953, 20th Century Fox produced How to Marry a Millionaire, a romantic comedy starring Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable, and Lauren Bacall. For some reason I have a section called “Critically Acclaimed Comedies” on my Netflix feed, mostly featuring Audrey Hepburn-esque films, and this movie popped up. I had nothing better to do, so I watched it, and within the first twenty minutes I couldn’t stop thinking about what a field day feminist critics would have with it.

The main characters are models with one goal: find a rich man and marry him. Why? Bacall, as the no-nonsense Schatze, puts it very simply: Marriage is a matter for the brain, not the heart, and the best option for a woman is to marry rich, because love don’t mean a thing. As soon as she said that I knew what would happen, according to the standard, cookie-cutter, narrative of the Hollywood Studio System Golden Age. They would all find promising rich men, think they were doing well, and then meet nice boys, fall in love, and make a complete 180 degree turn to follow their hearts instead of their brains.

I couldn’t tell if the creators of this film were trying to write about strong independent women, and just doing it wrong, or if they thought it was okay to make such a sexist film. I know the 50s were a time of mass commercialism, materialism, consumerism, poodle skirts, big fancy hair, and anti-feminism, but really? Let me give you some examples of dialogue and action in the movie that set me on edge.

 

Schatze talks to her girlfriends, Pola (Monroe) and Loco (Grable), when they first rent the fancy apartment in New York City. She reveals her plan to catch a rich man.

“Of course I want to get married; who doesn’t? It’s the biggest thing you could do in life!”

Which immediately segues into:

“Marriage is a matter for the brain, not the heart.”

These two statements seem to represent conflicting stereotypes. First, the subtext seems to be, a woman is nothing without a man. She could be referring to the collective ‘you’ of the world, not the specific ‘you’ of the people she’s speechifying to, but I doubt it. She’s talking to only women in the context of a conversation revolving around the necessity of a rich man, the likelihood that the writer meant for her character to be claiming that marriage is the end all be all for people of all genders is very slim.

 The second line seems to be trying to fight against the stereotype that says all females are inherently emotional and irrational. Of course, this happens at the start of the film when the characters haven’t yet realized what’s right and true. So this line could be ironic: a woman claiming to value intelligence and logic over emotions eventually decides to listen to her heart. Cue happy ending.

 

There’s a meet cute between Tom Brookman and Schatze—he’s interested in her, but his casual attire led her to believe that he was poor. He isn’t, of course, but that doesn’t stop Schatze from shunning him. He resorts to calling at her place of work in order to see her.

The resulting scene is ten minutes of Brookman lounging in a chair, watching girls model clothes for him like mannequins, and calling up the “pink and blue number” (the dress worn by Schatze) for an uncomfortably, judgmental look up and down her body before dismissing them all and walking out without buying anything.

 

Loco travels to a lodge in Maine with a wealthy married man and catches the measles. Her host tries to figure out if she has a temperature, as she claims. The only thermometer they have is a 12” one from outside the house, she tries to refuse to put it in her mouth but he practically forces it down her throat and yells, “Don’t say another word until I take that out of your mouth!”

Now…that’s just awkward. And uncomfortable. And not just for the not-so-subtle innuendo. He later says that his wife is a “true credit to her sex,” as if the average woman is something inferior or common or generally unimpressive.

 

Later, Pola, after having spent most of the film blind as a bat because she was too insecure to put on her glasses (Four-eyes!), meets a man on a plane who changes her entire worldview and accustomed habits with one compliment: here’s a video of the scene.

 

The film ends at a diner, all three girls happy with their husbands and content to live with love and without money. Surprise! Schatze’s new husband is secretly rich! The girls instantly faint, in tandem, and the men raise steins of beer with a rousing, “To our wives!”

 

What?!? Just…what?? All throughout the film, the women are portrayed as ditzy, materialistic, selfish, bratty, cold-hearted, judgmental, and/or irrational. They end up completely changing their worldview because of men who apparently have no flaws; the flaws they do have are made light of (one man is a criminal on the run from the IRS!).

While there are several male voices in the film (shady rich man, self-absorbed rich man, kindly rich man, cheeky rich man, wholesome forest ranger, and sweet lawbreaker), Bacall, Monroe, and Grable are the only women with a voice in the film. And they play ridiculous characters.

How to Marry a Millionaire won a bunch of awards, aired on TV, and is currently up for a remake by Nicole Kidman’s company, Blossom Films. Whyyyy?? This narrative isn’t a satire on gender/class stereotypes. It is gender and class stereotypes. That’s what the fifties were! It privileges wealthy, white males to such a degree that I can’t believe I sat through the entire film! (And yes, it privileged the upper class, because the big surprise, happy ending is that the main character married a rich man without even realizing it!)

I’m using so many exclamation marks right now! And I don’t even care! I almost want a remake so I can see what kind of response it gets from feminist groups. And the remake better keep in the part where the Kindly Rich Man buys the Main Female a whole houseful of furniture because she can’t afford to buy her own, since she’s a poor, single, model.

Italian Neorealism in American Film

This week’s assignment calls for an analysis of cultural values and/or fantasy themes, which means I look at a work and decipher what preexisting ideologies the creator is drawing on to make a statement.

Example: If I asserted that someone gave up something valuable for another, I would be implying that they were selfless, which would create a nice, alluring glow around this person, because we, as a culture, frown upon selfishness and value sacrifice. –> Cultural Values

Example: If I make a movie about the triumph of an underdog, I’m capitalizing on the David and Goliath myth that I assume the majority of readers in this predominantly Christian culture is familiar with. –> Fantasy Theme

My overall subject is the Italian Neorealism movement, but since I’m not Italian, nor am I an expert on Italian cultural values, I decided to look at the American film that most closely followed techniques of Italian neorealist filmmakers: Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront (1954). This film premiered after the Italian neorealist movement lost its momentum in Europe, but is the closest Hollywood ever got to the truthfulness of post-war Italian film, for three reasons:

1)   the use of real locations (not on back lots or soundstages),

2)   non professional actors (real thugs as extras and supporting characters), and

3)   a topic revolving around social responsibility and true-to-life situations (narrative adapted from a series of newspaper articles called “Crime on the Waterfront” about corruption and racketeering in NY longshoreman unions)

The Premise:

Terry Malloy (Marlin Brando) is a boxer nearing his thirties who gets cajoled into the racketeering business by his brother, Charlie, who works for mob boss Johnny Friendly. Friendly pulls strings on the docks, smuggling shipments in and out and controlling workers through the union. He’s about to be put up on the podium in court and needs to get rid of the snitches. Charlie uses Terry to lure out one of the witnesses, Joey—he thinks the thugs are just going to “lean” on him. Joey falls to his death right in front of Terry’s eyes.

Now Terry is suspicious. He’s guilt-ridden and second guessing if he really wants to be involved in this kind of life. But should he testify against Johnny or stay loyal to his brother? A priest and a love interest urge him to testify, even as Johnny and Charlie pressure him to stay quiet. And then Johnny makes a huge mistake: he kills Charlie as punishment for letting Terry off the hook and as a warning to Terry (this is what happens when you defy me). Of course he also gave Terry all the incentive he needed to want to testify against him in court.

Terry testifies and goes back to work on the docks. The union thugs warn him not to enter to dock, he doesn’t really think they’ll let him work after everything that’s gone down. But Terry doesn’t back down, despite the beating he’s getting, and eventually the other workers band together and declare a strike unless Terry gets to work. The final shot shows Terry limping, injured, onto the docks to work alongside his fellow longshoremen.

Now, why is this story so compelling? Let’s break it down.

First off, Terry is in a kind of David and Goliath situation; he’s one poor, powerless man going against the brute force of a ruthless gang. We root for him because his chances are slim and because we’ll always want the underdog to win.

In most cases, the Informant character would be portrayed negatively, as a Snitch—since we value loyalty—but in Waterfront, the hero is a snitch. His betrayal is justified because he sides against corrupt criminals, even though he doesn’t decide to testify until the third act of the film.

Any audience today would consider the film with less awe than moviegoers did at the time of Waterfront’s release; the core of the narrative reflects certain cultural values that were more prevalent in post-war America than they are today. The 1950s were a time of fear, a time in which McCarthy’s anti-Communist paranoia put many Hollywood filmmakers on black lists and under heavy suspicion. Director Elia Kazan and writer Budd Schulberg were driven to create this film in direct response to their experiences with the tumultuous politics and extreme factions of the “Red” debate.

Both Kazan and Schulberg stood before the House Committee of Un-American Activities as witnesses and named several fellow filmmakers as Communists. Naturally, they got a lot of heat for their decision to testify, especially since one of the accused was Kazan’s close friend and collaborator, playwright Arthur Miller. However, the political climate at the time only made the hero’s dilemma in Waterfront more compelling and relatable to audiences who had strong opinions about the idea of “snitching.”

The narrative’s origin in real life events hints of a strong Italian Neorealist influence, and obviously paid off for Kazan, since the film took home eight of the 12 Academy Awards for which it was nominated and has remained in many of AFI’s “Top 100” lists for Movies, Heroes and Villains, and Film Scores.

Basically, what I’m saying is: “You need to watch this movie; it’s amazing.”

Pentadic Criticism of Rome, Open City

In order to draw significance from the narrative of a classic film of the Italian Neorealism movement, I will use the 5Ws and an H (Who, What, When/Where, Why, and How) that journalists use when writing articles–otherwise known as the Pentad, as detailed in Kenneth Burke’s A Grammar of Motives. First, let me lay out the plot:

Rome, Open City is about a handful of Italian patriots resisting the German occupation in 1944 in the hopes of returning their native country to its former independence. Giorgio Manfredi (aka Luigi Ferraris) is the resistance leader who spends the majority of the film trying to escape capture by the Gestapo, before getting captured and tortured to death while refusing to give up resistance information. His ally, Don Pietro Pelligrini, works with the patriots as a courier of information and packages and looks after a group of local boys. Marcello leads this child gang, the son of widowed Pina and her fiancé Francesco, a typist and friend of Manfredi’s.

Several archetypal characters oppose the featured rebels:

Major Bergman: an effeminate, heartless Nazi with no qualms regarding torture; his motive is to capture resistance leaders and torture information out of them in order to crush the rebellion; he carries out this torture to the point of murder

Ingrid: a sleazy, cold lieutenant who manipulates and bribes information out of corruptible girls

Marina: Manfredi’s girlfriend; one such “corruptible girl” who betrays Manfredi’s whereabouts for money, drugs, and material possessions

Police Commissioner: Italian native who helps the Gestapo leader locate patriots

Captain Hartman: the ultimate soldier; carries out orders sans compassion, regardless of his personal opinion about the army’s motives and actions; in charge of executing Don Pietro

Through analyzing dialogue and characters’ actions, we can form two general statements about the opposing factions in Rome.

1)    The patriots, the good guys, are common people of strong faith in God who are dedicated to their justified cause to the point of self-sacrifice.

Dialogue between Don Pietro, Pina, and Francesco advocates placing faith in God before all things, staying true to the principles of Christian humanism (helping the downtrodden), and trusting in the inevitable victory of a just cause (one that frees a nation’s people from persecution). In the third act of the film, Manfredi stays true to his cause, even though it costs him his life; Don Pietro refuses to crack, in honor of Manfredi’s noble sacrifice, and he is executed. The resistance’s burden, and hope of victory, is then transferred over to Marcello and his faithful gang of kids, who witness Pietro’s execution.

2)    The bad guys are not only Nazis, but upper-class Italians that value money and material things over loyalty to their country and their native people.

There’s an obvious lack of faith and Christian principles in the antagonistic characters: no humility, compassion, or generosity, only greed, cruelty, and pride.

We have now identified the Agents (characters) within the film, the Acts of resistance and torture they commit, the Scene (setting) of fascist, WWII Italy within which the story takes place, and the Agency’s that allow the Agents to carry out their Acts (tactics of the Italian patriot resistance and the Gestapo). The last element of Kenneth Burke’s Pentad is Purpose. Why did Sergio Amidei, Federico Fellini, and Roberto Rossellini (writers and director) choose to build the plot and construct characters in that particular way?

Motive can be drawn most significantly from analysis of the Act-Agency ratio. The Scene is unique to wartime occupation in Italy, and the characters are archetypal and therefore universal, but the theme can be drawn from an examination of what the characters were trying to do and how they attempted to succeed.

In the first and second acts of the film, characters attempted to get a leg up on the Gestapo by setting off bombs wherever there was a concentration of German soldiers. In the third act, the two main characters resist the Gestapo not through violence, but by refusing to renounce their faith, their cause, and their people, even at the cost of their lives. That’s the message that they indirectly imparted to the children, the hope of the future. Both the score and the sweeping panorama of Rome with the children in the foreground implied that hope was not yet lost.

Previous dialogue exchanges and the rebels failed attempts at guerilla warfare underscore the importance of faith, humility, and courage in the face of death. The message can thus be extracted as such: Don’t give up, believe in a cause that’s dedicated to liberty, and don’t stop fighting oppressive forces.

“The Bicycle Thief” – A Narrative Analysis

In my last post, I discussed Roberto Rosselini’s film, Rome, Open City, through a pentadic lens (Agent, Act, Scene, Purpose, Agency or Who, What, When/Where, Why, How). My analysis revealed that the film doesn’t fall in line with Italian neorealist principles, namely a dedication to simple stories with few key characters and a plot derived from everyday activities.

This week I’m going to breakdown Vittorio de Sica’s masterpiece, The Bicycle Thief, by looking at the narrative structure.

Setting – The key element of the Italian Neorealism movement is it’s setting, shocking, I know. Neorealist films popped up all over the globe after World War II, any place where filmmakers were drawing stories out of the common person’s everyday life and struggles. What made each region’s brand of neorealism unique was the setting and the type of people that fight for life there. In this case, the setting was post-word war Rome, the element that colors the film as Italian Neorealist.

Characters – The two main characters are classic archetypes that all audience members can at least feel empathy for, if they don’t personally relate. The main character is an unemployed father with a wife and two kids, living in poverty-stricken Italy and struggling to support his family. His young son of eight years old is confident, brassy, and self-sufficient beyond his years. Together they work at whatever jobs they can get to support the mom and her newborn child.

Narrator – The film presents the story sans narrator, although the story follows the father. This avoids the inevitable bias that narrator characters bring to a story and leaves only the point of view of the director and writer up for consideration, since they shape the work’s creative vision, as per the auteur theory prevalent in post-war films.

Plot – The events of Bicycle Thief express the actions of people found in the state of poverty and are revealed chronologically over a short period of time, thus exemplifying the real time + real space = real world verisimilitude equation of neorealist filmmaking. The driving force of the film is a combination of bad luck (or lack of luck) and, primarily, the actions and choices of other humans within the setting.

–       The opening scene shows a gaggle of men standing outside an employment office waiting, hoping, for a chance at work. Our main character, the father, is called up and he comes out of the crowd to accept the job. This opening shows the universality of the story we’re about to witness; it says that this one man’s story could be, and most likely is, the same as any one of the other men in the crowd. Opening on a crowd and singling in on one of the crowd members is a tactic De Sica uses again in Umberto D., which chronicles the struggles of post-war pensioners.

–        The crux of the story is that the father needs a bicycle as part of his job requirement (gluing up movie posters on buildings). The resulting series of events details his acquisition of a bike; the theft of a bike; the unwillingness of a witness to give up the thief’s information; the father’s damnation by a hostile community when he attempts to confront the thief; his resignation to stealing a bike out of desperation; his failure and arrest; and his release. The father and son walk off dejectedly into the sunset, without a bike, without a job, without money, and without hope.

Audience – The majority of local audience members seeing Bicycle Thief would have been familiar with circumstances detailed within the film; although social commentary on the poor and downtrodden were just barely beginning to be “a thing” in film, the sentiments expressed in de Sica’s work (the ones that spurred on the neorealism movement) were widespread within discontented Italian communities. Global audiences, however, weren’t as familiar with the problems in post-war Italy. Most would have related to the film’s universal portrayal of unemployment struggles and the pressure of a parent’s responsibility to support their family. At the very least, compassion for the spunky, charismatic son would have captured audience interest and invested them in the story.

Theme – Like many neorealist and post-war filmmakers, De Sica was of the type to lay out problems and ugly truths of life for audiences who were used to the glamorous, glossy melodramas of the wartime era. The lack of luck and lack of communal compassion in the film’s Italian community lead to a theme of hopelessness and fatality that rubbed many Italian viewers the wrong way. De Sica offers no solution to the problem, rather he lays out the life of this stranger and challenges audiences to pay attention to the sufferings of people around them. He says, “Hey, this is happening, this is real, are you going to do anything about it?” rather than, “This is a problem and here’s how you fix it.”

De Sica’s approach with The Bicycle Thief points out the flaws of society and suggests at the universality of the main characters’ situation in order to throw light on the reality of post-war life. Since the film’s release in 1948, it has held a strong position at the top of Sight & Sound magazine’s list of greatest films of all time, as well as the British Film Institutes recommended list of films to see before age 14. De Sica knew his audience and knew how to hit right in the feels.

An External Analysis of Rome, Open City using Burke’s Pentad

Earlier I discussed the Italian Neorealism movement in film and the theories that made up the movement. I thought it would be more fitting to analyze a movie of the era rather than the words of an idealistic theoretician. Of the films that originated in Italy from 1944 to 1952, Rome, Open City was by far the most impactful, long-lasting work of art; it has influenced filmmakers around the world to this day. Since this rhetorical artifact is not the traditional speech or article, I’m going to conduct my analysis using the pentadic method of criticism, which has 5 indentifiers (much like the journalistic 5Ws): Act, Scene, Agent, Agency, Purpose. This method is much more flexible and therefore more easily applicable to the artifact I chose, and will reveal the level of influence the film had on the movie industry.

*Note: The Pentadic method of criticism is used to examine an artifact internally by identifying the pentad within the act, or the who/what/when/where/why/how of the speech, film, etc. In this instance, I identified the pentad on a larger scale, taking in context clues from the world outside the film in order to draw a conclusion. Here‘s another post applying Burke’s Pentad the way it’s meant to be used.

The film itself constitutes as the act, released in 1945 only three weeks after World War II officially ended. Its genesis lies in the combination of two projects that Rossellini agreed to take on for an elderly, wealthy, Roman lady: a documentary on a priest who was shot for assisting the Italian partisan movement and a documentary about the child gangs who fought against German occupiers.

Written by Sergei Amidei and Federico Fellini (two of the Italian Neorealist greats), the film artfully combined the two topics and created an intensely emotional call-to-action for all audiences.

The agency is the filmmaking industry, the agent Rossellini, but more important is the purpose: to immortalize in film the true stories of real people suffering through the German occupation in Italy and to persuade people to open their eyes to the real dramas unfolding in their lives every day.

The act and agency are limited in their inherent duality: art versus business. Yes, filmmakers want to make films with meaning and artistic integrity, but their message won’t reach anyone if the don’t attract attention; how do you attract audience’s attention? Dramatic situations, compelling stories, and familiar, empathy-inducing characters.

Many inflexibly traditional neorealist films, such as those created by the De Sica-Zavattini directing-writing team, feature simple narratives that revolve around the daily activities of one or two characters. The development of these stories mirrors their subtle cinematic style: basic camera movements, natural lighting, and invisible edits. Such films, although they stay true to the philosophies of Italian Neorealism, did not find financial success or broad audience appeal. Therefore they weren’t as successful, rhetorically, as Rome, Open City, whose dramatic narrative follows the more traditional Hollywood filmmaking style, which appeals to a commercial audience.

Looking at the pentad specific to this artifact–Rome, post-war Italy, Rossellini, film industry, social awareness and responsibility–it’s clear that the dominant indentifier that drives the artifact is purpose, within the context of scene. The purpose is to relay information in the form of art via a melodrama that looks like a documentary.

Cesare Zavattini’s Idealistic Approach to Filmmaking: Then and Now

Some Ideas on the Cinema” was first published as an edited interview in La revista del cinema italiano 2, a film journal, in December of 1952. In thirteen parts and almost as many pages, Cesare Zavattini airs the neorealist theories for which he had become a major advocate after World War II. He, among a few other major directors and screenwriters, was a voice that pushed film in a new direction by emphasizing Christian humanism and realism over entertainment. This article was published at the end of the movement’s dominance in filmmaking culture, after improving post-war conditions led to a lessening interest in socially conscious films. Prior to this article, writer Luchino Visconti and director Roberto Rossellini brought the Italian neorealist style to the national and international stage, respectively, with their films, Ossessione (1943) and Rome, Open City (1945). Zavattini, therefore, may have been riding on the tail end of the neorealist wave, perhaps even fighting against the movement’s decline, with this passionate interview.

The film journal article begins with background of Zavattini, setting up his credibility and making an immediate appeal to ethos. We see that he is a “central theoretician” whose opinions are validated by the agreeing ideologies of renowned French film critic, André Bazin, and a lifelong collaborative friendship with famous Italian director Vittorio De Sica. Zavattini’s first words are as brilliant as can be expected from an experienced writer; he immediately jabs at the “moral and intellectual laziness” which he argues that most of society suffers from, and links it with an avenue for solution: cinema; more specifically, neorealism.

His second passage elevates the Italian neorealist style above America’s Hollywood approach of “unnaturally filtered, ‘purified’” narratives that stem from a lack of subjects. He elaborates on story choices and describes the contemplative nature of neorealist films; the way he, as a writer, would linger on a scene until all the minute components are considered. Just when you start to think that he unjustly disapproves of American filmmaking, he backpedals and clarifies that “we [Italians] are still a long way from a true analysis of human situations,” but that their approach is superior “in comparison with the dull synthesis of most current production.”

He goes on to analyze the relationship between invented stories and the truth of everyday life, using famous post-war films as examples–a logical appeal. His metaphor equating filmmakers with soldiers that “have to win the battle” for “’social attention’” in film no doubt struck a nerve within readers still recuperating from the aftershock of war.

The fifth and sixth sections deal with a hypothetical example of how to nurture a film from one simple daily event, one that every viewer is familiar with and can relate to. Through that familiarity, filmmakers can more effectively draw audiences into the story and impart their message. By advocating the reality of everyday life, Zavattini justifies the narrative that explores the relationship between wealth and poverty in society. The way he lays out the method for inductive story creation makes clear the depth of focus that filmmakers must have in order to draw a story from the well of daily life.

At this point in the interview, we feel Zavattini’s voice and passion even more. Just like neorealist films, he begins asking questions of the reader; asking them to “fathom the real correspondences between facts and their process of birth, to discover what lies beneath them.” Question after question ramps up the urgency of the argument and appeals to Christian values of civic duty and responsibility. He references his own process and work as a screenwriter and how he fits into the machine of the filmmaking method, again validating the authority he has to speak on the nature of filmmaking. Here enters the auteur theory that French New Wave filmmakers so enthusiastically propounded. Emphasis should lie on the individual creator—even actors should concede power to the story.  These creators should seek actors that are real, they should “go, in body and mind, out to meet other people, to see and understand them.” This method of hitting the streets to find stories brings in readers of the middle and lower classes, whose stories unfold on the streets of Italian cities.

He ends the interview by recognizing the “wonderful films” of other renowned directors (Charlie Chaplin) and nations, so as not to alienate or attack readers of non-Italian ethnicity. The last sentence, however, calls Italian filmmakers to continue in the neorealist direction in order the achieve longevity and momentum.

Although Zavattini’s words paint a skewed picture of the Italian Neorealism movement for current readers who haven’t just lived through the war and its aftermath, its strength has not lessened over the years. When I first read the piece, I was moved to think about how I can affect social change and force audiences to think about their responsibility to better society; Zavattini threw a new and appealing light on the industry I’m being groomed to enter.

The further I looked into his advocation of strict adherence to techniques, however, the more the ideology seemed less plausible in actuality than in theory. The idea of showing real life via the camera lens is tempting, but there is no real way to accomplish an absolutely truthful film. Just by choosing what to show, where to place the camera, who to cast, how to edit, and what soundtrack to attach to the film, the creator shapes truthful life into a ‘story,’ a contrivance of the variety that Zavattini argues against.

If he were to say that true neorealist films get closer to portraying real life than any other film style, I would have no problem, but when he implies that they are the only way to show reality in all its glory, I begin to question the theory’s practicality. Regardless, the argument works as a piece of rhetoric, at least for this reader today. As a theoretician, of course, his ideologies can’t be applied without dilution in an industry that necessitates a working relationship between art and profit.

Zavattini knew that his audience would be primarily filmmakers–those who subscribe to the Italian Film Journal in which the interview was published. His comparison between Hollywood and Italian filmmaking techniques, appeal to moral codes of social responsibility, and reference to poverty and war would have hit home with readers who just recuperated from World War II and German occupation.

Although his words may have inspired fellow filmmakers to continue examining films from a standpoint of social commentary, since the interview was distributed during the last year of Italian Neorealism’s dominance in the film industry it didn’t do enough to keep the movement alive. However, Zavattini could very well have encouraged film writers and directors to continue exploring truth in the human condition, they simple turned the eye inward to psychoanalysis rather than outward to physical conditions.

More Words on the Issue of Marriage

More Words on the Issue of Marriage

The battle between pro- and anti-gay marriage supporters continues, just as strong today as last winter, when Pope Benedict XVI made another unsuccessful attempt to derail the civil rights campaign. His speech last Christmas drove hundreds of bloggers back into the Blog-o-sphere. One Huffington Post blogger, Wayne Besen, calls upon readers to look at the Pope’s latest rant as one piece in a jigsaw puzzle of “out-of-touch pronouncements” made during his reign.

Besen begins his article by quoting a traditional marriage supporter’s doomsday prediction in 2004 and follows it with the Pope’s strikingly similar, and equally melodramatic, assertion that gay marriage threatens the “future of humanity.” After undermining the Pope’s credibility, Besen aims for our hearts by moving the conversation into his private life: that of a happily married gay man. Now we see the situation from his point of view. Despite many predictions, it seems that life does, in fact, keep on turnin’ even after the legalization of gay marriage. Not only is the Pope wrong, Besen argues, but he is also a “joke” and an “abject failure.” Besen’s entertaining sarcasm and passionate speechifying strikes the Pathos Bulls-eye, but our demand for factual corroboration is, as of yet, unsatisfied. Were he to end the post there, or continue in the same vein, I would be inclined to write the entry off as a biased rant and it would, therefore, have been an unsuccessful piece of rhetoric where this reader is concerned.

But he doesn’t.

Instead, he widens the camera lens to look at the whole of the Pope’s career, and starts with European resistance to and disapproval of Pope Benedict’s reign in Spain and Ireland. Next comes evidence of socially unaccepted (for the most part) gay bashing by the Pope’s archbishops: comparison of the gay community to the KKK and an infusion of anti-gay marriage prayer into Catholic Mass. Finally, he calls upon all tolerant people by highlighting three other examples of Pope Benedict’s “notable gaffes,” namely his vocal and negative opinion regarding other religious factions and his tendency to reward Catholic extremists who believe the Holocaust was a hoax.

The gist of Besen’s post can be summed up as such: Stubbornly, old-school religious people have been saying for eight years that same-sex marriage will destroy the Earth. It has not; it will not. Please, Religious Communities, look at how ridiculous and tragically outdated your supposed leader is; I’ll show you through choosing the most socially unaccepted instances of intolerance, ignorance, and uncleanliness: child molestation, insensitive criticism of Muslims, mentions of the KKK, and denial of the Holocaust.

The examples he uses has an obvious and direct targeting system: all people with a semblance of humanity, Muslims, African Americans or anyone with white guilt, and Jewish people or anyone with WWII guilt. It’s a wonderfully composed, intelligently and occasionally humorous piece that weaves in all the injustices that we as the People of a worldwide community find unacceptable. More than criticizing just one piece of rhetoric, he uses one inflammatory sentence of that relevant speech to pull the rhetor’s entire career under the microscope and break down the speaker’s credibility with specific examples of related occurrences. It would be a stronger piece of rhetoric if there were more people on the other side of the issue, but when the Pope faces opposition from world leaders and members of his own Church, you know he’s on his way out of the conversation, even if it takes many more years to reach complete resolution on the issue in question.