Sunday, January 11, 2009

Of Tom Cruise and Nazis...

The NY Times has an interesting article on the Holocaust and how some would change history and make it "not so bad".

Its an interestingly article and it touches on why I won't pay to see the Tom Cruise movie "Valkyrie". In Valkyrie Cruise plays a "good Nazi" that is part of a conspiracy to assassinate Hitler. I am sure that its a great action movie, but do we really need to portray Nazi officers as misunderstood "good guys"? UHHH, no, we don't. The Holocaust was not about a single man, it was about a culture of intolerance and runaway egos. Tom Cruises character (Stauffenberg) wore a Nazi officer uniform, no matter HOW you slice it, that makes him a "bad guy".

The Times article touches on a few other books and movies that down play the horror of the Holocaust. I am not sure if its intentional or not, maybe some idiot just said "this would be a great heart wrenching story!" and didn't think it all the way through. Whatever the reason, its just wrong, AND it REALLY shows how stupid people are.

A camp guard has an affair with a prisoner?
The camp commanders little son is playmates with a child prisoner?

Really, are we THAT stupid?

Anyway, read the article, the author makes some interesting points, and may even disagree with me on the Valkyrie issue.


  1. Paul, you are too black and white. True, the holocaust was awful and we must never forget that. But the story of a small group of Nazi's that were trying to assassinate Hitler is one of HOPE. In the face of all that evil, a few good people were trying to make a difference and change the status quo. Also, in the midst of evil there are very often pockets of normalcy and goodness. It is not saying the holocaust didn't happen or it wasn't as bad as people say it is. It is real life. Real life is most often not black and white.

  2. I agree Marco,
    at the time it was a world full of gray scale and uncertainty, but after the fact to say "some Nazi officers were actually good guys" is just shit.
    No, the were not. If they were, they would have removed their uniforms and stood for what the knew was right.

  3. this is from ashley:
    "just a comment because i like playing devil's advocate and in this instance i actually know something about what you're talking about...

    You make a good point. A Nazi is/was a Nazi no matter how you slice it-- kind of like how in all these movies over the past ten years that glorify thieves and criminals and make them the good guys (Italian Job, Gone in 60 Seconds, Ocean's 11, etc) fail to touch on the fact that thievery is illegal as well as immoral because they're such charming and friendly thieves. But when I first saw previews for this movie the person who came to my mind was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, one of my (and Kerry's) favorite theologians.
    In case you may not have heard of him, he lived and wrote in Germany during the rise of the Nazis. His writings opposed Hitler and antisemitism, and the heat was on, so he left Germany for New York. After spending a little time in New York, he couldn't bear to stay and watch what was being done to his countrymen and what was happening to his country under Hitler and the Nazis. He returned to Germany and JOINED the Nazis in order to infiltrate and eventually become a part of one of the many plots to kill Hitler. He also helped Jews to escape the Nazis during this time.

    Naturally, he was found out, imprisoned, and killed. But he's always been one of my heroes.

    I guess the point is that whiel Bonhoeffer was a Nazi indeed, just like any other Nazi, his reasons for BEING one were to try and STOP them. I don't know much about this valkyrie story and if it's at all anything like that. If it is I might give it a second chance, although given the state of morality in pop culture media makes me wonder. It seems as though the dichotomy of good versus evil has gotten to trite and boring for Hollywood so they need to blur the line between hero and villain as much as possible.

    ...but at the same time, now that i think o f it, we just eat it up, don't we? I think killing is wrong, yet Kill Bill is one of my favorite movies, where Uma Thurman kills like six of her friends for revenge that they tried to kill her. Is that right?? Noooo... And that makes me wonder even MORE... when people watch Kill Bill, do they think that she's justified in killing everyone leading up to and including the father of her child? Or do we just watch it because we like to watch it?

    For that matter, when someone reads Lolita, or when a college professor includes it in their curriculum, is that condoning child molesting and statutory rape? Or is it just beacuse it's an important work of literature?

    I think i've gone off on enough tangients now... thanks for provoking my thoughts!

    OK, one last point.

    I think maybe this movie is trying to humanize a monster. We think of Hitler, of the Nazis, as a big faceless inhuman demon. Hitler is the figurehead of course, but we don't think of Nazis the way we think of PEOPLE. We don't think of them as loving, as being parents, as playing soccer and having snowball fights. That's because to think of them in human terms makes them human; to humanize them blurs the line between them and us. We don't like the concept of human versus human because it's us versus us instead of us versus smoething completely evil.

    I watched a special on Hitler on TV quite a few years back and there was video footage of him flirting and goofing off with Eva Braun. And suddenly he was a human being, not just a name and a face and a monster. Which makes it scary because if Hitler was a man and not just a monster, every single one of us has the potential to be a Hitler.

    Maybe that's where this movie is going?"

  4. Regarding your last point....
    Good point. I will watch the movie when its free and see if that was their intent.

    Regarding one of your middle points... :)
    Stauffenberg was a real Nazi, not someone trying to take it down from the inside. Again, the fact that he tried to kill Hitler did not make him a good guy.

  5. I agree with what you said. However, I also agree with what was said earlier about things being too black and white. I've never been a person who believes that there are some people who are intrinsically "good people" and some who are simply "bad people." We all have good and bad tendencies, actions, and potential. All of us have done good things and all of us have done bad things. Someone like Mother Teresa (and i don't mean Grandma, i mean the nun from Calcutta) is known as a "good person" because she did monumentally "good things" (at least things perceived by the world to be good); Hitler is known as a "bad person" because of the horrible things he did. Now, I can't think of something bad that Mother Teresa did or anything good that Hitler did, but I've just never been able to see things in black and white.

    So on that note... I don't believe that Stauffenberg's plot to kill Hitler makes him a "good guy," and I also don't believe that an attempt to do something monumentally good erases things he may have done that were monumentally bad. I just don't think that people can be labeled as simply "good" or "bad."

    But keep in mind the fact that if it weren't for the antisemitism that was already brewing in Christian Germany (the same way Anti-Muslim tendencies plague Christianity today) Hitler and the Nazis would not have been able to do the monumentally bad things that they did. Hitler found something in the masses that he could play on to work toward his end.Hitler simply represents the very bad tendencis of a mass of people; he is the villain who puts a face to bad things that people at the time in fact supported.

    Another metaphor (another tangient): war in Iraq. Those who do not support the war like to think of Bush as the villain here because Bush is a very bad man who wants very bad things, and who will stop at nothing to reach and justify those ends. But Bush is just, like Hitler, a figurehead for a cause that a good deal of people support. Take a walk through the hallways of Loudonville Christian School where I graduated high school and ask random people what they think of the war, and probably a majority of them would say they support it. Yet it's not these supporters who are seen as villains but the man who put their wishes into action.

    Then again... I'm reminded of a quote from my favorite show Sports Night : "actions are immoral. Opinions are not." If Joe Christian the pastor hates Muslims and Arabs and thinks we should spend as much money and spare as many lives as we can in Iraq but has no power to act on it (other than blatant prejudice against middle easterners), his opinion isn't necessarily immoral. Someone like Bush has the power and authority to act on those same beliefs; his actions on those beliefs is what may be deemed immoral.

    (kind of veered from the topic but now mymind is working and i can't turn it off.)

  6. OK one more metaphor and i'm done (for real): DARTH VADER!!

    Think about it. Darth Vader is like the ultimate tragic figure and villain. He blew up an entire planet for crying out loud! Throughout the original Star Wars trilogy it was made very clear that this was a BAD, BAD person. And yet... at the end of the last movie he redeemed himself by doing something good (it's been a while since i've seen it so i can't remember exactly what he did but it was good and he redeemed himself). Did that bring back the innocent citizens of Alderon that he blew up? No. Did it make him any less of an archetypal bad guy? No. But it proved in a literary sense the point i've been arguing-- that even reallly really bad guys can have good tendencies. Like Stauffenberg. Trying to do something good doesn't erase any of the bad things but it proves his humanity.

  7. Marco agrees with everything Ashley said.
    I am just weighing in.

  8. Ashley said
    "If Joe Christian the pastor hates Muslims and Arabs and thinks we should spend as much money and spare as many lives as we can in Iraq but has no power to act on it (other than blatant prejudice against middle easterners), his opinion isn't necessarily immoral."

    If you think that the war in Iraq is immoral, then so is Joe's opinion. Its Joes (Anti Semite Germans) that enabled Bush (Hitler). Without Joe, the war does not exist. You can't (shouldn't) blame the 22 year old kid in Iraq, the root cause is, as you stated, the anti Islamic movement (Joe).

    To quote South Park "We will not tolerate your intolerance!"


  10. Thanks Pat, that was on excellent article. The author made my point strongly and with supporting evidence. Stauffenberg was not against Hitlers treatment of the "inferior races", he was against Hitlers (mis)management of the military. To look back at history and interpret Stauffenbergs actions with our current politically correct agenda is just ridiculous.

  11. I don't think that Joe's opinion is immoral, no matter how i feel about the war, because i don't think opinions are immoral until they are acted on-- in most cases. Yes, the root cause in this example is anti-Islamic opinions, but until acted on (which Joe may very well do when he goes to the gas station and a Pakistani man is behind the counter and Joe treats him with histility), the opinion in itself is not what's immoral. The upswelling of such an opinion among the masses with a leader who knows how to play on them to get his own ends...

    Going back to Kill Bill: if, at the end of the movie, Uma Thurman's character wakes up or somehow shows that the entire killing spree she just went on was in her head, does that make her thoughts about killing people immoral? For that matter, does that make Quentin Tarantino's movie itself immoral because of the fact that killing is portrayed and glorified in it and we know cold-blooded murder to be immoral? I don't know.

    I think that Joe's anti-Islamic beliefs are not a problem until he acts on them, or until he lets someone else act in such a way that upholds them without him interfering if he has the power to.

    If, when he's in the gas station, a kid beats up the Pakistani and Joe stands back and lets it happen because he thinks Arabs are worthless anyway. Or if a German officer in the Holocaust doesn't actually physically kill anyone himself in a concentration camp but sits back and watches as his colleagues do so.

    But then, I suppose, by that argument, any of us who doesn't do anything to stop what we think or know to be wrong are acting just as immorally as the person committing the act. And by that logic, any German (or, really, ANYONE) during the Holocaust who didn't try some Bonhoeffer-esque scheme or come up with some other way to oppose Hitler was acting just as immoral as he was.

    So I guess I kind of agree with you btu kind of disagree at the same time.

  12. (it's like the guy who runs a meth lab but doesn't actually do drugs himself. it's ok because he's not TAKING drugs, just enabling other people to. And i guess we're all enablers in one way or another because fear keeps us from stopping things that we know to be wrong.)

  13. I was working a scathing reply in my head until I got to
    "I think that Joe's anti-Islamic beliefs are not a problem until he acts on them, or until he lets someone else act in such a way that upholds them without him interfering if he has the power to."
    Emphasis mine.
    THAT is the problem with Joe, he is an enabler, he enables the Anti Islamic movement. When Joe sees a politician on TV spewing hatred and he does nothing, is that immoral? No, but its wrong. :| He needs to get on his pulpit (he is a priest right?) and preach tolerance. To each as he is able.

    But yes, it sounds like we agree. :)