Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Oh, Please

The headline: Jane Fonda film banned from Kentucky theaters.

Our first reaction: come on. Please. Of course it's over what she said and did during the Vietnam War, which we assumed and was confirmed by the story.

Look, we get it that people were pissed off at what Jane did. Jane herself has apologized for the incident that led to her being dubbed, "Hanoi Jane." But people, that was 30 years ago. Jane Fonda did not direct the movie "Monster-in-Law," Jane Fonda did not produce the movie "Monster-in-Law," Jane Fonda happened to play one of the roles in "Monster-in-Law." It's a comedy -- about marriage and in-laws. It's not about Vietnam. It's not about Jane. It doesn't have a pro- or anti-war message (that we're away of). Why punish all of the other people involved with the creation of this movie -- as well as all of the people who'd like to see it (and many did/do, as it opened at number one) just because Jane did something wrong 30 years ago?

Yes, that anger is justified. But it also makes the person who possesses it petty and small. It happened a long time ago, it's been apologized for -- you don't like Jane Fonda. Fine. But this is not just Jane Fonda's movie.

And yet...this is America. Theater-owners, like any other business owners, have the right to choose what they'll sell (or in this case distribute) and what they won't. So this particular theater-owner certainly can choose not to show the film. For any number of reasons, that Jane Fonda is in it and he doesn't like her much being one of them. He can even plaster on his marquee "No Jane Fonda movie in this theater," which he did. And he attracted the attention of our old friend, the Associated Press.

Which means that there's a second side to this story. First, we're assuming that what the Associated Press is reporting is true. (If it turns out not to be the case, we'll retract this post.) It's pretty clear that this is being positioned by the AP as a red state nut going all crazy and over-reacting -- read the story yourself. The fact that it took place in Kentucky, which is included in the headline, and not, say, Vermont, seems to be considered fairly relevant to the reporter/editor. The other interesting aspect is the use of syntax. The theater-owner decides not to show "Monster-in-Law" because Fonda's in it; the AP proclaims that "Jane Fonda Film" has been "Banned from Kentucky Theaters." Well, kind of. Just two, owned by the same person. And he didn't ban the movie, he just chose not to show it. But then, that's less dramatic.

We don't feel too sorry for the owner being depicted as a bit of a yahoo -- he invited the publicity by proclaiming it from the theater marquee. It's hardly surprising that the AP took the story and ran with it. They did their part; he did his. He's getting the free publicity, after all, and a feeling among people with certain views that he's sticking it to the right group of people. (How effective one theater-owner can be in punishing Fonda for something she did 30+ years ago isn't really a big concern to them, or the AP for that matter.)

So, to recap: not showing "Monster-in-Law" because Hanoi Jane is in it is stupid. And so is calling someone's decision not to exhibit it a "ban." And somehow, none of us is surprised at any of this. Ah, America.