Zero Dark Thirty: Hollywood’s gift to American power

Zero Dark Thirty: Hollywood's gift to American power
Zero Dark Thirty: Hollywood’s gift to American power

Here is how, in a letter to the LA Times, Kathryn Bigelow justified Zero Dark Thirty’s depicting of the torture methods used by government agents to catch and kill Osama bin Laden:

“Those of us who work in the arts know that depiction is not endorsement. If it was, no artist would be able to paint inhumane practices, no author could write about them, and no filmmaker could delve into the thorny subjects of our time.”

Really? One doesn’t need to be a moralist, or naive about the urgencies of fighting terrorist attacks, to think that torturing a human being is in itself something so profoundly shattering that to depict it neutrally – ie to neutralise this shattering dimension – is already a kind of endorsement.

Imagine a documentary that depicted the Holocaust in a cool, disinterested way as a big industrial-logistic operation, focusing on the technical problems involved (transport, disposal of the bodies, preventing panic among the prisoners to be gassed). Such a film would either embody a deeply immoral fascination with its topic, or it would count on the obscene neutrality of its style to engender dismay and horror in spectators. Where is Bigelow here?

Without a shadow of a doubt, she is on the side of the normalisation of torture.

[Extract. Appeared in The Guardian on January 25th 2013. Also appeared in ABC on January 29th 2013.]

Tell us what you think...