More years ago than I'd care to remember, Nick Lowe came up with a rhetorical question set to music: "What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding?" Elvis Costello cut the definitive version (with Lowe producing) on his Armed Forces LP. (The biggest-selling version was by Curtis Stigers, on the soundtrack to The Bodyguard, though Stigers went largely unnoticed in the wake of Whitney Houston's godawful caterwauling.) Lowe, as always, was at least somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but his point still stands: these three characteristics truly aren't that funny, though love, at least, can engender some good-natured humor at times. (Sex, contrariwise, is hilarious.) Peace isn't funny at all. (For one thing, there are too many good gallows-humor-level war jokes.) And understanding, I have decided, is way overrated.
Somewhere in the debris of the 1960s is the germ of the notion that everything would be okay if only we understood. Case in point: the spectacularly godawful sermon disguised as a pop record, recorded by a non-group called Think in 1971, whose annoying chorus consisted of iterations of "Things get a little easier once you understand." The premise your stoner son is gonna off himself if you yell at him is just this side of offensive, but somehow it reinforced a shibboleth masquerading as a principle: no matter what depravity is involved, it is your obligation to be somehow understanding.
I should point out here that I am not at all fond of the War On (Some) Drugs, and I figure that if you can't persuade someone that non-prescribed prescriptions are probably not good for him, threatening him with the Joe Friday treatment will likely be similarly ineffective. I'd extend this premise even to cover this fellow. A Seattle Times columnist notes:
The story last summer about the man who died from a perforated colon while having sex with a horse in Enumclaw was by far the year's most read article.
The columnist's tone, as I hear it, is a quite reasonable "Ewwww...."
It was inevitable, I suppose, that someone would make a movie of this story, and sure enough, it's a plea for understanding:
[Screenwriter Charles] Mudede wishes the final cut of [Zoo] could have had more discussion of animal rights, from sources that would "engage in the texture of the film," unlike the "dull" argumentation of folks like state Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, who sponsored the state's new law against bestiality. Time and budget didn't allow for a greater balance to the zoophilic perspective, but Mudede acknowledges, "Everyone has heard about animal rights.... We have the other side of the discourse. And even though I don't agree with them [zoophiles] I'm quite critical it's a thought design. How far can I go in understanding their motives and perspectives?"
I'm still wondering how much "balance" is appropriate when the topic is a man who spent his last hours riding a horse cock. Says the distributor:
[Mark] Urman sees it as his responsibility to "give people the right set of eyes" and "the proper preparation" before hearing about or seeing Devor's unavoidably controversial film. Rather than dwell on the perverse act, Urman centers his discussions about the movie on what he perceives is its universalism. While the protagonist "seems like an oddball at the outset of the movie," Devor seeks to "reveal untold amounts of information about the human capacity to do the most awful things, chart[ing] the journey of this unhappily married man who began to explore sexual alternatives, as so many do. Instead of turning back to the light, he went deeper and deeper until he got trapped in the darkness, and it had fatal ramifications."
If this sort of thing is supposed to be universal, I'm glad I'm parochial.
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Copyright © 2007 by Charles G. Hill