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July 10 2007

For your entertainment. An article in The Guardian about the rise of "torture porn" in mainstream movies mentions the letter Joss wrote to the MPAA about the ad campaign for "Captivity". Warning: there is explicit description of various scenes of "torture porn".

The quote from Joss's letter: "[the ad campaign] is not only a literal sign of the collapse of humanity, it's an assault ... this ad is part of a cycle of violence and misogyny that takes something away from the people who have to see it. It's like being mugged."

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As much as I agree with Joss on 'torture porn' films such as those by Eli Roth, I'd take the article a lot more seriously if the image was tagged properly. That's Rose in Planet Terror (which is Robert Rodriguez's film), not Death Proof. Also, while that image is provocative, I don't think that Planet Terror (or Grindhouse in general) is a fair example of the 'torture porn' they're talking about. It was going for a very different aesthetic and has strong female characters.

[ edited by Green Queen on 2007-07-10 17:33 ]
Caught a commercial for Captivity over the weekend that was rather clumsily trying to use the billboard controversy to sell the film -- "It's the movie with the most controversial ads ever... the billboards THEY didn't want you to see..." or somesuch dreck. Nuthin' but class.
Yeah, for those who don't know, the studio has taken Joss' (and others) critism of the advertising campaign for CAPTIVITY and turned it into the new advertising campaign for CAPTIVITY.
Wow ... I wonder if Eli Roth really is as much of an idiot as he comes across in that article. I had no idea that's what Hostel was about. That is truly disturbing!

I am with the general point of the article but I think I agree with Green Queen that Grindhouse seems like a bit of a poor example. I haven't seen it so I can't really comment on it too much, but judging by the trailers and clips I saw and some articles I read, Rose McGowan's character(s?) seemed pretty kickass.

I also don't totally agree with the writer's assertion that a girl survivor is usually used "to help justify the misogyny that has gone before." I think that can be the case, but I still think those heroines who make it through the slasher movies can also be genuinely positive characters. It just depends on the movie.
Hmm. True, Death Proof was about a man who got his kicks out of driving his car into the vehicles of young women... but the article conveniently leaves out the part about the girls striking back. If in Captivity, Elisha Cuthbert's character rose up and killed her oppressors, I think many people would have a very different opinion of it.

I'm very much against Torture Porns, but Grindhouse isn't one... it just isn't. I guess I agree with the general sentiment of the article, but the article itself is pretty poor.
I haven't read this article yet, 'cause busy, but will just say the whole Captivity thing has hoppped from the revolting/exploiting place over the line into the 'frankly bizarrely stupid" zone, as one reads about the opening after party.

*sigh*

Throw in the Suicide Girls (I mean the ones that haven't quit in disgust over their crappy contracts) and add "torture rooms" at a WeHo club called "Privilege" and it starts to read like (really bad) pseudo cyber-punk.

Trying to rustle up some hot buzz about the movie, the wanna-be bad boy Courtney Solomon tried to provoke feminists and generate some more controversy coverage with:

"All of which is a prelude to an undisclosed main event that, he warned last week over slices of pizza a few doors from his company’s new offices on the Sunset Strip, is 'probably not legal.'

'The women’s groups definitely will love it,' Mr. Solomon hinted. 'I call it my personal little tribute to them.' "

Because it's important to try and capitalize on and wag your butt in the face of people you've offended and hurt... you brave little maverick, Courtney.

Luckily, NOW and other groups don't seem to be taking the bait...
Of course, maybe Roth's just trying to be funny - his tone is gleeful throughout this interview (a transcript and audio version of which can be found on a number of film websites). Later in the interview he says: "Let me tell you, I heard that Stanley Kubrick did a lot of takes on Eyes Wide Shut, it was nothing compared to the amount of takes we did once we had that cheerleader naked and bouncing around on a trampoline! I mean, she was great, she got it on the first take, but we did take, after take, after take! And we finished early and we had like three hours, and we're like, 'Well, how much film do we have?' And we're like, 'All right, let's ... let's do it again!' And she just had a smile on her face the whole time."


I've known Eli since the day he was born. He's not an idiot; he's actually rather brilliant. Like a lot of very bright people he often doesn't have a clue how he comes across and sometimes, like many of us, he doesn't care. I can GUARANTEE you that Eli said what was quoted in the first part of that article (and, by the way, that isn't the full quote - I read the interview which they're referencing) with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek. It comes across *horribly* in print, I grant you that, but listening to him in person it is wholly evident he's actually just being ironic.

For the record, he also said the offending piece of meat in the first poster looked like some of his mom's artwork. I don't see any artists getting bent out of shape, not even Cora.
Death Proof was a really smart, exciting flick. To put it on the same level as the Hostel films is pretty ignorant and lazy.

The publicity campaigns for many of these films flag up the prospect of watching a nubile young woman being tortured as a genuinely pleasurable experience.

And as much as I hate this genre, and while I think this film Captivity and Turistas were marketed differently, I do not agree that people are supposed to enjoy the torture in these movies and think the term "torture porn" is pretty lazy. I do agree with Eli Roth that the torture scenes in his films are not meant to be "pleasurable" and that anyone who found them to be so are very, very twisted. I also think Roth is a hack. While the genre is horror and these scenes are supposed to be horrific, I just think they're cheap.

I agree with Joss that just paying to watch a woman murdered is disgusting, but to suggest that that's all there is to Death Proof is pretty insulting to Tarantino's achievement, which I'd say is considerable, especially in relation to the genre he's emulating.

My two bits.
smog- Eli's my cousin, but I still think he's got a lot of growing to do as a film maker. I thought "Cabin Fever" was hilarious and really good for a first effort, though; the "Hostel" movies were *way* too icky for me. Eli's 'commercial' in "Grindhouse" was a *wonderful* sendup of the holiday horror genre while still being true to his own particularly gory corner of the horror market. Plus, "White meat. Dark meat. All will be carved..." is just. brilliant. It still cracks me up...

Speaking of which, "Grindhouse" simply isn't gorno/torture porn at all, and the mere fact that Eli is associated with the film doesn't make it any moreso. Ooo! But to make this Buffy-relevent, the guy in the bar with Eli in "Death Proof" was the weasly little photographer kid in that episode of Buffy with the zombie football hero looking for a girl made up of parts (I suck at ep. titles- my bad).

Anyway, Eli's next gig is supposed to be "Cell" from the Stephen King novel of the same name. It will be interesting to see how he does with someone else's work, particularly considering King doesn't go in for as much gore as some of his literary contemporaries.
Yeah, I have no way to link this back to Whedon beyond that I honestly don't think Roth was acting out under the misogyny that Joss spoke about in his post here, and I really hope to see him develop to his potential. Hopefully the failure of Hostel 2 will light a fire under his ass. Sorry I called your cousin a hack! hehe...

[ edited by smog on 2007-07-11 03:56 ]
I haven't seen any of these movies by choice, so I'm not really in a position to comment on what they are trying to portray.

It's sad that nowadays, most movies are aimed straight at the group that is most likely to dig naked chicks- teenage boys. There are studio expectations to pander to this market, which is compounded by the problem that some directors have so many 'yes' men around them, they become out of step with the feelings of the more mature moviegoer.

But OzLady, you are in a unique position to let your cousin know just how his work is being interpreted, at least within the confines of Whedonesque's relatively intelligent, educated fandom. I hope at your next family dinner, you can oh-so-casually drop in a reference to EN and tell him about Joss's letter and auction.

Not only would it be great PR for Eli, but it'd fully count up as a Good Samaritan's act for you!
As the 12th or so person who saw Grindhouse, in the general population, I agree that it wasn't really pandering to dumb mean teenage boys. Or if it was, the boxoffice says it failed. I found it kind of disturbing for another reason, though. I started a thread over on the white about it, but there wasn't much participation, probably because there's not a lot of crossover in the fandoms. Basically what I was saying is that I'm not sure female revenge murderers are necessarily better than male revenge murderers, even if they're avenging actual crimes rather than just holes in the head.

Tarentino's gleeful nihilism makes for popcorn movie fun, but with kind of a bad aftertaste. Nothing you'd want to mull over like we like to mull over every second of the Jossverse. So there's probably a good reason for the lack of crossover. I haven't seen any of the other movies and probably won't.
I haven't seen 'Grindhouse' and, unfortunately, it now seems like I won't get the chance (they're being recut and released separately internationally after the US disaster) but they're clearly paying homage to the exploitation movies of the 70s which, in their own twisted way, featured empowerment in the midst of all their misogyny.

Whether we should be paying homage to those sorts of films is another question of course (especially if it's completely unapologetic about or even reverential towards some of the broader stereotypes from that era). I also think the article's a bit unfair on 'Sin City' since though the women are largely either whores or killers or both the men don't fare much better (corrupt cops, cannibals, rapists, child-molesters and *gasp* politicians ;).

I'm totally caught between the proverbials here because I can't fairly comment on these sorts of films (the so-called 'torture porn' ones I mean) without watching them but I really don't want to (despite being a horror fan, if not the complete enthusiast that some here no-doubt are). I will say though that I think the pleasure gained isn't meant to be straightforward enjoyment but more voyeuristic fascination (like a car crash) as well as the usual horror movie pleasure of 'safe fear' or, in this case, 'safe disgust'.

(and I definitely can't comment on Mr Solomon owing to the long-standing rule about balls. Playing them I mean ;)
missb- Heh. It's been many years since I had dinner with Eli! Though his folks live about 20 minutes from me here in MA, he's out in LA now. The last time I saw him was at NY Comic Con, in fact, and even then we just got to say "hi!" (I did recently spend some time with his younger brother, Gabe, who is the 2nd unit director on "Hostel 2" and who produced the "Thanksgiving" promo in "Grindhouse.") But here's the thing: I'm a suburban housewife and teacher, and though I like horror films much more than many of my peers, I'm not really in a position to lecture my cousin on the finer points of film making OR being a good human being. It'd be sort of like having an anti-abortion relative (if I, you know, had any ;-) rake me over the coals for my pro choice stance: it oversteps what's appropriate amongst family members. I do know that Eli has a lot of respect for Joss, and I imagine that Joss' comments about "Captivity" gave Eli some food for thought about the aspect of the horror genre with which he is associated. But more than that, Eli's mom is a really remarkable woman who has a very healthy, close relationship with all three of her sons. Trust me when I say that if Eli's 'art' (and I use that term since his mom is an artist herself) were ever truly making the case for the mistreatment of women, she would give it to him like nobody's business. Joss' letter would look like a thank you note by comparison- LOL! If I get the chance, though, I am going to ask Eli what he thought of said letter. :-)

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