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Uncle Orson Reviews Everything
April 4, 2004

First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC.


Two books, The Prince and Me, and Sexism on E.R.

Elmore Leonard has a new book out, Mr. Paradise. For some of you, that's all I need to say. You're already out the door to buy it.

Ditto with letting you know about Lawrence Block's new the Burglar on the Prowl.

Two crime novels with compelling stories, a light touch, and engaging characters. It's a good week for readers.

Block's novel continues a long-running series about a New York burglar who runs a used-book shop and searches for love and thrills in all the wrong places. This one explores coincidence ... and shows an unusually unpleasant way to meet nice women.

Leonard's story is not part of a series. Mr. Paradise focuses on a Victoria's Secret model who rooms with a high-priced hooker, and goes along to be her look-only backup for a rich man's fantasy. Unfortunately, they chose the wrong night, and now she finds herself falling in love with the cop investigating a murder ... while withholding evidence from him, at least for the time being.

*

Last week I told you about The D.A., the new series that only got a four-episode run from ABC.

Well, I follow my own advice and watched the third episode last Friday. It blew me away.

A first-rate, clever, mysterious, compelling, completely satisfying mystery about which I can tell you nothing because if you happen to see it in reruns I don't want to spoil anything about it.

But if I had watched this storyline, with these actors, in a feature film for which I paid money, I would have felt well rewarded.

If ABC doesn't make this Friday night series part of the regular schedule, I'm going to be so annoyed. As it stands, there's only one left in the initial four-episode run. I can't guarantee that it'll be as brilliant as this last one -- but I don't plan to miss it.

*

I expected The Prince and Me to be wonderful dumb fun, like The Princess Diaries. Instead, the script is much smarter than it needed to be, and the story becomes real and quite engaging. There are plenty of laughs as Prince Edward tries to learn how to be a commoner -- and an American commoner at that -- but by and large it is a delightful romance with characters that deserve being taken seriously.

Julia Stiles gives her normal slightly-wooden performance -- she just never seems to be able to vanish into a character, so it always seems as if she's wearing clothes that got a bit too much starch. But you get used to it quickly enough, and besides, it's Luke Mably, playing Prince "Eddie," who owns the screen.

I didn't see 28 Days Later, in which he made his feature debut, so this was my first sight of him on screen -- and I must say, he is a superb leading man. Like Brad Pitt and River Phoenix, he always seems perfectly natural -- and yet you get the feeling there is constantly something important going on inside his head. This is a star, folks, and if we don't see him again and again, carrying big hit movies, then Hollywood really is run by idiots.

The cast also has some depth, James Fox as the old king, Miranda Richardson as the icy but thawable queen, and above all Ben Miller as the absolutely delightful manservant who accompanies the prince on his American odyssey.

So I highly recommend this movie, both for romantic youngsters and the incurably romantic of more advanced years. With just one warning ...

Remember that ridiculous movie, Starship Troopers? A movie that really pushed the envelope -- it was dumb in every way a movie can possibly be dumb.

Right down to the ratings. A movie that could not possibly be popular with anyone over the age of 12, and they had a couple of needless topless moments that gave it an R rating, so the target audience couldn't even get into the theater.

Well, The Prince and Me made a very similar, and equally unnecessary, mistake. Early on, there's a bit of dialogue in which one of the college girls admits to having sex with various guys "in the stacks" -- in the back regions of the library.

And then, to my dismay, there comes a point in the movie where the heroine and her prince go back into the stacks in the university library, and as soon as they start kissing, off comes his shirt.

The thing is, if they had just set up "the stacks" as a "makeout spot" and kept the guy's shirt on, it would have been perfectly harmless -- and would have worked every bit as well for the story.

And no, it didn't dismay me just because my ten-year-old was sitting next to me. She knew enough to cringe and cover her eyes without prompting from me.

It wasn't necessary for anyone. To have a movie like this make the assumption that admirable people have sex whenever they feel like it, without the slightest moral dilemma, is appalling.

Because people imitate the behavior of attractive people in the movies. And since this is a movie that is absolutely going to attract an audience of romantic young girls, to show this obvious role-model quite ready to go way too far -- and in a public place! -- is simply irresponsible.

But now you're warned, and you can prepare your kids for the "inappropriate moment": When the title characters are sitting together in the library, that's where the icky part begins.

*

On E.R. last Thursday the writers ruined an otherwise pretty good episode, because you know what? I have a hard time enjoying mean-spirited male-bashing.

It came along with a double standard so egregious that even the most deliberately-blind politically correct ideologue would have to admit that I'm right about this.

You see, there's this group of Catholic school girls who chase after a flasher who always runs off before the police can get there. They beat him up and he winds up in the hospital -- at the same time as one of the girls who pounded on him.

In another plotline, a pervert hits on Sherry Stringfield's character. It seems he has a thing about hugging pregnant women. When her boyfriend (naturally, this being the zero decade -- the zips -- they aren't married or even engaged) comes out of the restroom and the pervert persists, the boyfriend decks him.

Naturally, the Catholic girls are heroes for beating up a pervert -- in fact, the writers loved their actions so much they got to do it again before the end of the show. But the boyfriend was a typical idiotic male lout for hitting the guy. Sure, he thought he was protecting her (rather the way the Catholic girls had wanted the police to protect them), but because the pervert threatened to sue, the only way to pacify him was to let him hug Stringfield.

So all the women in the E.R., including Stringfield, blamed him for the fact that she "had" to give in to the pervert's demand. And the writers had him tag along after her, whining for forgiveness, completely humiliated. "Baby, please, I am sorry. Listen, please, come on, don't be like that. Who knew that guy was such a wack?"

And as they go out the door, still begging, he says, "How does a guy like that get to be such a freak?"

"Born with a Y chromosome?" answers Stringfield.

"Oh, so all men are twisted?"

"You said it."

"You hate men?"

"If it weren't for sperm and heavy lifting, you'd all be useless."

My, how funny.

See what the message is? Women can be as violent as they like, and whatever man they pulverize deserves it. But if a man dares to violently defend the woman who says she loves him, then he's a complete fool. Not only that, the boyfriend is not only blamed for what he did, he is also blamed, as a "man," for what the pervert did.

In fact, it seems that whatever a man does, it's wrong. Unless it's exactly what a woman needed him to guess that she wanted him to do.

Of course, if the boyfriend had declined to defend her and the pervert ended up harming her, then the boyfriend would be a lout again for not being brave, thus leaving her defenseless. I can easily imagine the storyline in which she is outraged and complains to everybody that he did nothing to defend her. The conclusion would again be that except for sperm and heavy lifting ...

In fact, there are a lot of things wrong with our society today that might be solved if a few more people had recognized, before discarding men, how vital it is to have a good man as husband and father in every family.

But given the moral universe these E.R. writers live in, there was no course of action this male buffoon character could have chosen that would not have provided ample excuse for the audience to have a good laugh at the uselessness of men.

If your response to that statement is, "Well, men deserve it," then you have my contempt -- the contempt I feel toward all bigots who scorn people solely for the group they belong to, who perpetuate false stereotypes, and who delight in shaming people who can't fight back.

And if your answer is that women suffered such abuse from "men" for a long time, so it's only fair for them to lash out in return, then I must point out that this is an "excuse" that most child abusers could use, since they too were once victims, and they repay the victimization upon the innocent. "Someone did it to me once" is a defense of nothing. If an action is wrong when it's done to you, then it's still wrong when you do it to someone else.

I'm not the only one who's fed up with the male-bashing in our culture, either. Researchers Paul Nathanson and Katherine K. Young document the present cultural climate of bigotry against men in their book Spreading Misandry: The Teaching of Contempt for Men in Popular Culture.

This is a university press book -- no jacket, looks forbidding. But the writing is highly readable for a non-academic audience (though they go into such exhaustive detail that you'll be tempted to skim). And it was published in Canada. But the case they make is primarily based on U.S. examples.

In other words, folks, I'm not making this up. The attacks on men are relentless, they're highly motivated, they're destructive -- and they're provable.

The feminist answer to this is always the same: Men are the ones who hold all the power in our society, and now they whine about a few jokes?

Well, here's a clue: "Men" don't hold all the power. Who holds the power are powerful people and powerful groups. Most men don't belong to either. And the more civilized and decent a man is, the less power he probably has.

So these attacks on men aren't "evening the score" as some misandrists would have you believe.

These attacks mostly fall on men who are already powerless in our society, yet get blamed for everything. Just as the most recent episode of E.R. demonstrated. No, not demonstrated -- perpetrated.

It's no better than spitting on a guy who's already been knocked down.

*

Aw, Card, it's just a TV show, it's just entertainment, lighten up.

Just entertainment? People emulate and believe what they see on TV. That's why advertisers pay all those big bucks.

And besides, if the perpetrators of male-hatred in entertainment really believed "it's just entertainment," then they'd also give a pass to woman-bashing and Polish jokes and ... but they don't.

Well,, Card, what are you calling for, censorship? Don't you know that this is art, with freedom of expression?

Absolutely. But I'm not calling for censorship. I'm calling for the artists who created this show to take responsibility for the harm they do to our society by denigrating the male contributions to human life.

And the very fact that some of you reading this are saying to yourself, "What male contribution? You mean war and violence and ..." proves my point completely. Look how you're already brain-washed to hate all men by reflex. That was done by "artists" and "free expressers" like these.

The more influence you have -- like when millions of viewers watch the TV show you write -- the heavier the responsibility you bear.


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