Thursday, February 18, 2016
To Kill a Mockingbird
Go and set a watchman, because it's been awhile. I haven't seen this film since we read the book in 8th grade. I just never got around to revisiting it, though I remembered it was a pretty good flick. Shame on my teacher for fast-forwarding through the opening credits - I actually think they're some of the best credits I've seen in a film on this list (though I laughed quite heartily at the opening credits for Deadpool, I don't think that film will be showing up on this blog any time soon). In general, the artistic direction in this film isn't so much "artistic direction" as "point a camera at a really talented cast and let 'em go". But those opening credits. I had also forgotten just how amazing Gregory Peck's voice was. This from a person whose favorite incarnation of The Doctor is the Fourth in part because of how gorgeous Tom Baker's voice is. I can't help it, I'm a sucker for a rich voice. You all know the story, so the point here is in examining it. While Roger Ebert does have a valid criticism that this movie does embody the "White Savior" archetype a little too patly, and maybe it is a big reflection on tone-deaf, self-congratulations among white liberals of the Civil Rights Era (which still makes it a very valid film today with all the talk about intersectionalism), but the story is primarily the story of a widower and his children. That is why it appealed to me, since I was brought up by a widower as well, and like Scout, I had (and have) a very close relationship with my father. Stories about widowers with children tend to be about women coming into their lives and teaching them to love again, because they shamefully neglect the poor little urchins they brought into the world with their sainted dead wives. I was shocked when a classmate stated the father in a story I had written came off as unrealistic because "All men are creeps around little girls". It is lovely to have a single father portrayed as a wise and compassionate caregiver, especially to a daughter. Strangely, the only other example I can think of off the top of my head is Jed Clampett from The Beverly Hillbillies. Maybe it's a trope where Southern/Appalachian single fathers raise their tomboy daughters with love, care, and dignity, while city men actually have to learn to love their daughters. Who knows what that's saying about society? But anyway, can Atticus come across as too perfect? Yes. But it is the story being told from his daughter's eyes, and I think kids should be able to have their parents be their heroes. To me, that's a strength of the film. The fact that it's not Tom Robinson's story may raise some eyebrows... as does the fact that the otherwise saintly Atticus, while refraining from using the derogatory "boy", only uses first names with the local black population, while all the white people get a Mr. or a Miss. Culture. This is a story where racist tensions are just a backdrop. It does do a good job of capturing the child's eye view of all of these things, but that may put some viewers off. Only you can know if you're one of them, though.