Mel Brooks, The Producers and the Ethics of Satire about N@zis
June 14, 2017 12:53 AM   Subscribe

Lindsay Ellis tackles the satire paradox and the role of humor as a weapon against fascism. [CW: depictions of racism and homophobia]
posted by Deoridhe (22 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
"Movie adaptation of the stage musical The Producers"? .....Really?...
posted by MartinWisse at 1:28 AM on June 14 [11 favorites]


I'm glad I'm not the only one who hated Life is Beautiful.
posted by Space Coyote at 1:42 AM on June 14 [4 favorites]


Oh gods no. Such a horrible movie.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:04 AM on June 14


I'm always happy to watch Lindsay Ellis do her thing with regards to movie analysis.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:20 AM on June 14 [3 favorites]


I saw this and loved it. I loved it so much I went and watched dozens more of her videos. All of her stuff is fun, well reasoned, and insightful. She is even doing a film school 101 analysis of Michael Bay's Transformers that is great.
posted by poe at 5:52 AM on June 14 [2 favorites]


I was gonna post this too! Her videos are fantastic. I discovered her via her two-parter that asked the question "Why are Michael Bay's Transformers movies so hard to remember?" -edit- Oops, just too late on this. I guess I'll recommend her video on why Starscream is so popular with female fans.
posted by UltraMorgnus at 6:59 AM on June 14


The Last Laugh explores whether the Holocaust and other taboos are off-limits for comedy.
posted by judson at 7:16 AM on June 14


I'm glad I'm not the only one who hated Life is Beautiful.
More Eugene Hütz though, please.

edit: Ugh, christ, what movie am I thinking of that i hated but had eugene in it? Such a cultural illiterate, me.

edit edit: "Everything is Illuminated". Potato, potahto.
posted by DoubtingThomas at 7:56 AM on June 14 [1 favorite]


Of course you can joke about the Holocaust. But high risk humor is, well, high risk humor, and satire is especially tricky, because it is often hard to know who the target of the satire is.

So if you go for that Holocaust joke, or whatever transgressive shitlord joke you just know is going to be awesome, and people respond badly, it's not that they don't get comedy, it's not that they are unfamiliar with Mel Brooks, it's not that they think comedy should not be transgressive, it's not that they are opponents of the first amendment, it's none of that.

It's that you took a big risk and failed, and that's on you. You told a shitty joke and your audience is letting you know. Not all jokes succeed, and humor is not such a limited resource, such a precious commodity, that your awful Holocaust joke deserves to be prized just for existing, no matter how shitty it is.

Cf: Everybody who thinks that Kekistan stuff is awesome.
posted by maxsparber at 8:13 AM on June 14 [15 favorites]


Garry Trudeau, in the Atlantic: "Satire punches up, against authority of all kinds, the little guy against the powerful." There may sometimes be debate (or idiocy) about who holds power, but in general it seems simple.
posted by anshuman at 9:02 AM on June 14 [2 favorites]


This was a great video essay. I particularly appreciated the way she contrasted both satirical and dramatic takes on anti-fascism.

It is indeed pretty troubling that overtly anti-fascist dramas are so prone to cooption. It just goes to show, I guess, that you need to take an extreme amount of care in any depiction of fascism, regardless of your intent.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:32 AM on June 14 [1 favorite]


(I'm mildly disappointed that we didn't get any reference to "Hans, are we the baddies?", though. Because I actually think it's a great response to the increased nuance with which German citizens and soldiers have been viewed over time. It's a brilliant satire on the misunderstandings that people have developed about what "banality of evil" really means.)
posted by tobascodagama at 9:36 AM on June 14 [10 favorites]


It's ironic that Ellis treats with some skepticism that claim that you couldn't make Blazing Saddles today and censors some clips of the film that she uses. More troubling is that she presents a bowdlerized version of Brook's comment about his use of the word "nigger" in the 1974 films as if it were direct quote from the director himself.

I understand her point, that she doesn't want to be sidetracked by a discussion of whether the use of the word is every effective. (Though it would be easy to argue that discussion would be directly relevant to her theme.) But having decided to avoid direct use of the epithet, she should have been more careful about reporting Brooks' own words.

I also thought it was interesting that she didn't censor a similar use of the word "faggot" from the same film. It's hard for me to understand a decision to bleep out one and not the other.
posted by layceepee at 9:48 AM on June 14 [5 favorites]


The Last Laugh explores whether the Holocaust and other taboos are off-limits for comedy

My late father, the Holocaust survivor who loved Hogan's Heros and The Producers and found them cathartic, would say no, they are not off-limits. But no one ever asked him. I'm gonna go with his opinion anyway.
posted by Room 641-A at 11:26 AM on June 14 [3 favorites]


The bit about neo-nazis loving American History X reminds me of the idea that you can't make an anti-war film, or an anti-mafia film.
posted by ckape at 2:10 PM on June 14 [5 favorites]


"Some of Brooks' comedy, with gay characters in particular, has aged poorly."

This feygele disagrees. Especially with the characters Ellis uses to highlight that very statement. Andreas Voutsinas as Carmen Ghia is still my favorite on-screen gay guy.

Skepticism about taboo is great, but I don't get the impression that it's an easy subject to transform from speculation to persuasion. There's no accounting for taste, and making an academic go of it can sorta amplify the joke, unintentionally. But that's funny, too! It's great being able to get a lecture on What Doesn't Work when you're able to roll your eyes with like-minded people.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 4:00 PM on June 14 [2 favorites]


Oh. Haven't checked in in her for a while. I could watch her read the phonebook. If you're unfamiliar, her in-depth discussion of Starscream over the years is one of the most thoroughly nerdy things I think I've seen on the internet. The one on TLC was pretty good, too.
posted by lkc at 4:47 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]


"Movie adaptation of the stage musical The Producers"? .....Really?...

Yeah that pretty much undercut her.
posted by Pembquist at 10:51 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]


"Movie adaptation of the stage musical The Producers"? .....Really?...

Wasn't the 2005 film an adaptation of the musical? Which was, of course, in turn an adaptation of the earlier film. The wikipedia page describes it as such. This seems possible, and distinct from the 2005 film being a remake of the 1968 film.

She speaks at length about the 1968 film later on—it's the core text of the video. So she's probably aware it exists...
posted by distorte at 4:00 AM on June 15 [1 favorite]


Wasn't the 2005 film an adaptation of the musical? Which was, of course, in turn an adaptation of the earlier film.

Yes, that's it, as convoluted as it sounds.
posted by Room 641-A at 4:17 AM on June 15


Ahhh, thats better, you see I never even knew there was a 2005 movie. Just shows how bad my credibility is I guess. On the other maybe its more of a curmudgeon thing: upon reading of this 2005 movie my first thought was WHY? (Not why in the sense of how is that going to make you money but why in the sense of WHY?)
posted by Pembquist at 8:46 AM on June 15


I'm not entirely clear why she brought up the film adaptation of the stage musical, either. Most of her focus is on the original film, so it doesn't seem to add anything. Maybe she's just establishing her cred. You know, like "Listen, I've even seen the film adaptation of the Lane/Broderick musical, so trust me when I say I know The Producers."
posted by tobascodagama at 8:57 AM on June 15


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