If a picture is worth a thousand words then movies must at least be worth ten thousand. At the very least movies are a window in the cultural soul of a society. So what would a movie like the upcoming disaster flick, 2012 reveal about the society in which we live?
For starters, it might demonstrate that we are drawn to the mystical. This can be deduced from the fact that the premise of the film is an ancient Mayan prophecy foretelling the destruction of the world in the year 2012. It might also reveal that we are a sensational people. In this film most of the worlds major landmarks are destroyed in a cataclysmic fashion. The most revealing thing in this film, however, is not what gets destroyed but what doesn’t
In a recent interview about the film, director Roland Emmerich was asked why after depicting the destruction of Christian holy sites like the Vatican, he decided not to depict the destruction of Mecca His comments are very revealing:
“Well, I wanted to do that, I have to admit,” Emmerich says. “But my co-writer Harald said I will not have a fatwa on my head because of a movie.
Wait a minute. Is he suggesting that you can destroy Christian and Jewish sights at will but the minute you destroy a Muslim site you become a target? What does that tell you about Judaism and Christianity? What does it reveal about the state of Islam? If Islam is truly a religion of peace, then why should the fictional destruction of their holy sites raise any more or less reaction than that of the destruction of Jewish or Christian sites?
It would appear to me that singling out Islam for special treatment in this way does more harm than good. Emmerich’s comments make Islam out to be like that kid on the block that nobody wants to play with because if he skins his knee, he is going to cry to momma and everyone is going to get grounded. Of course it is quite possible that Emmerich’s comments are not totally unfounded. Consider the fact that literary criticism of Islam by Salmon Rushdie in the Satanic Verses earned him a fatwa from Ayatollah Khomeini and became the occasion where the term fatwa (meaning religious opinion) came to be synonymous with death sentence. There is just reason to think that if Emmerich had included the Kabba in Mecca in his silver screen destroy-all that Muslims would have been outraged. Muslims have killed their own children for far smaller infractions. Consider the case of one Muslim young lady who was killed by her father for talking to a boy she met on facebook.
So what does 2012 tell us about the culture in which we live? I’ll let Mr. Emmerich have the final word:
We have to all … in the Western world … think about this. You can actually … let … Christian symbols fall apart, but if you would do this with [an] Arab symbol, you would have … a fatwa, and that sounds a little bit like what the state of this world is.