On the Need for Effective Fantasy by William Alan Rieser

Are you aware how modern literary artists have brutalized fantasy by duping the public with elaborate lies about living people and passing them off as true stories? Did you know that Hollywood is undergoing an Oscar crisis due to the increased scrutiny applied to pervasive canards? Or is it possible you are totally unaware that you have been subjected to such manipulation? Surely you know that what filmdom presents as historical accuracy is often a fabrication designed to entice viewers. You have only to look at the portrayals of the famous and the dead to recognize what I’m saying. Consider Babe Ruth, Eliot Ness and T.H.Lawrence. How were they depicted? Were those movies honest appraisals of complete lives or glorified hogwash? Of course, the further we get from the realities of those peoples’ existence, the easier it is to accept blatant prevarication. The deader they are, the greater the subterfuge at least until recently. Maybe it is our need to believe in something better than ourselves, something t hat whisks us away from awfulness into a cartoon world of rosy colors. Why else is the truth fantasized? Could it be simply because of money?

Mark Bowden wrote “Black Hawk Down,” about the military involvement in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993. Ewan McGregor acted the part of the Ranger, John Grimes, depicting the man as a hero which, at that time, undoubtedly he was. But the actual man, whom Pentagon officials tried to downplay and avoid letting the public know about, is John Stebbins, currently serving a 30 year sentence in prison for raping his young daughter. I don’t know that the heroism of a moment justifies such grand treatment when balanced against child molestation. Evidently, the Hollywood moguls, director Ridley Scott and Producer Jerry Brookheimer, not to mention the Catholic church, especially in Massachusets, think otherwise. In other words, unlike the legal interpretation, they tell the truth, a small fragment of it, and everything else but. That is fantasy. Do you get the feeling, as I do, that it smacks of government propaganda and deliberate misinformation?

If major unethical balderdash is your preference, consider the Rubin “Hurricane” Carter story. Denzel Washington loudly proclaimed that: “This man is love,” when he accepted the Golden Globe award for his performance. The writer, James Hirsch, opted not to include the views of his murder victim’s relatives which included the fact that critical witness testimony was omitted in court and that he had numerous prior mugging convictions. Denzel was quoted as saying: “A great story! What can be seen on the outside is marvelous, but it is only a hint of the magnificence within.” Perhaps it was the writer’s inclusion of a fictional racist police detective who falsified evidence against Carter that swayed Denzel’s opinion. Or was he trying to depict a black man arisen from his private savagery? Hard to tell, isn’t it? Then again, it could be that Johnny Cochran is still trying to cash in on his subversion of the justice system.

It seems to me that if one is going to write a fantasy, it shouldn’t be cast about as true but merely wishful thinking. Not so, according to Sylvia Nascar’s biography of John Forbes Nash, “A Beautiful Mind,” produced by Ron Howard in which Russell Crowe depicts the man who won a Nobel prize in economics for his complex game theory. On greater scrutiny, one unearths some commonly alleged facts that Nash, in addition to being schizophrenic, was widely despised by his peers for his aggressive behavior, vicious anti-semitism, bisexual tendencies, siring a child out of wedlock and rampaging adultery. The man himself does not deny them but does exploit his sickness as an excuse. It seems like the mind of a Nazi or a terrorist is more apropos here and it is definitely not beautiful. I suppose I could be mistaken. Perhaps the author was saying she wished Nash could achieve a beautiful mind, not that he did. I’ll wager Crowe wasn’t privy to the truth, else his acting could not have been so convincing. As for me , give me real fantasy any day. Given a choice between Hollywood’s latest despicable nonsense and Peter Jackson’s rendition of Tolkien, I prefer the latter.

You can email the author of this article at WRieser@juno.com

Copyright© 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 William Alan Rieser, sffworld.com. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author.

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