Jeff Simon: American civil wars, political, cultural and otherwise - The Buffalo News

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Jeff Simon: American civil wars, political, cultural and otherwise

Have no fear. Oprah is here.

And she'll heal America.

Again.

If you doubt it, watch this weekend's "60 Minutes" when TV's one-woman tsunami whose mission was to propel America to its best life, will return to become an official correspondent on "60 Minutes."

As if NBC didn't have enough to worry about trying to complete with the CBS TV News magazine that invented them all -- and has dominated television since first appearing in 1968 -- it now will become an affiliate of Oprah Inc. whenever the two behemoths can get together. That's enough to wipe out all plausible competition for years.

Obviously, some genius counter-programming, or a truly great football game can make a small dent. But otherwise Oprah + "60 Minutes" = one massive TV news juggernaut.

And to think how people worried about how dominant the Golden State Warriors in basketball would get when Kevin Durant left Oklahoma to join them.

The word is that Oprah has been conducting a series of round-table discussions all over America on the cultural and political divisions in contemporary America exposed nakedly in the last presidential election.

It's undeniably true that it was Oprah Winfrey who, more than any other single force, gave us our first black American president. It is also true that she may be the best hope of finding some American political and cultural unity again, if not necessarily the last such hope.

Granted, she has been less than an overwhelming force in her own cable TV enterprises. But combine her history of clout and that of "60 Minutes" and you have a juggernaut.

Meanwhile, on the subject of politically and culturally divided America, something else that must be recognized is the somewhat mind-blowing division caused by Darren Aronofsky's movie called "Mother!" which stars his girlfriend, Jennifer Lawrence.

Javier Bardem and Jennifer Lawrence in the climax of "Mother!" (Paramount Pictures/Protozoa Pictures)

You'd think grenades had gone off in American multiplexes and megaplexes. Some showings have reportedly been that empty. Some others have been exited -- sometimes in the middle of the movie -- by that many angry and outraged moviegoers.

The amount of raw hate mustered by the movie has been amazing. Cinemascore gave it a rousing, bleeding F based on its audience post-show interviews. That, to put it mildly, is not a common occurrence.

What I'm finding particularly uproarious about it is that everywhere audiences can possibly convene to thrash out the subject as brutally as possible -- especially on social media -- they do. And that, somewhat incredibly, includes at least a couple of the nation's more estimable movie critics who have taken to chasing each other around the room with tomahawks whenever the subject of "Mother!" is raised on social media. (Twitter, as you guessed, has been ground zero.)

These are people whose work I admire a good deal individually. To have them so divided on the subject of Aronofsky and "Mother!" that they can't seem to keep a civil finger on their keyboards, is more than a little outrageous in my opinion.

Immediately after the release of "12 Years a Slave," a fair amount of bile was released into the bloodstream of American movie commentary, especially about one African American movie critic whose views are frequently eccentric enough to be deliberately contrarian. When New York movie critics get together for meetings of critic organizations and awards and such, the tales of his apostasy on the subject of the film could get quite ripe.

"Mother!" resulted in at least two critics suddenly in a state of war.

I've not met either one of them. I'm merely an admiring reader of both. I had no idea that any mere movie could result in such vituperative charges of backstabbing and moral cowardice and who knows what all.

My view of the movie it that its quite advanced pitch of lunacy was weirdly exhilarating to watch. But then I must confess that I'm almost always willing to pay attention to eccentrics, contrarians and troublemakers. Not all troublemakers are whistle-blowers. I know that. Some are just troubled people or envious people crying out for attention and/or looking for a way to better their own shabby lot.

I knew a whole bucket of Meaning (capital M) was on the way at the end of "Mother!" and I buckled in waiting for the movie to fling it at me.

Which it did. But even I didn't expect it to come amid amid all that high-decibel extremism. I liked it better when it was just one of the craziest thrillers of the last 10 years rather than the Statement that it now is -- not to mention the biblical allegory which people are now calling it without possessing nearly as rigorous a definition of the word "allegory" as I do.

No matter. I wish that intelligent folks could disagree without flinging offal at each other and chasing each other around the room but I can't help liking it when mere movies are able to get people this upset.

If Oprah Winfrey were still on television in the daily syndicated show that made her the Guru to Us All, she could have done at least a whole hour on the subject, with wonderful contributions from horrifically articulate movie critics, much-loved movie stars, and filmmakers prematurely accused of genius.

But hey, she's back on patrol for American behavioral pathology. And she's on "60 Minutes," ground zero for the American news business.

Anything is possible. Who knows?

Maybe even healing.

 

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