Look, it can’t all be frighteningly long discourses on management structures in environmental charities or hackneyed theorising about the future of volunteering on this blog you know. I know we’ve had some fun and games with those kind of posts over the last few months. My, how we’ve laughed. But enough of all this levity, sometimes I will feel the need to address serious issues here. This is one of those occasions. I’m sorry, please stick with it, it sags a bit in the middle, but there’s a quote from a highly respected authority on the subject at the end that I think is well worth the wait.
Last week my carer (wife) took me out to the cinema and told me if I behaved she’d let me have a fizzy pop and a bag of skittles (she late reneged – more on that later). Being the high-brow types that we are, we went to see Foxcatcher (which has no foxes in it). This came hot on the heels of seeing Birdman (which has no birds in it). You’d think we’d have learned. It’s clear these types of films are not for the likes of us – where’s the explosions? Where’s the gratuitous nudity? They were both films that, as a friend of mine once put it, need a glass stomach so they could see where they were going (I’ll leave you to figure that one out). It was during one of the prolonged shots of Channing Tatum’s massive block of a head staring into the distance, furrowed brow and all, that I started to drift.
The enigmatic, paranoid, peculiar John Du Pont is, apart from a fan of sweaty man-on-man action, a keen Ornithologist (Enigmatic, paranoid, peculiar – I’ll leave you to make your own Twitcher jokes). At one point he drops in on Blockhead Tatum in the middle of the night to point out (erroneously) the call of a distant Barn Owl. My wife (yes, once again, I really do have a wife) felt me bridle in my seat. She must have known there was a smartarse comment coming. It was the ensuing ‘for god’s sake, that’s not a Barn Owl’ that resulted in the revoking of my skittles privileges and general shushing for breaking the code of conduct. It was only later when I thought about it that I realised he’d said Barred Owl. I don’t know what they sound like. Or whether he was right. It probably would have been more in keeping with the character if he were just making it up as he went along.
From that point on, I’m afraid the film rather lost me and I drifted off into considering the portrayal of environmentalists and the like in film. I uncovered a worrying trend:
Quantum of Solace – The real hero is, of course, committed environmentalist Dominic Greene. But obviously Bond can’t have that so stitches him up -wouldn’t you know it, he’s only out to cause a drought in Bolivia so he can profiteer. The bastard. At least I think that’s what happens. It was very confusing
Hound of the Baskervilles – The real hero is, of course, committed entomologist and skilled trainer of large, wild dogs, Jack Stapleton. But obviously Holmes can’t have that so stitches him up – wouldn’t you know it, he’s the lost relative of the Baskervilles out to claim their manor. The bastard. Holmes chucks him in a bog for good measure.
Bird Man of Alcatraz – Pimp, murderer and Burt Lancaster.
Silence of the Lambs – The pursuit of sexually confused Lepidopterist Buffalo Bill by Clarice Starling.
Anyway, that’s as far as I got before Mark Ruffalo got shot (sorry, I’m supposed to preface that with ‘spoilers’ aren’t I? Tough.) It seems we’re doomed to be portrayed as either outsiders, loners and obsessives, or slightly wet tree huggers. I suspect even in the upcoming biopic of myself, Blockhead Tatum will feel the need to inject a sinister note of some dark, all-consuming mania, possibly aimed at careless dog-walkers and the scientifically illiterate. I’m open to suggestions in the comment box of better portrayals of environmentalists in film (not Erin Brockovich, she doesn’t count).
But we should be glad, shouldn’t we? At least we’re getting some screen time and exposure. Reflecting on the portrayal of the green movement in film recently, Schwarzenegger discussed how he has tried to make the issue of climate change one that would resonate with the public, without having to involve distracting and unphotogenic scientists: “I think the environmental movement only can be successful if we (film makers) tell the stories. The scientists would never get the kind of attention that someone in show business gets.”*
*Ok, that’s not exactly what he said, but you can tell it’s what he meant. Maybe.