June 19, 2004

Should Ray Bradbury be mad at Michael Moore?

Moore's film title "Fahrenheit 9/11" is a play on the Bradbury title "Fahreheit 451," and Bradbury is demanding an apology. (Why all the stress on apologies these days? It wasn't so long ago that people got steamed at apologies on the ground that they implied that just saying you're sorry is enough.) The Straits Times reports:
Bradbury, who hadn't seen the movie, said he called Moore's company six months ago to protest and was promised Moore would call back.

He finally got that call last Saturday, Bradbury said, adding Moore told him he was "embarrassed."

Joanne Doroshow, a spokesman for Fahrenheit 9/11, said the film's makers have the "utmost respect for Ray Bradbury."

Six months to return a phone call to a person you have the utmost respect for? All I can say is it's too bad an indie film crew wasn't following Bradbury around all that time while he was trying to get in touch with Moore. It might have made a funny documentary that could have been called "Michael and Me."

But to answer my own question, Ray Bradbury should be mad, and not just about the long wait time for the phone call. Moore's title will pop into people's heads when they see Bradbury's title. And Moore's documentary is very strong stuff, designed to elate Bush-haters and be completely unwatchable for people who aren't already quite opposed to Bush. From what I've heard from my son, who saw the film the other day in New York, the film is a disjointed montage of clips that doesn't even make an attempt at providing coherent information. It is just: images to hate Bush by. Why should Bradbury want his great classic book linked to that? If "utmost respect" were really felt for Bradbury, his title would not have been used without his permission.

I'd like to hear Moore or Moore's spokesperson attempt to say something credible about why the claim of "utmost respect" isn't a blatant lie. And I'd like an obnoxious interviewer to hold a microphone in his face and ask the question, then follow him around re-asking the question, and film the whole set of encounters, and edit the film into a montage that makes Moore look as bad as possible, then spend as much time as possible trying to get Moore to watch that film and film those efforts to reach Moore. If you don't end up with enough material for the film "Michael and Me," just edit in various news clips that will make it seem like he's responsible for ... Oh, I can't even write it. It's all too mean and unfair to make a movie Michael Moore-style.

UPDATE: I credited the Straits Times website, but it is an AP article, which you can also see here. The article seems like it will be drawing a lot of commentary (Metafilter is discussing it). I note how quickly the discussion focuses on the question whether Bradbury has a legal right to force Moore to change the title and want to emphasize that I'm not talking about legal rights here. People have a strange way of assuming that if there is a legal right in the general area, then as long as you don't violate the legal right, you don't deserve criticism.

No comments: