Letters to the editor

Abortion isn't easy -- in movies or in life. Plus: Is gun control elitist? Virtual panty raids are better than gore fests.


Salon Staff
May 18, 2000 8:00PM (UTC)

Abortion at the movies
BY AUDREY FISCH
(05/15/00)

Audrey Fisch is right to point out the contradictory politics in "The Cider House Rules," a film whose greatest mistake both politically and creatively is the dumbing down of John Irving's great and complex novel, about characters whose lives unfold against a backdrop of this political question, to an "abortion film." Irving's novel can't be considered pro-choice as much as against the simplicity of dualistic politics and societal judgment when the issue is so much one of personal responsibility. When Homer returns to the orphanage to take Dr. Larch's place, his decision is pro-choice, but decidedly not pro-abortion, and he does so with all the pain he has seen and lived surrounding reproductive irresponsibility. Indeed, that is the reason for his decision.

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As the mother of an 8-year-old child, who has since had an abortion and moved on with my life, I welcome the contradictory politics of Irving's novel, but lament the fact that Irving participated in the reduction of his work to the simplistic politics of the film.

-- Jaime Nichols

Audrey Fisch missed an important point. Yes, "High Fidelity's" few moments on abortion may have been refreshing. But this segment did not amount to a defense of abortion. "Cider House Rules," for all its convolutions and playing with myth, did.

It may be true that "Cider House Rules" "punishes" all or most women who have abortions, but remember the context: Abortion was illegal during the time in which the novel/movie was set. I suspect that most readers and viewers find this element somehow right, mirroring the gravity of the issue.

After all, the issue is grave. It is about the sacrificing of one being (a fetus) for the interests of other beings (the parents, perhaps society at large).

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I support abortion, but I don't think that "High Fidelity's" downgrading of its problematic status helps the cause much. (It was a good movie, though, and the music was better than the awful saccharine score for "The Cider House Rules.")

-- Timothy Virkkala

In "High Fidelity" a woman isn't punished for having had an abortion. A man is punished because he caused her to have one.

The three-minute scene in which we learn that Laura had an abortion is not the casual moment Audrey Fisch would like it to be. It's the most important three minutes in the movie. Rob is shown up for having done something terrible. He destroyed his own incipient family through his irresponsibility and selfishness. The movie doesn't treat abortion as a great evil, but it doesn't present it as morally neutral. Laura would much rather have exercised her freedom of choice to have the baby. Rob doesn't deserve her and he has to spend the rest of the movie earning back her love and the audience's respect.

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"High Fidelity" isn't a polemic. The film adds only one thing to the abortion debate: the unusual theme of male responsibility. Anti-abortion types are only interested in giving men veto power. Pro-choice types treat men as irrelevant to the question.

The movie suggests that, at least in the case of Rob and Laura, abortion isn't only about a woman's right to control her own body. It's about a man's refusal to grow up.

-- David Reilly

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In her comparison of "High Fidelity" to "The Cider House Rules," Audrey Fisch asks the question, "When has a movie ever suggested that a woman can have an abortion and move on with her life?"

Well, it was certainly done in the sleeper hit "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," released in 1982. In the film, 15-year-old Stacy (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, who was actually 20) loses her virginity in a typically awkward and wholly ungratifying encounter, gets pregnant as a result, has an abortion and moves on, wiser and stronger. The situation is treated with matter-of-factness by the director, Amy Heckerling, as just one of the many comic, embarrassing and surprisingly poignant vignettes which make up the movie.

-- Hans Phillips

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It'll take more than a million moms

BY BRUCE SHAPIRO
(05/16/00)

When, oh when, will the same people who bristle when they see the First Amendment being violated react the same way to the astonishing proposals to take away our Second Amendment rights? There is a distinct class difference between the gun-controllers (upper middle) and the gun owners (middle and lower). I wonder why those who claim to be speaking for "the people" only hear their own suburban neighbors -- people who can afford fancy security systems and who aren't constantly in danger of being robbed.

Banning handguns won't make anybody safer; it will however, put more people, particularly women, in danger. Rosie O'Donnell has a security posse; so does Susan Sarandon. They ought to be ashamed of themselves for trying to determine which parts of the Constitution still apply, and which don't. They also ought to be ashamed of using mendacious statistics -- like the completely false "13 children a day" figure -- to bolster their political point. The right of self-defense for law-abiding citizens always applies, whether Rosie likes it or not.

-- Julie DeFalco

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Bruce Shapiro is flatly mistaken when he asserts that "nearly half of all federal firearms licenses are held by ... individuals who sell weapons out of the back of the truck or out of their homes." The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms arbitrarily rescinded the licenses of all dealers who did not operate brick-and-mortar gun stores, although such dealers had to obey the same laws as commercial gun stores, and there was no evidence that they were more likely to break the law.

Worse is Shapiro's embrace of the municipal liability suits against gunmakers. The Brooklyn jury decision against the gunmakers was the only such suit to succeed -- so far, at least six others have been dismissed as frivolous. Gun manufacturers sell a legal product. And despite innuendo to the contrary, they do so in compliance with already-stringent federal and state regulation. The law, quite justifiably, considers this a defense against clever but specious causes of action like "negligent marketing."

-- Oliver Moses

If the Hollywood crowd is so in favor of more effective gun-control legislation, why doesn't it also fight for eliminating the continuing display of guns in movies and TV? What hypocrites they are. And after they put their money where their mouths are, maybe those big environmentalists will give up their SUVs and other trucks. And, oh yes, those who are so opposed to school vouchers, perhaps they will send their children to public school?

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-- Phyllis Weinreb

BSD Unix: Power to the
people, from the code

BY ANDREW LEONARD
(05/16/00)

Andrew Leonard's article about BSD Unix leaves out an interesting fact that may have a significant impact on the future of the technology. Apple Computer's upcoming OS X is, at its core, a BSD-derived Unix (albeit with a Mach microkernel rather than the regular BSD kernel) operating system. Moreover, this core, known by itself as Darwin, is an open-source project.

What this means is that, starting next January, one of the largest mainstream personal computer vendors will begin shipping open-source BSD-flavored Unix on all of its computers -- every single iMac and iBook as well as the pro G4 and PowerBook systems. This will instantly give BSD about a 5 percent market share (and we're talking about the entire PC market, not just servers.) And unlike other Unixes, OS X will support a truly user friendly interface, as well as mainstream applications like Internet Explorer, AppleWorks, and Adobe InDesign.
This should be an interesting ride.

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-- Jens Alfke

Raiders of the lost panty
BY JACK BOULWARE
(05/16/00)

How interesting that outraged academics and concerned parents see fit to tie themselves in a knot over the trite "Panty Raider" because it depicts boys interested in semi-naked (images of) girls. No doubt this is a much more heinous activity than "dooming" your way to glory by alternately shooting, blowing up, eviscerating or otherwise dismembering opponents in any number of games currently flooding the market. I would rather have my son engage in a prurient pursuit of virtual panties than rehearse himself for Columbine Part 2. The million moms have a long way to go, indeed.

-- Thomas Rivard

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G'day, Caesar!

BY CHRISTINE KENNEALLY
(05/16/00)

Thanks to Christine Keneally for noticing Hollywood's ongoing belief that British English should stand for all foreign accents. And for mentioning "Spartacus," the pinnacle of this practice. But how could she forget Tony Curtis in that movie? "I am a sing-guh of sawng-gs," he says, describing his trade. (Another good Curtis accent movie is "The Black Shield of Falworth.")

But I have a troubling question: Isn't Russell Crowe actually from New Zealand? Maybe I'm over-reacting, but I think someone (a publicist, manager, or Crowe himself) decided that Australians are more appealing than New Zealanders, much the way so many people think of Jacques Brel as French even though he was Belgian (at least I think he was). I hope Keneally can clear this up, and I applaud her attention to speech patterns. As Tony Curtis says: "I must away, for yonduh lies duh castle of my fahduh."

-- Owen Dugan

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