A few years ago, my husband Steven started a little something called the People I’d Like to Have a Beer With List. Essentially it is a list of his idols, people that he thinks are deliriously funny, and people he would just like to sit around and talk to for an afternoon. You can think of it as sort of a Christmas wish list for adults. Instead of toys, Steven would like to ask Santa for a personal meeting with some of his favorite celebrities. Nothing stalkerish about it. He’d just like a couple hours to sit around and shoot the shit with some of the people he admires most. People like Matt Sorum, Seth MacFarland, Lewis Black, and his favorite director of all time, the one and only, Kevin Smith.
Now, most people know Smith from his films like Clerks and Mallrats, which he wrote, directed, and even acted in as the quietly lovable character named Silent Bob.
His most recent film, however, is a sharp detour from the comedies Smith is known for. The independently-financed horror film, Red State, is something else entirely. The reviews thus far have been a very mixed bag, but I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed it.
Now, perhaps I should explain, because when I say “enjoyed” I don’t necessarily mean that I am dying to watch it again tomorrow. In fact, as I sit here writing this, I am pretty disturbed by what I’ve just seen. I felt the same way when I left the theater after watching the movie Seven, yet it would probably be in my top 50 favorites if I was making a list. The reason? Because sometimes there are movies that just seem to resonate, that hit a chord, that hold up a mirror (however warped it may seem) and allow us to see, with razor sharpness, some of the most glaring issues in our society.
Red State is one of those movies.
If you are somehow still unaware of the beliefs or activities of the Westboro Baptist Church, it is definitely time to climb out from the rock you’ve been living under and start watching the news. While few of these protests have actually turned violent, I believe it is only a matter of time before we have another David Koresh, Waco-style massacre on our hands. And essentially, that is one of Smith’s points in the film.
See, we live in a world where we often prefer to deal with unpleasantries by burying our heads in the sand and pretending that nothing is wrong. We don’t want the burden of having to deal with things or having to put forth the effort to change them, so we just look the other way and ignore the warning signs. I don’t want to spoil the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet by talking about it too much in detail here, but I think the thing that rattled me most while watching the film is that I don’t think the WBC is very far removed from the Five Points Church depicted in the film. When you’re dealing with this level of hatred and religious fanaticism, it’s only a matter of time before things get ugly. Real ugly. And I commend Smith for taking a stand against a group of people that even our federal courts can’t seem to bother with.
I’m proud to be a Nebraskan. I was born here, raised here, and even though I moved away to attend college, I found my way back here twelve years later to settle and start my own family. I was even prouder to be a Nebraskan when our state passed a law prohibiting the funeral protests that the Westboro Baptist Church has grown so famous for staging. Too bad the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals stepped in to reverse the ruling. But, we Nebraskans will fight it, all the way to the Supreme Court if we have to, because, like Kevin Smith, we believe in taking a stand against the things we know are wrong. We just wish more people would listen.
Tonight’s 365 Project entry is dedicated to Kevin Smith for writing, directing, assembling a phenomenal cast, promoting, distributing, and standing behind Red State, in spite of whatever criticism might come your way. Bravo, sir! I hope someday my husband gets a chance to check your name off his People I’d Like to Have a Beer With List, because you are definitely one guy we would be proud to say we know.
And if you’d like to do a little more reading about the recent repeal of the Nebraska protest law or what the members of the Westboro Baptist Church thought about Red State, click the links below.
8th US Circuit of Appeals opinion strikes down Nebraska’s restrictions on funeral pickets
Phelpses give mixed reviews to ‘Red State’