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What’s Our Line?: Shutting Down the Theater of Crime

We enter the theater and take a seat in the dark. The reel begins. Our eyes are fixed on the crime drama playing out on the screen. We think, for some reason, to look down at our hands. We are assured in the flickering light of the screen by the absence of blood. We see a pursuit from the air conducted by those who we've been told are the good guys. Those scrambling on the ground are the bad guys. Yet we begin to squirm in our seats. Some of us even gasp at what we are seeing because we seem to recognize that the good guys are not acting so good. Some of the ushers seeing the restlessness of the audience tell us this is not the routine usually acted out. But then still other ushers assure us that the good guys are doing what they're suppose to…doing their job. The enemy…the bad guys are the bad guys. Period. These assurances are a convenience to our conscience.

We listen to the lines of the actors. These lines they deliver indicate that they too believe that they are the good guys and that those on the ground are bad guys. Here again these lines from the lips of these actors are a convenience to our conscience. The lines are spoken with such confidence. A heckler in the audience who is a retired actor of this murderous epic tells us these lines are well rehearsed. These rehearsals are a convenience to the conscience of the actors. The lines remind them they are the good guys in pursuit of the bad guys on the ground. The director and producer of this never ending crime drama cannot be inconvenienced by a troubled conscience of an actor. There can be no going off script. Otherwise the film cannot be made and remade and sold so easily to audiences . Another retired actor/heckler will point out that indeed what we are seeing on the screen is the routine. It is a formula that the director and producer of this theater of the macabre use intentionally. Why? Because it is necessary to the functioning of the industry. For a moment we the viewers…the audience come to recognize that it does not matter who the director or producer behind the scenes is…this film will be remade using the same muderous formula to serve a criminal industry.

Yes in this moment, despite the fact that editors have left the truth in clips on the editing room floor, it dawns on us that we don't have our man. We got the wrong guy. As our hearts sink into our guts we realize that we have been in pursuit of the innocent. The lens of the camera closes in on their faces and those who love them and we realize that this epic crime drama has unfolded into a horror show for them. We are angry. We want to blame and we want to punish. Do we lay the blame squarely on the shoulders of the actors for their bad acting? But is it not we the viewers…the audience who lavishes them with praise and gratitude for their fine acting? Do we not allow the acting agency to pursue our youth to be the actors in the theater of the macabre? Did not some of us say to ourselves it would make fine young men and women out of them? Did not some of us say it would provide less privileged young men and women opportunities? Have we ever really understood that we are allowing our youth to be pimped out to a pornographic industry for whom they will act out the most horrific of crimes?

Have we bothered to look closely at our hands as the lights come up in the theater? Is there not blood on them afterall for having clung to the “hope and change” we the audience were promised? We the audience saw the director and producer who embodied this “hope and change” being attacked and some of us clung all the more even as he remade the film of the director before him…even as he remade it into more of a horror. Do we think ourselves too incapable of both denouncing those directors and producers of the Birth of a Nation remake and denouncing this top director and producer for the sequel of a blood thirsty crime drama? Humanity would be better served if we acknowledge and act like we are capable of both.

Maybe now we sit in stunned silence…refusing to applaud as the lights come up. But our silence and paralysis does not absolve us of anything. It makes us no less complicit. We need not to enter this theater anymore. We need to shut it down. Still further we need to rip the script from the hands of the directors and producers and say, “Enough!” All of us. The actors and the audience. We need to write a new script. Not a script that serves this criminal industry but one that acts in the interest of all of humanity. Please join me in writing this new script by signing this statement.

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Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin