Decent Films Mail > Mailbag #2

Re: The Magdalene Sisters Controversy (2003)

Who are you to judge what is a good state of mind as far as creative judgement is concerned? It seems to me that you want creative judgement to be watered down to please the palette of ponses who have experienced nothing of hardship.

What do people do who feel rage in their hearts and minds to advertise their cause? This film was excellent.

It did not need the “other side”. Because the “other side of the argument” supports the beatings and abuse, mental torture and crimes against humanity that the catholic church have supported for centuries.

This film was not the party political broadcast you might have wanted but it was true, real, disturbing and educational.

Don’t draw analogies with Nazis about this film you very stupid person.

What is with the sudden rash of new Magdalene Sisters hate mail? (“Hate mail” in this case in part because of your closing sentence — certainly not all disagreement constitutes hate mail; for contrary examples, see the next exchange, or my previous mail column.) Oh, I see Film4 recently broadcast the film. Well, that explains it.

How have you misread me? Let me count the ways.

I never said I wanted “the other side of the argument.” I am not aware that there is any “argument” or any “other side” to be presented. I certainly did not use those words in my review, even though you use them in quote marks as if I did. I am not aware of anyone who “supports” the abuse that occurred in the Magdalene asylums, as you allege. If you can produce anyone who supports it, I would like to know. But I don’t think you can. So there is no “argument” and no “other side” that I am aware of.

You are 180 degrees wrong about my wanting Mullan to “water down” what occurred. On the contrary, it was Mullan himself who already said that he did water it down in his film, and I am quite willing to grant that he did, but I never said he should do that, nor do I think so. On the contrary, I think he could have — and should have — made his film more devastating than it is. I think he should have made it a genuinely devastating and morally serious indictment against the abuses in the Church, instead of what it is, which is agitprop substituting cardboard movie villains where there should have been genuinely wicked human beings.

For what it’s worth, it is not only religious critics who recognize the film’s propagandistic excesses. For example, see Ed Gonzalez’s excellent Slant.com review. I think I’ve read Ed describe himself somewhere as an atheist; certainly he’s no fan of the Church, though he seems to me to have a certain respect for or at least semi-sympathetic understanding of religion. He is also one of the sharpest and most interesting critics out there, though I wouldn’t recommend all his reviews to my readers (certainly not without a content advisory).

Finally, if you were right about me only wanting to see “party political broadcasts,” it would follow that I would never recommend films that criticize or attack the Church and the faith. But there are such films that I do recommend. So you are wrong about me. However, believe what you like.

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