Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Caged No More: A Non Review

I stumbled onto an ad for a new movie, Caged No More, that is an addition to the growing protest/awareness of sex-traffiking. It details the story of two girls who were "kidnapped" by their addict father and sold to traffikers in Greece to pay off his debts. The story follows the girls' grandmother working with their uncle and their ex-spec ops cousin who goes to lengths to retrieve them. The purpose of the movie is to continue to inform the American public on the existence of sex traffiking.

Now, the movie is not out. I have no intentions of ever seeing it. The trailer and the press releases speak loud enough. There are many red-flags. This is an Evangelical movie, from the same director who did God's Not Dead. This usually means two-dimensional characters, cliche plot developments, and preachy. The trailer was good enough to reflect that. Funny enough, Evangelicals, as a culture, ironically come off as those who understand Man and his world the best, and yet are mostly clueless.

Evangelical movies tend to be religiously saccharine, idealized 50's, versions of standard Americana. Liam Neeson's Taken came out a decade ago, dealing superficially with these issues, and yet this movie can only copy. The militarized cousin is able to punch, disarm, and brutalize his way through gangsters and foreign businessmen to find the girls. Again, Evangelicals are tasteless repetitions of American culture at large. All of our movies tell us with a good heart, we can bludgeon our way through any problems. Our mass killings are righteous because we mean well, so we can excuse possible faults.

So Evangelicalism only copies this without modern America's emphasis on the ambiguities. Liam Neeson's character is divorced because his work emotionally detached him from his wife and daughter. It takes an absurd crisis to reunite them. The Evangelical version doesn't even allow this small reflection on possible realities. The only problems are easily remedied with prayers, feel-good aphorisms, and deus-ex-machina non-sense. Everything fits together in the right way because that's how all stories end.

Of course, I was perplexed why the junkie father would take his girls out of the States to Greece, but it really isn't a brain-twister. The real factor is that the main girl is a pretty, thin, white girl, complete with the trappings of innocence. This is the tragedy of the film. I suppose it could be screen-writer's cynicism (i.e. an American audience will only care about sex-traffic if it's a cute American white girl). But, given what I said about Evangelical movies, it's probably an unintentional move, based out of the movement's prime constituency. It's just a natural fit, it doesn't take any additional forethought.

I'm sure there will be conversions, the bad guys will go to jail, die, or repent, or slink off to the shadows to link their wounds. There will be some end trauma about all those still left behind, and what you as a lazy, fat, well-off, viewer can do about it, now that you're inspired to by Rambo-esque displays of power. Maybe all the fight scenes will show the insufficiency of violence. Even so, it's a naive demonstration of what a Western audience will take away. You can decry violence until your blue in the face, we all know that's what's required, and we love it. We Americans love to worship death.

It's why Taken really isn't about sex-traffiking, it's just another secret-agent thriller. That movie was at least aware of what it is and what it isn't. Evangelicals generally have no idea. They're too busy worrying about being relevant.

I write all of this as someone who is not unfamiliar with agencies started to end sex-traffiking. They do some good work, but they tend to have an overinflated view of their efforts. It's as if they believe that only if they could get all the legislature, then there'd be some seismic change. I'm more pessimistic, though I don't think their efforts are worthless. The reason why legislature doesn't happen is, in part, that law-makers and authorities benefit in some part from it. But it doesn't stop the occasional white-collar, emasculated middle-aged man to want to get worked up over some cause celebre so he can go kick some ass. It's kind of sad.

When I see this movie, not only do I see a bad piece of  art, but a moralizing attempt that fails to understand mankind and the kind of stakes. It always ends with good ol' USA, without perhaps contemplating that our way of life, our capitalism, our democracy, our values, contribute to the perpetuation of these systemic sins. Our corporate individualism makes us blind to our group-think and how our piety is saccharine and ignorant.

On the latter point is most relevant, Evangelical piety states and restates a certain kind of flawed-hero, very common in the popular anti-hero. It allows us to be flawed, mistaken, but ultimately one of the good guys. We confess we are sinners to hide our sins. This isn't even a criticism, just an observation. It's a weird kind of cuddly self-flagellation so we can feel content with our actions and our lives. We do superficial self-criticism so we don't have to go much deeper, or allow others to have a voice.

All in all, I say all of this as someone who exists, broadly, as an Evangelical. Movies like this only reveal the sick, devil-warped state of American evangelicalism. Most are so blind that they are unaware that they are in love with nation-worship, love of violence, lust of the eyes, and all sorts of bigotry, whether of race, class, or culture. It's not evil or malicious. It's rather just delusional and pathetic. Caged No More is a message of the old guard trying to keep up with the new social-justice, activist Evangelical Millenials. Instead of deep insight or wisdom, Caged No More will probably be an exercise in missing the point.

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