Friday, July 24, 2009

The Night They Drove Old Glory Down

So I watched CSA, the faux documentary/expose about a modern Confederate States of America that occupies all of the continental territory of the United States today. I am of two minds on this movie. The commentary on race relations and the unfinished business of the Civil War and Reconstruction is great and quite well done. The alternate history, which drives the narrative and can't be avoided, is terribly flawed and drove me to frustration.

First the good parts. The framing device is that a British documentary is being shown on Confederate TV in San Francisco. When the show goes to commercial break, a number of cutting ads are shown. This one starts out normal, but wait for the finish. Far better are the ones that show the celebration of the CSA or the racism that lingers or was once more prominent. This ad for Sambo X-15 is a good example. There is also an excellent spoof on Cops, which often has cops beating on black men, called Runaways, where cops beat on runaway slaves. The movie definately puts stereotypes and our easy acceptance of them in culture right in our faces. So well done there.

The alternate history on the other hand is really quite bad. The film-maker wanted to have the whole country be the CSA, the better to compare our society with a more explicitly racist one. Fair enough, but it is simply not credible to have the CSA occupy the entire US, even with the help of the British and French. What's more, world history follows along more or less the same even though the CSA is building a giant empire, except in Canada. Canada, which cannot be defended against an aggressive continental power to the south, has to exist so they can make it the nicey-nice country to which to compare to the CSA. There is yet more that goes wrong (it is hard to see Hitler arising in the world he portrays, yet he does) but the point is, if you care about counterfactuals, this will drive you crazy.

I recommend you rent it, but fast forward to all the commercial segments.

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