As Shelley once wrote, “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” Those words came eerily to life this week as poetry and politics collided head-on and splattered their guts all over our faces. First, southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd stoked racial tensions by announcing they would once again fly the Confederate flag at their shows. This was followed by the disastrous news that Iran was boycotting the 2013 Oscars. And where’s Shelley in all this? He drowned in 1822. Like a coward.
Earlier this month, Lynyrd Skynyrd announced they were disassociating themselves from the Confederate flag. Hearing that, I thought, “Are you sure about that, Lynyrd Skynyrd? Let’s not be rash here.” Yes, I know the Southern Cross is inextricably linked with racism, segregation and slavery… but, hey, what a glorious design! Those bars! Those stars! The orange part! I often wonder how a flag can be so beautiful and so ugly at the same time. It’s like a gorgeous woman covered in slime. Or a hunk with pink eye and a bum leg. Your heart says “yes,” but your mind says “no.”
In the end, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s decision to stop using the American swastika made their fans so angry that the band announced that—oopsy!—they didn’t mean it and they’d definitely keep flying Dixie because it represented “heritage, not hate.” Which is fine by me. I just feel bad for Lynyrd Skynyrd’s countless legions of black fans. Just when it looked like they could go see their favourite live act without having to deal with the whole “racism” thing… Oh well!
From Sweet Home Alabama we move to friendly Tehran, where Iran’s culture minister Mohammed Hosseini (a.k.a. “The Hardest Working Man in Suppressing Show Business”) shocked cineastes around the world by declaring that his country was boycotting this year’s Oscars—and all because of that independent anti-Islamic YouTube film Innocence of Muslims. The only way Iran will participate is if the Academy Awards apologizes for the film that it didn’t make. Which is reasonable. I mean, whenever I see a crudely made video on YouTube, I want answers from Oscar. If he isn’t responsible for Charlie Bit Me, who is?
An Iran-less Oscars is bad news for all sorts of reasons: 1) we won’t get to see Ayatollah Khamenei’s red carpet outfit this year. His robe and turban combos are always a highlight of the pre-show and even Joan Rivers admits he “dresses to impress.” 2) Billy Crystal’s musical intro just won’t be the same without Mahmoud Ahmadinejad joining in. Remember their spoof of Moneyball? Hilarious! 3) Iran may develop nuclear capabilities and trigger a catastrophic world war by the time the Oscars happen. Which would be lamesville.
As much as I admire Lynyrd Skynyrd for making a bold ethical statement and then immediately backtracking, I’m going to have to hand this week’s win to Iran. They care so much about quality filmmaking that they don’t even want to set foot in the same country that produces shoddy, poorly acted films like Innocence of Muslims. All it means is that we need to raise the bar, folks. And while I think that beheading crappy directors is going too far, it might not be such a bad idea to subject people like James Cameron and Michel Bay to some low-intensity abuse. They may be our unacknowledged legislators, but that doesn’t mean we can’t head-butt, pinch or Dutch oven them every now and again.