Charlie Hebdo and free expression

Time to get serious.

The world is reeling from the murders in Paris this week. Twelve people, including journalists and policemen, were murdered by Muslim terrorists. Why were these people killed? Because the journalists at the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo dared to express views these terrorists deemed unacceptable. Specifically, they criticized — and mocked — Muhammed.

This got these twelve humans killed.

Stephane Charbonnier, pictured below with one of the offending images, was the editor of Charlie Hebdo. He was among those murdered. He’d received death threats for daring to express himself. And his response?

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“I’d rather die standing than live on my knees.”

I can’t express the rage I feel regarding the animals who murdered Charbonnier and the eleven others. I have no respect for their values.

This tragedy has only reinforced one of my core beliefs: the freedom of expression. As a writer, I wholeheartedly believe in the God-given human right to express myself freely. I believe that the dignity of the individual takes precedence over groupthink, and I want to live in a society where everyone is allowed to express themselves (as long as they’re not openly inciting violence).

Don’t get me wrong — there are scores of examples of speech and actions I personally find offensive. The Kardashians, for instance, or anything Madonna has said and done in the past decade. And then there’s Eli Roth’s torture porn Hostel movies.

But if I am offended, I change the channel, or leave the web page. I don’t murder people. I understand that some people cherish their beliefs, and are hurt when they are mocked, but I will not submit to violence or intimidation.

I am thankful I live in a society where freedom of expression is an accepted—if not constantly debated—value. I don’t enjoy mocking someone’s beliefs for the sake of shock alone. But the world needs to understand that violence isn’t acceptable. These images need to be shared widely so their threatening power will be diluted.

These are just a couple of images that were worth killing over. If this is what your god demands of you, I will never understand your god.

Charlie-Hebdo

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The strange case of Hemlock Grove

A few weeks ago, I started watching the Netflix supernatural series Hemlock Grove on a whim. Somehow I managed to get through all 13 episodes of the first season. Still, I’m not sure if the show is a brilliant mess or a well-meaning failure.

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Hemlock Grove, based on a book by Peter McGreevy (who also created the show), is a riff on the vampire and werewolf takes we all know by heart. It’s set in a fictional Pennsylvania town that is typically mid-America in all ways (with a touch of Twin Peaks), except for the monsters that roam its streets and woods.

The action begins, harshly, as a girl is brutally attacked and disembowled on her way to rendezvous with her high-school teacher. From there we meet the locals. There’s the powerful Godfrey family, headed by matriarch Olivia (played by X-Men’s Famke Janssen), and her teenage children: brooding, spoiled Roman (Bill Skarsgard), and the awkwardly disfigured Shelley. And we also meet the Rumanceks: Lynda (Lili Taylor) and her teenage son Peter (Landon Liboiron). And then there’s Norman Godfrey (Dougray Scott), his teenage daughter Leetha and his wife (no name; she doesn’t matter). Norman is Olivia’s brother in law, and Roman and Shelley’s uncle.

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So that’s the basic setup of Hemlock Grove. Simple enough, except that none of it really makes sense. Everything about the show — from the acting to the writing to the basic plotting — seems off. I could write several blog posts about the strangeness of this show, but here are just a few examples.

–The locals quickly tag Peter as a werewolf because of his “excessive body hair.” The actor who plays Peter, however, has not that much body hair at all. But he really is a werewolf after all (!)

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–The wildly over-the-top Olivia Godfrey is supposed to be English, but her accent slips and slides all over the place. And Roman’s accent as well is bizarre (it turns out the actor is Swedish)

–Dougray Scott must be pissed off at having to play on this show. He mopes through every scene, as if all he’s thinking of is cashing the next paycheck. At least Famke Janssen gets the joke; she camps it up in every scene she’s in

–There’s some seriously strong gay subtext in the friendship between Peter and Roman. It is not at all subtle, though it doesn’t do much in terms of developing their characters. It’s basically pointless

Peter Roman

–The high schoolers are written way more adult. Roman, for example, zips around in his classic sportscar as he hires hookers, chain smokes, and drinks in bars. And school seems optional

It took me a while to figure out what the hell was up with Hemlock Grove. It’s weird and surreal. It’s badly written and unevenly acted. But I couldn’t stop watching. Then it clicked. It’s produced by Eli Roth, the man behind Hostel. I remember watching Cabin Fever, directed by Roth, years ago. Cabin Fever was a grade B horror flick, nothing groundbreaking about it. But it was so damned weird. And Hostel likewise was just plain bizarre. Apparently Eli Roth has developed his own freaky genre.

Hemlock Grove did manage to wrap up its main story lines by episode 13 in a mostly satisfying way. And it was definitely entertaining as I felt whiplashed between the weirdness and the awfulness.

So would I recommend watching Hemlock Grove? My advice would be to proceed with caution.