Topic: Sports & Entertainment

Dreaming of a "Black Christmas"

Bad taste is not necessarily unethical, and the fact that many people of good will and breeding would rather rub a cheese-grater over their faces than use a particular product doesn’t make that product’s maker, distributor, marketer or consumers bad people. Some pop culture critics are in an uproar over the Weinstein brothers’ decision to open a Christmas-themed slasher movie, “Black Christmas,” on Christmas day. For example, the celebrity-obsessed website Gawker, itself hardly a paragon of virtue, published a horrified condemnation of the film’s promotional stunt. “…I don’t understand: just how many disturbed human beings does The Weinstein Company and MGM think actually want to go see a gory movie on December 25th?” the article asked indignantly.

Well let’s see. There are all the non-Christians for whom December 25 has little or no importance. There are the many people who have been Miracle on 34th Street-It’s a Wonderful Life-Christmas Caroled into near insanity and face the choice of either watching a slasher movie or becoming a slasher movie. And there are those quirky folks who just enjoy the bloody genre. They’re not sick. (People who buy “The Kathy Lee Gifford Christmas Album” are sick.) But by any count, there are millions of people who might choose go to see a slasher movie on Christmas day.

How, exactly, does their act of buying a ticket a movie harm anyone whose Christmas thoughts are of peace, love, family, a shining star and a miraculous birth in a manger two thousand years ago? If the Weinsteins were somehow beaming their new horror movie into every home in the nation so we all had no choice but to watch it on December 25, that would be a very different matter. But they aren’t…at least, I don’t think they are.

This is yet another example of people applying a funhouse mirror distortion of the Golden Rule to arrive at an ethical principle that doesn’t exist. This one could be described as “The otherwise harmless acts of others in the course of their private lives should be interpreted by the same standards that you would apply to those acts if you were to do them in the course of your private life.” Attending a lurid horror film would certainly be a disrespectful, inconsiderate and perhaps even blasphemous act for someone who reveres Christmas and holds it sacred…but those who feel this way wouldn’t attend the Christmas opening of “Black Christmas,” would they? Those who don’t take the meaning of Christmas seriously, on the other hand, have no reason to regard seeing “Black Christmas” as inappropriate Yuletide conduct, any more than gambling at a casino, engaging in wild, unconventional sex, watching an all-day porno marathon on cable TV, getting stinking drunk—or reading the Koran. Lots of people will be doing these things too, and Merry Christmas to them. It’s their lives.

The critics who condemn the Christmas opening of “Black Christmas” claim to be offended by an event that does not and cannot affect them in any way. The Scoreboard usually applies a very broad definition of needless harm when considering whether an act is unethical, but how can the timing of a slasher movie’s opening do any harm at all? Is a Christmas celebrant harmed simply by knowing that “Black Christmas” is being shown? Nonsense. Will the opening of the movie somehow damage Christmas’ viability in the culture? That’s a ridiculous notion too. Lousy pro-Christmas Hollywood fare like “The Santa Claus 3” probably does more damage.

The truth is that the self-righteous critics of “Black Christmas” don’t have an ethical leg to stand on, and the film is just a proxy for the real target of their moral indignation: the people who have the effrontery not to embrace core Christian traditions. What the “Black Christmas” critics want to say, but won’t, is that the people who go to the movie on Christmas Day are just bad people, because good people celebrate Christmas.

That is bigotry, and unlike having unconventional Christmas entertainment tastes, that is unethical.

Comment on this article


Business & Commercial
Sports & Entertainment
Government & Politics
Science & Technology
Professions & Institutions

The Ethics Scoreboard, ProEthics, Ltd., 2707 Westminster Place, Alexandria, VA 22305
Telephone: 703-548-5229    E-mail: ProEthics President

© 2007 Jack Marshall & ProEthics, Ltd     Disclaimers, Permissions & Legal Stuff    Content & Corrections Policy