I just finished watching “Hansel & Gretel Witch Hunters” on Netflix. I forced myself to finish after the scene where the heroes start torturing a captive witch with the equivalent of brass knuckles. The film could have been a more violent, misogynistic metaphor for the War on Terror if they had waterboarded her, but the director must have been feeling some sense of subtlety.
The film was minorly troubling. As a confirmed middle-to-lowbrow kind of guy, I always like action pictures with good rubber monsters and things that blow up. Mike Elizalde’s creature work was top-notch, especially Edward the Troll. But I’ve always sided with the witches. The depiction of the black witches as all degenerate, inhuman and deformed seemed too close to how many try to paint Jihadists or Muslims in general. Also, the anachronistic hardware wielded by Hansel and Gretel might seem inventive in a Steampunk milieu, but seemed just invasive in a 18th century fairy tale world. Imagine Fred Flintstone going all caveman on the bad guys with a dinosaur powered Gatling stone-thrower and you get my drift.
There were many flaws to this thoughtless bit of fireworks, and I’m not clever enough to analyze it in detail, but it reminds me of something that happened on my Facebook feed earlier this week. I re-posted a clip of a very sheltered news commentator getting embarrassed and rushing off the set when she had explained to her what a Furry convention was. I chuckled about how funny it was to see mundanes react to Furries. Someone more perceptive than myself pointed out it might be more funny if it wasn’t connected to a story of someone hating Furries enough to try to poison them in their convention hotel and send nineteen to the hospital.
All out war against the Other is always good story shorthand to move along an action plot. The problem comes when too many people forget that the real world enemies are no less human than they are.