In anticipation of today’s UK release of controversial terrorist comedy “Four Lions,” the British Times Online asks its weekly “Big Question.” This week: “Is it right to joke about terrorism?” This is a question with slightly greater relevance in the UK than the US, insofar as there have actually been several notable UK comedies related to the Iraq War and terrorist concerns already.
“In The Loop” is already well known; bolder is “Four Lions,” and the (at least in intent) slightly edgy “The Infidel,” about a Muslim who finds out he was born a Jew. That’s already a leap ahead of American film, which has so far confined its comedic endeavors to “Team America: World Police” (which safely stuck to North Korea anyway) and “An American Carol,” which no one but me and Bill O’Reilly viewers saw anyway.There was, of course, Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s “South Park” adventure a few weeks ago, and the attendant nervousness that’s induced. But there hasn’t really been any kind of comic engagement with our biggest international relations/national defense issue of the last ten years, which is surprising.
Far more understandable in light of Comedy Central’s reaction to the threats against Parker and Stone is the way in which the right-wing blogosphere have taken to arguing that Hollywood is scared of Islam while continuing to mock Christians (which is kind of true, but way overblown). But it’s strange how there isn’t even an American equivalent to “In The Loop,” one that would address the issue from the discreet remove of bloodless, upper-level politics. The closest we got was the end of “Charlie Wilson’s War,” which implied that Wilson’s success was ultimately a failure when no one followed up on all of his suggestions.
What the right wants is jokes about terrorism and terrorists – like the presumably uproarious notion that all the jihadists have the same last name in “An American Carol” — while the British comedies all veer apolitical-to-left and stay off the battlefield. Jihadist jokes are probably unnecessary, but we don’t have a reasonable form of cinematic political comedy either.
[Photos: “Four Lions,” Warp Films, 2010; “In The Loop,” IFC, 2009.]