True Snit

Did not have a good evening, as far as my peace of mind was concerned.

Having finished doing laundry jumped on a bus to go see a movie; keyed the newest episode of Skeptoid, “The Exorcism of Anneliese“, to play the requisite ten meandering minutes.

Arrived in the city center muttering foul curses. Had I had a keyboard with me better than that of my phone, I would have let loose with a vent on how I can’t believe (hah!) anyone can believe in a God, and find it not only true, but nice. If such a bastard, an enabler of such monstrosities, existed, it would be necessary to hang him until dead.

As I did not have a decent keyboard with me, I filed away a line on “the skeletal monstrosity of cathedrals clawing at the sky, to pull it down to be as cruel and mean as the world of the ravens that crow their hellfire inside”.

The movie theater had a poster up for Anthony Hopkins’s new movie…

“The Rite”.

About an exorcist.

“To defeat the evil, you need to believe”, ran the slogan. The attached blurb was about a touching tale of renewing one’s faith and finding one’s confidence by yelling at mentally ill people.

To think of it! A movie that accurately and reverently (and based on a true story!) glorifies the profession of torture.

Did not go to see that movie.

Chose True Grit instead. I hope I have impressed on you I was not in a good mood; I was not inclined to feel charitable towards the religious and other prats.

The movie began.

Oh, so it begins with a quotation…?

“The godless man flees, though no-one pursues him.” —Ecclesiastes

Thank you, Coen brothers. And thank you, o godless world of probability, for rubbing my face in the character of the people you contain.

To top that, the main character was (or so I was inclined to see it) a pious, heedless little brat, impossibly erudite and self-confident and successful, on a petulant little chase after a hardened criminal. (I use “pious” as a pejorative, mind you. And it becomes a “petulant little chase” when you won’t co-operate with another who wants the same criminal dead, just because then you wouldn’t see him hanged in your little two-horse town!)

As the movie went on, I started doing two things.

One, as I hate (in movies, mostly) precocious little kids and cute animals, hoping that either the kid or her little horse would get shot in the head. (One out of two! Yes!)

Two, seeing the movie as more and more not a true record of events, much less a plausible one, but instead as a half-fantasy that a sharp-tongued spinster was telling herself, many decades later, trying to erase the ill-advised idiocy of her youthful brush with death.

That’s nicely plausible, I think.

She’s adult and sharp-tongued now; obviously she was that, then. Hence all the quick, immediate banter, and the niggardly haggling and rules-lawyering and threating with the Law and the Man. Hence the irritatingly smug religiousness, hence the self-confidence and knowledge of Latin and Law and the like; hence the detachment, supposing this was a girl whose father had been shot dead all so recently.

And so she goes, haring off into the outback on a ultimately unsuccessful revenge quest with a drunken, back-shooting, unreliable braggard murderer. (“Unsuccessful” because she didn’t bring Chaney out to hang, did she? No, she shot him, with a reason or no. No doubt she wished, later, that she’d seen him swing though the killing felt so good.) Then she got bit by a snake, lost an arm, and almost died. Fever delusions were probably enough to render the true events of the sordid little chase, whatever they were, malleable enough for age and self-righteousness to do quite a bit of work on them.

Hence the Texas Ranger becomes a swaggering braggart, being an unkind sort that doubted the capability of a fourteen-year-old to survive in the wilderness; hence how his injuries are narrated with such relish, and the cruelty and incompetence of Cogburn treated so tenderly.

I wouldn’t be surprised if (in this interpretation of the movie) the final shoot-out didn’t even happen: the snake-bitten girl was abandoned by the villains, who rode away; she was rescued by the drunkard Cogburn, who spun a pretty tale of what had happened.

Worse still, consider this possibility: this Mattie Ross girl goes running after Cogburn, who took her money, ran into the Indian Territory, and never meant to hunt for Chaney. The girl finds her drunken cowboy while already quite a distance from the border river, and Cogburn, being a man with a history of cheating, back-stabbing and murder, humors her for a day or two, and then runs away, never to be seen again. She, being fourteen years old and alone, is bitten by a snake. She is rescued by some decent man (the Ranger, maybe?), brought back to civilization and, recovering from the snakebite, fed enough rumors and half-truths to make possible this denial fantasy of a super-competent power child getting her some Revenge.

All in all, it was a nice movie, but I was not in the mood to be nice and charitable.

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