Debating a Porn Star on the Merits of Holocaust Films

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Yesterday I had a heated twitter debate with porn star Johnny Anglais about the merits of Holocaust movies. Really.

How it started was that I wrote a blog post in August about porn star Johnny Anglais and his love of the Jews. I called him out for naming Schindler’s List as his favorite movie, which struck me as creepy. Johnny responded in a comment, and then yesterday we had a long tweet debate about this issue. I will spare having to click back and forth from my twitter account to his by printing the whole thing below.

JA: @Tefox Thanks for your criticism of one of my favourite films, but make a silly comment, expect a response:… http://fb.me/yMcr2Rdc
TF: Hi Johnny. You make a good point, but I would maintain that SL is a film primarily about Jews suffering
While yes, there are themes of salvation in the movie, the message is that Jews can (only?) be saved by xtians
JA:  I don’t remember much, if any, mention made to his religion. R u saying that the film should not have been made coz he was gentile?
TF: Of course not. I just think it’s problematic that so many Holocaust related films are about how great non-Jews are
JA: And that certainly was never the msg I took from the movie. Do u have a problem with the fact that non-Jews helped Jews?
TF: Obviously, I commend righteous gentiles, it just seems strange that at a time of Jewish suffering, Hollywood chooses to elev8 those who weren’t Jewish, and not focus on the heroics of Jews themselves
JA: Well then I urge you to watch ‘Uprising’. A film that has probably overtaken SL in my rating.
I agree with you, in many ways, but equally, to dismiss the efforts of non-Jews during this time seems equally as narrow-minded.

TF: Haven’t seen Uprising or Defiance yet, but looking forward 2 seeing them both. ANd just added Schindler’s List 2 my netflix q
TF: So I can watch it again and see how it fares the second time around.
TF: I think it has the aggregate effect of desensitizing us to real suffering, and glorifies the horrors of that time and place
TF: I certainly don’t want 2 dismiss the efforts of righteous non-Jews, I just think the trend of focusing on them is problematic
JA: Well, call it what u will, but for many young people, it helps them to get a far real understanding of the level of suffering
… inflicted on them. Film, whether we like it or not, is one of the most accesible forms of media for many young people.

TF: Agreed, absolutely, but my bf just made the pt that we probably wouldn’t have gotten such a major holocaust film if it…didn’t have a happy ending. Another problem with many Holocaust films: everything turns out all right after 2 hours-ish
JA: Ur prob right there. Other films where Jews are portrayed more as heroes: ‘Haven’ (although acting is atrocious), ‘Out of the Ashes’ …. and ‘Grey Zone’ – which doesnt hve a happy end and stars David Arquette, Steve Buscemi, Harvey Keitel and Mira Sorvino.
TF:  Huh. Never even heard of Grey Zone. I’ll have to add it to my list. I’ll admit 2 loving Inglorious Basterds even tho it was..Totally guilty of torture porn thing. But i think what made it interesting is that it (mostly) wasn’t about Jews being hurt
TF: Instead was about Nazis being tortured. Which was interesting, I thought. A smart meta-commentary on Holocaust films
JA: And I wouldn’t say ‘Uprising’ has the happiest of endings. Can’t bring myself to watch Inglorious Bastards, too much wishful thinking
JA: Without a reality to back it up.

TF: Frankly, that’s how I’d describe most Holocaust movies. ‘Too much wishful thinking without a reality to back it up.’
TF: Also, from a Jewish perspective, esp in light of the situation in Israel, it’s interesting to think about how the trauma…
TF: of the Holocaust has given many Jews the feeling that they have a license to be as violent as they want.
JA: See, now I think ur being overly critical. All films use artistic licence. Would be interested to know how Director Tefox would… make her films differently.
TF I think a film should have something to say, and I think it’s very hard to say anything profound about that much suffering
JA:  Well, this is the old ‘do filmd make people violent debate?’ when Americans and Canadians watch the same films, but Canada suffers… much lower rates of violence. You’re looking for an excuse for Israeli-Arab violence in Hollywood films and way over-simplyfying… a complex situation.
TF:  Well, I am not a filmmaker, thankfully, so this isn’t a question I’ve wrestled with much
JA: So there’s no point trying?
TF: Come on! Of course that’s not what I’m saying
TF: I just want films to offer a perspective other than ‘watch these poor weak Jews suffer’
JA: What about museums and books, can carry and portray the amount of suffering you think they should?
JA: Hell, lets just forget about Holocaust and ignore it. Coz there’s nothing we can do that will ever portray to us the level of….suffering endured by its victims. So lets just not bother!

TF: I actually think many Holocaust museums are great, because they offer a perspective of :What can these events teach us?
JA: How convenient. Happy to criticise but offer no useful suggestions.
TF: I think it’s important t2remember, & important 2 hear the stories. I just don’t want 2 see victims of the Holocaust exploited
JA: I’ve never watched a film about the Holocaust and thought that and frankly you are insulting the ability of viewers to make their…own judgements. I think the ‘oh the poor suffering Jews’ complex seems to rest with you.
JA: Coz Spielberg (a jew) has done so much exploiting if ‘his people’. The Shoah Foundation is pure exploitation!!??

TF: Ok, please calm down. There is a big diff between the shoah foundation, and schindler’s list
JA: Perfectly calm. Just frustrates me that people like u knock others for trying and then don’t even offer other options. To not… … make use of a medium that is accesible by billions to TRY and portray the events to help foster understanding seems a… waste of an opportunity and u knock it at every turn. Its great that u and I have time and money to visit Yad Vashem or read a… lengthy, balanced insight, but many don’t.
TF: Try reading http://nyti.ms/i1sGYx that article which is a careful criticism of the Holocaust film culture. Scott says it much more coherently than I can
JA: Well, as I said b4, for the sake of viewers and film-makers alike, lets quit the whinging and hear some positive feedback on… how they can improve.
TF: I’m not saying it shouldn’t be tried. I just think many of the films that have been made present a weirdly distorted vision
TF: ANd I find that troubling because you’re right, so many people do see these films, and walk away feeling that by watching…
TF: the suffering they have somehow been redeemed. I think it’s much more complicated than that, and a filmmaker who takes on…
TF: such a serious and important topic has a duty to present it responsibly. Happy endings, and non-Jews saving the day might not
TF: be responsible educating. What it is, is a good way of getting nominated for awards. And that’s explotation.
JA: So, lets get this right. Only filmd where Jews are the heroes and only films where everyone is obliterated. And that should be… the rule for every Holocaust film made… ever, from now on.
TF: I think we need more on what it really means to remember, and more particular stories, like The Pianist
JA: Phew! There is one film you like!
TF: The individual stories seem to say a bit more about the absurdity and abnormality of survivors
TF: What’s important about the Pianist is that at the end you feel devastated, not enlightened. That seems a logical response to
TF: a film that recreates the holocaust. And it says something about just how arbitrary the suffering was.
JA: Clearly, I have been subject to a far wider selection of Holocaust films than you have. Might I suggest u therefore do a bit more… viewing, and a bit less spewing of the negativity until you have properly consumed a fair selection of available titles.

I don’t think this was the most reasoned and thoughtful debate I’ve ever had, but it was an interesting exercise. And I was endlessly amused that I was able to work the word porn into a debate with someone who works in the industry. Because yes, I am still in seventh grade.

Posted on February 1, 2011

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2 thoughts on “Debating a Porn Star on the Merits of Holocaust Films

  1. ET

    I am a little different than the other commentators, as a Cantor-Lawyer. I am the religious leader of an eclectic Congregation of 100, and have clients as a lawyer, in the film business. I tend to agree with JA. I do have an idea for him for a treatment: A very attractive man, who like many prisoners becomes buff, survives the “show place” camp of Nazism, and to survive becomes a porn star. He has to come to terms with his survival and the death of all he loved. Any takers?

  2. Johnny Anglais

    ‘Really’. Really? How rude!

    And loving the fact that you seem to think that, by referring to me as a ‘porn star’ (something I rarely actually refer to myself as – see my speech at the recent Cambridge Union debate on that, should you so wish: http://johnnyanglais.blogspot.com/2011/02/transcript-of-cambridge-society-debate.html) that you are totally demeaning my ability to carry any level of intellect.

    You neglect to remember that I was a high school teacher for 4 years and a large chunk of my time was taken up with Holocaust education. So, I think I have other qualifications that add weight to my argument than simply what your snide efforts at one-up-man-ship, by assuming all ‘porn stars’ are devoid of any level of intellect and understanding of quite complex issues, might imply.

    No idea what your reference to being in 7th grade is all about. But that may be because I’m just a thick porn star.

    By the way, thanks for publishing it, think my argument comes out pretty well against your “there’s no way, so let’s not bother” attitude. So well done.

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