Thoughts on that Bleeping Movie
I can't recall such a word of mouth buzz around a movie. There were days when, between friends and clients, I probably heard over a dozen times : "You have to see this incredible film," "You will love it," etc. The accolades were seemingly above reproach, not simply because of quanity, but because they were issued from the mouths of people I trusted with such matters, and I couldn't wait to see this groundbreaking movie. From what I was hearing, I was expecting a smart, exalted lovechild of 1990's still-not-on-dvd MindWalk and some really fabulous Tao de Ching translation.
The word was its showings at Tower Theatre in Salt Lake were usually sold out, and when it came to DVD, there were something like 400 people on the library's waiting list, so that wasn't going to happen, and it was impossible to find on the shelf at Blockbuster—always, always already rented.
Finally, I somehow scored a copy. Alas, instead of delight after mind-opening delight, I was disappointed bordering on appalled. Marlee Matlin's performance was far from what would be expected of an Academy Award winning actress. More like a 10th grade theatre class exercise, in which she was trying to convey the notion ‘exasperation' to the class by rolling her eyes and shaking her head a lot. It would have made a much better film to employ JZ Knight as Ramtha as the Amanda charater—Knight seems to have the acting thing down.
The little cartoony brain residents were pathetic, unnecessary, and unwatchable. The film's easy misogyny was especially beyond unpalatable too, I felt, especially since it was being served on a platter of enlightenment. The post-pubescent wedding crasher boys view-finding potential bedmates with tragic, archaic yardsticks of ‘fox,‘ ‘dog,' or ‘cow' was just unforgivable, as was Amanda's daffy, wild-eyed and childlike stock character roommate. And speaking of stock characters, the Magical Black Man as spiritual guide routine on the basketball court was about as lame as lame gets. I fairly hated the movie, and tried to just forget about it altogether.
Flash forward four years or however long it's been, and during this last week or so, I've been confronted with several references to What the Bleep. With a couple of these references, some of my main problems with the film were addressed. I was reading Richard Bartlett's Matrix Energetics, a ‘quantum healing' type thing. To make some point about perception or somesuch, Bartlett recalls the bit in which Candace Pert relates the story about the wise and thoughtful Native American Shaman who, unlike his naïve comrades, can see Columbus's ships on the horizon.
Perhaps both to his credit and discredit, Bartlett does address the urban legend status of this glaringly stupid notion, but chooses to promote it as a nice allegory—a "useful fiction." However, the story is not related in What the Bleep as an allegory; it is given as Truth. Anyone with a whit of common sense will at once question this, I hope. How would this story be related? Does the shaman inform Columbus,"Dude, we didn't even see you guys out there at first; I just noticed these bitchin' waves rolling in…" Aside from the muddy provenance of the story, it's not even logical. Pert explains the natives could not see the ships because they had not seen "Clipper ships" before (although the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria are about four centuries off from being "clipper ships.") Since when do human beings not literally see physical objects simply because we have not encountered them exactly before?
Certainly, Native Americans living near any body of water made use of and have seen some manner of boats. So, the position of a similar structure on the surface of the water would register. It's like saying parade floats would be invisible to modern people had they for whatever reason never seen a parade on television or in person. Especially out of context, it might strike one as an extremely bizarre monstrosity, but it would hardly be invisible.
Later, the same day I read that passage in Matrix Energetics, Danielle Lee had posted an item at Women of Esoterica about the film, which lead to some illuminating (for me) discussion within the commentary section.
No, I was not illumed about the film's supposed message. I was illumed about responses to the movie itself. I began to see some dynamics about: my own initial reaction to the movie vs. others' reactions-both positive and negative, the discrepancies between my reaction and others', how expectation can influence a reaction, and the popularity and rather sacred cultural appointment of this movie in general.
My example above about the Native Americans vs. clipper ships might be picky. But, it is exactly what bothers me about this movie and others like it. Any supposedly feel-good story completely unexamined and unconcerned with itself does little but pat us on the back, and worse, it can dumb us down.
Interestingly, many of the negatively critical reviews I came across of What the Bleep seem to say the same thing, but more or less in regard to the Talking Heads' quantum-spirituality assertions. That's not my beef with the movie at all. My argument is that the plot is ill-conceived, trivial, formulaic and just stupid. But, when I state I didn't like the movie, there's an assumption that I somehow "don't believe," disagree with or somehow missed its "spiritual" message. That's not the case at all. The filmmakers dropped the basketball down the rabbit hole by not focusing 100% on the interviews.
But, their message is hardly brand new and revolutionary, either, as these ideas have been around for decades in easy access form. Aside from the more scientific aspects, has not All-is-Mind fairly been the barbaric yawp from occultists for millennia? So, why did these same ideas in What the Bleep resonate so quickly and deeply with the masses?
The movie, along with similar massively consumed and rabidly commoditized ventures such as The Secret, ghost-hunting, new breed mediumship, and the like, can be seen as fin de siècle phenomena. If the previous turn of the century cultural endgame psychosis could be said to have manifested mainly within art movements, it can be said that ours seems to be manifesting along spiritual lines.
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