Welcome to this week's “Totally Agree” and “Totally Disagree.”

This week, I Totally Agree with this brainy piece of criticism over at the new-to-me online media magazine FlowTV.  Authors Michael Peterson, Laurie Beth Clark, and Lisa Nakamura dissect Avatar's relationship with gender and disability, which have largely been ignored in favor of attention to the film's relationship with colonialism.

I particularly appreciate the measured tone of the piece, which observes, "As media critics, we have a responsibility not just to bash Avatar, but to come to terms with its remarkable popularity, which has occurred either because or in spite of the ease with which the film can be critiqued for its virtual colonialism."  It has just the right mix of heady concepts and lucid writing that characterizes the best academic criticism.

I Totally Disagree with A.O. Scott's beef with The White Ribbon, which I loved and reviewed last week.  Scott contends that director Michael Haneke (working with a "poverty of ideas") posits that "Nazism was caused by child abuse. Or maybe by the intrinsic sinfulness of human beings.  'The White Ribbon' is a whodunit that offers a philosophically and aesthetically unsatisfying answer: everyone. Which is also to say: no one."

I found Haneke's exploration of pre-World War I German culture riveting and disturbing, and find no fault in turning toward underlying cultural phenomena to illuminate a genocide that took the cooperation (or at least silent complicity) of tens of millions of citizens.  Instead, I question the idea that there could be a philosophically or aesthetically satisfying answer to genocide.  If there were, would it really keep happening?

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