Friday, April 8, 2011

Ebert on Homeschooling

I think there's one thing people have got to understand about Roger Ebert's writing before they start getting upset about what he's written.

You have got to read a little bit of what he's written, understand his style a bit, get a feeling for it, before you start pulling your hair out over what you think he said.

The sense that I've always gotten from Ebert is that his sense of humour can be very dry and that he's perfectly content if you don't get the joke. He gives you all the information and context to find something he's written funny but if you haven't had your coffee yet or aren't in the mood or just aren't that bright he's not going to flip the switch to the flashing neon sign that says, "I was joking!"

Witness the great angst of many Ebert fans when he published his piece, Creationism: Your questions answered. A bit of a Google search will reveal people who were tying themselves in knots over whether Ebert had turned on good science. Never mind everything they might have known about Roger Ebert and anything he's said in the past - there was no punchline! He must be serious! When the consensus seemed to be that Ebert had indeed not meant it to represent his views but seemed to be writing it straight to expose the ridiculousness of creationism, well. Then folks whined about how he wasn't funny at all, didn't understand irony or sarcasm and most of all, though none admitted it, there was no punchline.

But to me, that's Roger Ebert. He assumes you're smart enough to figure out what's funny and if you aren't, he's not bothered.

And why all of this? Because today the first sentence of his review of the new movie Hanna was this,

Hanna is a first-rate thriller about the drawbacks of home schooling.

People are going to get their panties in a twist about this. I knew it when I read that sentence and I saw it when I checked out Ebert's Facebook page. I almost suspect it will be the Next Great Injustice on many homeschooling message boards and blogs but I hope, to all that's good, that it's not. Because for f%$%'s sake people, he's not serious.

Read the rest of the review. This is a movie about a father who teaches his daughter (in Ebert's words), "advanced and ruthless killing skills as a means of self-defense against her enemies, who are legion." The CIA are hunting this small family. Cate Blanchett is shooting at them. Does this sound like a scenario that an intelligent person would seriously suggest is a drawback of homeschooling? That all of us homeschoolers, by choosing to homeschool, have to deal with the drawback of being hunted by Cate Blanchett (my husband only wishes)?

No. That statement about the drawbacks of homeschooling deliberately stands in contrast to the completely fantastical nature of the movie. It's like saying Star Wars: A New Hope is about the drawbacks of moisture farming or that Child's Play explores the disadvantages boys face when they play with dolls. The humour is obvious.

Are we mature enough to laugh with Mr. Ebert?

1 comment:

JJ Ross said...

I never heard of this movie nor have I read Ebert's review yet, but apart from ALL of that, this is a great stand-alone line: "It's like saying Star Wars: A New Hope is about the drawbacks of moisture farming. . . "