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By Excess Hollywood | March 28, 2007

I guess admitting to a left-wing, stereotypically bleeding heart liberal that you’ve never seen “”Schindler’s List” and have no intention of seeing it is a lot like saying you enjoy clubbing baby seals just to watch them twitch as their blood soaks the dazzling white snow beneath their cute, gaping heads. It’s just not something you do if you want to avoid a lecture.

“”But you have to see it,” she told me. “”Spielberg has so much to say about compassion and humanity, and Neeson was born to play that role. It’s time you stopped watching make believe horror and see something that deals with real life horrors.”

Years ago, when Spielberg’s Oscar plea first came out, I wrote a column for some publication (I believe it was in Redding, CA) with the premise that Schindler wasn’t a hero, he was your boss. I painted him as a Nazi (joined the party in 1939, I believe) who somehow found it within himself to buck the system. I also called him an opportunistic, greedy, exploitive capitalist. Far from a hero, I said he wasn’t much better than the owner of your local Wendy’s.

As to be expected, people’s reactions were less than favorable.

I’ll admit to never seeing the film. I don’t see movies just because other people say they are good. I see films because I want to see them. I saw no compelling reason (and still see no reason) to see “”Schindler’s List.” I know about the man. I know about his deeds. Why would I need to see Spielberg’s version of him?

Schindler was not a hero. He used Jews as slave labor in his enamelware and ammunitions factory, and really didn’t have any moral conflicts about any of that in the beginning. A change of heart doesn’t alter his previous actions. People have to be responsible for what they’ve done. You can forgive them, but you should never forget, and you shouldn’t paint someone as a hero because he or she started acting human. Heroes don’t use slave labor to begin with, and they sure as hell don’t join organizations spouting hate as means of government. Sheep do that. Idiots do that. Greedy capitalists do that (as long as there is a buck to be made). Evil people with evil intentions do that. Heroes don’t. Suddenly changing your mind and putting yourself at risk does not make you a hero. It only means you realized what an a*s you were being.

The one thing that Schindler’s apologists seem to have forgotten is that people have free will. As a person, you can decide not to obey orders, even if it means you will be punished. That’s a choice you can make. If you obey, it can be understood that you agree with what you are being told. If that’s the case, your actions make sense and are open to criticism. If you obey and don’t agree, not only are your actions open to criticism, but your entire nature is suspect as you are either a coward or too complacent. (Granted, there are times when it comes down to a more personal level, say that you either do as you are told or your family dies. There are exceptions to every rule, obviously. In the case of Schindler, however, it has to be remembered that nobody forced him to use slave labor. The man was exploitive by nature. He saw Jews as a cheap source of labor. There was no coercion involved.) People should never blindly obey because they shouldn’t trust authority. That’s what lets things like the Holocaust happen. Authority should be questioned, and it should be made to justify itself. If the only justification it has is force, that’s no justification at all, and that authority should be dismantled immediately or, at the very least, disobeyed.

Schindler was not a hero. He was a Nazi, and he bears responsibility for all the things the Nazis did. It doesn’t matter that good came from it. (He saved about 1,100 Jews on his end. No small feat, but he should have never been exploiting them in the first place.) What matters is why he ever sided with the Nazis in the first place. He can be praised, but it should be with a healthy dose of skepticism, and the term “”hero” should never be used. “”A man who tried to make amends for his despicable actions” is a far more accurate phrase, and I would have no problem agreeing with that.
If you aren’t fighting the system every step of the way, you’re helping keep it in place. There’s nothing glorious about that, and anyone who thinks differently needs to be reminded of what being a Nazi meant, what they believed, and what they did. A few good deeds does not erase evil actions that should have never happened in the first place. It only solidifies how wrong they were to begin with.

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  1. George Anthony says:

    Mr. Brunell,

    I, too, have never had the displeasure of watching Schindler’s List. Never had a desire to see the film, and never will. I think I sat through one preview, and that was enough.

    I’d rather club baby seals than sit through Schindler’s List or Spielberg’s other trite piece of cinematic trash, Amistad.

    Give me a club and point me in the right direction.

    Good day.

    Mr. Watson

  2. Dave Lawler says:

    I don’t know, Man … it’s a good flick. For us, it was the first time we saw Spielberg fulfill his promise as a filmmaker. We enjoyed Spielberg’s crazy tales of aliens, Arks, and sharks, but “Schindler’s List” gave us a real filmmaker. It had nothing to do with the politics of the time. Once he got the dinosaurs out of his system, he gave us some great moments in the dark. Go see “Triumph of the Will”, make note of artistic merits versus personal politics and shut the Hell up and enjoy the damn thing!

  3. DonLewis says:

    “I’ll admit to never seeing the film. I don’t see movies just because other people say they are good. I see films because I want to see them. I saw no compelling reason (and still see no reason) to see “Schindler’s List.”

    Annnnd….Don checks out of the article.

    Why would you write numerous articles about a movie you proudly admit to NOT seeing? That’s just, well, lame. The movie may not be about your perception of Schindler…it may be about how he decided to fight the system. People-and movies-are multilayered. If there was a movie about Hitler and his mother, would you not need to see it because you know all about Hitler? That’s why “Max” was such an intriguing film. It was another side of Hitler. A Hitler primer if you will.

    Maybe your Schindler movie would contracdict Spielbergs and that would be worthy, but bragging about how you watched an A&E biography on Schindler (or read a book) and thus you know more than the MOVIE “Schindler’s List” is silly. Maybe Spielberg shows him the way you describe him. Too bad you’ll never know.

    Just think, in the time you spent thinking about this “piece” and the other one in cultural hotbed Redding, you could’ve watched “Schindler’s List” twice and wrote a more informed article.

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