As Eric wrote yesterday, the upcoming dark comedy Towelhead is facing a protest from an Islamic group because of its title, which is perceived as derogatory and a racial slur. Not only is the film's distributor, Warner Independent, sticking by the title, but they have issued a press release containing lengthy, candid, and sometimes even moving responses to the controversy from: 1) Alicia Erian, the author of the original novel; 2) Alan Ball, the director of the film; 3) Warner Independent itself; and 4) a group of theologians.

Erian makes pretty much the same argument as Eric did in yesterday's post: that the title serves to highlight the racism its protagonist must contend with. She notes that her novel has been in print for three years and this is the first protest she has received. She also makes the excellent point that "[r]ealistically speaking . . . [people who are likely to use terms like "towelhead" to refer to Muslims] are neither the audience for my book, nor for the film. They will continue to use whatever language they wish whether or not a movie called Towelhead is released." Yes.

Ball refers to his own experience facing discrimination as a gay man, and argues that forbidding hateful words only increases their power. The distributor offers an apology but claims to stand by Ball and Erian in the name of free expression of ideas. The scholars note that this is one of the few films to show Islam in a positive light, and call the title "a thought-provoking and difficult term that needs to be deconstructed." You can read the whole thing over at David Poland's blog.

So there you go. I agree with the responses on the merits, but I really like the public relations tack Warner Independent has taken here. Honest discussion and argument are so much better than mindless PR spin -- and better PR, too.
categories Cinematical