Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Drag Me To Hell comes at a bad time for Gypsies

As a big Sam Raimi fan, (loyal follower of Xena and Hercules as well as any project Ted Raimi, Robert Tapert, Bruce Campbell and the rest of the B movie gore boys do) I am sad to have to agree with the public reviews of DRAG ME TO HELL. The following review says it best.


DRAG ME TO HELL REVIEW
John Walsh


The film's main drawback, however, is its startling attitude to eastern-European ladies of swarthy demeanour. It is, to put it bluntly, the worst PR job for Gypsies I've ever seen. I'm not sure if the film calls the mad old woman at its centre an actual Romani, but all the reviews I've read instantly identify her as such. The thick Slavic vowels, the mad blind eye, the filthy talons, the widow's shawl and the lacy kerchief on which she spreads her false teeth – all suggest a bad-babushka fright-figure from somewhere west of the Urals – not quite Russian, but from a region associated with horrible deeds, the type once witnessed in Bosnian and Kosovan conflicts.


Film-makers seem a little chary at present of giving audiences specifically Middle Eastern or Muslim baddies; but they've few qualms about using spooky old dames from the former Soviet Union for the purpose. And here's a thing – if you can give them some clairvoyant properties, everyone will assume they're looking at a Gypsy. Because it's what Gypsies do, isn't it? Read the future, demand payment, get their palms crossed with silver and bear grudges. And when we watch the batso old dame brandishing a concrete block, or clamping her huge, toothless, screaming mouth on the milkmaid-blonde American girl's, unleashing a torrent of slugs and insects down her throat, it'll be a nice, subliminal way of telling the young: don't trust Gypsies, they're odd and scary, they're from violent and lawless parts of the world and they're out to subvert the nice, peaches-and-vanilla, all-American girl, throw her around the walls, mess up her flat and plunge her into a revolting muddy grave.


Nasty. There's a telling scene in which the heroine goes to visit the crone in order to placate her, but finds a funeral in progress and a cruelly beautiful Slavic girl sneers at Caroline. She is allowed to walk round the parlour – only to find herself collapsed on the floor with the corpse on top of her. Don't even think, the scenario says, of trying to reason with these people; even when they're dead they're disgusting. It amounts to a startlingly comprehensive piece of cultural stereotyping, some way beyond warning people against the ladies with sprigs of lucky lavender outside Barcelona airport.


I thought Western attitudes to gypsies had changed a bit since Hitler sent 1.5 million of them to the gas chambers for being, in his sober analysis, a rabble of thieves and decadent vagabonds. I thought the last decade had seen celebrations of Roma culture, from the Gypsy folk ensembles of London to the music of Gogol Bordello, from Louise Doughty's novel sequence about her Roma heritage to the late Ian Dury's pride at wearing a piece of his mother's Gypsy lace round his neck. It's rather shocking that Sam Raimi and his producers felt they could get away with demonising a whole race of enterprising nomads for the sake of a cheap gory laugh.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree with John Walsh's review.
I think it is very disturbing to again profile and demonize the Roma. We have Romani people everywhere in America,literally.
Most people do not even know it.
This profiling, such as the Mrs. Gunush character, has to stop.
I feel it is evil, downright evil.
I could write a book about the ways this movie will damage some Roma, but also cause some, some of the less scrupulous, to use the ideas in the film to scam and terrorize. The Romaniya is a complicated culture,especially in America, and there are many contigents currently in the Romaniya (in regard to business and money and traditional set-scams) (as well as the honest,hard-working Gypsies who are pentecostal Christians).
I think the movie is evil,any way you look at it,and it is very damaging to the Gypsies. (Most of the Gypsies I know, say they are Gypsies,use that word,and also Roma, or Romani. More use the word Gypsy than the other words to the gadjae. At least that has been my experience. (Though there are many who say they are Greek or Italian or Hispanic,and deny to outsider gadjikane that they are even Gypsy/Roma, out of fear and/or habit.) There is the whole history of 'taking advantage' in their basic way of doing ' business'and they talk about this openly, even in front of me,a gadji. Depends on what contingent they are in. I am speaking in generalities- never a good idea.
The movie LOOKS REPREHENSIBLY EVIL!

Anonymous said...

anonymous you're a huge faggot. and gypsies are scum just like niggers, spics and kikes.

Dani said...

I am going to leave up this hateful remark as an example of all the idiots still in this world.

Anonymous said...

I find it pretty sad that you see the movie this way. According to me, the movie is nothing else but a dramatization, it is fiction...

I do agree that some of the content could insult Romanians (if they are associated with the movie). But if you really look at the movie and use the subtitles, in the scene near the corpse of Sylvia Ganush, you will see that it is written: Russian Dialogues and not Romani Dialogues. But I guess we could argue on that one too...

Anyways my last point is the following; I guess you disregard the fact that the movie also show that this community (Russian or Romani) are people who are Proud people, with Honor, who will not beg even when put in the worst situations, who will do anything not to be a burden to their families etc. etc. Because that's really why the old woman gets so upset at the American girl.

So I personally think that at the end even if some features of the characters were exaggerated, that no one will really think "gypsies" are second class citizens...

pete said...

So, while

A) I'm not a gypsy and have only knowingly ever met ONE gypsy (although he was a really good friend of mine actually), and

B) I'm not the type to find offense right and left, not someone obsessed with everything being PC...

But, I just had to pause Drag Me To Hell 20 minutes in and come over to the computer and google whether or not anyone was offended by this film! The woman in this movie is a totally old school stereotype!, the kind I thought people didn't throw around so cavalierly anymore. Honestly, it's making the movie just seem really out of tune, and downright silly.

I wouldn't hesitate to call this movie racist. And so maybe that tells you something, that me, a person with no particular reason to be sensitive to gypsy image related matters, but who just tries to be considerate in general, that I noticed something right off the bat. Sam Raimi should be a bit ashamed of himself.

Anonymous said...
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Racist Site said...

Why don't you remove the racial slurs? Asshole site and commentary. FU!

Anonymous said...

bravo ! madonna she has seen the hate,discrimanation against gypsy,s she seen it ,heard it witness it as in every race their is good and bad why do ppl judge all gypsy,s by one gypsy,s crimanal act ? not all gypsy,s are the same it is very bad in europe for them were ever they go the are cast out of country,s degraded, dehumanized they still live in the holocust it never left them sadly to say here in the .u.s.a it,s not that bad why are the gypsy children being judge punished hated for ? baby,s that know nothing at all what is going on but know that they are hated for who are their parent,s for the blood that runs threw theyer veins they see how their parent,s family are treated these poor soul,s are god,s ppl also remember that god created them equal to the rest of the ppl their god,s children also not toxic i am third genaration born in the u.s.a my child is the fourth generation racist stopped against black,s and latino,s jew,s even the germans,were forgiven gypsy,s suffered threw the holocust and they continue to do so why ? i read about this subject watched video,s new,s never in my life i witness such hate for these ppl they are still judged,prosacuted,denied from the world degraded this will never stop the only race ihave known to still be discrimanated they will never be accepted in society never be given a chance their is a god he is watching and know,s what is happening remember they too were in the holacust and sufferd also they continue to do so their children also remember they were not involved in 9/11 but yet here in america we dont blame all the ppl that are the same race of the ppl who caused 9/11 or their children in fact police and ppl protect them stand up for them and say they did not kill all those ppl just cause their the same race we cant not blame them their innocent every race steal,s kills etc why single out these ppl.

Anonymous said...

I'm an upper middle class American man who has travelled/backpacked extensively through Europe, particularly Eastern Europe. I arrived there with no particular opinion of the gypsies. Most of my bad experiences in Europe were with Gypsies, though. A group of older Gypsy women would approach me demanding money; when I refused, they cursed me out and gave me witheringly evil/hateful looks. On two separate occasions--once in Hungary and once in Southern France--groups of 10-15 year old Gypsy girls appeared out of nowhere and surrounded me. They proceeded to run their hands through my pockets quickly looking for money. They were both organized groups of pick-pockets. Neither got any money. In one case I put up no resistance. In the other case--in France--I tried to push them away but one of the girls viciously kneed me in the crotch. When I doubled over in pain, the girls proceeded to go through my pockets. When they found nothing, they swore at me as they walked away. Every person who I met in Europe-- who I mentioned the Gypsies too--told me that they hated the Gypsies. Several years after my trip, the president of France ordered all of the Gypsies to be deported from the country. This was a wise decision on his part.

Nadja Kayori said...

If you pause the movie and read Sylvia Ganush's obituary, it calls her a Hungarian gypsy. As a person of Romani descent, I did not appreciate the movie's portrayal of my people. We're a race and culture, not some cheap horror movie plot cliche.