How Potentially Problematic is the New PUPPET MASTER?
"Satire is meant to ridicule power. If you are laughing at people who are hurting, it is not satire, it is bullying." - Terry Pratchett
If you've been under a rock this week, or simply couldn't pick Blade from Tunneler in a pint sized police lineup, you've more than likely heard about the world premiere of Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich that took place at The Overlook Film Festival this past weekend. From S. Craig Zahler, writer of Bone Tomahawk and Brawl in Cell Block 99, with a cast of recognizable faces from a company that has deep ties with the revival of FANGORIA, Littlest Reich is set up to be a sure-fire win.
That is until first word began leaking out post-screening. We've heard it's gory, bonkers, and hosts a body count that put all of the other installments to shame. But what has put a thorn in the side of many is the revelation that, yes, the Puppets this time are nazis. I am by no means a source on these films (I'll always defer to our resident Puppet Scholar Nat Brehmer), but from what I gather this new film co-opts (sorry, excuse me "reimagines") Toulon's tragic story, flips it on its ear, and rather than being about fighting nazis our puppet anti-heroes are actually nazis. And goddamnit Nazi's can kill whoever they want!
Or at least that's what early reviews have been leaning on. So when word spread that the body count is mostly made up of Jews and homosexuals, reviewers from Birth.Movies.Death and Bloody Disgusting waved that criticism away as glibly as "Oh, well, who do you expect Nazi puppets to kill?"
Sure, but when everyone can't join in the frivolity because those that they identify with are the only ones being slaughtered, unapologetically as one reviewer described, as the Puppets commit "hate crimes" we have a problem.
Four years ago this joke may have been funny, especially in a socio-political society where the thought of Nazi's rising up to cause violence and pain again was a distant one. Laughable. Who the fuck could side with NAZI's nowadays?
This isn't a matter of "PC Culture" or "Snowflakes" or any of the other number of alt-right buzzwords that have been sadly adopted by X'ers and Boomers as a way to push back on the progressive millenial idea that, OH I DON'T KNOW, maybe we should just treat people the way that we would want to be treated? With respect, dignity, compassion, and mutual joviality. A certain subsect of Cis-het White males will look at my words and, based on the early leaks and reviews, say "Why can't you just take a joke?" My only response, "After centuries of jokes, why is this still funny to you?"
Only a small few have seen the film, so who the fuck are we to know, right? But we hope we're wrong. We hope we see the point in the problematic tenor of Zahler's writing as we have in his masterpiece of pure cinema Brawl in Cell Block 99. We don't think he's a bad guy, just loves to play within the grimy spaces. But if you're telling me that our community is rallying behind a film that relishes in the murders of historically oppressed people and all you can drum up is "Well they're nazis so of course they kill Jews and homosexuals." then you clearly don't know people are still burning swastikas in this country.
Or if you do know, you clearly don't care.