Friday, October 31, 2008

California's Culture War

Besides the Presidential election, one topic has been on California's mind more than anything else. The mention of it stirs intense emotion and passion. More than stem cells, more than crime, even more than abortion. That topic is Proposition 8, also known as "Eliminates the Right for Same-Sex Couples To Marry." If passed, it will simply state, "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

I ran across this protest on the corner of Wilshire/Normandie in Koreatown today. Most of them held signs which instructed motorists to honk if they are voting no on the issue. About half of the cars passing by honked profusely.

The yeas and nays are neck and neck and are somewhat bi-partisan, according to recent polls, but those supporting Prop 8 have outraised those opposing it by about $10 million. Everyone is getting in on this issue. Some violent actions on both sides have sprung throughout California. Senator McCain and Governor Palin have expressed support for the proposition, while Senators Obama and Biden are against it. I even received an automated phone call from "Bill Clinton" today, urging me to vote against the issue.

Several members of Hollywood have express their disdain over what they see as legalized discrimination. Brad Pitt has donated $100,000 to fight the proposition. Samuel L. Jackson was quoted in a "No on Prop 8" ad saying, "We have an obligation to pass along to our children a more tolerant, a more decent society." Entertainment and media companies against Prop 8 include Apple, Clear Channel, LA and NY Times, and Google. Supporters of the bill recognize Hollywood's reluctance in passing the bill by stating the cause should not be decided among celebrities or the media.

However, filmmakers on both sides of the issue let their cameras do the talking. You cannot turn on your television or surf online without seeing media outlets used to express support or opposition for Prop 8. As of today, there are 8,730 videos on YouTube relating to Prop 8. On the Pro-Prop 8 side, an infamous ad shows a young girl talking to her mother about what she learned in school. According to the spot, the girl learned that a "prince can marry a prince" and she can "marry a princess!" They also use Men in Black references to refer to the four judges that ruled definition of marriage by law unconstitutional.

On the other side, opponents have the power of documentary on their side: they screen Saving Marriage, a documentary about gay and lesbian marriage in Massachusetts at fundraising bashes. The film's producers/directors John Henning and Mike Roth hope that the documentary will help defeat the measure.

The outcome of the vote will probably be a hot documentary topic for at least a generation. Both groups believe that a vote against their stance will step back civil rights in one way or another. While the opposition's argument for civil rights is obvious, supporters believe if Prop 8 fails, their freedom to believe in their own morals will be trampled on. Brace yourselves for a cultural showdown.

My stance? Honk.

Happy Filmmaking.

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