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To the Editors of The Crimson:
A response is required to counter Mark Whitaker's confused and amateurish film review of Heart Throbs '77 (March 28) at Off the Wall. A thorough refutation would fill pages, but choosing a few of the most blatant will suffice. Whitaker totally misses the point of Gunvor Nelson's Take Off, dismissing it as "a long strip-tease...with a twist...sexist, definitely." Robert Taylor, Boston Globe art critic, wrote "finishes as a comment on the fact that the stripper's exhibitionism has robbed her of every tatter of human identity." To say that Take Off is sexist because of the striptease is analagous to calling Roots racis, because it depicted blacks as slaves. Whitaker's irritating inability to grasp the obvious is again demonstrated in his dismissal of Stan Berkowitz's Ass (incorrectly attributed to a Tom DeMore [sic] as "...a stag movie for donkeys, replete with all but completely graphic bestiality." The point he misses is, obviously, that "stag movies" and their ilk that depict women (and men) in a degrading and dehumanizing manner attract an audience of human jackasses. He calls James Broughton's The Bed "stereotypical and crude" as well as using it and George Griffin's The Club as unsubstantiated examples of Heart Throbs' supposed sexism. Opinions differ. Stephen Schiff wrote in the Real Paper "Best of all was The Bed." Robert Taylor wrote "By far the highlight of the program is The Bed." One could go on citing examples but would incur the risk of becoming as pointless as the review.
We do not mind honest criticism of Heart Throbs or any of our programs, but we feel that Whitaker's review lacks a grasp of the basic concepts and information portrayed in the films--concepts and information almost universally understood.
We feel that the article in question is a disappointing reflection on The Harvard Crimson and an insult and disservice to our patrons and your readers.
David Mendelsohn '73
Co-owners/Off the Wall
Mark Whitaker replies:
Although I may not have made it clear enough in my review, I did catch on to the intended point of most of these shorts: to poke a little absurdist fun at sexual taboos. But my point was that even as satire some of these films, although harmless, do get pretty offensive [in the same way I think spoofs in the National Lampoon, and films like Network go too far]. And it was precisely because I assumed that the need to debunk sexist attitudes, although unfortunately not "universally understood," is at least recognized by many filmgoers in Cambridge, that I thought I should poke some fun of my own at these shorts' sometimes unsympathetic and crude way of bringing that message across.
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