Political Film Society - Newsletter #202 - August 1, 2004

August 1 , 2004


Director Spike Lee never ceases to be controversial. His latest, She Hate Me, almost literally joins two stories with an umbilical cord--or cords. The first story unfolds after opening credits in the form of American currency seemingly waving as if they were flags; one denomination follows another, culminating in George W. Bush on a three dollar bill. John Henry "Jack" Armstrong (played by Anthony Mackie) is the vice president of Progeia, a pharmaceutical firm that is seeking to develop a vaccine for HIV. Soon after he drops off a raspberry latté to the office of the company's German scientist, the latter jumps out the window, a suicide that he later explains in the form of a photo album and DVD that he earlier placed in the inter-office mail so that Armstrong will know why he took his own life. The reason is that he has been pressured by Progeia executive Powell (played by woody Harrelson) to falsify data about the effectiveness of the vaccine in order to gain approval from the Food & Drug Administration. However, FDA in fact has disapproved of the vaccine, a fact that prompts Powell to dump his stock in the company before the FDA action becomes public knowledge. After observing the shredding of documents at Progeia, Armstrong decides to blow the whistle on Powell's insider trading by informing the Securities and Exchange Commission. When Powell learns that Armstrong is a whistleblower, he fires Armstrong and blackballs him from securing employment elsewhere. Inexplicably, Armstrong's bank account is frozen, so he is without assets to continue to reside in a brownstone somewhere in Manhattan, and soon he is arrested and imprisoned pending a trial. Later, he testifies before Congress, and he is ultimately exonerated of insider trading as well as contempt of Congress for exiting before finishing his testimony. Lee lets filmviewers know that Armstrong is following the tradition of the most unsung whistleblower of all--Frank Wills (played by Ejifor Chiwetel), the African American night security guard who summoned the police to arrest the burglars who were in the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate Apartments in early 1972 yet died penniless under mysterious circumstances at the age of fifty-two.

Although the plot of Lee's film #1 may seem powerful if confused, he evidently cannot resist providing film #2, a story about how Armstrong becomes the father of more than a dozen children. Lacking financial means, Armstrong's onetime fiancée Fatima (played by Kerry Washington) drops by one day with her Lesbian lover Alex (played by Dania Ramirez). Fatima, who jilted Armstrong a few days before their wedding to enjoy sex with a woman for the first time, now offers $5,000 to have him inseminate her so that she can become pregnant; Alex will instead pay $5,000 for semen in a cup so that she can try to inseminate herself without intercourse. Realizing that he is financially destitute, Armstrong agrees. Soon thereafter, Fatima brings nightly gangbangs of Lesbian visitors to Armstrong, from lipstick Lesbians to diesel dykes, each time collecting 10 percent finder's fees for him to impregnate them at $10,000 a shot. (The going rate at a spermbank for a male is $60, but the eighteen Lesbians want quality, a man with a Harvard MBA, and Lee wants soft porn.) Inevitably, the word gets out. Margo (played by Ellen Barkin), who was second in command at the pharmaceutical company, wants Armstrong's child, gets her wish, and then resigns from the company, thus presumably corroborating Armstrong's testimony in film #1. Simona Bonasera (played by Monica Bellucci), daughter of Mafia boss Angelo Bonasera (played by John Turturro), also wants Armstrong to make her pregnant. When Armstrong meets the don, Lee is able to put into the latter's mouth such facts as that more African Americans are in prison than in college. But the end of film #2 promises to be unhappy unless Armstrong can somehow be a real father, so that is the theme that carries some suspense until the final scene. She Hate Me, in short, has such themes as AIDS in Africa, corporate dishonesty, insider trading, the perils of whistleblowing, blaming the Black victim, Congressional arrogance, homophobia, Black sexual insatiability--and perhaps a plea for Lesbian marriage. Comedic, serious, and again controversial.  MH

The Annual Membership Meeting of the Political Film Society, held at 8 p.m. on July 24 at the Hyatt Sedona (Arizona), elected Michael Haas as President and Vorathep Sitthitham as Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer, effective January 1, 2005.