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"Observe" observations

As expected, Jody Hill's unconstrained black comedy "Observe and Report" has stirred controversy, in particular concerning a scene in which Seth Rogen's unstable mall cop character has sex with a woman played by Anna Faris who is semi-conscious and wasted. The scene, say the outraged critics, condones and encourages date rape, exploiting it for cheap laughs.

Perhaps so, but my reading of the scene, confirmed in the discussion I had with Hill below, is different. True, the scene does elicit laughter, in fact it is designed to do so. But most of those who laugh will catch themselves when they realize what they are laughing at, and reflect on how the conventions of this kind of movie can manipulate viewers into laughing at not only this invidious stereotype but also the other stereotypes, ethnic and otherwise, depicted in the film. Since Rogen's character is ostensibly the hero, his point of view validates these stereotypes, until it's clear that his point of view is not very reliable.

Too subtle and ironic a dynamic, I suppose, for those looking for something to be angry at -- or to laugh at, for that matter.

One of the stereotypes that no one seems to be getting up in arms about is that of the mall cop himself,  a stereotype that depicts people from a certain social and economic class (ie: poor people) as being stupid, vicious and/or mentally ill.

Well, not quite no one, as it turns out. Tom Walton, Vice President with AlliedBarton Security Services, "America's leading physical security company with over 50,000 employees nationwide," begs to differ in a 500 word opinion piece titled "Retail Security Officers Deserve Respect Not Guffaws." In part he writes:

"While audiences loved ‘Mall Cop' and will likely line up to see the upcoming ‘Observe and Report' ... real world contract security companies who serve malls, see more fiction than fact in these comic portrayals.

"How does the reality of life as a retail security officer compare with what is depicted in these comedies? These movies provide some light hearted fun and entertainment, but in no way personify the real world of mall security officers on the job. These hard-working, highly trained men and women are our country's first responders who have a wide range of skills - from the sensitivity to deal with lost children to the ability to respond to and effectively address law enforcement incidents. Security officers are often put in high-risk situations as they confront and detain criminals engaged theft, trespassing, gang activity, and every other manner of unlawful behavior that occurs where thousands of consumers congregate on a daily basis."

As a former security guard, I can only agree. But also as a former security guard, I remember that for the most part people in this profession were paid minimum wages. So I suggest that Mr. Allen put his money where his mouth is and give these guys a raise.

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