The Patriot, Mel Gibson's epic about the American Revolution, opened (by an amazing coincidence) in theaters on Independence Day weekend. And cynics complain that Americans don't take national holidays seriously anymore! Many viewers may regard the film as one more wallow in fantasy and stale popcorn, but among the nation's literati, it has actually incited something resembling thought.
Yet the resemblance is not too close. The immediate reaction to The Patriot was denunciation for a scene in which the hero's pre-teen sons are given flintlock rifles by their dad (Gibson) and conscripted to help massacre a contingent of British troops about to hang their brother.
Children aren't supposed to have guns, you sec; and you are not supposed to have guns either. Even if you do have guns, you're not supposed to give them to kids. And even if you give them to kids, you're supposed to tell them not to shoot anything, especially people, even if they're government troops about to hang your son. What you're supposed to do in situations like this is dial 911 and wait for the cops. The film manages to violate every one of these rules in the space of about ten minutes.
This line of criticism came a cropper when Mr. Gibson and the film's producers refused to change anything in the script, but it should have told them what was in store for their movie. Is it too much to...