Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Road to Fascism Can Be Paved With Good Intentions

Warning: the following post contains significant spoilers about the movie Boondock Saints 2: All Saints Day. Those still interested in seeing this film should consider themselves forewarned.

Then again, due to the shortisightedness of film studio executives, you aren't going to get the opportunity to see this movie unless you live in a major urban centre. If that's the case, let's face it -- you're waiting for the DVD. Just hit that close button right now, and come back in a couple of hours. There'll be something good for you to read then.

Oh, this post will also spoil
Boondock Saints. Consider yourself doubly warned.

As far as unlikely sequels go, Boondock Saints 2 is about as unlikely as they get.

It may not seem this way considering how the first Boondock Saints ending -- with Connor MacMannus (Sean Patrick Flannery), Murphy MacMannus (Norman Reedus) and Il Duce (Billy Connolly) declaring war on the criminal element of Boston, then executing the head of a major crime syndicate -- at his own trial, no less.

When it took ten years after the original Boondock Saints to produce a sequel, the odds should have seemed further off.

In Boondock Saints 2, the MacMannus brothers hastily retired from the vigilante business, and are living in rural Ireland as sheep farmers. But when the Catholic Bishop responsible for inspiring their vigilante mission in the original film is murdered by a hitman with a Napoleon complex, the brothers are drawn back to Boston in order to set things straight.

It quickly becomes clear that the MacMannus brothers never achieved the goal of eliminating Boston's criminal element. The reasons for their retreat to Ireland are actually left unclear.

The public response to the MacMannus brothers' framing for the crime indicates that the memory of the Saints is alive and well in Boston. The feeling of betrayal many interviewed individuals express indicates the high level of regard at least some of Boston's citizens held the Saints in.

Whether or not the MacMannus brothers themselves recognize the social power of the Saints' notoriety remains unknown. But FBI Special Agent Eunice Bloom (Julie Benz), the protoege of Paul Smecker, seems to recognize that power, and takes on the reportedly-deceased Smecker's role as a facilitator for the Saints' violence.

Even though the MacMannus brothers have very little interest in the institutionalization of their violence, there are other elements at play that very much are.

If the Saints' vigilantism could be identified as a potential force for fascism, the eagerness of these elements to institutionalize it and use it for their own social ends -- no matter how well-intentioned -- would be doubly so.

It may not be unreasonable to wonder how many of those who participated in the rise of fascism in countries like Germany, Italy or Spain had anything but the most benevolent of intents. Certainly, those aiding the dangerous institutionalization of the Saints' violence have no malevolent intent.

It's said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. In the case of Eunice Bloom and her contemporaries, their potential road to fascism is paved with good intentions.

For some, it must have been easy to be seduced by the many promises of fascism. That doesn't make fascism -- or the road to it -- any less dangerous.

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