Sunday, October 27, 2019

Must-see documentary: Patricia Marcoccia's look at a vitally important academic/author in THE RISE OF JORDAN PETERSON

Why isn't Jordan Peterson -- clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of Toronto -- better known here in the USA? Sure, he may be beloved by certain members of the alt-right (until he tweeted that, if confirmed, Brett Kavanaugh should step down), and although he speaks out against political correctness, so does Bill Maher, and look where that has gotten him. Peterson is a hugely best-selling author, so one might imagine that he would have been invited onto the likes of an Oprah-type TV show or perhaps The View.

The main reason, TrustMovies suggests, is that Mr. Peterson is not simply controversial, he is also... from Canada. As we know (or actually don't know, since this is seldom mentioned in polite society), most things Canadian -- especially those having to do with culture -- are often ignored or found wanting by our cultural guardians here in the USA.

In her new documentary, THE RISE OF JORDAN PETERSON, filmmaker Patricia Marcoccia (shown at left) explores this very interesting fellow, his ideas, history, family, friends (and some no-longer-friends) and has pieced together a believable and (it seems to me) relatively trustworthy account of Peterson's life and times. (You might also want to read the worthwhile article Ms Marcoccia has written about why she made this film.)

As popular and successful as Peterson (seated, above) certainly was, what made him so suddenly controversial was his huge and angry objection to Canada’s gender identity rights Bill C-16, and a certain section of it that appeared to criminalize behavior, whether than behavior was intentional or not, along with the forced use of new pronouns (below) when referring to the transgendered.

This was taken to heart by many in the trans community as something anti-trans -- rather than merely anti-unnecessary politically correct speech. And thus was born yet another "Let-see-how-much-more-divisive-we-can-be!" pro vs con campaign. TrustMovies thinks of himself as thoroughly pro-trans, but he suspects that he will never be able to refer to a single individual as a "them." Grammar just doesn't permit such a stupid lapse, the use of which, by the way, does trans folk no favors, in any case. Rather, it singles them out for further attention as "oddities" rather than helping them fit into society at large. This constant concentration on what we say -- the "n" word or the use of a "correct" pronoun -- comes at the expense of and takes attention away from what we do -- murdering blacks and the transgendered. This is political correctness at its most stupid and useless.

Ms Marcoccia, who spent a lot of time with her subject, clearly finds him a worthwhile one, but she gives noticeable weight to his naysayers, too, without, I think, tipping the balance toward them. From what we see and hear here, Peterson himself is rather quick to question his own motives and ideas, trying to keep himself on track despite the siren calls of fame, adulation, and all the selfies taken with and by his many fans.

Helping him with that task is his seemingly close-knit family -- wife (above) and kids, along with his still-living mom (below, left) and dad. We also discover all the art Peterson has accrued, some of it redolent of the Marxist/Lenin/Stalin era (see four photos up), a time and a politics which the man clearly loathes yet simultaneously finds fascinating.

If a person is to be judged by the amount of alt-right followers he has attracted, then Peterson is surely guilty of something. Yet seeing him interacting with fans who look and act anything but alt-right, and hearing him speak about how to take charge of one's own life in ways intelligent and certainly possible would seem to contradict that.

When the film was shown in Canada last year, it's full title was Shut Him Down: The Rise of Jordan Peterson. This probably makes more sense up north where the man was and is a household name. It also brings to the fore how angry and unsettled his very identity makes so many people -- not, perhaps, as much because of what he thinks and says as because of what certain people make out of what he thinks and says.

Yes, this is something of a conundrum, yet Ms Marcoccia has done a sterling job of marshalling the evidence, pro and con, and bringing it all together into a thoughtful, entertaining whole. I want to know more about Jordan Peterson and his ideas, and after seeing this fine documentary, I suspect you will, too.

From Gravitas Ventures and running 91 minutes, The Rise of Jordan Peterson will play a few venues around the country in day/weeks to come --click here to see all current and past playdates, cities and theaters -- and will be available On Demand tomorrow, Tuesday, October 29, for purchase and/or rental.

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