Last month, I reviewed here David Baddiel's flaccid movie about inter-racial identities, The Infidel, and complained about its pussy-footing approach to matters Islamic. Well, now we have Four Lions, another comedy set on roughly the same turf, directed and co-written by the satirist Chris Morris, whose credibility within the "cutting-edge comedy community" is unimpeachable. The aim of this exercise seems to be to see the funny side of a bunch of home-grown Muslim suicide bombers and our reaction to them.
Who do you think you're kidding? Nigel Lindsay in "Four Lions"
Is this a laughing matter? Morris, who ran the gauntlet of tabloid horror when he famously spoofed the hysteria surrounding paedophilia on his TV show Brass Eye in the 1990s, seems to think so. He told the Sunday Times that the film would seek to do for Islamic terrorism what Dad's Army, the classic BBC comedy, did for the Nazis by showing them as "scary but also ridiculous". In a director's statement produced in the production notes given to the critics, he says: "A bomb goes off. We tear about like headless chickens. Then we try to calm down. We lock the door on our dread...We change our laws. We restrict our freedoms. We lash out at strangers. Brilliant. Of course we long to laugh at our fears but we don't know how."
But is this true? How exactly are "we" lashing out at strangers? More importantly from the point of view of this film, do we really "long to laugh at our fears"? If you think that we are, and that we do, then you are Morris's audience. But I'm not convinced. Denying the possibility of a real threat, pretending that there's nothing really to be afraid of, that bombers are idiots and halfwits, that we ourselves might be to blame for our scattergun over-reactions — now that seems to me to be a far greater problem.
Morris is beloved of media types whose understanding of Islam, Islamism and terrorism varies between skin-deep and non-existent. Anything which sounds like a good chuckle behind the bike shed is fine by them. They will laugh at Morris simply on principle: here is one of their tribe who has had the contrarian guts, the courage, to go where others fear to tread, who hits "raw nerves", etc etc. The points being made are, actually, beside the point: sending people and situations up is all that matters.