Photo by Antoine Dautry on Unsplash

I never really understood math.

Apparently I could do it, because I got Bs in my math classes, but doing it and understanding it was not the same thing.  My strategy was to look at the pattern in the sample question and repeat the pattern in the exercises.  The trick on the test was just to apply the right pattern.  This was hit an miss.

I never understood why multiplying a negative by a negative was a positive.

(-n)·(-n)=n

It took 30 years, but I now understand this, until recently, impenetrable mystery, and I understand it because I understand that sex, violence, and coarse language are not necessarily a bad thing in movies.

I now understand how (-n)(-n)=n, because I understand that #sex, #violence, and #coarselanguage are not necessarily a bad thing in a movie.

Math teachers have been telling me for a long time that “a negative times a negative is a positive,” but I never understood how this was possible.   It was counter-intuitive as far as I was concerned—a special knowledge reserved for great a mathematical shaman like Mr. Stauffer, my high school math teacher.  Multiplying negatives ought to result in a whole lot more negative.

But I know understand how this could be possible.

Sexual Content, Violence, and Coarse Language

Many people, when it comes to the movies we watch, think that strong language, sex/nudity, drug use, and violence are things to avoid (for more on this topic, read “Dog poop in the Brownies”).

I was talking to someone who had this view and heard myself saying, “A movie can have ‘bad’ things in it, but not be a ‘bad’ movie.”  I was talking about Groundhog Day.  Bill Murray’s character, Phil Connors, was doing bad things like driving drunk and having sex with a woman to whom he was not married.

Because this movie condemns this bad behaviour, this movie is good.

Math Exercises

Exercise 1  — Instructions: Reduce the following  to an equation (show your work):

In Groundhog Day, Phil Connors is drunk driving and manipulating a woman into having sex with him because when he wakes up in the morning the day will reset and nothing he’s done will have happened.  A day without consequences.  Early in the movie, Phil Connors is incredibly self-centered.  When he realizes he is caught in a time loop he uses people to satisfy his selfish desires.

Groundhog Day is critical of Connors’ selfish behaviour.

Being critical of a bad thing is a good thing.  

A negative, shown to be negative, is positive.

(-n)·(-n)=n

(drunk driving)(is dangerous) = a true statement.

The math just works.

If a movie has a bad thing in it and calls it good, it’s bad.

(-n)·n = -n

(drug use)(is good) = a false statement.

A positive (shown to be) negative is negative.

n·(-n) = -n

(sexual purity)(is silly) = a false statement.

A positive (shown to be) positive is positive.

n·n=n

(performing the Heimlich maneuver)(is good) = a true statement.

The key, then, to assessing the good, true and beautiful in a movie involves discerning the movie’s stance toward the false, evil and perverse in a film.

It’s more than adding up the # of objectionable words/phrases, etc.

The Test

Failure to understand the implicit attitude toward these things in a movie places both of the following movies in the same category.

Parental Advisory #1

  • Sex/Nudity: sexually related dialogue and gestures
  • Drugs/Alcohol: drinking, marijuana is used; mention of other drugs
  • Violence/Scariness: people are killed; gunfire; fighting
  • Objectionable Words/Phrases: 295

Parental Advisory #2

  • Sex/Nudity: sexually related dialogue
  • Drugs/Alcohol: drinking, smoking
  • Violence/Scariness: fatal shooting, beating up, intimidation of others
  • Objectionable Words/Phrases: 140

The first is Pineapple Express, the second, Gran Torino.

Don’t see the first; don’t miss the second.