Friday, January 14, 2011

Rabbit Hole

Rabbit Hole
seen @ Kew Gardens Cinemas, Kew Gardens, Queens, NY

So after talking about Chasing Amy the other day, here we've got another movie with a comic book connection, which surprised me. Rabbit Hole, besides being the name of the movie, is also the name of a comic made by a teenage character in the story named Jason. He refers to it as a comic book, but it's more like a graphic novel: it appears to be fairly thick, and it's oversized, like a European album. It's also lavishly illustrated, in full color, using different media. It's about a boy traveling through different timelines in search of his missing father.

It's not clear what Jason's plans for the book are. If he were to self-publish it, it would be fairly expensive even if he had his own scanner and printer; the paper looks bigger than letter-size. I don't even think the finished version is a reproduction. It looks like the original art, folded and stapled into book form. It could be that he doesn't even want it reproduced - again, it's not made clear. He does seem like a comic book reader, though - he wears a Fletcher Hanks T-shirt in one scene. Talk about hipster cred.

The actual artist for the "Rabbit Hole" comic is a youngster named Dash Shaw, whose claim to fame is an enormous graphic novel called Bottomless Belly Button. He's currently working on an animated film co-produced by Rabbit Hole director John Cameron Mitchell. His art style isn't too far removed from what he used in the film comic. He definitely seems as much of a fine artist as an illustrator.

Rabbit Hole is about a couple in mourning over their dead child, who was hit by a speeding car. I don't think people realize how much damage speeding cars do. According to the Centers for Disease Control, motor vehicle injuries are the biggest cause of death for children in the US. I want you to stop and think about that for a minute. Cars kill kids more than any disease. How does that happen?

Simply put, ours is a culture devoted to the car. In America, we've made getting around by car too easy, to the point where traveling any other way is problematic at best if you don't live in a major metropolis like New York or Chicago or Boston or Washington. I never realized how well-off I was living in a city with 24-7 public transportation until I moved to a place without it.

But here's the thing: cars are so ingrained in our national identity that we resist any attempts to provide substitutes for it. Here in New York City, the state government stole money specifically set aside for our public transit system to balance its own budget, and the result has been vicious service cuts and higher fares, making it harder than ever to ride the trains and buses on an everyday basis. Bike lanes have swept all over the city within the past few years, but certain misguided politicians and media reporters have vigorously opposed them, despite numerous statistics showing how much safer streets have become with their presence. And this is here in New York, allegedly a bastion of liberal enlightenment and diversity. Can you imagine how much more prevalent this attitude is in smaller cities and towns, places with fewer transit options?

I could go on, but my point is that we're putting our children at risk every day when we drive like maniacs on the road - when we speed, when we drive and use the cellphone (which Nicole Kidman's character does at one point in Rabbit Hole), when we drive and drink. We're so eager to enforce traffic laws on bicyclists to the point of harassment, but we're slower to react when cars routinely kill and maim pedestrians - children, like in this movie - on a weekly basis. That's got to change.

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