Of all the irritations of the holiday season, the one that picks my nit the most (besides traffic, of course) is the prevalence of diamond ads and all the ickiness they either imply or proclaim outright. "You can buy love!" the ads all but state, with a nasty undercurrent of "Women can be bought... and you know what that makes them!"
"Mildred! I finally saved up the five large for some bling! Now can I hit it?"
Family Guy captured the essence of the average diamond ad:
One ad this season shows dudes carrying little black Zales shopping bags and high-fiving each other as if to say, "Oh, yeah! You're gonna get some tonight!" And then there's the cringe-inducing Jared ads, in which suburban harpies and their relatives remind some poor sap of his inadequacy by comparing him to another dude (who, interestingly, is never shown). "He went to Jared," they sneer. It's a spectacularly crass attempt to merge love and commerce, so even the sweetest impulse to buy a loved one something pretty that she'll enjoy could get twisted into a monetary -- and very public -- proving ground for your feelings.
So I was doubly glad to see Blood Diamond this weekend. Not only because I thought it was incredibly well-made and brought to light a region and an issue that movie audiences might not think about too often, but because it provides a horrifying counterpoint to the holiday diamond ads. Suffice to say that the market for diamonds not only inspires violence but makes further violence possible, as diamond sales from conflict regions are often used to purchase weapons and supply armies.
Blood Diamond isn't a perfect film; it feels a little long in some parts and could stand a little more paring down. Plus, although Jennifer Connelly does a great job, I would've been very interested to see her character played by an African-American actress. I think it would've added a whole new dimension to the racial politics of the film, plus we could've avoided the somewhat uncomfortable sight of two white folks trying to save an African family. Still, she's great, Djimon Hounsou is great and between this film and The Departed, I think this could actually be the year that Leonardo DiCaprio gets an Oscar.
Although there were many moments of horror in the film, it ends on a hopeful note, for both the family and the world at large. And it warms my awful little heart to imagine someone saying proudly, "Oh, he went to the jeweler's... but he left empty-handed when they couldn't prove their diamonds were Kimberley-Process certified."
Oh, hush. It's the holidays; I can be idealistic. Tell you what: I'll post some pictures of tacky-ass Christmas ornaments this week.