Last week, Rolling Stone made the controversial decision to feature 19-year-old Boston terrorist suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover, sparking debate and a backlash. This weekend at Comic-Con, ETonline caught up with filmmaker/entertainer Kevin Smith and director Matthew Johnson, whose indie film The Dirties deals with the deadly consequences of bullying, to ask, did Rolling Stone make the right choice to draw attention to the story, or is it self-serving?
"You run the risk of getting people's dander up when you make this kid not only a cover boy, but he looks like a mini rock-star cover boy -- he looks like Evan Dando from the Lemonheads," says Smith. "That being said, Rolling Stone's always been an investigative journalism magazine … They do fantastic coverage of the news, in-depth coverage when they write the pieces, so on one level, why is anyone surprised? They did put Charlie Manson on the cover back in the day, so it's not like they've never put somebody on the cover that's not from the world of music and entertainment. That being said, I wouldn't have done it."
A Slamdance favorite that won the Narrative Grand Jury Prize, The Dirties is being distributed later this year on VOD by Smith's Kevin Smith Movie Club. Connected thematically to the Rolling Stone news in that the film follows two best friends who endure cruel bullying at high school, only to have one go too far in retaliation, star and filmmaker Matthew Johnson makes a serious point about the magazine's topical controversy.
"I think people are not willing to accept that people who do violent things are human beings, that they're a part of the same society that we're a part of," he observes, "and I think what that Rolling Stone article was doing that people found so offensive was the same thing that we're at risk of in releasing this film. We're going to come under a lot of the same criticism of why would you tell the story about a guy who seems like a likable, affable dude who does something so evil? … It is not as simple as I think a lot of people want to paint it out to be, and this Rolling Stone article is just more paint on that. I actually think that it's great. Anything that can complicate that discussion, we should be happy about."