December 13th, 2005

lex you idiot

Lileks today...

1. Seems to believe that the reason military people were never portrayed, in films of the 1940s and 1950s, as being slackers, goldbricks or malingerers is because there weren't any, not because filmmakers chose (or were forced) not to portray them.

2. Complains that in Cold War movies, Russians are never portrayed as moronic hicks crammed full of bogus Marxist rhetoric they are too dumb to understand.

3. States that the difference between 'yesterday' (that is, the ever-unspecified golden era of men's hats, cigar-smoking and no hippies in which he clearly wishes he lived) and 'today' (that is, our modern era of overpaid baseball players, depressing Hollywood films, and the cancerous culture that has been our lot since the hated 1970s) is embodied in "The Great Gildersleeve", a show that dared to make you smile, instead of the crass modern comedies whose base aim is to make you laugh.

That's right, folks: unless I'm reading him wrong, James Lileks cites as a hallmark of the degradation of our contemporary culture the fact that comedy makes you laugh.

The Democracy of Today is the Celebrocracy of Tomorrow

This was pointed out to me by secondperiod: hack director John McTiernan has produced a surprising number of films in which the actors have gone on to become governors of large states, or candidates for governor. Look at the lineup of actors from Predator:

Arnold Schwarzenegger (Maj. Alan "Dutch" Schaeffer): current governor of California
Jesse "The Body" Ventura (Blain): former governor of Minnesota
Sonny Landham (Billy): candidate for governor of Kentucky*

If, as it is rumored, Mel Gibson will star in McTiernan's upcoming film Deadly Exchange, he will also have to his credit the guy who well might replace Arnie as the governor of California.

Which got me to thinking, once we get Carl Weathers (Maj. George Dillon) away from the buffet table and make him governor of Louisiana, who else can we get from the McTiernan oeuvre to occupy the stewardship of our largest states? Here's what I came up with:

- Josie Cotton ("Silver Ring" from Nomads): rewrites her hit song "Johnny, Are You Queer?" as "Hil'ry, Are You Queer?" and assumes the governorship of New York.

- Reginald Veljohnson (Sgt. Al Powell from Die Hard): runs for the governorship of North Carolina on his record as a police officer. His Democratic opponents note that he has never actually served as a police officer, but every single voter has seen him play one in at least three movies, so they just assume he's telling the truth.

- Scott Glenn (Cdr. Bart Mancuso from The Hunt for Red October): easily wins the governorship of Pennsylvania just by standing around looking stern and purposeful.

- Austin O'Brien (Danny Madigan from The Last Action Hero): nearly claims the governorship of Oregon by riding on a wave of youth votes, until everyone remembers that they totally hated The Last Action Hero and elects his opponent by a landslide, warning the McTiernan political machine not to get too cocky.

- Denis Leary (Det. Michael McCann from The Thomas Crown Affair): elected governor of Massachusetts by a vast majority of voters in exchange for a promise to shut up for the remainder of his term.

- L.L. Cool J (Marcus Ridley from Rollerball): succeeds Josie Cotton as governor of New York on the crest of his popular campaign slogan, "Mama Says Knock Out High Taxes".

- John Travolta (Hardy from Basic): very nearly claims the governorship of New Jersey before voters collectively realize it's John fucking Travolta.

*: By the way, check out Sonny Landrum's website for some fun, including his intent to "curve" the number of abortions performed in Kentucky and his claim, on the biography page, that he never beat his wife, but that he was framed by "the fascist women's abuse groups of Kentucky and the federal government through judicial terrorism".
he's just a stereotype

Race Against Time!

I had a whole huge thing here about racism, inspired by some posts in the Feminist community, and the bullshit going on in Australia, and some comments calamityjon made about Larry the Cable Guy, and a whole bunch of other stuff. But I don't have the time or the focus to do it right now. In brief:

The problem is not, and never has been, whether you (yes, YOU) are racist (you are). Or I am racist (I am). Everyone is racist. You and me and everyone you know, no matter what. The only people who aren't racist are people for whom race is not a reality -- that is, who have never been exposed to people of another race. It's not a crime to be racist -- it's totally understandable, if shameful. It's a product of where we live and what we experience every day. If you are a member of the dominant power structure (as I, for all intents and purposes, am, as is almost everyone reading these words), then you have been trained since you were born, influenced in ways you can't even give words, to fear and stereotype people of other races. If you're white, you're very likely to be jam-packed with resentment, distrust and fear of anyone darker than you. You're also, just as insidiously, trained to take advantage of your 'whiteness' (although 'white', like all other racial categories, is a fiction), to use it to your benefit. And if you're a white liberal, you're likely just as guilty of valorizing, exculpating or patronizing blacks; never forget that positive stereotyping is no different than negative stereotyping. If you're not white, you're likely shot by both sides: taught to resent and fear and maybe even hate whites for the advantages they have over you, the way they lord it over you, the way they never let you forget what color you are. But you're also likely to engage in the very human behavior of kicking downwards: of finding one of the minority groups even lower on the social totem pole than you and taking out your frustrations on them.

Being racist is not the problem. Everyone is racist. What we're going to do about it, that's the problem. When someone calls you racist, your reaction is usually anger and denial. It shouldn't be. It should be shame. Not to say that the accusation can't, and hasn't, been used as a club, but people should always be examining their own racial thinking and assumptions, and asking themselves: is this (not "me", but "this thing I am doing") racist? And if it is, how can I correct it? Instead, people tend to get really defensive and come up with some explanation that will make it someone else's problem.

And that leads to the curious inversion we have today. In Australia, an (alleged -- no one seems to be able to demonstrate that it actually happened or provide any details whatsoever) attack on a white lifeguard by Lebanese youth led to massive, desctructive, violent rampages against Australian Arabs by highly organized gangs of white supremacists. Arabs and non-whites have been attacked, beatened, and threatened, and had their homes and property destroyed. But when the mayor of the community in which this is happening speaks out, he speaks out against the handful of Arabs who have fought back against the riots. He calls them "ratbags" who have "declared war on society" and who will soon find themselves on the receiving end of the police determination to "start cracking skulls". Meanwhile, upwards of ten thousand white Australians ride through the streets, many of them draped in flags and chanting racist slogans; white supremacist groups text-message one another to coordinate riots and attacks; and what does Prime Minister John Howard do? He holds a press conference in which he says "I do not accept that there is underlying racism in this country", and the opposition leader claims against all reasonable evidence that "this is simply criminal behaviour, that's all there is to it".

When the riots broke out in France, the prime minister was foolish enough to claim that they represented a "crisis of identity" in his country and that a great deal of underlying racism existed that needed to be addressed. His opposition scoffed, claiming that theirs was not a racist country (this in the face of race riots by nonwhite, impoverished slum-dwellers that washed over the whole country and even crossed national borders) and that the real problem was the rioting, not the numerous and obvious causes behind it. Here in the United States, coverage of the riots was late in coming and tended to focus on the religious identity of the rioters (some, though by no means all, were Muslims) rather than their racial or economic makeup, and editorial opinion concentrated on France's inability to clean their own house rather than the ramifications of colonialism and economic imperialism. Likewise, reporters, pundits and commentators the country wide bristled at the fact that the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina said anything about the racial problems that inevitably follow centuries of slavery and racism; no, it was a failure of government exacerbated by the grown-in-a-vacuum behavior of a handful of bad (black) eggs. As I write these words, my government is suing Southern Illinois University (a school where over 85% of the students are white) for racially discriminatory practices -- against whites. At a time when a college education has become so ruinously expensive that only the wealthy can truly afford it and even middle-class whites face decades of crippling debt for the privilege of a university diploma, the Bush administration has decided that the problem isn't that only a tiny fraction of nonwhites could possibly afford it without help; they've decided that the problem is that a few academic programs (including, ridiculously enough, the Ethnic Studies department) are giving more fellowships to minorities than whites on one of the whitest campuses in the country. Elsewhere, people rail against a perceived tyranny of 'political correctness' that forces them to recognize holidays that seem alien to them, to celebrate a diversity that they'd just as soon do without, to keep their nigger jokes to themselves.

In other words, at a time when it is daily confirmed by news headlines from all over the world that racism is still a huge, huge problem, we as a culture have decided that much worse than that is being accused of racism. Instead of asking what we can do do alleviate the crippling poverty of the inner cities, to reduce the ingrained anti-Semitism of poor Arabs, to help Muslims stop living in fear among Christians, to make other-defined others less likely to die at the hands of people who consider them subhuman, we spend endless reams of time denying that race is at the center of anything. Racial violence, racial discrimination, and the scars of institutional racism are everywhere we look, but to hear our leaders talk, the only racism is the racism of the minority against the majority. Folks, we are racist. You, me, and everyone we know. Let's quit fucking around pretending that isn't true, and start calling people (including ourselves) on it, so we can move on to what we can do to repair this massive damage.

I guess that wasn't that brief. GOOD NIGHT, EVERBODY