Posts Tagged 'plastic asshole of american culture'

The Idiots Who Rule America

I stumbled across this at Daily Kos. Chris Hedges is a Pulitizer Prize-winning report formerly of the New York Times. And he’s mad as hell.

Our elites—the ones in Congress, the ones on Wall Street and the ones being produced at prestigious universities and business schools—do not have the capacity to fix our financial mess. Indeed, they will make it worse. They have no concept, thanks to the educations they have received, of the common good. They are stunted, timid and uncreative bureaucrats who are trained to carry out systems management. They see only piecemeal solutions which will satisfy the corporate structure. They are about numbers, profits and personal advancement. They are as able to deny gravely ill people medical coverage to increase company profits as they are able to use taxpayer dollars to peddle costly weapons systems to blood-soaked dictatorships. The human consequences never figure into their balance sheets. The democratic system, they think, is a secondary product of the free market. And they slavishly serve the market.

[snip]

Democracy is not an outgrowth of free markets. Democracy and capitalism are antagonistic entities. Democracy, like individualism, is not based on personal gain but on self-sacrifice. A functioning democracy must defy the economic interests of elites on behalf of citizens. This is not happening. The corporate managers and government officials trying to fix the economic meltdown are pouring money and resources into the financial sector because they only know how to manage and sustain established systems, not change them. Financial systems, however, are not pure scientific and numerical abstractions that exist independently from human beings.

Wow! This sort of thing just isn’t said in polite company in Washington/Wall Street, yet it’s EXACT what everyone needs to hear. For the love of God and all humanity, read the whole article here and then send it to grandma and the kids back on the farm.

Ugly Americans and the Wire

Hollywood cranks out products like Sex and the City, Hitch, and Gossip Girls that show the characters living fantastic lives that are completely divorced from economic reality. There’s no way Carrie Bradshaw, to name one example, could live in a lavish Manhattan apartment on the salary of a single weekly column. And while it’s easy to dismiss such criticism as “it’s only a movie,” the lifestyle portrayed in these films – filled with amazing real estate and perfect fashion – buttressed by fiendishly clever product placement — is completely aspirational. Viewers are implicitly told that not only they should strive to buy into this lifestyle, but that they deserve this lifestyle. Is it any wonder why the middle class have bankrupted itself to buy a plasma screen TVs, McMansions, and gargantuan SUVs? The road to middle-class respectability is now found through buying things that are beyond the means of most in the middle class.

More unsettling is the action spectacular where this same sense of entitlement pervades. Instead of getting a thrill of vicariously consuming, movies like Wanted, Déjà Vu, and Bad Boys 2 are all about the vicarious thrill of wasting things (and people). Because Will Smith is chasing the baddies, he is entitled to trash city centers, torture people, and destroy impoverished third-world shantytowns with a Hummer (if you can think of a better metaphor for the Bush administration, tell me). Both trends represent the worst stereotypes of Americans – thoughtlessly wasteful, thoughtlessly violent, shallow, and spoiled.

There is a counter-current roiling against this trend. Movies like Children of Men*, Idiocracy, Wall-E and books like The Road and Parable of the Sower detail the aftermath of pursuing this American dream. The environment is wrecked beyond repair. The underpinnings of civilization are atrophying away. And in some cases, the fate of humanity itself is in question. The delirious party of waste and consumption is long gone and those remaining have clean up the mess.

All of these works are in the sci-fi genre, but there’s one work more that I’d include that shares these elements. The Wire, hailed as the best show ever on TV, is sprawling narrative about a city, Baltimore, struggling under the weight of failing schools, funding cuts from the government, and rising crime. The show very vividly and very accurately details a dystopic world where the underpinnings of civilization have atrophied away and where every day citizens are forced to live in a world of random violence, police brutality and utter hopelessness. A less exaggerated version of the world found in Parable of the Sower, The Road, and Children of Men. It’s a far cry from the luxury of a world like Sex and the City, yet it exists right along side of it. The underclass neighbors are its shadow. This isn’t necessarily a cheap Marxist screed against class, either. We as Americans chose to create this world. By picking leaders who favored tax cuts for the rich, cutting benefits on the poor, the corporatization of government, and an outsourcing of blue-collar jobs, we, like the characters of Idiocracy and the humans of Wall-E have through our short-term greed and idiocy fashioned a world like the nightmares of our movies.

*I know that Children of Men is a movie set in Britain. But it’s themes perfectly fit within an American context. It’s also a really freakin’ good movie.

Links (8/17/08)

From my obsessive/compulsive trolling of the world wide interwebs:

A link to some of the world’s weirdest restaurants.

A great list of some groovy non-cult cult flicks.

Darwin reportedly spent much of his later life investigating whether or not blonde did indeed have more fun. Or at least that’s what he was telling his wife.

And then there’s American Carol, a remarkably dissociative screed against Michael Moore, liberals, critical thought, intelligence in general. Watching this gave me a migraine. More on the flick here.

Another soulless creation squeezed out from the plastic asshole of American culture.

Just in case you were confused by the whole battle between God and Satan, this graphic nicely keeps score.

And here’s a great quote from Hunter S. Thompson I ran across:

Breakfast is the only meal of the day that I tend to view with the same kind of traditionalized reverence that most people associate with Lunch and Dinner. I like to eat breakfast alone, and almost never before noon; anybody with a terminally jangled lifestyle needs at least one psychic anchor every twenty-four hours, and mine is breakfast. In Hong Kong, Dallas or at home — and regardless of whether or not I have been to bed — breakfast is a personal ritual that can only be properly observed alone, and in a spirit of genuine excess. The food factor should always be massive: four Bloody Marys, two grapefruits, a pot of coffee, Rangoon crepes, a half-pound of either sausage, bacon, or corned beef hash with diced chiles, a Spanish omelette or eggs Benedict, a quart of milk, a chopped lemon for random seasoning, and something like a slice of Key lime pie, two margaritas, and six lines of the best cocaine for dessert…. Right, and there should also be two or three newspapers, all mail and messages, a telephone, a notebook for planning the next twenty-four hours and at least one source of good music…. All of which should be dealt with outside, in the warmth of a hot sun, and preferably stone naked.

I’ll have one of those, please. Link

And finally, a trailer from the infamously awful Mighty Peking Man. It has it all — tiger attacks, blonde she-tarzans, and guys in rubber suits trashing a cardboard Hong Kong.

300 (2006)

I’m not going to write anything terribly original about 300. I finally saw it yesterday after spending a year and a half avoiding. 300 was booed at the Berlin Film Festival. And rightfully so. I don’t think I’ve purer example of Fascist art since I was forced to watch Triumph of the Will. It seems that Zack Snyder and Frank Miller read Susan Sontag‘s essay on Facist Art and used it as a check list. Hyper-masculinity? Check. Fetishization of the male body? Check. Subjugation of the individual to the group? Check. Glorification of death? Check. An unabashed othering of the enemy? Check. That last one is really striking. The “Persians” were portrayed universally as grotesque, gender-confused, homosexual, crippled, ethnic, or just plain subhuman. On the other hand, the Spartans, in part from their crude brand of eugenics they practiced, are gym-sculpted Aryan adonises, manly men who are more brave than smart. This is not only wildly inaccurate, historically speaking, but pretty baldly racist. How the hell did this shit get made?

300 seems to have three divergent target audiences. 1) Fanboys who are into Frank Miller’s work and/or Lord of the Rings like sagas (and times, 300 seemed also like a parody of LOTR). 2) Gay men who would no doubt enjoy looking at all that rippling male flesh. The rampant homosexuality and pedarasty in Spartan culture, incidentally, was completely ignored in the film. And 3) Neocon fundamentalist crazies who desperately want to stay in Iraq for a 100 years and who want to invade Persia, er, Iran. Why not? According this film, they’re are all perverted, malformed subhumans.

Like Leni Riefenstahl‘s toxic masterpiece, 300 is frequently beautiful to look at. Yet it is one of the most morally repugnant works of art to be belched out the of plastic asshole of American culture in a long long time.


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