The Movies That Explain America
I have a joke about the Rocky films (which has been added to recently) that they can tell us about Race and American History because Rocky is always fighting and defeating whoever white people fear. Here is the proof:
1976 & 1979 – post Civil Rights Movement, Rocky defeats an articulate black man
1982 – Rocky defeats an angry urban black male
1985 – Rocky defeats a Communist
1990 – Rocky defeats a redneck (perhaps prescient of Timothy McVeigh and David Koresh)
2006 – Rocky loses to a black man, but with dignity (sort of the foreshadowing of John McCain’s “hey white people we gave it a good try, but you can’t keep darkies down forever”)
My joke was that Rocky will eventually have to fight a gay Arab (with perhaps a Mexican trainer) to continue this trend.
However, the Rocky series also demonstrates an important lesson about gender relations. When Rocky met his wife Adrian, she was an autistic pet store employee, but thanks to fame and wealth she was able to speak and look prettier and tell Rocky what to do – it really tells you what is possible when a woman gets a taste of money. When she told Rocky “YOU CAN’T WIN!” in Rocky IV, his response should have been, “Ohhhh, look who can talk all of a sudden – you couldn’t even look me in the eye in ’76, but now you live in a big mansion and you are talking all this sh*t!”
Well, Rocky now has some important additions to my list of movies that explain what this country is all about (and I honestly believe should be shown in schools). Let’s welcome the Class of 2010:
1) The Distinguished Gentleman– Every year this movie becomes more and more relevant. I honestly believe it is Eddie Murphy’s best movie and unquestionably his most meaningful (sorry Pluto Nash). How is this movie not holding a more honored place (maybe because it is a re-make)? Congress has now become an even bigger joke than it was in this film that is around 15 years old. Money has become too powerful and we need term limits (for example – politicians that often have made major legacies by helping lots of people, Roosevelt, Kennedy – and even Spitzer, at least as Attorney General of NY, were independently wealthy). Money corrupts the process and the only way to curtail that is to eliminate some of the incentive for powerful interests to set up office in Congress. The quote from TDG that best represents our government:
Jeff Johnson: “With all this money coming from both sides, how does anything ever get done?”
Lobbyist: “It doesn’t. That’s the beauty of the system.”
2) Wall-E– Though I enjoyed Kung Fu Panda more in 2008, the story of a panda doing kung fu does not have quite the impact of Wall E. Watching Wall-E and then seeing the greatest innovations in America being, in a nutshell, “Look at the new and awesome ways we have developed for you to get all you want without getting off of your ass” is only a few steps away from living on floating chairs.
3) Inside Job– In comedy it is very popular to bash traditional religion, but no one (sans George Carlin who did it exceedingly well) ever truly attacks the most harmful and invidious faith based ideology in America – capitalism. This documentary, and my favorite movie of the year so far (that’s right Inception – you are #2) basically shows that the American dream has simply become the “you cannot understand God’s will” of the priesthood that is corporate America. Unchecked capitalism for the last 30 years (ushered in by Reagan, but guided by two Bushes and a Clinton) has helped bring America down from its pedestal. But don’t tell Americans that. The American dream no longer exists. it is now more like the American lottery or the American delusion. Corporate America has bought our government and the trajectory of our economy is an ever-widening equality gap. It is a scary and depressing film if you really see what it’s about: that greed runs this country and that too many people are too stupid or too scared to see it.
So there you have it: Rocky, The Distinguished Gentleman, Wall-E and Inside Job. A round of applause for the Classof 2010. Now you can skip History class.