Thursday, June 28

Grow Up

Jonah Goldberg, "Confessions of a Cheney Fan: The man has got style." NRO, The Shameless Remnant of a once Shameful Enterprise, June 27

Eric Lichtenfeld, "Yippee-Ki-Yay... The greatest one-liner in movie history." Slate, Bellwether of the New Media, June 26

Like Cancer Man in The X-Files , he always seems to be standing in the shadows, moving the gears of government to his own nefarious tune.

Since the Die Hard franchise, and its catchphrase, have been absent from the screen for 12 years, a question arises: do the words "Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker" still matter? And why did they resonate in the first place?

MR. Goldberg, as some of you already know, is author reputed author the nameplate on the door of the new upcoming long-awaited erstwhile column article book curio article column remnant laughingstock Liberal Fascism Totalitarianism Rudeness Hippies From Readers, I Need the Name of a Philosopher Hegel to Hillary Clinton Barack Obama No, Hillary Clinton Fuck It I Fucking Know John Mackey's a Libertarian! That Head Shop That Wouldn't Sell Me A Naked Lady Bong Without I.D. The three-year effort involved in scrupulously researching meticulously footnoting ducking and covering seems to have had little if any effect on him, although, like the massive doses of LSD we're required to give laboratory rats in order to make accurate observations about the effects of marijuana on H. sapiens, it's really hard to tell.

Mr. Lichtenfeld is the actual author of the actual book entitled Action Speaks Louder: Violence, Spectacle, and the American Action Movie (ISBN-13: 978-0819568014), the revised and expanded edition of which was published this past April by Wesleyan Film Books, and which was called a "marriage of popcorn and the provocative" by Steven E. de Souza, the screenwriter of the original Die Hard. Mr. Lichtenfeld, in other words, watches pretend shit pretend to blow up and then writes about the cultural relevance of it. This would seem to represent a sea change from the Ironic Retro Hipster Anti-Contrarian Contrarian contrariness usually found in Slate to a more direct Hiring a Generationlet Too Young To Grasp the Concept at the Time and Now Capable of Pulling It Off Without the Irony. The astute reader has already noticed the odd affinity of the two methods, as Mr. Goldberg writes unreflective paeans to real shit blowing up in a way that suggests he can't tell the difference.

I have no real bone to pick with Mr. Lichtenfeld (and what if I did?); I'm too old to pretend I can keep up or care, and every generation deserves its own historians of ephemeral junk. Otherwise you'd endure a lifetime of Bette Davis movies. (Who is, now that I think of it, a pretty good argument that schlocky cartoon violence at least makes for a better Time Waster than attempts to bring Maugham to the silver screen.) Still, what excuses saying:
Unlike the many action-movie one-liners that are rooted in the hero's narcissism, McClane's stems from our collective wish-fulfillment. He is not referring to himself, not suggesting an "I" or a "me" but an us . And considering the European Gruber's appreciation of fashion, finance, and the classics, McClane's comeback acquires an additional subtext: Our pop culture can beat up your high culture.

in 2007? What would have excused saying it in 1988? Oooh, take that! lousy Eurocentric High Culture! From all of us! "All of us", in this case, being defined as "twenty-five year-old white men still trying to justify their fourteen-year-old's confusion of video and real life by saying things like 'collective wish-fulfillment' a lot". High Culture? Beating on High Culture in this day and age is like making fun of the style of dress your grandma was buried in. At the funeral.

It's not that I can't enjoy a good slog through an actioner, provided it doesn't insult not just my conscious intelligence but that of my R-brain in the bargain. It's not that I can't imagine anyone excited by the prospect of Bruce Willis squeezing out another sausage--okay, it is--nor by the thought that an adult would spend his time beating the drum for it, no matter what the job paid. It's the apparent inability to tell the difference that troubles me. We make a distinction between a pair of fourteen-year-olds diddling each other's privates and the same act between the puppybodied middle-school cheerleader and the nicotine-stained janitor with the bald spot. Can't we do the same for culture? Grow up!

Which brings us back to Jonah and the world as viewed through Raisinette-smeared glasses. Take a whiff:
In particular, I like his stance toward the media. His view of the Fourth Estate is a bit like that of a bull elephant annoyed by varmints shnuffling around his feet: He’s not bothered enough to squish ’em ... yet.

Now, I take a backseat to no one in my belief that the Media could use a good squishing (nor in my suggestion that they evince more characteristics of the inherently more squishable vermin, though the idea of Dick Cheney squishing varmints is plausible, assuming somebody else cornered 'em first). Still, Dick Cheney is about to accomplish something? Provided he gets just a tad angrier? Please, girl. Cheney is terminally pissy. He may have run roughshod over the Cheerleader in Chief these past fugly six years or so, but who couldn't? When has Dick Cheney ever come out into the light? He hands over the nation's energy policy to his pals in the Ohl Bidness--a standard (pardon) Republican act of faith--and does he come out when challenged, look anyone in the eye, and state his case? Of course not. He runs and hides. Bull elephant? Try boll weevil.

And tough on the Press? Shit, how about "deathly afraid of it"? (Remember, he and Bush both peed themselves because Adam Clymer walked by when they were unarmed.) Has there ever been a VP who's appeared on Meet the Press that often? Or been pitched as many softballs, or gotten away with so many non-answers? Tough? Cheney's been hiding from Tough since Nam. If he hadn't he wouldn't have been able to leave such an unbroken trail of stupid, disasterous, sui generis decisions. We'll leave aside how many hours he's spent in the happy bosom of FAUX News. Tough guy. Like Himmler, who vomited on his own boots the one time he toured an extermination camp.
The vice president is famously concerned with two things: restoring the prerogatives of the executive branch, lost in the wake of the Vietnam War and Watergate, and defeating our enemies in the war on terror. Both are admirable goals. But seemingly countless sources inside the Bush administration tell the Post that Cheney has a contempt for bureaucratic and legislative consensus-building that rivals his contempt for cultivating public support through the media. As a result, he often succeeds in bulldozing policies — on enemy interrogations, etc. — all the way to the president’s desk. But he’s isolated when it comes time to defend these policies in Congress and the public.

Well, it's always refreshing when people become willing to talk years after such things have turned every horizontal surface into a toxic waste dump. It's just too bad that Cheney was unable to restore the original idea of the Commander in Chief as the man on the big white horse leading troops into battle.

Say it again: there are "conservatives" like Lileks or Brooks who stand in the tenth row of the mob hurling the occasional swear, and then there are the Jonahs, twenty rows back of them, throwing rocks. You'd think that by this point he'd notice the line in front of him had crumbled. You'd think that at some point he'd catch the difference between a brickbat and a breakaway bottle. You'd think having been maneuvered into admitting he was more interested in earning money than doing any heavy lifting in the Clash of Civilizations would have consigned him to bed, with the sheets over his head, spewing the Wisdom of Thomas Sowell into the patient ear of his Cheetos bag. Maybe you think too much.

3 comments:

Poicephalus said...

Take a whiff????
In the past I have complained (as is the common parlance) about certain visuals suggested in conversation. This, however, is beyond the pale.
"Raisinette-smeared glasses" I can handle. But the olfactory stuff?
Ewwwwwww!!!!!
And that is a 47 year old man saying Ewwwwwww.

Vicki said...

"... the patient ear of his Cheetos bag." Nice. But I'm with poicephalus--using terms life "whiff" in pieces about JG, and having to picture him in bed (even if it's just with the Cheetos) is just disturbing.

Grace Nearing said...

Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker.

In the modest French film, Grosse Fatigue, about overworked but underappreciated actors, the elderly and elegant Philippe Noiret (as himself) sadly observed how French cinema had lost out to American movies. At one point, he suddenly starts miming the use of an assault weapon and screams in English: Fuck you, motherfuckers, die!

Sigh.