Jane Fonda's War Record
Plus, wingers respond to Team America.
Friday, Oct. 15, 2004
Oh, it's so fun to get letters from angry right-wingers: They're so cute when they preach at me that politics don't belong in movie reviews (because, of course, movies have absolutely nothing to do with the real world and do absolutely nothing to shape peoples' attitudes about anything). And I love it when they twitter about a couple of left-wing Hollywood types consorting with that syphilitic blowhard homophobic human-rights abuser Fidel Castro (because, of course, Republicans have never had anything to do with human-rights-abusing authoritarian regimes, ever).
In reviewing Team America: World Police, I thought I'd made my political convictions plain and my relish of good scatological humor plainer. Hence the line "I laughed all the way through" the movie. Sounds like thumbs-up to me. But because of my worship of Trey Parker and Matt Stone, I was disappointed that the satire of the left didn't go much beyond the level of "nyah-nyah, Michael Moore is a lardass." (For that matter, I was disappointed that their satire of Dubya in the flop mock-sitcom That's My Bush! didn't go much beyond the idea that George W. Bush is a moron.) Listen, folks: Alec Baldwin and Tim Robbins are ripe targets. So is Janeane Garofolo (although I love her). They deserve smarter ridicule.
Do Parker and Stone believe their own big-swinging-dick theory of geopolitics? Maybe they do, insofar as they believe anything. But since they also get great slapstick mileage out of peoples' limbs and heads being blown off, they're not quite up there philosophically with Michael Walzer—or, more to the point, Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby (of Duck Soup)and Terry Southern (of Dr. Strangelove).
It's great to read "Go, Trey and Matt!" from right-wingers, though. I'm pretty sure they weren't writing that after South Park's "The Passion of the Jew," in which Cartman became a Nazi after watching The Passion of the Christ, while Stan (who took a page out of my book by terming it a "snuff movie") tracked Gibson down to demand his money back and discovered that the actor was a crazed, self-flagellating pain fetishist eager to have his bare butt lashed.
I've also gotten a lot of mail (and a mention on Eugene Volokh's Web site) about my statement that Jane Fonda's career took a plunge in part because of her idiotic consorting with Ho Chi Minh. The response was, "Like, dude, that was in 1970 and she made lots of movies—and won Oscars—after 1970."
In the immortal words of our president, "I know that!"
It was a time-warp reaction. Fonda dropped out of acting for awhile in the '80s and made a great return with The Morning After, in which she played a blackout drunk. But the culture under Reagan had changed. Vietnam vets, once culturally ostracized, had become deservedly more sympathetic in the eyes of the media, and everything countercultural was now unhip—or worse. I was staying near Waterbury, Conn., when Fonda was filming Stanley and Iris there in the late '80s. I read that the vets were picketing the production and surrounding the set with signs that read, "Get out Hanoi Jane!" I drove over to see for myself and, yeah, it was pretty ugly. There were signs all over town and trucks honking and people shouting. ... Fonda reportedly tried to meet with the vets and came away devastated; and after the movie (a humanist stinker in which she taught Robert DeNiro to read) flopped, she decided to drop out of show business. (She didn't need the money—she was married to a billionaire.) A blacklist? No. But a big fat delayed-reaction shaming. ... 1:35 p.m.
Monday, Oct. 11, 2004
Christopher Reeve died yesterday, in the middle of what everyone acknowledges was his most superheroic battle: to recover the use of his arms and legs. It wasn't lost on anyone, the irony that the actor most famous for playing Superman—a mythical fantasy figure who could so casually do things other humans couldn't—found it hard even to breathe without the help of a machine. Here was terrible proof of the chasm between real life and its depiction on-screen, where escalating levels of (often computer-generated) action show us nothing resembling the real world—and the real, fragile bodies—that we inhabit.