culture


The Bad News Bears is the best sports movie ever. It established a lot of the tropes that would go on to define the Underdog Makes Good genre for years to come, but at its core, there are some key differences. Sure, the worst team is able to add a couple new players, build confidence, and confound expectations, but for The Bad News Bears, that’s not the focus.

The movie isn’t about winning so much as it is about the kids being treated with enough respect and compassion that they develop enough confidence and self respect to actually enjoy themselves. I know Matthau’s Buttermaker is kind of a drunk asshole, but his brusque nature and refusal to coddle the kids is the first time anyone has respected them enough to expect them to do anything but fuck up.

The other major theme is that sports parents are assholes. People usually remember that, counter to the eventual standard, the Bears lose their big game against the Yankees. What people forget is that they lose by choice. Buttermaker pulls the best kids and puts the benchwarmers on the field. He does this because seeing the Yankee’s coach slap his kid jolts him into realizing he’s turning into the kind of person who tries to make up for his failures by pressuring kids into success. Success doesn’t matter. Winning won’t make you a happy person. Assholes with trophies are still assholes.

…I just want to throw down another example of Secret Proof Our Culture is Misogynist. Take these names: Evelyn, Gertrude, Tracy, Carol, Beverly, and Robin. What do they all have in common? They are all historically masculine names that have been adopted by (I would argue, have been abandoned to) women. Culturally speaking, we have no problems with girls having boy’s names. I have a cousin named Wallis, a variation on the popular popular men’s name from the 1920s. The Television show Pushing Daisies features a female lead who goes by the name Chuck. My step-sister is named Cameron. All historically masculine names, all totally acceptable. Now try to imagine a guy in 7th Grade named Evelyn. This kid is not having an easy time.

Why?

Because men are something to look up to, and admire, and of course we would give women men’s names, it’s cute for them to try to live up to standards of masculinity. Of course, naming a boy after a girl is nothing short of child abuse. It’s the same reason tomboys are cute and feminine guys are played for laughs or revulsion. When a female takes on male characteristics, she’s impersonating dominant role. When a male acts in an effeminate manner, he demeans himself.

Our culture still doesn’t respect women, and doesn’t hold them as equals to men. If you don’t believe me, suggest that someone name their son Susan.

AND NOW AN EXCERPT FROM AN ALTERNATE POST WHERE I FELT LIKE TALKING ABOUT RACISM INSTEAD OF SEXISM

The simple fact of the matter is that giving a child a distinctly urban black name, like Terangelo is going to impact the way they are perceived throughout their entire life, and will in all likelihood lead* to a lower average level of education and income. As long as this country is racist, having a name that constantly re-identifies you as urban black will probably be an impediment.

Our current president being named Barack Obama is an incredible fluke.

I’m aware of studies already attesting to a correlation between these types of names and things like education and salary, but I’ve never seen one that corrected for initial income and education of parents. As it stands, I realize I’m somewhat guilty of the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy, but I would counter that post hoc ergo propter meus balls, which my or may not translate as “after this, therefor because of my balls.”

In response to the alarmingly world wide concern about the fact that a rich, famous, attractive man was fucking around on his wife (oh man, that never happens), I have one thought that actually seems meaningful.

If we switched the roles here, and Tiger’s wife was cheating, and he had chased her out of the house while wielding a golf club, causing her to crash her vehicle, the story would not be so focused on the horrible transgressions of a cheater. Blame would be distributed a little differently.

I have been asked a few times by friends and acquaintances from nations with a more civilized form of health care funding the following question:

“Why the hell are so many Americans mad about getting something that will only benefit them?”

Easy enough to answer. The Conservatives, especially the Neo-Conservatives, with the philosophical guidance of people like Leo Strauss and his “Noble Lie” have been functioning with the understanding that in order to perpetuate their agenda, they would need to convince the nation’s poor to vote against their own economic and social interests. The most effective way to do this has proven to be with a carefully cultivated, constant and largely directionless state of fear. The upshot of this is that the fear can be directed toward almost any issue with the use of a few key words like “socialism” or “terrorism”. This technique is being actively applied toward a tax payer funded health care system. As a result the people who have been told to be afraid of a public option for health care are angry at the people who are supporting it, effectively seeing them as the people responsible for scaring them.

It occurs to me as I write this that we have a word for using a state of constant fear to advance a political agenda. The irony of the fact that I am loath to apply this label to the Neo Con movement that would not hesitate to do the same to someone like me is not lost.

The Beginning of this Post is About Movies

Last night I watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s for the first time. It was pretty good actually, but they really should have called it Breakfast at Tiffany’s and then a Bunch of Other Stuff, because the breakfast part only happens at the very beginning, during the opening credits. At it’s only like a croissant out of a paper bag. At it’s just OUTSIDE Tiffany’s, not inside.

Aside from that though, the movie was pretty good. Oh, there’s also all that racism.

The Next Part of this Post is About Insensitive Racial Stereotypes in the Media

In Breakfast at Tiffany’s Mickey Rooney, who normally looks like this
This guy fucked Judy Garland.
looks like this
Missing from this picture: Coke bottle glasses.
The character is really out of place, existing primarily for broad physical comedy and slapstick in a movie that is otherwise largely dry wordplay and mild whimsy. In almost every scene he appears in, he’s in his apartment soaking in steam, or sitting on the floor, or meditating, or eating rice out of weird containers. You know, Japanese Guy Stuff.

Honestly, I don’t have a problem with Product of Their Time Caricatures. I’m of the opinion that Disney should re-release Song of the South on DVD. Just drag out Leonard Maltin, give him a gold Mickey Mouse pin to wear, and have him explain that these depictions, while we now understand them to be condescending and offensive, actually come from a sense of affection. Affection twisted by racism and a desire to make the Other weak and passive so that it can be tolerated, sure, but still affection. Ignoring this behavior, refusing to acknowledge it, is far more dangerous. It’s a lot healthy to say “yeah, we were racist, and yeah, it manifested in a lot of different ways. Pay attention.”

I own a lot of movies. Nothing record breaking, but a quick estimate puts feature films around 300, with another 200 of TV, short films, and ephemera on DVD. Out of all of these, very few of the movies bother my wife. She is largely unflappable, regarding Naked Warriors AKA The Arena, Hercules and the Babylonians and Showgirls with either mild affection or bemused disinterest. There are a few though, like National Lampoon’s Van Wilder and Satan’s Little Helper that draw her ire. The two movies I just mentioned probably deserve it, actually, despite Ryan Reynold’s incredible charm. I just wish she’d give Jason X a chance.

It is with people like her in mind that I begin this exercise, an annotated re-viewing of the film. I will be accompanied by a 23 year old Rum, and a 1.5X fast forward that still plays all the voices. It is my assertion that the film is, when watched properly, not a mediocre horror movie, but a brilliant comedy.

We begin:
Released in 2001, it had been 8 years since the previous Friday the 13th movie. That was part 9, Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday. It’s interesting, at least to me, that it was quickly followed by Freddy Vs. Jason in 2003. Apparently it’s easier to make Jason movies when Republicans are in office.

The film opens with what appears to be footage of hell. Slowly, it it turns into the opening credits from Spider-Man. This is Jason from the inside. They’re doing science to him at the Crystal Lake Research Facity. He’s being frozen. You know, to get him to the future. Before that though, he has to kill some dudes. Fortunately some Meddling Guys in Suits show up with expendable soldiers. They don’t want to freeze Jason, but study him. They die. Jason mortally wounds A Resourceful Woman, who then freezes them both.

Now it’s the future! Jason is discovered by, no shit, some kids on field trip. They’re visiting the ruined surface. The stoner is played for easy laughs, including Jason, still frozen, cutting his arm off.

They save the woman and start (THE FOOLS) doing science on Jason. They also use badly explained nanotechnology to put the stoner’s arm back on.

A Resourceful Woman wakes up, and starts Dr. Loomis-ing all over the place about how Jason is gonna kill everyone, and, of course, they ignore her because she’s from the past? And everything probably would be fine, but all over the ship people start doing it, which of course wakes Jason up. They literally start inter-cutting one couple boning with Jason stirring and have him wake up right as the woman climaxes. Genius.

Jason grabs the woman doing science to him, shoves her face in liquid nitrogen and then, because she isn’t dead enough, shatters her head.

The murders are hot and heavy now. There’s post coital trauma where one person is left alive for no real reason. Two guys in a holodeck who Jason kills twice. Overzealous soldiers doing property damage, then being picked off by a new, more Batman-y Jason. The best is when Sarge is impaled on a giant screw (why do they have that?) and slowly spirals down.

Of course the Future Meddling Guy in a Suit will hear nothing of A Resourceful Woman’s warnings. Soon all the actual soldiers are dead and it’s up to the Terrified Teenagers (and a robot?) to save the day.

None of this really captures the tone though. It’s a slasher movie, sure, but it’s also a comedy, an affectionate parody to be precise. There are two levels of jokes throughout: The cheesy, obvious jokes, and the more subtle (but not that subtle) self referential jokes. Jason X is a real parody, unlike the Scary Movie series. While those are just the tropes and ostensible setting of horror films used as a frame work for crappy dick jokes, Jason X actually works within the conventions of the slasher genre to comment on that genre. Specifically, it’s riffing on the long running franchise slasher flick that can no longer do anything but comment on itself. It’s like the winks and nods have their own winks and nods. The X in Jason X isn’t a Roman Numeral. It’s a nod to all that has come before.

This is perhaps epitomized by the second holodeck scene. In order to stall Jason, he’s tricked into a simulation of summer camp in the 1980s, but that’s not accurate. He’s in a cheesy ’80s movie version of summer camp in the ’80s, but even that isn’t right. He’s in a loving send-up of a cheesy ’80s summer camp movie. Two girls offer him beer and pot. They then take off their tops and shout “We love premarital sex!” in unison before climbing into their sleeping bags.

Jason picks one of them up and uses her as a bludgeon to beat the other to death.

Which is a reference to part 7.

One of the goals of the homosexual agenda is to indoctrinate children in the nation’s public schools by convincing kids that homosexuality is a normal and healthy lifestyle. Because schools fail to warn children of the dangers of homosexuality, and because it is taught that homosexuality is not only “normal” but “healthy” as well, homosexuality starts to seem like a good choice to young school children.

The National Cultural Values Survey reveals a striking correlation between greater exposure to television and lenient moral views. Heavy television viewers (four hours or more per evening) are less committed to virtues like honesty and charity, and more permissive about sex, abortion and homosexuality.

The homosexual movement has been militantly demanding not just the homosexuals’ right to do whatever they wish to do behind closed doors, but, more importantly, that society fully accept their lifestyle as both healthy and normal.*

Of all the insane anti-gay arguments, I think my favorite is Not In Front of the Kids, and it’s sibling argument If You Don’t Talk About It, Maybe It Will Go Away. These were both well represented in the Thatcher/1984 Era UK with Section 28. The central idea, as far as I am able to pierce through, is that being gay is SO AWESOME, that if we even mention it as a possibility around people, kids especially, they’ll probably switch.

I mean, wouldn’t you?

Stickman and Carl illustrate the central gap in this theory.

Oh, right, no, you wouldn’t because either you’re already gay, or you’re not. Knowing the popular terminology for homosexuality has no influence on whether or not a person is attracted to a person of the same gender. There’s a reason it was long referred to as The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name.

Acceptance of a non-heterosexual norm is entirely possible. Look at Sparta. However, the current media portrayals and overwhelming societal standard is heterosexuality. This has yet to stop young people from identifying as gay. Doesn’t it make more sense to give them an image of homosexuality as healthy and comfortable? If a person is going to be gay, they’re going to be gay, the least the media can do is make the process of accepting themselves and coming out less soul-rendingly painful.

*All Strawman text taken from Conservapedia. This is what these people really believe.

When someone asks me why I care so very much about language and words and meaning, I always use The Bitch Example, because it’s very convincing. It very clearly shows that being deeply aware of what we’re saying can tell us things about our culture and our ideas. Then there’s The Chair Example. Not nearly as direct, and more esoteric, it means a lot to me.

WARNING: THIS ALL SOUNDS LIKE STUFF STONED PEOPLE TALK ABOUT

People, generally speaking, think they know what the word chair signifies. It’s a platform with four legs, a seat, something to rest your back against, and it’s for one person. Except, if I show you this
function
you’d tell me it was a chair, because, you know, it works like a chair. It does chair things.

And if I then showed you this
form
you’d agree that, again, I’ve showed you a chair. That is, clearly, a chair.

The thing is, these are totally different things. They don’t look alike, they don’t work alike, and yet we use the same word for both of them. Really understanding this, that these two things which are clearly, when you look at them as objects in space, totally different, are the same thing to us simply because we use the same verbal sign to describe them, is really mindblowing for me. We really do create the world we are in with words to an incredible degree. Being aware of that, and making a conscious effort to consider it can be a really important part of understanding and overcoming prejudices and biases you didn’t even know you had.

Part 1: Fuck You, Bud Light.

Here is a picture from Bud Light’s current advertising campaign.

What does this even mean?

What does this even mean?

As I said, Fuck You, Bud Light. Also, Fuck You, DDB Worldwide Communications. As the advertising agency responsible for this, I want you all to be ashamed of yourselves. Here is what you did:

You picked up a bottle of Bud Light.
You drank a little.
You made a face.
You sighed.
And you realized there was nothing worthwhile about this product that you could sell.

So what did you do? You decided to focus on the distinction of Bud Light’s “Drinkability” . There’s only one real problem there. All beers are equally drinkable. Really, drinkability applies to any fluid of reasonably low viscosity. You don’t even make claims as to the potability of Bud Light. I mean Jesus, BLEACH has roughly the same level of drinkability.

It’s just astounding. You take a drink, and you advertise that it is distinct from other drinks, and more desirable because of the ease with which you can drink it. Of course drinkabilty is literally the ONLY constant among all beverages. Bud Light: It’s not a solid!

Thank You Ellie Halevy and Also the People Who Work for You and Also The Ad Agency You Worked With

As a contrast, I would like to bring up the ad campaign for Tropicana’s Valencia Orange Juice. Tropicana is owned by Pepsico, who are having a whole assload of their own problems, marketing wise. (Really, a dumber version of your old circle trademark? That’s your plan to dominate the world of cola?) The Valencia Orange Juice though, those ads were great. They consisted of a sultry voiced lady explaining to you why this was going to be good orange juice, going into detail as to why you should pay more money for what was reasonably described as a superior product. This voice over accompanied slow motion photography of orange juice being poured, using lighting and music that bordered on erotic.

Essentially, the advertisement gave the viewer this message:
Isn’t orange juice good?
Don’t you want some?
It’s good.
Well this stuff is EXTRA good.
These are like, the best oranges we have.
And they’re all in this juice.
You should get some.

And assuming you agree with the initial proposition that orange juice is indeed good, you have no reason not to believe this might be really good orange juice, and you should probably get some.

Part Three

Now compare these ad campaigns. Bud Light is hoping that you are simple minded enough that when they say “The Difference is Drinkability” you will become confused, forget that this is a quality inherent to all beers and begin purchasing Bud Light. Contrast this to the Tropicana Valencia campaign which seems to hope that you believe better oranges will make better orange juice, and that maybe you have a little bit of an orange juice fetish*.

With this in mind, I would submit that a more accurate version of the “The Difference is Drinkability” campaign would be as follows.

Guess what DDB Communications? I am not.

Guess what DDB Communications? I am not.

*I call this being “juicy”.

I’ve covered general thoughts on Mexico in the past, so let me quickly mention some things I learned on this most recent trip.

  • Veracruz is an attractive, economically healthy Mexican city that is not funded by tourists from the U.S.A. and Europe. If you’re interested in visiting an actual Mexican city where the local culture is strong and people will expect you to speak Spanish, I’d recommend it a great deal. It also seemed nicely free of anti-gringo sentiment.
  • Mexicans are very comfortable calling me guero. I was a little put off at first, and then I remembered that most nations aren’t hung up about race in the same way we are in The States. Calling me light skinned guy wasn’t a judgment, it was just accurate.
  • They could have called me alto though. I mean, seriously guys, I’m like a good eight inches taller than any of you.
  • If you can get someone to make you chilaquiles con huevos divorcados, where you have salsa roja chilaquilles with one egg, and salsa verde with the other, do it. It’s super good and healthy for all the people following a diet from the reviews from Tophealthjournal.

And now my primary concern: Driving in Mexico.

First thing, out the game, is that I’d MUCH rather drive in Mexico than Ireland. The roads are better, the signs are better, and the maps are easier to follow. I realize this is about Mexico but let me quickly mention FUCK DRIVING IN IRELAND.

Now then. The driving was done to get to Oaxaca from Veracruz, then back again several days later. Tara drove down to Oaxaca, I drove back. On the way down we stuck to the toll roads, which are really well maintained, and not especially trafficked. On the way back, I screwed up and we took the free road. Use the toll roads. It’s worth it. The free road has topes, which, I believe, is spanish for Cocksucker Mountains. Topes are placed on the fucking HIGHWAY, every town you’re in. They’re basically just really horrible speed bumps, but they’re huge, and you basically have to drop down to first gear any time you see one. I hate them. The free road also had an insanely steep area where, no shit, on the steep curves they had signs and markers on the road directing you to suddenly switch into the oncoming lane, and they would do the same, in order to artificially widen the turns. It was the only part of driving in Mexico that was terrifying every time I did it.

Now passing, that was only terrifying the first few times.

To understand passing in Mexico, one must first appreciate the Mexican psyche, and its understanding of regulations. Signs are not rules, they’re suggestions. Something to be followed unless you have a decent reason to ignore it. So, too, are the lines in the road. So when you’re going around a blind corner and there are double solid yellow lines, it is not at all out of character for someone in the oncoming lane to decide THIS is the time to pass, and that the best way to do that is to drive straight at you. This is pretty stressful at first, but the roads are wide, and the shoulders are huge. Everyone just moves to the side, the passing car moves down the middle, and then traffic resumes as normal. The use of turn signals here is pretty elegant, because if you’re moving quickly, the car in front of you will often pull to the side, then turn on their left blinker, signaling that you should go around*.

My favorite part of it all is that there is clearly an effort to stymie this practice. There are signs constantly reminding people that it is prohibited to cross at the solid lines. That passing is prohibited here. DO NOT PASS. Drawings of one car passing another with the international NO sign over it. These are sprinkled throughout, and then posted AT LEAST twice each time the road goes to a solid yellow line. Perhaps most tragically of all is the sign reading “Respete las seƱales!” which translates to “Respect the signs!” This is of course fruitless because it is, itself, a sign.

*I would estimate that about 30% of all turn signal use in Mexico is for this purpose, with another 30% used for traditional announcements of an intention to turn. The other 40% is what I call Lifestyle Turn Signal use. A blinking right turn signal doesn’t imply any intention, it is simply Who That Driver Is.

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