February 17, 2005

A Modest Proposal

In 1729 Jonathan Swift proposed in a whimsical sort of way that the endemic social problems of Ireland could be permanently solved if only the good folk of the Emerald Isle would consider devouring their own offspring. If Swift had lived in contemporary America, the Goon suspects that he’d probably have written exactly the same essay, only without the irony.

The 2002 movie Orange County was not a massively well-received, nor even a particularly successful film. But in the drear and gloomy isolated college town (equipped with plenty of creaking belfries, ambulatory lunatics, ‘Smoothie’ bars etc.) wherein the Goon resides, it was a big hit amongst the normally catatonic student population. As a matter of fact, the local Formica-encrusted Movieplex let students come in to watch it for free for a few evenings. Succumbing as always to the ineluctable curse of natural curiosity, I rented a copy. And stared straight into the face of blackest evil.

Shaun Brumder is saddled with a vapid, pill-popping mother, a Christopher-Hitchens-esque father, a worthless stoner of a brother and a sweet-natured, bone-stupid girlfriend named Ashley who’s obsessed with fluffy animals. Strangely enough, he finds his life to be just a trifle unsatisfactory. Then he finds a book buried in the sand on a local beach. He reads it: it is magnificent. It makes him laugh, and teaches him how to dream. And it hints at the existence of a world beyond the blow-dried vacuity of suburban California.

This experience leads Shaun to reach the entirely sensible conclusion that it’s time he got the fuck out of Dodge. So he trudges off to Stanford in search of his new favorite author, who teaches there. Various monotonous teenage hijinks ensue that are too pedestrian to bother recounting. But the upshot of it all is that our hero realizes that Home (however unspeakably vile) is Where The Heart Is after all. The last scene puts him back on the beach where he first found his treasured volume. He promptly re-buries it, and then declares to his dumb honky beachmates, with a declarative passion usually reserved for marriage proposals and Shakespearean elegies, "I’m gonna go surfin’!" And the crowd of slack-jawed sophomores goes wild.

Film is the most powerful medium for propaganda that humanity has yet devised. The Nazis understood this; Americans apparently do too. The only difference seems to be this – the message of German propaganda films from the 1930s was "Foreigners are evil! Hide from them!" Orange County has an only superficially less contemptible moral: Don’t even think about deviating from your upbringing in even the very tiniest of ways. And for God’s sake, whatever you do don’t read anything.

February 02, 2005

Who Needs Hair Plugs When You Have 9/11?

Here’s Goon’s First Rule of Political Analysis: whenever something of fairly large-scale horribleness happens in the world and you’re wondering whose fault it is, you can settle on one conclusion pretty quickly: the relevant perpetrator will be
(1) between the ages of eighteen and fifty, and
(2) endowed with a penis.
The events of 9/11 provide us with much empirical support for the this venerable principle. What could be a more distinctively male desire than the urge to blow up a bunch of shit with a big ol’ plane?

After the attacks sensible women everywhere, and the occasional girly-man like yours truly, were content to express themselves in conventional tones of lamentation. The thought that we had was this – such horrors are as old as time, and there is thus a certain rather vile presumptuousness involved in trying to draw attention to oneself in the belief that one has something terribly novel or clever to say about them.

With these thoughts in mind, let us turn to the recent behavior of Christopher Hitchens. And Dennis Miller and Noam Chomsky too, but let’s for the time being focus upon the most repulsively eloquent member of this emetic little trio. The Hitch began his public life as a Trotskyite – a lively and controversial advocate for the huddled, underfed masses of the developed world. But since 9/11 he’s taken the proverbial icepick to this persona. No longer does he want us to be horrified by the prospect of greedheads in the Bush administration doing everything they can to increase the income gap. No longer should we worry about the fates of members of the working classes who join the military to pay their phone bills and find themselves the targets of mortar shells lobbed by gibbering loonies in Fallujah. Having reached his fortieth birthday, C.H. has apparently discovered that it gets a bit boring, sitting around waiting for The Revolution to go down. And as his clothing budget has skyrocketed, one can’t help but think he might have also noticed that the poor are, after all, just a wee bit grubby.

So now, our manifest destiny as a civilized nation turns out to be quite a different sort of thing. We must, it seems, drive the U.S. economy to ruin and put a lot of poor folk into harm’s way so that we can kill the asses of a bunch of foreigners. Hands up, all those diligent students of history who have heard this kind of song before.

The Goon, you will be pleased to hear, has his own mid-life crisis thoroughly planned out. Bright red sports cars will be involved, as will expensive liquor, a membership at the gym and as many loose housewives as can be seduced by the ineluctable charms of his rhetoric. He therefore offers this advice to the Hitch, from one leftist rabble-rouser to another: the old ways are the best ways, friend. Shut your vain, frivolous mouth and get some hair plugs, for God’s sake.