Saturday, 14 August 2010

It's here! It's finally here! Today I can be a proud white man again!* And by “it,” I mean the day when white men and white male interests are finally represented in American cinema again, for today is the day that The Expendables is released. Given my interests and the past few months of my life, you might think I’d be more excited about the film based on a graphic novel in which dialogue like this appears: You would be wrong. The good folks at Big Hollywood have spent the past week convincing me that if I fail to appreciate the manly awesomeness of The Expendables my penis will fall off. The assault on my manhood began on Monday, when Ezra Dulis reminded me of the true purpose of film itself: All you’re doing is marveling at the most sensible use of a medium that consists of moving images: incredible feats performed by tough, charismatic men. The dearth of action films designed for and marketed to men since the 1980s actually had made me forget how intimately the medium of the film and the genre of the 1980s action film were related. As Leo Grin wrote in the second installment of “Bring on ‘The Expendables’”: Rumor has it that Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables marks a return to the glory days of 1980s action mayhem and pro-American machismo. Its appearance on the cultural horizon has certainly stirred up memories of my mid-Eighties, Midwestern suburban adolescence. Fly-over country is back! After years of being denied films that represent the “action mayhem and pro-American machismo” native to 45-year-old white men from the Midwest who once “papered over [their walls] with posters and photos of oversize he-men,” beauty school drop-out and former porn star Sylvester Stallone has directed a film that revels in the fact that the “inherently brutal nature of males isn’t a design flaw but a feature.”** But the best part about The Expendables, according to the author of the third installment in the series, is that despite being a movie geared toward men who “love seeing stuff blown up,” there is “relatively little profanity” in the film. Because God-fucking-Forbid someone embodies the inherent brutality of maleness while cursing. Just ask the author of the most recent entry in the series, Kurt Schlicter, who claims that the 1980s represent the high watermark in American cinema because of, for example, films like the “great 48 Hours (1982), [which] blew minds with violence and profanity.” But for Schlicter, the “archetypal specimen” for manly male films in the 1980s was Lethal Weapon (1987), because it was the first movie to prove that Hollywood could do something correctly; namely, produce “slick popcorn adventure/comedies with memorable action set-pieces paired with laugh-out-loud hilarity and featuring big stars and top shelf production values.” That he writes this about 1987’s Lethal Weapon despite Beverly Hills Cop having been released three years earlier is beside the point—as is the fact that he spends the majority of the review gushing about Mel Gibson—which is that all of those movies would have improved if, as Darin Miller...
Legitimate Questions for Sarah Palin Sarah Palin’s latest inane statement, “Legitimate Questions for the President,” may be inane, but it demonstrates quite nicely how those on the left lost the rhetorical battle concerning what she calls “this Ground Zero mosque.” As Eric Rauchway pointed out, Manhattan Island is a small place—only about 13 miles long and 2.3 wide—that looms larger in our collective imagination because of its social and cultural importance. If you asked Palin or any of the others who have temporarily abandoned their disdain for all things East Coast and elitist whether it would be acceptable if someone built a mosque within a 1.5 mile radius of where the Twin Towers once stood, they would likely continue protesting because they are utterly ignorant of the fact that that roughly eliminates everything south of NYU.* To their minds, New York City is less of a teeming than an endless metropolis, one that begins on the southern tip of the island and extends beyond the horizons to the north and east and west. They fail to recognize that there was a reason New Yorkers stopped building out and started building up—there is only so much room on an island 22 square miles in area—and so they assume that renovating a Men’s Wearhouse into a community center must, perforce, be an insult to the memories of the victims of 9/11. Their reaction to learning that the mosque being built on Ground Zero is actually a community center being built two blocks away is a stubborn spectacle couched in deliberately deceptive language. Palin’s rhetorical transformation of “the mosque being built on Ground Zero” into “this Ground Zero mosque” would be brilliant if intentional. It draws a scar across an infinite island and declares everything to its south to be sacred American soil. The area she calls “Ground Zero” is a fictional place in whose name she and her ideological brethren can express their xenophobia without fear of being called xenophobic. She and they can claim to support the good Muslims—the ones who know that their place, literally, is not in lower Manhattan—safe in the knowledge that, with a wink, their fear of people with strange names from foreign lands can arguably be something other than it is. In her mind and theirs, “this Ground Zero mosque” is less of a building than a psychological representation of the controversy caused by their ignorance of the island’s geography, i.e. they have retooled their own stupidity into a potent rhetorical feint whose truth is undeniable because it refers to the debate about an imaginary building on an infinitely large island. For Palin and those like her, the “Ground Zero” in “this Ground Zero mosque” functions not as a reference to the former site of the Twin Towers, but as a simple adjective that identifies the particular “mosque” in question. That it happens not to be located on Ground Zero is, at this point in the conversation, irrelevant. Palin proves this by obfuscation. Her concern about “this Ground Zero mosque” is...

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