Tuesday, 09 November 2010

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Waiting for Superman (to man up) It goes without saying that Ben Shapiro’s not a very talented writer, but reading about his achievements leads me to despair for the future of America, because apparently it’s possible to graduate summa cum laude from one of the best schools in the best public university system in America and still write sentences like these: More people will still shell out bucks to see Harrison Ford (as long as he stops the metrosexual post-Calista Flockhart crap) and Sean Connery than they will to see Robert Pattinson sans fangs. It’s not because they’re old. It’s because they’re dudes. Men want to be them. Women want to be with them. They kick ass, take names, and don’t shave their chests. I’m not about to defend Pattinson, but given that, prior to this spasmodic outburst of cliché, he’d knocked other “metrosexual” actors for failing to star in a commercially successful film recently, I feel obliged to note that the Twilight films grossed the GDP of a small country. He may think writing “sans fangs” undercuts my objection, but it doesn’t: there clearly is an audience for actors he deems metrosexuals, as is evidenced by the fact that Shapiro can only paint actors as unsuccessful when he deliberately ignores their successful films. A smarter writer would at least possess wits enough not to mention those films, but Shapiro is no smarter writer: Four of Depp’s last five films not involving pirates have underperformed at the box office (the lone exception was Alice in Wonderland, in which Depp played Jack Sparrow with red hair and slightly less coherence). Jude Law hasn’t headlined a hit in his entire career (Sherlock Holmes was Robert Downey Jr.’s show, start-to-finish). Translation: since some of the highest grossing films of the past decade don’t count, these actors are failures. Put aside the fact that most films aren’t successful; put aside the fact that anyone would look like a failure if you disregarded their successes; put aside the fact that Robert Downey Jr. is, without a doubt, a man with “metrosexual” appeal whose two most recent successes were playing a metrosexual tycoon and a homosocial detective; put all that aside for the moment and concentrate the sheer stupidity with which he presented his argument. He wants to claim that audiences shun films with metrosexual actors or about metrosexual characters, but he actually claims that audiences shun them, except when they don’t. When don’t they? Why, in all these extremely popular and profitable films, none of which count because he doesn’t want them to. Now, if he were an honest cultural critic, he’d be concerned with the actual tastes of actual audiences and try to understand how they were shaped, but he’s no more honest a cultural critic than he is talented a writer. That said, his failed sophistry distracted me from my original topic, Superman, about whom Shapiro writes: I am constantly bemused by the attempt to re-set Superman. The original comics are classic pieces of Americana. The original movie with...

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