Monday, 15 November 2010

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...
One day, I hope to stop being surprised. [The response to this silliness can be found here.] I try not to pay attention to Glenn Beck, but even when I have, I never really paid attention to him. But when an old friend, someone I genuinely respect, forwarded me a link to Beck’s archive and dared me to refute his logic, I decided it might be time to try. Bad decision. As someone who’s studied linguistics and taught journalism, I know that spoken language differs significantly from written and resist judging speakers for not speaking in complete sentences or organizing their thoughts into coherent paragraphs. That said, it should still possess some underlying logic, which is why this transcript from his November 19th program requires an airing out. It begins by preying on lunatic fears of a One World Government: I have a little bug inside of me, too, and it wants to stop control-hungry progressives from running our lives and pushing us into a giant global system of government. You know, the kind of global government that [Jay Rockefeller's] dad liked so much. [David Rockefeller] was a globalist and had a wonderful vision of the future of our world. Then, just in case his audience was insufficiently terrified: I feel a little uncomfortable. We’ll talk about preparing for—let’s just leave it at that, being prepared. Note how, in a classic bit of demagoguery, he stops himself just short the moment of revelation. People fear what they don’t know, especially when they’re being told, in ominous tones, that the unknown requires preparation and is connected, somehow, to the “shadowy” or “spooky” forces of the One World Government. Those adjectives don’t appear in that particular quotation, but they appear later, and frequently, especially with regards to: George Soros, [whose] daddy was a globalist as well. He believed in something called Esperanto. Esperanto is a made up language. It was designed for a one world government. It started in the 1890s, 1880s. And he was fluent in it. I mean, he wrote a book in Esperanto for one world government. Later, George Soros started his Open Society Institute. The main goal of the Open Society Institute was really that of his father’s: to create a world free of nationalities—one world government. I knew, in the vague way that everyone who follows politics knows, that Beck believes that lines on a chalkboard have the force of logic. I did not, however, appreciate that he was trafficking in full-throated conspiracy theories about the imminent invasion of the forces of the One World Government. Put differently, I expected to find moments, like the following, in which Beck discovered in the world connections that only exist in his head: Soros explains the anti-capitalist, pro-Marxist tactics he uses to fundamentally transform countries. They are the dreams of his father—which is weird because that’s almost the title of Barack Obama’s book, The Dreams From My Father. His daddy, by all accounts was a communist, at least an anti-colonialist, as was his grandfather. The apple doesn’t fall...

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