Sunday, April 1, 2007

Satire and Sadism

It isn't a regular occurence that revelations touching the Spirit of the Times address themselves to me while I'm watching reasonably dumb comedies, but it happened a few nights ago. I realized that part of the charm of this select enclave of fimography (read: Frat Pack movies), is the fact that while there are by now about a half a dozen entries in the subgenre, there is really only one film; that is, the one in which false masculinity is bound, gagged and paraded around for 90 minutes of Farrellian farse. Not that that this is altogether a bad thing. No doubt, the red blooded, ham fisted model of American manhood has in some ways been a corruptive representation, and the casual acknowledgement of the fact should hardly unbalance us. The problem with parody is not that it destroys idols, but rather that it doesn't build any new ones. Quite frankly, I don't have a problem with the dismemberment of the ashtoreth pole of so called American masculinity, though I would prefer it if certain lobby groups weren't entrusted with the operation. Outside of this stipulation, nolo contendere.

As for lowbrow satire, it is one of the three Great Levelers the present era has granted us, death and a curious soy milk socialism constituting the other two. It is the first of these that is the most discriminating in selecting its object; death is too wholesomely democratic to discriminate (pardon the truism), and as for the third, its all organic diet has removed from its system any remnant of vitriolic bile that it might otherwise unleash with any particularity. The aforementioned brand of satire only responds to what its cohorts have allowed too much privilege, e.g., some of America's more prosperous demographics.

It is one of the foremost evidences against classifying ours as a golden age that we direct so much of our effort towards mocking it. Effacement of a given social trend often precedes the trend itself, and we are left with very little to bow down to that has not already done homage before the great god Cultural Irony, whose sole injunction as yet remains, "Take up thy messenger bag and follow me, preferably while wearing hideous pants." But I digress.

Satire is a reductive art, and requires an object of abuse as well as one of imitation. The American view of masculinity provides it with both necessities; As an object of imitation, the idealized American male is a detatched, ungaurded character, and likely the only stereotype unconcerned with appearing stereotypical. His occasional clumsiness and philistinism provide the sufficient points of exposure. As an object of abuse, he is presented as the chief representative of the class most responsible for the sufferings of the disenfranchised. This is an accepted fact, and whatever else his resume might say is immaterial.

It is intriguing that the collective has chosen as its object of ridicule an individual who in the same place, less fifty years would be seen as if not its best, then certainly its most prototypical citizen. I should say here that the period referred to by the phrase "Less fifty years" does not cross my mind as defining a Pax Americana any more than the present does. The Eisenhower years were more of a peroxide age than a guilded one.

Whatever the case, society apparently feels the need to level two parts criticism on itself and its members for every one instance of external aggression it deals with. This isn't a source of terrible concern for me, only an indicator that our appointed time is closer than the cultural meliorists would have us believe. And in the end, we may find we have suffered more damage from the "Paper bullets of the brain" leveled by a host of our own pundits and comedians than from the aggressions of any Islamo-fascist terror cell.

2 comments:

RespectMyAuthorita said...

Tom its good you are out there. But i want you to get rid of your davis-itus and make posts a nice moderate length with plenty of posts about rock and roll, and insane guitar riffs.-King

Heather said...

tom--

i too am happy you finally have a blog. it is all i hoped it to be and more. i am excited to see what else you have to say...