Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Other Guys and the other economic system


I hope those of you who saw "The Other Guys" avoided the ADD rush and stayed for the credits.(Please click on the link and look at them!) If you do, you get to see a litany of statistics detailing what's wrong in our capitalist system, played out over a ruthless Rage Against the Machine version of Dylan's excoriating "Maggie's Farm". Specifically, it's about what's wrong with the system of subsidized banks and nonsubsidized people. There are some revolting statistics--I won't detail them here, except to say watch them, and watch for the one about the exponential rate of growth of the proportion of CEO earnings to working-class earnings. Another tidbit: The $700 billion T.A.R.P bail out is enough to give each man, woman and child in America $2,258.
The credits are just one element in a strikingly anticapitalist and some would say anti-American (although that is just a conservative term for refreshingly critical) film. I thought it was courageous, for example, to play out a somewhat typical shoot-em-up action scene (with action heroes The Rock and Samuel L. Jackson) that ends in an arrest. A reporter then asks the cops if 20 million in city damage was worth arresting the culprits for what amounts to a misdemeanor quantity of pot. Their answer? "Why don't you ask the people of New York City? Best city in the world!" Rarely have I seen such satire of post-9/11 jingoism covering up wrongheaded policies such as the drug war. (Hollywood's complicity in the Drug War is spoofed throughout the movie as Mark Wahlberg's character thinks every lead and every bad guy points to some form of drug-dealing, when in fact all villainy in the movie belongs to the world of finance capital). The villain speaks at the "Center for American Capitalism", and the hero at one point, asked about the importance of law enforcement, says: "How about a community of socially-responsible citizens simply all doing their part?"
From spoofs of gun-happy cops to jibes at the S.E.C., the film is a veritable tirade against the age of corporate dominance and the complicity of law enforcement, the media, and the entertainment industry. Sure, the film is no "South of the Border" (Oliver Stone) or "Tout Va Bien" (Godard), but it's a step in the right direction. When interviewed, stars Wahlberg and Ferrell asked them if they were on board a propos the film's radical politics. They said: "Of course--that's why we did the film." Did I mention it was funny? I suppose that deserves some applause as well, since the combination of socially important and funny is a rare one indeed. Strange that almost none of the reviews I read mentioned the political messages. Then, again, that's not so strange, after all. It's part of the problem. One of the more insidious elements of the capitalist treatment of time and space is the division of everything into departments, sectors, and of course genres. Philosophy departments don't intercourse with Economics departments, a rock audience is now clearly delineated from a protest , and politics doesn't mix with entertainment, especially comedy. Even when it does, critics and viewers tend to tune out the socially relevant (see the mass exodus during the credits of this film) in favor of a pure form of the opiate of the masses. No, not religion, ENTERTAINMENT. Sure, there are always exceptions, and I close this note with gratitude for those who bleed the spaces together, such as Tom Morello and Stanley Aronowitz.

3 comments:

Vanessa said...

I will gratefully acknowledge that the audience with whom I first watched the film--who were all members of the press--stayed for the whole thing. If only everyone felt a duty to properly "research" whatever they're consuming! Great that this film finally blended social AND political commentary directly--even though they are always connected, it's not always visible how. I also did not notice that Hoitz thought everyone was a drug dealer until the second viewing. Awesome detail.

Cristofani, linz said...

Yes! And, supposedly, the only reason they could make the film was because the big name actors were able to self-fund until the big studios got wind.

MAX! said...

"One of the more insidious elements of the capitalist treatment of time and space is the division of everything into departments, sectors, and of course genres."

Even this film didn't avoid that treatment entirely: the most vociferous and horrifying critique of American capitalists comes at the end of the movie, as if to say IN CASE YOU MISSED THE POINT, HERE THE POINT IN YOUR FACE. Problem being that if they missed the point already, they weren't going to stick around for the credits unless they couldn't move.

And yet, it seems likely that director MacCay constructed the film this way because in a comedy, there is no room for that kind of fact barrage. It seems then, that the division of being is the capitalist method for CREATING Escapism, the philosophy that the sole purpose of art is to temporarily relieve the burdens placed on life by the masters of the world's money, so that we may eventually be more ready and able to do their bidding. I see another chicken or egg question here.

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