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And the Dumbest Movie Essay of the Week Goes to Alan Siegel of The Atlantic

Come on. Ferris Bueller is probably the movie least worth analyzing. The movie that defies analysis because it isn’t about anything but what it is. Wish fulfillment. It’s an experience with no realistic context whatsoever. That doesn’t stop Alan Siegel from writing a ridiculous critique of Ferris Bueller, for not having any black friends. Or something.

Ferris’s way of life leaves me feeling empty. There’s just not much substance to it. Ferris hides behind his shtick, and he lies.

It’s like he’s a teenager or something.

This is the myth of Ferris Bueller. It’s portrayed as a universal story, when it’s really not.

The universal story is already a myth. Ferris Bueller is not universal, it’s escapist. And escapism to a consequence free good time is as universal as it gets for teenagers.

“What kind of movie hero consciously presents himself as infantile and duplicitous?” Paris Review writer Caleb Crain asks in his recent essay

Most comedy heroes do. At least 50/50. Go look at Jim Carrey’s career again.

Hell, the movie made columnist George F. Will’s bow tie spin like a pinwheel. He called it, “the moviest movie, the one most true to the spirit of movies, the spirit of effortless escapism.” What, exactly, Ferris is escaping from, I’m not sure.

Adulthood. Growing up. I haven’t seen the damn thing years and even I can answer that. Ferris never grows up, while his friends worry about graduation and having to be adults.

A lot of teenagers probably had trouble seeing themselves in Ferris. I don’t think he had any non-white friends. I don’t think he even knew any non-white kids.

Ferris Bueller, secret KKK member. Revealed only by Alan Siegel at The Atlantic. Does it get any dumber than a white guy writing an outraged condemnation about a fictional movie character from the 80’s not having enough minority friends. Maybe we can CG somebody in.

And was Ferris Bueller concerned about the environment? What’s his position on abortion? What about gay rights? Is he a third wave or second wave feminist? Send all replies to Alan Siegel.

Admittedly, I used to think Ferris was a righteous dude. But I couldn’t relate to him. After all, he wasn’t bound by the laws of reality.

Escapism. Is the word’s meaning that confusing? Did Alan have trouble relating to Han Solo too?

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is not a great movie. It’s an enjoyable one. Among many others. You can analyze The Breakfast Club, but there’s no point to analyzing Ferris Bueller. It’s a movie about the ultimate idealized teenager, with the vocabulary of a 30 year old, the skills of a con artist and the luck of the Irish who thanks to Matthew Broderick’s performance remains sympathetic. Not accessible, but entertaining.

Ferris Bueller is the Peter Pan of a generation. Played by an actor who looked like he never really grew up. It’s the wish fulfillment of every movie about staying young forever packed into one marathon session. It’s about having to grow up, but offers the fantasy of being able to do it on your own terms. That’s what Ferris Bueller offers his friends. It’s why he has the popularity he does.

RoboIrony Dies in America

Whether you view Robocop as a commentary on Dirty Harry and modern automation, or Verhoeven’s take on him as an American Jesus, most Americans think of him as a robot that killed people in cool ways. And so Detroit’s getting a Robocop statue.

A Robocop statue is probably the last thing Detroit needs. The movie was about the collapse of Detroit, corporate takeovers of urban centers, decay and crime so pervasive that people were willing to lose their souls to survive. So far we’ve got two out of three. If Rocky at least honored Philly’s working class tradition of perseverance, Robocop is a commentary and not a good one.

So why then? Because irony is dead. It used to be that irony was a closed book to dumb people. Now it’s a closed book even to smart people. Once irony became meta, people began doing stupid things and calling them ironic. And now everyone is stupid. It’s the real Twitter effect. A stupid idea gets taken up, whether it’s Snakes on a Plane or Donald Glover as Spider-Man or Betty White on Saturday Night Live or a Robocop statue for Detroit.

Maybe when this statue goes up, Robocop can get credit for killing irony in America.

Penny Arcade Trainwreck Still Going

Yes the dickwolves thing, it’s still on. And going strong. I wrote about it in August and thought it was long done and gone. Nope. To avoid restating the same points again, no one involved has learned anything in almost half a year.

I’m not surprised that Penny Arcade’s critics are still going strong. That’s their role. But Mike could have learned something. There was nothing wrong with the dickwolves comic, there was a lot wrong with his follow ups. Every time he tried to communicate that rape victims weren’t being made fun of, it got undercut with jokes about rape. And you really can’t do both. Or shouldn’t.

Penny Arcade tried to take a middle ground with Pax, and instead got stuck in between supporters who went straight for the rape jokes and critics who attacked them for not actually apologizing. The baseline never got dealt with and after half a year this obviously isn’t going away. And the only way to make it go away is to take a firm line one way or another, instead of making passive aggressive rape jokes while apologizing to anyone who’s upset.

Every Cable Channel is Now the Same

So there I was walking down the street and minding someone else’s business, when I saw an ad for Larry the Cable Guy on the History Channel. What is Larry the Cable Guy doing on the History Channel? Same thing Ax Men, Top Gear, Pawn Stars, American Pickers and all the other generic reality TV shows are doing there.

What about A&E which is pushing what looks like a weight loss reality tv show, along with Dog the Bounty Hunter, Storage Wars and more crap than you can shake a stick at. Or The Learning Channel which has American Chopper, Sarah Palin’s Alaska, Cake Boss, What Not To Wear and Toddlers and Tiaras.

Is there any kind of brand in all this madness? How do you tell which show should be associated with A&E, TLC or the History Channel. You can’t. It’s all the same crap. SyFy has Ghost Hunters, Hollywood Treasure, Marcel’s Quantum Kitchen and WWE Smackdown (but don’t worry, they canceled Stargate Universe so no one starts associating them with Science Fiction).

It’s like no channel has a brand anymore, just a collection of crap filmed by people with a camera that they hope someone will watch. Half of cable programming is now the same kind of thing you can find on YouTube but with better advertising, lighting and marketing.

No Law is Enough

In New York, a bill is pending in the legislature’s transportation committee that would ban the use of mobile phones, iPods or other electronic devices while crossing streets — runners and other exercisers included.

I’m trying to get a grip on how crazy this is and coming up short. How would you even enforce this beast? Arrest and ticket anyone wearing a bluetooth device or earphones? Require people to remove them when crossing the street.

The New York bill was proposed by State Senator Carl Kruger, a Brooklyn Democrat who has grown alarmed by the amount of distraction he sees on the streets in his neighborhood and across New York City. Since September, Mr. Kruger wrote in the bill, three pedestrians have been killed and one was critically injured while crossing streets and listening to music through headphones.

“We’re taught from knee-high to look in both directions, wait, listen and then cross,” he said. “You can perform none of those functions if you are engaged in some kind of wired activity.”

Actually you can. Kruger may not be able to. People today routinely listen to music while walking. Being hit by a car while listening to music is not proof of anything, except the laws of probability. This bill will probably go nowhere, but Kruger will show that he’s actively engaged or whatever he’s trying to show. Penalizing drivers for talking and driving might be a thing, because they’re in control of huge masses of metal moving at high speeds. No pedestrian has ever run into a car.

Violators would be required to appear in court, and revenue from the $100 fines would go to a fund to educate people on the dangers of device distractions, the senator said.

I have a better idea. How about a 100 dollar fine for Senators who propose nuisance legislation. The revenue from the fines would go into a fund to educate on how to do their jobs.

Rewriting Huckleberry Finn

You probably already know the story, if you don’t, go here. Bottom line, a prof is doing a version of Huckleberry Finn without a particular racial slur attached to Jim’s name. Critics say it misses the point. And it probably does.

Huckleberry Finn was anti-racist, but like Uncle Tom’s Cabin, it was also racist. It’s not the story of Jim, and at no point in the book is Jim really anything like an equal. He has that much in common with Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Huckleberry Finn is still a great book and it’s worth teaching. It’s more worth teaching than most of the books that do get taught. And unlike Merchant of Venice or The Good Earth, at least it was an unintentional racism by a man living at a time when slavery was a reality, and was speaking out against the degradation of other human beings.

Huckleberry Finn and The Red Badge of Courage are some of the few accessible books that can actually be taught because they capture the gritty reality of a period. Should that gritty reality be censored? Isn’t that the same reason we’re not supposed to censor rap music? Does censoring Huckleberry Finn make it more accessible? It might make it less accessible. It’ll offend fewer people, but add enough black bars and bleeps and what’s left doesn’t feel relevant anymore.

Has the New York Public Library given up on books?

I went into a public library yesterday and there were no books at all on the first floor. There were shelves and shelves of DVD’s. Shelves of audio books. Shelves of magazines and an entire section dedicated to reserved books. But to find any books to browse, you had to go up to the 2nd floor. That was the first time I saw it this bad, but it wasn’t completely new to me either.

Lately I’ve been seeing libraries pushing books to the side. In many libraries, even new books sections have been pushed aside to make way for DVD shelves and Reserved books sections. Both are strange, because the DVD market is flat and DVD’s will be completely gone in a few years. And getting rid of new books to make way for reserves is like a store wiping out its display shelves for browsers and replacing them with material that was already pre-ordered. It’s one of the worst screw ups possible. Audio books are almost as strange, how much of a future do they have, when most people listen on their media players, and there’s hardly any market for portable CD players.

This can’t be blamed on budget cuts. Not when libraries are lending out laptops to users. It’s a perverse way for libraries to try and remain relevant because they think no one reads anymore. At least not printed books. And if no one reads anymore, than who needs libraries. It’s a valid argument, and a stupid one. Are we really going to spend millions of dollars maintaining the equivalent of Blockbuster as a public service? I don’t think so. The library is less relevant than it used to be, but it’s not irrelevant unless those who run it make it so.

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