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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.

Why Star Trek is Libertarian

Star Trek Enterprise

Abigail Nussbaum at Asking the Wrong Questions says that Star Trek projects American and Western values into the future. Ilya Somin at Volokh Conspiracy says this can’t be because Star Trek is socialist. File this under missing the point.

 

Calling Star Trek socialist, forget defining socialism, it doesn’t matter, because we’re told next to nothing about the local economy. Whatever economy does exist wouldn’t look much like ours in a technological environment where you can make anything if you have enough energy. We hardly see the Federation off the deck of a starship. If our only view of 20th century earth was from the deck of the carrier USS Enterprise, think about the conclusions we would draw.

It’s not just right wingers who think Star Trek is socialist. Roberto Orci stupidly mentioned Budweiser being nationalized by the Federation. (What does nationalized even mean in an interstellar and interspecies alliance?) And why would they bother. That’s the real question. In an economy where the only shortage is energy, why bother controlling the means of production?

There’s no basis for either side. Sure Picard says that we don’t focus on the accumulation of wealth anymore. Obviously. What’s the point of accumulating something you can create in a replicator. Equally obviously, Starfleet uses outside contractors and manufacturers, and if they haven’t been nationalized (federationized?) why would Budweiser be.

What little we do know, is that Earth is an open society and the Federation’s individual planets go their own way. The crews use money, but don’t take it too seriously. About the only thing banned is genetic engineering. The contrast between the Federation and the Romulans, Cardassians and the TOS era Klingons, is that the Federation lets people make their own decisions. That’s the basic idea of the Prime Directive. Is a society that won’t intervene in a pre-warp culture really going to run everyone’s lives for them? Want to join the Federation? No one’s forcing you to. Want to leave, have a nice life.

What is the Federation really? It’s a synthesis of ideals. A libertarian system that encompasses different ideas and beliefs within a vast organization that provides for mutual defense and knowledge sharing, but not domestic control. It assumes that people have improved, but technology is the real game changer here.

In a society where basic needs can be had with a replicator and some solar panels to power it, debates between capitalism and socialism, are as abstract as us debating feudalism and theocracy. It doesn’t matter because we just don’t live that way. The economic pipeline in the 24th century doesn’t look anything like the way it does today. You don’t need Budweiser to get beer. You don’t need to work for Budweiser to be able to drink beer. (Ilya Somin speculating that Starfleet exists to collect taxes is equally off the wall. What taxes? Does Starfleet really need any subsidizing when it creates or discovers new technologies every week.)

The villainous races of Star Trek have been the deniers of agency, from the Borg down to conquering empires like the Klingons and Romulans, and the echoes of Communism and Nazism among the Cardassians. And that puts Star Trek closest to the libertarian corner.

The easiest way to see that is by asking the fundamental question of libertarianism. Will you allow other people to make bad decisions without intervening? That’s the essence of the Prime Directive. It’s the essence of Kirk distinguishing the Federation from the Klingons as the people who will stand by and allow you not to join, even if you have Dilithium that we need.

The Federation not only allows people to make bad decisions, it protects their right to do so. It makes interfering with their right to do so the greatest possible offense. IDIC is not a diversity seminar, it’s a statement of absolute free will. Everyone can choose to be what they want and that will only be for the better.

Star Trek isn’t utopian. It’s full of flawed people and institutions. Sure Next Generation’s view of how things should be was smothering. But it was a view that was rarely enforced on anyone except through inaction and a speech now and then. And it was a view mostly limited to one starship in one era.

If Star Trek had any politics it was left-libertarian, dreaming of a universe where economic realities no longer conflict with the search for knowledge, where the state is reduced to a loose interstellar consensus that the individual can affiliate with through organizations such as Starfleet or ignore most of the time. It may not be all that realistic, but with the emerging trends created by the internet, maybe it’s not so unrealistic after all.

Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson unveil “The Sand Dunes of Dune”

Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson have brought you such fascinating backstory prequel tales of Dune, before you cared about Dune, with novels such as “Paul of Dune”, “The Road to Dune”, “The Sandworms of Dune”, and “The Winds of Dune”. Now finally comes the Dune novel you have all been waiting for that explores Dune at its most elemental element, its dunes. Its dunes of sand. Its sand dunes. Coming in 2010, Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson bring you the Dune prequel novel to end all Dune prequel novels, “The Sand Dunes of Dune.”

You’ve all noticed the sand dunes of Dune. Dune is nothing is not filled with sand dunes. But what is the story of these sand dunes. What fierce passions shaped them? What mortal struggles shook them to the core? And what terrible secrets still lurk deep beneath the feverishly hot sand dunes of Dune?

Award winning writers Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson continue their quest to solve the world’s energy problems by making Frank Herbert turn a full quarter mile inside his grave, with “The Sand Dunes of Dune”. Go back in time to a time before Dune was full of sand dunes. Where did all the sand in the dunes of Dune come from? What is its history and what hopeless destiny lies in its future? What are its thoughts on all the cheap tie in novels that Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson have written about Dune?

Find out the answers to these questions and more in Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson’s “The Sand Dunes of Dune” coming in 2010. And hold your breath for 2011, when Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson will release Dune 9, tentative title, “The Microscopic Microbes of Dune.”

Coming soon.

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