Friday, October 15, 2004

Team America, World Police

Matt Stone and Trey Parker (the brains behind South Park) have served up some puppet theater of cruelty here. The characters in this flick are all puppets, strictly speaking, marionettes. Yep. In a perversely retro gesture, the lads have gone back to Gerry Anderson-style "super-marionation" -- i.e., marionettes as in "Thunder Birds" or "Fireball X-L5," only slightly less crappy. (Screw CGI! We're going back to puppets!) Their animated cartoon characters are wooden. I guess it makes sense.

The movie is gut-bustingly funny. (I saw it with my son Andrew. We were both laughing like insane chimps. I wound up kicking the shit out of the seat in front of me. Probably broke it. The puppet sexcapades almost killed me.) Hilarity aside, the movie is also smart. I don't always agree with it. But it's smart.

The surface satire is Jerry Bruckheimer and his clones. They've taken every over-the-top action flick cliche and put it in a blender. There's your false triumph (exploding Chechens), your all-is-lost moment (projectile vomiting), your painful back stories (child rape by the cast of Cats), a super villain (Kim Jong-Il as a trashtalking gang-banger with a chrome 45.) It's all there. A perfect pitch parody. Hilarious. But they're aiming for more than parody.

On a deeper level, Stone and Parker are making a big statement about American foreign policy. We're the self-appointed policemen of the world. (In this flick, literally.) As policemen go, we're dicks. We blow up shit needlessly, stomp cultural sensibilities and have zero clue about the realities outside America. Hey, we're dicks. Too bad! The world needs a global police force. The world needs dicks. We get the job done. It's a shitty, dirty job, nobody else will do it, so we do it -- and guess what? The rest of the planet (who are all pussies) sticks us with this shitty job -- then, hypocritically, busts our balls for getting the job done. Our hands are clean! America is so arrogant and violent! Yeah, that's what they say -- until assholes like Saddam Hussein or Kim Jong-Il start messing with them and they call us for help. We may be dicks, but they're pussies. Dicks and pussies need each other.

I agree. I've said the same thing. Sort of.

That said, the dick-head world cops in this movie never kill the wrong guy. (Let me spell it out. Killing the wrong guy = invading Iraq for fictitious WMDs. I'm no pacifist. But invading Iraq is idiotic. The Noam Chomsky crowd hates the war because they hate America. I hate the war because it's strategically stupid. Parker and Stone duck the issue.)

Moving on. Their second deep target: Hollywood leftists who reflexively criticize American foreign policy. Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn, Matt Damon, Jeannine Garofalo, George Clooney, the usual suspects. They're all, basically, shitheads with the IQ of an impacted bowel movement. Actors, you know? Their primitive actor logic: America bad; Kim Jong-Il hate America; Kim Jong-Il good. Savage caricatures. Savage deaths.

Yeah. Ha-ha-ha. The deaths are so over-the-top, it blinds your critical response -- Susan Sarandon, splattering like a slab of meat -- obviously Stone and Parker aren't serious; they don't really wanna kill Susan Sarandon. They're just poking fun at Hollywood actors -- sanctimonious jerks; self-appointed, self-righteous spokespersons for the people spouting second-hand opinions they don't understand. What's going on here?

Matt and Trey could be making fun of the Right wing notion that Hollywood actors hate American policy because they hate America. They could actually be saying that Hollywood actors hate American policy because they hate America. I think they probably just hate actors.

Yeah, OK. The dice are supposed to be loaded. It's a caricature. It's satire. Satire ain't supposed to be fair. Fine.

But satire always has a target and a point. Their point? Dumbass, self-important actors and singers should keep their ignorant opinions to themselves. Hey, buddy. You're just a goddamn entertainer. We ain't paying you to spout off about politics. We pay you to act; we pay you to sing. Shut up and sing.

Trey and Parker are cartoonists. They're spouting off about world politics. If entertainers should shut up, they should shut up.

But that's just me and my mania for logical consistency. Logic is so 20th century.

I loved this movie. To be fair, it's not a right wing sledgehammer. Parker and Stone are desperately evenhanded. "We're equal opportunity offenders" is their sacred creed. If you dig into the film, there's plenty of criticism of American arrogance. America, Fuck Yeah! is a nice little satire of knee-jerk patriotism. My fear is, people won't get it.

They'll come out of the theater singing "America, Fuck Yeah!"

Like, I dunno ...


No comments: