So recently, I have been entertaining and informing myself about marijuana. The relevant book is Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire, in which it consumes a chapter (see also the transcript of a lecture he gave at Berkeley). We’ve also been watching the Showtime comedy Weeds, in large doses. And there’s an article in the New York Times by David Samuels on Prop 420 in California.
Normally incapable of making decisions for myself, I usually turn to critics to tell me what to think about things I haven’t experienced yet. My only real dilemma now is trying to figure out which critics to listen to. Oh, how I wish someone would start reviewing film critics, so that I can know what to think about their reviews before I even read them. Eventually, I hope to never have to experience anything for myself again.
Okay, fine, seeing a movie in a theater is growing increasingly expensive, and I can see how people might want advice before slapping down ten or twelve bucks to see something that they might find spectacularly uninteresting or outright horrible. The theater experience is nice and all, but it’s ridiculous to pay just as much (or often more) to see a film once as it is to just wait a few months and actually buy the damn thing on DVD. If you have a Netflix account, then it’s even cheaper. (I’m working up a post on how DVDs and the internet are breaking the current model studios have, but that’s for another time.) But film critics are the fucking worst.
While claiming to hate formulaic blockbusters, critics are even less open toward films that don’t follow the traditional storytelling formula. They can bitch all they want about lack of originality, but it means little when that originality comes along and they hate it for not respecting the expectable boundaries they’ve grown to feel cinema should have. It seems they’ve conflated “palatable” with “good”, and that’s a really inaccurate perspective to have.
Southland Tales seems to have received a large number of unfavorable or condemning reviews. As of this writing, it has 35% on RottenTomatoes, with 41% among the “Cream of the Crop”, and if you’re lazy enough (and, shit, we all are, or film reviewers would be out of jobs), you can check the numbers, dismiss it, and move on. But if you actually read the individual reviews themselves, it becomes clear that we’re getting our opinions from abject fucking morons.
Let’s take ol’ Rodge-Podge Ebert, one of the “Cream of the Crop” reviewers and unfortunately a household name:
“A Schwarzeneggerian actor, related to a political dynasty, has been kidnapped, replaced with a double, and — I give up. A plot synopsis would require that the movie have a plot.”
Hey, Roger: Note that the movie is called Southland Tales, not Southland Tale. LEARN TO UNDERSTAND MORE THAN A SINGLE, PAINFULLY-CLEAR PLOT THREAD. This may require maybe READING A MOTHERFUCKING BOOK SOMETIME, WHEREIN MULTIPLE INTERRELATED PLOT THREADS ARE COMMON.
Then we have informative snippets — again from the “Cream of the Crop” critics — like:
Spending $12 and 2 1/2 hours (30 minutes less than the Cannes cut) on something as aggressively bad as Southland Tales is not something I can recommend with a clear conscience.
Well, that sure the fuck is informative. Replace “Southland Tales” with basically anything else, and take out the specific and equally uninformative Cannes reference, and it could describe it just as well. So this Lou Lumenick is effectively useless, though that’s not entirely unexpected for the New York Post.
By the time the movie rolls into its third hour, it’s exhausted most of its comic energy, leaving you disoriented and unable to remember much of what you just saw.
Hey, you might want to ditch that PDA and learn how to use your temporal lobe again, if you’re having that much of a problem storing short-term memories.
Even the positive reviews seem like they were scrawled on padded cell walls by aggressively stupid chuckleheads. The fact that the movie seems to be actively and intentionally seeking unfavorable reviews is no excuse, and doesn’t detract from my point that film critics aren’t to be trusted. Don’t even take my word for how incredible the movie is — and it is, in fact, one of my favorite movies, but I’m not going to spurt all over it to you to try to convince you — just don’t not see it just because a bunch of film critic douchebags think it’s not good.
(CAUTION: RIFE WITH SPOILERS) I’ll be tucking most of the review behind the fold, so that anyone who hasn’t seen the movie yet and is planning to won’t end up accidentally skimming, on their way scrolling down the page to other content, any of the extremely predictable or else unpredictable but totally arbitrary plot contrivances I’ll be mentioning.
On its surface, it’s a really, really pretty film. All the visual elements are very appealing (aside from this really stupid and needless effect near the end, and Cillian Murphy’s ghastly, waxy doll face), and the cinematography, while not necessarily groundbreaking, conveyed all the space is empty, sun is warm, death is scary whatever you’d expect.
The science veers a little toward goofy at times (just like in The Core (*shudder, light retch*), the solution is “I know! Let’s blow it up!” which just seems kinda silly when dealing with the sun), but it’s all generally plausible and I’m willing to give it to them and let my disbelief dangle a little. I’ll even allow the idea of sending humans instead of just letting robots take care of it. I’m even willing to grant them the whole “artificial gravity” thing, which is something particularly annoying in scifi films.
The problem is that Alex Garland extrapolated this “suspension of disbelief” requirement throughout the film as a whole. Not only does he expect you to grant him the somewhat sketchy theoretical science, but nearly every element of the plot relies on the audience’s ability to swallow one link after another in a chain of completely contrived events and character actions. From characters’ decisions to the ship’s very design, the whole movie seems to be one enormous contrivance for the express purpose of killing people off.
Let’s start at the beginning, as it serves as an ironic layup for the ridiculousness to follow. About ten minutes into the film, the crew discovers that the first attempt at this same project, the Icarus I, wasn’t actually destroyed, but is instead in orbit around the sun. They have a meeting to discuss their options: Do they adjust course to intercept the first Icarus, which would give them a second warhead in case they fuck up the first time, or do they continue along, get the mission over with, and not risk the potential hazards of deviation? At first, someone suggests a democratic vote, and then someone else goes into this whole thing about “no, we’re scientists, dammit, and we’re going to think like scientists. We’re going to get all the information, and we’re going to make an informed decision, because we’re scientists.” Which is all fine and everything (though, the scifi movie cliché way it was all phrased made me giggle a little), except for the fact that for the rest of the movie, everyone goes around making the absolute dumbest fucking decisions imaginable.
(Profoundly retarded spoilers after the fold.)
This isn’t technically a review, as the film in question has yet to be released, but even having only seen the preview, I feel comfortable condemning the upcoming homophobic, obligatory-until-his- increasingly-unfunny-career- finally,-finally-dies Adam Sandler summer “comedy” I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry without even needing to see it.
The rough synopsis I was able to gather from the preview runs as follows: There are two straight roommates, Chuck and Larry, who want the benefits of domestic partnership without actually having to be gay. Their domestic partnership is challenged by the government, as there are doubts about the authenticity of their claims about their homosexuality. Adam Sandler’s character (it doesn’t matter which one he plays as they’re both the stereotyped White Male Character always playing the lead in these shitheaded films) lusts after the woman investigating their partnership, but he’s tormented by the fact that he can’t actually pursue her. HILARITY ENSUES.
This whole thing is awful on so many levels. Right out of the gate with the general premise, they play into the conservative anti-gay-marriage argument about how “but… but… but… ANY two guys could get the benefits of a domestic partnership regardless of whether they were truly gay”, reinforcing the outright fucking retarded fears of conservatives and people who are “on the fence” about gay marriage. I can only imagine how many morons there are out there who’ll watch this, think “OH MY GOD, IT’S REALLY POSSIBLE” and then vote against gay marriage initiatives because of this potential “problem”. Of course, nobody seems to give half a shit about the number of straight people who get married and aren’t actually in love. Two roommates in possession of different sets of genitals could just as easily get married for the benefits without wanting anything to do with each other beyond that.
Then there’s the idea of the state investigating someone’s partnership because of the validity of their homosexuality, which is completely ridiculous. Apparently the sentiment of the filmmakers seems to be that this should be part of any domestic partnership law, that the state should be able to challenge you whenever it feels you’re not being gay enough. Which is a sentiment that, if it doesn’t already exist in the public, I’m sure this movie will help to propagate. How many marriages are subject to the same level of scrutiny? How many people are investigated for not being straight enough? Can your marriage be revoked by the government if you’re not fucking your wife or husband often enough, or if you have sex with other people, or if you have sex with — *gasp* — someone who has genitals that match your very own!?
Homosexuality itself is twisted into a grotesquerie, seemingly written with a total obliviousness to human sexuality in general. According to the film, men who are sexually and emotionally attracted to other men can ONLY be attracted to other men. Any attraction to women at all somehow indicates one isn’t really gay but just pretending. Apparently, the writers of this movie have never heard of, erm, bisexuals. Also illustrative of a complete lack of understanding of human sexuality is the notion that polyamory isn’t compatible with marriage-like relationships, and that either partner having sex with anyone else would render the partnership invalid. There are plenty of heterosexual marriages where, if one partner wanted to have sex with someone else, the other partner would be okay with it. So why couldn’t the same attitudes be present in a homosexual marriage or domestic partnership? Apparently, the writers have never heard of open relationships, either.
I have no intention of ever actually seeing this film. I abhor the attitudes present in the writing, which will inevitably scoot their way through the dusty air of darkened theaters into the heads of many idiot viewers. Sure, nobody’s going to force anyone who doesn’t want to see it to watch this film, but that’s sort of a specious argument in this case. The kinds of people who are likely to watch this film are exactly the ones who shouldn’t, as their prejudices and dipshit perspectives will only be reinforced by the nightmarish, Orwellian “The Great Eye of America should be in the bedroom of every homosexual couple” world depicted. They will be influenced to oppose gay marriage and domestic partnership legislation because of fears of sham-marriage scams that already take place every day with straight marriages.
This is a movie that should never see the light of a film projector. It’s yet another arbitrary, lowest-common-denominator, turdlike stream of celluloid shitting out of the leviathan anus of modern production companies, bloated from the gluttonous symbiotic feeding relationship they’ve developed with sheeplike viewers who’ll feed the monster dollars to eat up nearly anything that it’ll shit back out without any consideration paid to the message endorsed.
Then again, perhaps it’ll all turn out to be a totally ironic and intelligent take on the entire fascist concept. Wait, no… no it won’t.
Though many claim the number of villains in this film detracted from the overall composition and convoluted the plot, I’m inclined to disagree. I’d have preferred if they’d added at least one more, even, if it meant trimming down all the immature, needless, melodramatic quarreling between Peter and Mary Jane. These scenes were like what middle schoolers scrawl in their diaries about what they feel human emotional interactions are supposed to be like.
Three times in the movie, Mary Jane erupts at Peter because of his attempts to illustrate why he feels he can sympathize with what she’s going through by relating her experiences to his own. Even though she’s fully justified the third time, the first two are roughly the equivalent of: “Ow, goddammit, I broke my leg! Holy shit, does that ever hurt! Peter, I could use some emotional support, here!” “You’re going to be okay, trust me. I broke my leg once, and it healed up pretty quickly. Hurts a lot when it first breaks, but after they get you set up with a cast, you’ll be fine.” “IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT YOU, ISN’T IT? THIS ISN’T ABOUT YOU, PETER, IT’S ABOUT ME, AND UNTIL YOU CAN UNDERSTAND THAT, I’M NOT SURE WHERE I STAND WITH YOU!” Only, instead of her actually mentioning breaking her leg to him, she hides it from him and expects him to figure out how to comfort her, telling him only “I feel bad, you have no idea what it’s like”. Seriously. I’m not kidding. It’s just like that.
Given the caliber of the writing, it’s no surprise that lack of substance was padded out with sheer quantity. While the number of characters did indeed detract a little from the individual character development for each, again examining the quality of writing I’m not really sure if getting rid of one or two would’ve made things any better. Likely, you’d have wound up with a bunch of scenes where Eddie Brock and Peter have dinner together to have a big, melodramatic discussion about the fact that Peter doesn’t seem to care enough about Eddie’s career, or where the Sandman sings at Spider-Man in the jazz club to explain about his sick daughter.
Speaking of singing: I’ve enjoyed Kirsten Dunst in many things, especially Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Though she’s no Michael Caine or anything, her acting skills are definitely worthy of the screen. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for her singing voice. It’s not that she’s necessarily bad at it, it’s just that she’s mediocre to an extent that it brings nothing to the film to have her sing. One can only wonder why they devoted so much screen time to it — she either has an agent who adores her, or an agent who has a deep, salty hatred for all film audiences everywhere. While needlessly wading through her earlier musical number (yes, there are more than one) as the film laboriously churned itself into running through an overlong and needlessly expository introduction that triggered the “I’m going to dislike this film” sensor way too early, I almost felt embarrassed for every person sitting in the theater, myself included, likely drawn into a kind of empathy with them through our undoubtedly synchronized series of winces. This is all after a far too lengthy opening credits sequence that needlessly summarized, in clips playing in frames in the webbing, everything that happened in the last two movies.
The soundtrack was heavy-handed and at times nearly absurd. During a scene where Peter triumphantly retrieves his suit from a luggage chest, I found myself incapable of determining whether the music sounded more like an African adventure or high-school graduation. Honestly, I expected more from Christopher Young, especially with such original soundtrack classics under his belt as Urban Legend, Hellraiser: Resurrection, The Core, The Grudge, Beauty Shop, and Ghost Rider. Someone needs to tell him that NOT EVERY SECOND OF THE FILM NEEDS TO HAVE MUSIC PLAYING, and that often, the contrasts between the presence and absence of music can have just as much impact as the musical composition in itself.
Peter becomes unintentionally hilarious after exposure to the black suit. He just gets so. Fucking. Emo. It’s like the black ooze was grease squeezed out of Morrissey’s hair after a bukakke fest with My Chemical Romance. Quoting Janet’s reaction in the theater, “my god! He’s become Fallout-of-windows Boy!” We couldn’t help but snicker whenever we saw his goofy eye liner. Another hilarious (though non emo-specific) scene is when he approaches Mary Jane on this bridge with a bouquet of flowers and tells her, “here, peonies” with an inflection that makes it sound like he’s saying “here, pee on these”.
The absolute cheesiest part, though – and I’m not sure if Sam Raimi did this ironically – is when Peter is swinging toward the final battle, and he briefly lands on a rooftop in front of an American flag the size of a goddamned skyscraper. That this happens nearly immediately after the “Peter graduates from high school” part of the soundtrack isn’t much help. The formulaic, telegraphed ending is nearly as cheesy, but this scene manages to narrow it out of the top spot simply with superfluous patriotism. It’s not like the Sandman was Osama Bin Laden, or Venom was reincarnated Hitler (though maybe Marvel can pull out a “What If…?” where they actually are), and it doesn’t necessarily matter that this is taking place in America, or that Peter Parker is an American citizen. It’s just goofy.
In all, it’s mostly a failure, topping off what had been until this a fantastic series with an empty, overblown shell of a film. I guess you can’t really expect much subtlety or nuance from an action film, but given the quality of the previous two, you know you can expect more than this. While it wasn’t entirely unenjoyable, to claim this movie was a disappointment would be one of the best things I could say about it.
Game review below the fold.
As reader Tim brought to my attention in the comments on Here, Kitty Kitty, there exists a compilation of nine short films ironically based on the works of Jack T. Chick, and it’s available for purchase on DVD. Obviously, I couldn’t resist, and I bought a copy as soon as I found out about it. I advise you all to do the same.
There are nine different Tract-inspired films, each roughly ten minutes in length: Bewitched?, La Princesita, Doom Town, Titanic, Angels?, Wounded Children, Party Girl, Cleo, and Somebody Goofed. The scripts follow the Tracts nearly verbatim, and the shots often replicate the panel layouts almost precisely. Of course, they’re all deliberately campy and melodramatic in such a way that emphasizes the absurdity of the Tracts themselves, and the result is hilarious. I strongly recommend this to everyone who enjoys the Chick Dissections.
There’s implication on the website that they’re working on a sequel. I’m feeling somewhat inspired and might consider trying to film a Tract myself, but I’m not yet sure which one it would be.
Anyway, see it.
While it’s no question the games for this system will be unparalleled in their realism (er, well, except by those released for the XBox 360), and will likely be a great deal of fun, and one can justifiably have a lot of faith in the quality of the continuations of beloved series (Metal Gear Solid, Silent Hill, etc), Sony’s approach with this system is deplorable, and I can only hope they find themselves toppled from their throne with this generation of consoles. If not, one can only imagine the level to which their hubris will ascend for the next generation.
The greatest sin is this: There was no reason for them to jam Blu-Ray into this machine, other than to force fans of the console to choose Blu-Ray over HD-DVD. Given Sony’s history with installing Rootkits and other fun, malicious, non-consensual goodies all in the name of “copyright protection”, one can only imagine what sinister horrors are lurking on the underside of a Blu-Ray disc. Plus, the drive itself, from what I’ve read, added over two hundred dollars to the retail price of the machine at its release price. Considering this bumped the price from what is expected and typical for new consoles up into unprecedented territory with very little added benefit, it was an unnecessary “enhancement”. Not to mention the limitations it imposed on production numbers.
They’ll play this up, by the way, to be some kind of huge deal for you, the consumer. In fact, you can probably read above something along the lines of “A standalone Blu-Ray player would probably cost $1,000!” But considering you’re being railroaded in to “choosing” Blu-Ray, the fact that they’re guaranteeing themselves Blu-Ray customers more than makes up for whatever reductions in retail price for a Blu-Ray player they may be making.
I don’t expect this will sway any of the die-hard fans from camping out at their local electronics retailers, or spending twice as much for the system via various auctioning sites, but anyone on the fence should reconsider buying this system, at least initially. Wait until the price drops in about six months and get it then. The initial impact in demand will perhaps send a message to Sony that they should maybe reconsider the assumption that their customers will eagerly eat from right out of their hands whatever they feel like feeding them.
Get your kid a Wii if they want a console for Christmas. They’re not going to hate you for it, and if they do or you genuinely fear they might, then perhaps you need to consider the kind of person you’ve been raising them to be.
Many may not know this, but this film wasn’t even originally based on Asimov’s I, Robot. It was instead based on a script called Hardwired, written by Jeff Vintar. The studios acquired the rights to Asimov’s stuff afterward, and altered the script and title to include some sparse elements – mostly names and the concept of “Three Laws Safe” – from the book.
The film itself bears almost no resemblance to the book beyond the superficial, and seems to exhibit almost the reverse of Asimov’s intentions. The people involved with this movie took an interesting concept of a future with implementation of Artificial Intelligence in humanoid machines, and turned it into yet another “HOLY CRAP FEAR ROBOTS!!!111!ONEONESIETE” story that’s been done a thousand times before, most of them in much more interesting and creative ways. Hooray for fortifying our society’s already overdeveloped phobia of technology!
A disappointment. Of course, I’m not really sure if I expected much more from it. Maybe someday Hollywood will be able to cinematize a novel and not completely ruin it on its way to the screen, like it was passed through the digestive system of some bloated, corporate, pander-to-the-lowest-common-denominator monster. Then again, maybe someday kangaroos will colonize the moon, and we’ll figure out a way to convert cancer into solid gold tablets of pure magic.
Buy a book instead. After all, your DVD player might eat you!
One quick thing about Three Laws Safe: The hardest part about implementing such a thing would be getting robots to understand what, exactly, constitutes “harm” with regard to humans. What if they, for instance, try to change our batteries? Or weld our parts back on? Oil us?
And we’re back. Sorry for the extended break–we had some issues with the installation of internet access and such.
Since the last installation, it looks like John has released another list of fifty more songs to add to his goofy little “conservative rock” kick. And it looks like that one is even worse.
Also, Pete Townshend, classic rock’s favorite pervert, has written a response regarding the inclusion of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” in the original list.
Anyway, I have lost time for which to make up, so on to the next installment.
21. “Heroes,” by David Bowie.
A Cold War love song about a man and a woman divided by the Berlin Wall. No moral equivalence here: “I can remember / Standing / By the wall / And the guns / Shot above our heads / And we kissed / As though nothing could fall / And the shame / Was on the other side / Oh we can beat them / For ever and ever.”
“And the shame was on the other side” doesn’t necessarily imply blame either way, really. This couple could’ve been living on either side. The wall did in fact have two sides, you know…
In any event, this is again with the same silly “liberals weren’t happy when the Berlin Wall fell” bullshit that’s becoming a recurring theme throughout this list. It’s only a conservative ideal to be happy at the overthrow of a fascist regime. Awww, why’d you have to go and topple the Third Reich?
22. “Red Barchetta,” by Rush.
In a time of “the Motor Law,” presumably legislated by green extremists, the singer describes family reunion and the thrill of driving a fast car Ã¢â‚¬â€ an act that is his “weekly crime.”
Wow, it turns out many Philip K. Dick stories are conservative stories because they, too, depict dystopian futures with fascist laws.
“[P]resumably,” John, let’s go with that. This entire list seems to operate on presumption, of a particularly ridiculous and fallacious nature: Liberals love fascist regimes, and are disappointed and upset when those regimes are overthrown; liberals hate vehicular transportation; liberals are authoritarian, and conservatives never try to make laws banning personal freedom. (Pssst: the Republican Party–which comprises the vast majority of conservatism–is on the whole not Libertarian, John!)
I’m sure I’m not the only liberal who likes cars or finds them useful. But there’s a social responsibility that goes along with it, and given that motor vehicles consume a very limited resource, and that they do, in fact, expel waste products that are detrimental to the environment, it’s the kind of situation where one can’t leave “good enough” alone. Improvements can be made, and it’s insanely short-sighted and irresponsible not to strive toward those improvements, and just plain stupid to actively petition against them. “Showing concern for the environment? Why, that’s a terrible thing! What kind of a liberal monster would ever even consider worrying about rising global temperatures that may very well wipe out massive clumps of the human race?”
23. “Brick,” by Ben Folds Five.
Written from the perspective of a man who takes his young girlfriend to an abortion clinic, this song describes the emotional scars of “reproductive freedom”: “Now sheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s feeling more alone / Than she ever has before. . . . As weeks went by / It showed that she was not fine.”
Nobody ever said abortion was a fairytale romp through candy cane forests and gumdrop rivers, where it rains Skittles and everybody shits lollipops. Nobody ever said that women who use abortion as a primary method of birth control were to be venerated and idolized.
What? You mean, there are situations that have emotional complexity? Buh-whah?
Hey, hey, hey… I know! Why doesn’t Rush write a song about a young girl visiting her uncle’s farm after The Abortion Law was passed, where he has his own little abortion clinic under a tarp in the barn?
24. “Der Kommissar,” by After the Fire.
On the misery of East German life: “DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t turn around, uh-oh / Der KommissarÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s in town, uh-oh / HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s got the power / And youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re so weak / And your frustration / Will not let you speak.” Also a hit song for Falco, who wrote it.
Liberals <3 Fascism!
25. “The Battle of Evermore,” by Led Zeppelin.
The lyrics are straight out of Robert PlantÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Middle Earth period Ã¢â‚¬â€ there are lines about “ring wraiths” and “magic runes” Ã¢â‚¬â€ but for a song released in 1971, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hard to miss the Cold War metaphor: “The tyrantÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s face is red.”
Wait a second, what? You’ve never heard that expression before? “Boy, is my face red,” someone would say, after doing something embarrassing, like accidentally urinating into their own sock drawer or making a list of fifty conservative rock songs that have very non-specific, vague interpretations of seemingly forced references or something. What, John, are you going to include the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black” because it has the line “I see a red door and I want it painted black”? I’m not saying that there isn’t necessarily a metaphor, but there could very well not be, given that that’s an extremely common expression having nothing to do with Communism.
Anyway, according to Tolkien himself, Middle Earth was a very, very, very ancient Europe, and apparently we’re now living in the… what, Fifth Age? Seventh Age? Something like that. But, yeah, the books themselves have a World War II/World War I metaphor–that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re conservative books.
26. “Capitalism,” by Oingo Boingo.
“ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s nothing wrong with Capitalism / ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s nothing wrong with free enterprise. . . . YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re just a middle class, socialist brat / From a suburban family and you never really had to work.”
What’s wrong with Capitalism is that it operates on the assumption that hard work will always result in proportional reward, and that is demonstrably not the case. If there truly were nothing wrong with Capitalism, for instance, Ford wouldn’t have had to lay off a quarter of their workforce within the last year. And we wouldn’t have antitrust laws and the like that try to limit the extremely detrimental-to-business-and-consumers-alike effects of pure Capitalism.
By the way, it’s just as wrong/insane/idealistic/whatever to believe that pure Capitalism is good and would work flawlessly as it is to believe that pure Communism is good and would work flawlessly.
Though this song, of course, is more about the types of people who attach themselves to trendy causes because they’re trendy and not because they actually care. I know some Nader supporters like that. Not all corporate products are evil, people!
Despite the fact that many of the lyrics in this do, in fact, come the closest so far to having a conservative message, the song itself bashes hypocrisy more than it does, say, socialists. That is, it’s pretty jackassy for upper-middle-class kids living in suburban mansions with their parents to claim to be all socialist or to understand the plight of the working class and such.
Which is why very few frat-boy-from-rich-family politicians are at all convincing when they talk about being “for the working class”.
27. “Obvious Song,” by Joe Jackson.
For property rights and economic development, and against liberal hypocrisy: “There was a man in the jungle / Trying to make ends meet / Found himself one day with an axe in his hand / When a voice said Ã¢â‚¬ËœBuddy can you spare that tree / We gotta save the world Ã¢â‚¬â€ starting with your landÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ / It was a rock Ã¢â‚¬â„¢nÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ roll millionaire from the USA / Doing three to the gallon in a big white car / And he sang and he sang Ã¢â‚¬â„¢til he polluted the air / And he blew a lot of smoke from a Cuban cigar.”
Wait a second, so now liberals are the ones driving gas-guzzling automobiles? But I thought… with that Rush song a few songs back… I… mruph. “[H]ypocrisy,” huh?
He makes it sound like these fat, arrogant, rock star liberals are just running around wanting to take the rainforests away from these poor rainforest landowners and not, y’know, multinational corporations.
28. “JanieÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Got a Gun,” by Aerosmith.
How the right to bear arms can protect women from sexual predators: “What did her daddy do? / ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s JanieÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s last I.O.U. / She had to take him down easy / And put a bullet in his brain / She said Ã¢â‚¬â„¢cause nobody believes me / The man was such a sleaze / He ainÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t never gonna be the same.”
This is a song about incestual rape, actually. She could’ve just as easily slit his throat in his sleep, or poisoned him covertly over the course of a week, but that wouldn’t have made as catchy or dramatic a song. It’s also more about how people ignore domestic abuse, and either don’t believe or in some cases even blame the victim. She wouldn’t have had to have killed him if people would’ve listened to her. In fact, this seems more like a criticism of law enforcement.
There are plenty of pro-firearm liberals. There’s truth to the cliche, oversimplified bumper-sticker-slogan “if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns”. But, like with most things, there must be the necessary safeguards in place to prevent really horrible things from happening. There need to be limits. We don’t give driver’s licenses to blind people, and we shouldn’t sell guns to crazy people. It’s not rocket science, and it isn’t too much to ask for there to be background checks to ensure we aren’t handing over a couple M1911A1s to Rodney Rapist or Suzie Suicide.
This seems to be a recurring theme, this “personal freedom without the associated responsibility” thing. That’s much more dangerous an idealism than just about anything us lefties have thought up. “I want to make as much money as I possibly can, but without the social responsibility to the people who get fucked over in the process. I want to have a gun, but I don’t want to have to deal with anyone making sure I’m not going to walk directly over to the nearest elementary school and open fire. I want to drive my Hummer2 as much as I want, wherever I want, but I don’t want to even be reminded of environmental responsibility.” This entire perspective/ideology seems to appeal to people who want to be children forever.
29. “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” by Iron Maiden.
A heavy-metal classic inspired by a literary classic. How many other rock songs quote directly from Samuel Taylor Coleridge?
So, wait, why is this a conservative song? Because it’s a literary classic? I don’t get it.
30. “You CanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t Be Too Strong,” by Graham Parker.
Although itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not explicitly pro-life, this tune describes the horror of abortion with bracing honesty: “Did they tear it out with talons of steel, and give you a shot so that you wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t feel?”
(See also: 23. “Brick,” by Ben Folds Five) I wonder how many songs have been written about families that get all fucked up because the mother didn’t decide to get an abortion? Or the people who regret it? Or the thousands of other alternative scenarios that could take place? There’s an emotional impact either way; stop oversimplifying such a complex and soul-wrenching issue into “BABY KILLER!”
Next installment: 31-40, now out of 100!
So, it turns out that Amanda from Pandagon has also done a breakdown of a random sampling of the Top Fifty. So check that out, if you haven’t already.
Jonathan Swift has put up his own personal (and quite funny) version of the list. I’d have included Pink Floyd’s anti-immigration, anti-gay-marriage-rights, anti-marijuana-legalization, pro-Second Amendment ballad “In the Flesh”:
Are there any queers in the theater tonight? / Get ‘em up against the wall. / There’s one in the spotlight, now he don’t look right to me. / Get ‘im up against the wall. / That one looks Jewish! / That one’s a coon! / Who let all this riff-raff into the room? / There’s one smoking a joint! / And another one’s got spots! / If I had my way, I’d have all of you shot!
But that’s just me. Anyway, on to songs 11 to 20:
11. “The Trees,” by Rush.
Before there was Rush Limbaugh, there was Rush, a Canadian band whose lyrics are often libertarian. What happens in a forest when equal rights become equal outcomes? “The trees are all kept equal / By hatchet, axe, and saw.”
Ah, Ayn Rand: Noblest and most socially responsible of all philosophers. I heard a great critique of Objectivism about five years ago, went something like: “If Ayn Rand was being raped, would she scream for help?”
It’s not that Libertarianism is bad, it’s that this particular kind of it is–this Ayn Randish, “every man for himself” bullshit idealism. So what’s wrong with this kind of Libertarianism? I’ll let Zompist provide the in-depth answer to that one.
I suppose if one applies the metaphor a little more literally, this could also be taken to VERY conservative extremes, in a “don’t hate us because our race/religion/etc. is better than yours” way.
The thing is, one could just as easily approach this song from a Harrison Bergeron (by Kurt Vonnegut) perspective, and interpret it as referring to individuals’ talents, abilities, intelligence, etc. Why does it have to always be about money and taxes? It takes a bit of a stretch of the metaphor to say “Oaks are the ones with more money, and Maples are the poor”.
Or, hell, I could even see this song applied to the “Evolution vs. Creationism” debate: The Oaks are professors and scientists who have gathered and repeatedly tested data and have a lot to stand on, whereas the Maples are proponents of creationism, bitching because their hypotheses aren’t seeing the light of day.
12. “Neighborhood Bully,” by Bob Dylan.
A pro-Israel song released in 1983, two years after the bombing of IraqÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s nuclear reactor, this ironic number could be a theme song for the Bush Doctrine: “He destroyed a bomb factory, nobody was glad / The bombs were meant for him / He was supposed to feel bad / HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the neighborhood bully.”
On first reading, I mentally displaced a word and thought he said “this number” could be “an ironic theme song” for the Bush Administration, and it threw me. First, because with the song itself being ironic, I had to work through a kind of double-negative irony, and second because it would mean a conservative was using the term “irony” in an appropriate context, when usually the concept is about as foreign to them as Jacques Derrida giving a lecture on women’s equality in alternating Cantonese, Finnish and Aramaic to a colony of Martians.
In actuality, he says it’s “an ironic number” that “could be a theme song”, which is, well, wrong. I suppose it could work, if there was even a tiny scrap of evidence justifying the original intentions for going to war in Iraq. And don’t give me that bullshit about Poor Baby Bush, world out to get him. “What he gets he must pay for,” my ass. Has that mouthfuck ever had to suffer the consequences of any of his actions or decisions?
The lyrics, in their entirety, can be found here, by the way. I’m really not seeing “theme song for Bush” in there, and I think Dylan himself would agree.
Anyway, in my initial confusion, I started thinking about other ironic theme songs for the Bush Administration. Something more along the lines of, say, “Believe It or Not”, the theme song for “The Greatest American Hero”. Though, there are lines that are disturbingly fitting in a completely unironic way: “Suddenly I’m up on top of the world / it should’ve been somebody else,” for instance.
13. “My City Was Gone,” by The Pretenders.
Virtually every conservative knows the bass line, which supplies the theme music for LimbaughÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s radio show. But the lyrics also display a Jane Jacobs sensibility against central planning and a conservativeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s dissatisfaction with rapid change: “I went back to Ohio / But my pretty countryside / Had been paved down the middle / By a government that had no pride.”
Wait a minute, this doesn’t make sense. Why would conservatives complain about a government that favors business over the environment?
“Sensibility against central planning”? What, like local governments never do shitty things? You know, larger government is better if for no other reason than the fact that, as easy as it is for organizations or wealthy individuals or groups to put local/state politicians in their pockets, it’s far more difficult to buy out the entire federal government. Now, I’ll concede that if one succeeds, the problem is much larger than it would be on a local level. But I digress.
Anyway, I can’t say for sure, but looking at the lyrics, I’m not seeing any references to “central planning”. In fact, the only direct reference to government at all is just that: “government”. This could technically even refer to the schoolboard, for fuck’s sake.
And she’s not so much talking about “rapid change” as she is talking about “changes that destroy things”. See, this is another completely arbitrary conservative fear: that things will not always be the same. Chances are, they’ll get better, but then they’d be different, and different is bad! There’s no utility to it, or applicability to reality–much llike many other facets of conservative ideology.
What would John say about global warming, a relatively slow-moving change (compared to bulldozing a city and putting in a mall) that’s linked conclusively to human-produced carbon in the atmosphere, which could be curbed but isn’t by the same prideless conservative government that, as described in the song, sides with business over the environment? Speaking of cities being gone… *cough* New Orleans *cough*
14. “Right Here, Right Now,” by Jesus Jones.
The words are vague, but theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re also about the fall of Communism and the end of the Cold War: “I was alive and I waited for this. . . . Watching the world wake up from history.”
And no liberals were at all happy that the Berlin Wall came down. There’s no such thing as a liberal! There are only Republicans and Communists!
And again, Communism as exhibited by Russia, China, et al is not the same as the economic philosophy. But Saddam wasn’t a Communist, yet Saddam committed similar atrocities to those perpetrated by the Communist regimes. But how could he, if it’s Communism that causes them? !?!?!?!?!
But we’ve already been through this.
15. “I Fought the Law,” by The Crickets.
The original law-and-order classic, made famous in 1965 by The Bobby Fuller Four and covered by just about everyone since then.
This song is absolutely in no way about rebellion.
Oh, right, and liberals don’t give a shit at all about punishing people for their crimes.
16. “Get Over It,” by The Eagles.
Against the culture of grievance: “The big, bad world doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t owe you a thing.” ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s also this nice line: “IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d like to find your inner child and kick its little ass.”
If the big, bad world doesn’t owe anyone a thing, then why do conservatives fuckin’ spend so much time bitching about the estate tax? Why do only poor people have to work to earn money? Heirs and heiresses should have to suffer the same fate, yet when they bitch about their poor, unfair lot in life, it’s seen as working for economic justice!
Fuck that. Whiny conservatives are worlds worse than even the whiniest of liberals, because at least the goddamned liberals have something to whine about more than “you mean I only get two of my daddy’s yachts!? That’s not fair! Death tax! Death tax! Rabble! Rabblerabble!”
17. “Stay Together for the Kids,” by Blink 182.
A eulogy for family values by an alt-rock band whose members were raised in a generation without enough of them: “So hereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s your holiday / Hope you enjoy it this time / You gave it all away. . . . ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not right.”
Yeah, your husband might beat the shit out of you, but you’d better stay together for the kids. Otherwise, the value of your family values is suspect. And if your spouse repeatedly cheats on you and humiliates you, that’s totally better for the kids than getting a divorce and ending an unhealthy relationship. Teaching your kids that they can change shitty situations in their lives is a horrible lesson! It’s better to instill in them a deep sense of shame for even considering the notion that they deserve better than to be treated in a degrading way.
Speaking as the child of now divorced parents who are much healthier, happier people apart from each other, I say fuck that.
18. “Cult of Personality,” by Living Colour.
A hard-rocking critique of state power, whacking Mussolini, Stalin, and even JFK: “I exploit you, still you love me / I tell you one and one makes three / IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m the cult of personality.”
Heh, wasn’t that phrase tossed around a bit in the last election? “Cult of personality”? Considering that one of the most important attributes possessed by Bush, according to the conservative voting constituency, was that he was the guy with whom they’d rather drink a beer, I don’t think there’s a lot of ground to stand on for using the term to criticize others.
Speaking of telling people that one and one makes three, what about all the misinformation that led us into war? What about when Bush called U.S. government bonds “worthless I.O.U.s” while trying to convince Americans to support his bullshit Social Security “fix”? Who the fuck is lying to whom, here?
Fortunately, it seems Bush is finally overreaching his ability to slick people over with his winning “down home country boy” bullshit pseudo-cowboy feigned charm.
19. “Kicks,” by Paul Revere and the Raiders.
An anti-drug song that is also anti-utopian: “Well, you think youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re gonna find yourself a little piece of paradise / But it ainÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t happened yet, so girl you better think twice.”
Oh, heaven forbid humanity ever achieves utopia! What kind of liberal savage could ever hope for such a thing? (Which, of course, begs the question: Are conservatives actively working toward dystopia?)
And, wait a second, so now we’re not taking the book of Genesis literally? Will you people make up your fucking minds already?
20. “Rock the Casbah,” by The Clash.
After 9/11, American radio stations were urged not to play this 1982 song, one of the biggest hits by a seminal punk band, because it was seen as too provocative. Meanwhile, British Forces Broadcasting Service (the radio station for British troops serving in Iraq) has said that this is one of its most requested tunes.
I agree that banning (even if only through “urging”) songs is silly, especially considering the media coverage at the time: Would it really have mattered if we were reminded about the attack from a subtly tangible connection to a song’s theme or a particular interpretation of lyrics, or from being perpetually bombarded with the same two minutes of footage of explosions and falling towers dumped at us from everything capable of broadcasting video?
Though, I’m not exactly sure we should be using the tastes of troops in Iraq to determine the value of songs on our radio stations. (“We don’t need no water, let the motherfucker burn.” *shudder*)
In any event, if salivating over the idea of “Rocking” the “Casbah” is considered a conservative ideal, count me the fuck out.
Thus ends another installment of the Hip Conservative Fifty. 21 to 30 in the near future.