Can you make a fear-the-terrorists-love-war movie that’s actually funny?
Reading this post by Scott, and clicking through the links was a cringe-inducing moment that almost made me feel pity for Glenn Reynolds, because he’s such a pathetic wanker. And also pity for conservatives who buy into the idea that they should see “An American Carol” as a “patriotic” duty. (“Patriot” doesn’t mean loving your country so much as battling the meanie liberals, in wingnut speak.) Call me shallow, but I go to movies to be entertained, and if a movie can’t deliver that, I’m not seeing it, no matter how much I share its politics and/or loathing of my political enemies.
Seriously, even the people who are 100% invested in praising this movie to its hilt because they believe that it makes liberals angry that they wasted 2 hours of their lives on this dreck, can’t summon a lot of enthusiasm.* Check out the emails Glenn posted and remember that this is the best he could come up with.
An American Carol has some genuine funny parts, and the silver-haired audience sitting around me enjoyed those parts as much as I did. Come to think of it, my hair is silver too. Some of the slapstick was a little over the top for me, but I don’t take slapstick well. The general theme of the movie is laudable, and I liked the vehicle it was hung on (a July 4th picnic where a grandfather tells his grandkids a parable of sorts)….
I’m not sure political themes translate particularly well into slapstick comedy, but the message was clear: the external threat is being increased by home-grown ‘hate-America-first’ crowd. Also, there were a few script lines early on that were funny, but the audience didn’t seem to ‘get it’….
And the guy trying to convince himself that huge numbers of Americans are setting aside the basic desire to be entertained at a movie to send a message to The Librul Elite: We hate you so much that we will bore ourselves to death expressing it.
I wouldn’t place too much stock in An American Carol’s theatrical performance. It’d be great to see a big box-office number, but where I expect this to do really well is DVD. The studio’ll push it hard on every righty radio show and have ads on the blogs. Watching at home is so much less of a hassle that nowadays, I’m much more likely to click on Amazon and drop 15-20 bucks on a DVD I now own forever than I am to go to the multiplex for what’s become a pretty expensive evening.
As Scott says, the argument that the movie isn’t doing well because “people” don’t go to the movies anymore makes no sense because it’s not doing well relative to other movies. That said, I think it makes a little more sense if you take into account the bitter hatred for their fellow citizens that drives the Wingnutteria. The crowd at any random film that’s done well at the box office will be a mix of liberals, swing voters, apathetic non-voters, people who vote Republican but don’t buy into the belief that terrorists are lurking under every doormat—you know, UnPeople in the wingnut universe.
It’s not impossible for a movie with deplorable right wing politics to nonetheless be hilarious. It’s rare, because the groups “rabid right wingers” and “creative people who can write something funny” are mutually exclusive. However, you do have Matt Stone and Trey Parker, who aren’t rabid right wingers, but do occasionally fall for ridiculous right wing memes that they then regurgitate into their comedy. As such, “Team America” managed to do what’s usually considered impossible—be both an indefensible apology for the shoot ’em up right wing approach to foreign policy and fucking hilarious. And it does it by not falling into the trap “South Park” often falls into when trying to hammer home some stupidity-borne right wing idea, which is putting an unfunny monologue about how affirmative action is bad or discrimination against gay people should be legal into the mouths of the very people who get fucked over by these ideas. Well, it does it a little—the liberalish actor delivers the “fuck the liberal actors” speech, but it’s not over the top WTFery. But still, the “dicks, pussies, assholes” speech is legitimately funny stuff. Why not just watch “Team America” again instead of seeing “An American Carol”?
Probably because of the puppet sex scene. And the joke about how Republicans don’t get a “fuck yeah”. And because the movie does allow that people who have grievances against the “shoot ’em all and let god sort ’em out” philosophy have a point. And because the movie calls the right wing audience members dicks. But honestly, I think it’s because slowly but surely, the movie has been reclaimed by the people deemed “pussies” in the movie. I think it’s because while the overall message of the movie is that we need to go along with the bomb-happiness of right wingers in order to keep our country safe, most of the movie is dedicated to sending up the holy grails of pseudo-patriotism, from overly earnest action films to treacly “patriotic” country-western music. And let’s not forget the 2 minutes of brilliance that is “America, Fuck Yeah”. Last time I saw the movie was at the Alamo Drafthouse, and everyone in the theater poured out into the street afterwards to carol 6th Street with an ironic version of “Proud To Be An American” followed immediately by “America, Fuck Yeah”. Parker and Stone were backing the wrong horse when they used this movie as a vehicle to defend the Iraq War, but audiences have come to peace with that and basically just ignore that part of the movie.
Moral of the story? I’m not sure, but it seems to be mostly that while it’s possible to make a funny movie based around the paranoid fantasies of wingnuts, the only route is to do it in a way that sends up said wingnuts to the degree that you might as well not be making a movie supporting persecution fantasies of right wingers.
*I, for one, am not stomping around in frustration at the stupid conservatives. When contemplating this subject, I am either laughing at them or feeling sorry for them, because it really must suck to be the sort of nimrod who goes to “An American Carol” and tries to convince yourself you like it. That’s the sort of mean-in-spirit sort of existence that drives people to come up with cliches about how money can’t buy happiness.