Over the past few years, I’ve almost completely divorced myself from television. I just couldn’t take it anymore. In my opinion, today’s “mainstream media” does nothing more than take the literal dregs of society and give them a soap box to spout out about their bankrupt belief systems( Although, saying they have a belief system may be giving them too much credit. Because, you know, you actually have to have a thought to garner a belief system.), their mean spirited attitudes, and their selfish materialism. Show after show, ad after ad, our senses are bombarded with things we don’t need, and that don’t matter. When I was younger it used to make me irate, but now it just makes me sad. It is slowly, but surely, turning our society into self absorbed narcissists, that can barely have a conversation that is more in depth than what they saw on TV the night before. We have more information and opinions about random celebrities than people that actually are a part of our lives.Whenever I’ve gone out and tried to have an actual conversation with some one, the best they can do is feign interest, and then maybe offer up some sort of affectation. It sucks. For a long time I thought maybe there was something wrong with me. Maybe I was crazy or something, but the older I get the more I realize that there isn’t anything wrong with me. I just have the audacity to care about life, people and the world. Pretty crazy, right? We are all in danger of turning into useful idiots that do nothing more than endlessly parrot the bull shit that’s on TV, and it’s a real shame. If people would just realize that it’s okay to be “too good” for this garbage then the world would be a much better place. Unhook, people. This is what is at the heart of Bobcat Goldthwait’s new, bloody and brutal, satirical film, God Bless America. So, it’s kind of the perfect movie for me!
I’m not going to give a synopsis of this film. There are plenty of other places you can get that info. I’m just going to speak in generalities. The reason for this is that the there really isn’t a “plot” of any real note. This flick isn’t about the plot. It’s about the message. But, just so we are all on the same page, the main characters are Frank and Roxy. Frank is an unassuming middle aged man, who has become fed up with proliferation of mean spirited narcissism, our ethically bankrupt culture, and how the media seems to propagate it all. Roxy, is a disenfranchised youth. That has grown to despise the empty headed materialism of her generation, and the mainstreaming of “ironic hipster types”(If you don’t know what I mean by “ironic hipster types”, be careful. You might be one.). Anyways, they find each other and then take to the road and start killing. In the name of common decency, and that’s really at the heart of the matter. Common decency. Common consideration for each other. Common respect. Common courtesy. Common sense. I’m not even talking about big things necessarily. It could be something as small as holding the door open for someone who has their hands full, or not talking during a movie(I didn’t pay $12.50 to hear you commentate about what I’m watching or listen to you talk to your friend about where to meet after the flick! You have no idea how many fist fights I’ve almost gotten in just because I asked some one to be quiet…). It’s the little things that kill, and life would be a lot more pleasant if people had any sense of the things they do, and how it effects those around them. No, not in major ways, but in ways that make the day to day more bearable.
The film has a bunch of approximations of shows that dominate the box. They are satirical takes on things like Fox News, The Bad Girls Club, American Idol, My Super Sweet Sixteen etc(I actually knew those titles off hand, and I’m about to cry. Well, I’ll just drink some more, because that always works…). The thing is, they are almost not satirical. The “fake” shows in the movie aren’t at all that far off the mark. If they were real shows, I don’t think anybody would notice. They would fit right in with most programming schedules. It almost seems like the film makers just didn’t want to deal with the hassle of getting clearances for all the various examples that they would have liked to use. Most of the things we see on the shows, are recreations of scenes from their real life counter parts. I know this, because their was a time when I willingly watched this crap. Looking back, I have no idea why. There is no conceivable justification for it. I guess, I probably felt like a lot of people that watch this stuff. I was under the delusion that it was all harmless, and that I was some how above being effected by it. That was until I got a little older. More and more I would see the crap from those shows out in the real world, and would sometimes even propagate it myself. It’s a difficult thing to admit to yourself, but it’s the only way to get out of that mind set. At least, for me. The most prevalent example of this in the movie, is the My Super Sweet Sixteen knock off. In the show, real and fake, rich entitled teenage girls are given ridiculously extravagant parties and presents to celebrate their sixteenth year of existence. Okay, the problem isn’t that the parties are “too much”, or that the gifts are “too extravagant”. If I was a person of financial means I could see myself doing similar things for my child, in the material sense. The problem is the attitude of the kids in these shows. They scream and throw tantrums about meaningless stupid shit, but that’s not even the worst part. It’s the way the parents react. They feed into their kids entitled and spoiled attitude by giving them whatever they want. Even when they are being chastised with pure vitriol about getting the wrong car. Parenting isn’t about making sure your kids get whatever they want, and making them happy every second of their waking life. It’s about preparing them to be decent and productive members of society, and dealing with the “real” world(Yes, there is some irony in my word choices right there.). This is coming from a person who has no children of his own. So, think of it what you will. It’s a very general statement, but I don’t think I’m too far off the mark. I could write another 10,000 words about this kind of stuff, but I’ll spare you.
Frank and Roxy represent two sides of the same coin. Their shared ideology has a divide, and that is due to their age. Roxy is young and has limited life experience, so she tends to focus on the more petty annoyances of culture. For example, “punk rock” has become a completely innocuous term, and means nothing more than a genre of music, rather than a state of mind. Frank, on the other hand, is much more concerned with the way people carelessly interact with one another. He decries the general rudeness of society. How the worst of us are put on pedestals, and how the weakest of us are nothing more than a point of ridicule. His ideas are much more general, and “mature”. Roxy’s are much more specific, and reflect her immaturity. It was nice that there were two different representations of the same ideology. They kind of kept each other in check by calling each other out. The real reason for the “team” dynamic, is more for functional reasons. The film needed a way to expound on it’s message, and two people talking is a much better than a contrived voice over. The only problem with their conversations is that they aren’t really conversations. They function more like each of them taking turns making statements that reflect the ideology of the film. This didn’t really bother me, because I was more invested in the ideas of the film than whether or not the presentation was convincing. It’s not all “preachy” conversations between the two characters, though. There is a very subtle father/daughter dynamic present, and it does have some emotional impact. They are two people that have a shared opinion about the world and they have found each other, and at the end of the day, what else can you really ask for?
I did really like this movie, but it isn’t without it’s problems. Like I said before, there isn’t really that much of a “plot”. It lays it all out within the first ten minutes or so, and you are really just watching to see what happens next. Even with that, though, it’s more than I can say for a lot of other flicks I’ve watched recently. The place where the movie really get’s it wrong, though, is whenever they try to make political statements. It’s the old “conservatism is bad, liberalism is good” stuff. I’m not saying one is better than the other, but they both have extremely shitty aspects to both of them. In the film they show “tea party people” pushing down a sick person and shouting at them. Now, I realize this is satire, but the other points of satire are so spot on that it kind of makes me think that this is what the film makers see conservatives as. It’s a little ridiculous. There is a lot of shitty extremism on both side of the left/right paradigm, and by picking on one and not the other, the film kind of misses the point of it’s own message. It’s not a prevalent enough of an element to really detract from the movie. It’s more of a distraction and a small annoyance. For me, anyways.
Admittedly, this is a really “preachy” movie, and the way they go about may put off some people. I happened to agree with the message of this flick, so it didn’t bother me at all. If anything, it made me smile. It’s just nice to know that I’m not the only one that thinks these kinds of thoughts. Maybe, I’m not so crazy after all. Maybe, it’s our shit culture. If you come across this movie, I hope you at least give it a chance. I’d say even if you don’t like it, it’s still worth your time. It’s got profound ideas, that I hope more people expose themselves to.