Wednesday, February 07, 2007

American Tragedy

We watched "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" the other night. I watched my wife cringe at the foul language that began the movie but even she was eventually sucked into its maelstrom of wickedly funny set pieces and man-centered moralizing. The funniest parts were outside the main thrust (of course that's a pun) of the plot; a discussion of some rule of getting laid etiquette on the loading dock behind a electronics store punctuated by the repeated and wanton destruction of four-foot fluorescent bulbs; a game of "I know you're gay because" illustrated by the on-screen video gaming battle whereby one player's avatar rips the head off the other player's avatar and with pixelated blood squirting throws it back at the decapitated body which then explodes. Good stuff. Laughing should not be sneezed at regardless of the size of your furrowed brow.

But even in this childish set-up piece of artistic frivolity there had to be a moment whereby the protagonist and the object of his ultimate de-virginizing have to have a potentially apocalyptic row that threatens to turn the fairy tale sour. Meaning, in American films, is almost always the same. The difference between drama and comedy is mostly about the scale and seriousness of the loss or potential loss to the protagonists. Americans believe in the struggle of good vs evil as the point of existence. Survival with dignity (and we are in many ways the most undignified people on the face of the earth) is not enough.

When Hunter S. Thompson killed himself I was seriously bummed out yet I knew that in his story this was a likely outcome given what he had said about the subject and his well-documented impulsiveness. His suicide note went like this:

"Football Season Is Over"
"No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun — for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your old age. Relax — This won't hurt"

When I think about it now these are the words of an American. He must live within his own self-defined rules of engagement and failing that, what is the point of existence? Of course the answer is myriad. Existence may feel like its yours and you control it but we are all riders on a silver stage driven by a mad jehu and guarded by an anal-retentive shotgun messenger. In the mountains there are those moments when it looks like the whole apparatus is going over the side. But jumping out hardly seems to be a solution. Buy the ticket-take the ride. The destination is always the same and pretending that it isn't just seems to fuck up the scenery. Maybe that's what HST was saying at the end. Things were just looking like shit to him.

1 comment:

ibfamous said...

Life is an extended death scene; some play more to the camera than others. Its okay to juggle the skulls during your soliloquy, because, really, no ones paying attention, they're too busy running through their own lines in their heads waiting for you to finish.

People say I’m a cynic and always look to the negative, but I disagree. What I believe actually frees me up to have a lot of fun with my time. I admit I came from somewhere (where, I don’t know) and am going somewhere (where, I don’t know; but hopefully not Buffalo), so the in-between is the only thing within my control (sort of).

How’s that for decisive philosophy…