Progressives Can Be Funny

DemolitionWomanby Steve Lancaster    3/7/14
There are two movies that Hollywood wishes they had not made and that they would not make today. Both are satires on the progressive mindset. The first, released in 1980, is Serial, starring Martin Mull, Tuesday Weld, Tom Smothers, and Christopher Lee. It is directed by Bill Persky who at the time was perhaps best known for the television series That Girl. The movie is set in uber-progressive Marin County in 1980.

Martin Mull is Harvey Holroyd. Unhappy in his job working for a bank in San Francisco, he seeks out the help of a corporate headhunter and is told that if he is not making his age in salary and that he is a failure. Harvey concludes that he has been a failure for six years. His home life is deteriorating with a wife who is enamored with “finding herself as a woman” and a daughter who thinks both her parents are weird for expecting her to follow the rules — teenage rebellion taken to its logical end.

The viewer will find every progressive myth explored and exploded. Tom Smothers is Reverend Spike, whose credentials are somewhat suspect, but is ok with just about anything the progressive mind can dig up…drugs, sex, and rock and roll is only a starting point. During a wedding in which two people are being “pair bonded” by proclaiming to the world that they are assholes, Harvey remarks to his wife, Kate (Tuesday Weld), “It’s a wonderful world, gas is $2 a gallon, and two self-proclaimed assholes are being pair bonded by a priest from the Gong Show.”

Harvey’s friend, Sam (Bill Macy), dies. His wife decides to honor his memory with an Indian dance in the hills above the Golden Gate. Only one problem: Sam is not an Indian. The falseness of honoring his friend sets Harvey off, “If you want to honor Sam, prop him up in front of a 21 inch Sony with the Carson show!” Harvey’s rant sets off a string of events that ultimately result in a mid-life crisis — separation from his wife while he moves in with a twenty-something. His daughter joins a cult and Harvey and Kate reconcile to save her, with the entire family moving to Denver.

Every progressive myth is shown to be a pretense of life and not living. Environmentalism and feminism, just to mention two, are pretensions that have survived the last 34 years. For the future of progressivism we have a 1993 entry, Demolition Man, starring Sylvester Stallone, Sandra Bullock, and Wesley Snipes.

Stallone is John Spartan. Don’t you just love that name? He’s a cop from 1994-era Los Angeles who is convicted of fighting crime in an overly aggressive manner and is sent to cyroprison. In the same prison is his nemesis, Simon Phoenix, again a name with overtones. Phoenix-like, Simon Phoenix rises from the ashes assisted by the progressive creator of the new paradise on earth, San Angeles. Sandra Bullock is a lieutenant of police, Lenina Huxley. (More irony here…think a blend of Lenin,  Aldous Huxley, and Brave New World. Could this be a descendent of Aldous Huxley, who died in LA in the 1960’s?)

San Angeles in 2034 is the prefect progressive utopia. Weapons of all kinds are outlawed and cursing is an offense that gets you fined. Music is reduced to the commercial jingles — the Armor Hot Dog song is a favorite. Automobiles drive themselves and everyone, almost, is a vegetarian. All restaurants, regardless of style, are named Taco Bell, a result of the restaurant wars which Taco Bell won. However, there are some dissenters who live on the edges and down in the sewers. And it is in order to kill the leader of the dissenters that Simon Phoenix is defrosted by the creator of this utopia, Raymond Cocteau. I leave it to the reader to find symbolism in the name.

When it is discovered that a tiger has been released among the bunny rabbits, John Spartan is defrosted to deal with Phoenix:

One of the best exchanges, although there are many:

Lenina Huxley: I have, in fact, perused some newsreels in the Schwarzenegger Library, and the time that you took that car…

John Spartan: Hold it. The Schwarzenegger Library?

Lenina Huxley: Yes. The Schwarzenegger Presidential Library. Wasn’t he an actor when you…?

John Spartan: Stop! He was President?

Lenina Huxley: Yes! Even though he was not born in this country, his popularity at the time caused the 61st Amendment which states…

John Spartan: I don’t wanna know. President.

The resulting chaos between Phoenix and Spartan, which destroys the feel-good philosophy and large portions of the city, also brings the dissenters together with the ultra-clean residents. Our hero, John Spartan, tells them, ”You, dissenters get cleaner, and you residents, get dirtier.”

The movie takes the progressive agenda to its reductio ad absurdum. A nice piece of work from 20 years ago but don’t wait up for the sequel. I guess Utopias, at least of the San Angeles sort, aren’t funny anymore. • (1797 views)

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6 Responses to Progressives Can Be Funny

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    The demeanor or shtick of “Demolition Man” was a very tricky balance. It was campy and yet it wasn’t overtly and unconsciously stupid. Somewhat like Monty Python’s shtick, we’re sort of in on the joke. We get the “dumbness” of it. We understand that the film makers are sort of making fun of it and themselves. This isn’t the kind of stupid wherein the film makers think they are being very clever but are not (they are instead just inane or mindlessly vulgar) and so we laugh at them instead of with them.

    I like that movie. Another one of this general kind was “Last Action Hero,” a movie that isn’t rated very highly. The reason for this is surely that it is a parody. “Demolition Man” is much more re-watchable. I watched “Last Action Hero” a while ago for the second time and wasn’t as enamored with it as the first time.

    But I laughed knowing that many people didn’t get that this was a parody. If you live and breath in the Universe of the Stupid, there still must be some latent part of the brain that understands that one is not in on the joke but is a butt of this joke. Humor requires a sophisticated mind (which is one reason liberals don’t laugh….and often they’ll just laugh at something because they know it’s what they’re supposed to do…sort of a political solidarity…How else could Jon Stewart stay in business?).

    This is also why movies such as “Dumb and Dumber” work for me. Yes, I like prime rib, but there are also excellent cuts of comedy. Slapstick and juvenile humor are not outlawed simply because one desires quality. Such elements can be done excellently as well, although a steady diet of such things will probably rot your brain.

    “Demolition Man,” while not quite “excellent,” is certainly “good enough” in terms of campy sci-fi with a bit of mindless super-villain action thrown in. And, indeed, it is a finger-poke in the eye of these Leftist nanny scolds.

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    Note that one of the characters in Brave New World is Lenina Crowne, thus strengthening the link. I will also mention here an earlier parody of liberalism (to some extent), The Mackerel Plaza by Peter De Vries, which features the People’s Liberal Church in a Connecticut town. Liberalism was ripe for parody as far back as 1958.

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    My favorite part of “Demolition Man” is the ever-present “speech police” ATM-like machines that are ubiquitous in that sanitized world. This is a great parody of the nannies and liberal fascists. We can surmise that some time in the future this “hate speech” stuff (and other restrictions on “proper” speech) would be so intrusive and so systematized that you can foresee an automated machine dispensing tickets on the street corner when it overhears bad or politically correct language.

    This is consistent with Leftism which turns people into mere cogs in a machine.

  4. Glenn Fairman says:

    Demolition Man’s irony has grown more delicious as civilization has turned into a province of morons. It is one of my favorite Stallone forays and Bullock’s incredulousness at Snipe’s crimes is exquisite: “Murder Death Kill!!!! Utopia, as Thomas More held, is “a place that can never be.” A nice piece.

  5. Glenn Fairman says:

    More crisp dialogue:

    RAYMOND COCTEAU: “Be Well”

    JOHN SPARTAN: (raising his gun) “Be fucked.”

  6. Glenn Fairman says:

    Thanks to Mr. Lancaster’s offering, I have shelled out 44 cents for a new DVD copy of “Demolition Man” and Stallone’s “Over the Top.” ( to say nothing of the 3.99 shipping charge) Cultural and political satire should be revisited from time to time. By the way, is Wesley Snipes still doing time in the Cryo-Prison for tax evasion?

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