30 Rock is subversive — and I mean that as a good thing

I don’t know what Tina Fey’s politics are, and I don’t want to know. The NBC show 30 Rock, which she writes and in which she stars is one of the best social satires around, which includes repeated deft and funny political asides. The show skewers both parties with such a light touch that, merely watching it, it’s impossible to tell with certainty which side of the aisle it favors, and that despite the fact that Alec Baldwin is a vocal Democrat and despite the fact that the show occasionally has Fey’s character, Liz Lemon, make remarks favorable to Democratic policies. With regard to these last, it’s impossible to tell whether she is using the show as a forum to advance these policies, or if she is ridiculing the Hollywood types who unthinkingly spout the can she sometimes throws in.

To the extent she may be a Democrat, or is believed to be a Democrat, Fey is allowed to get away with things that would never be tolerated on some imaginary Rush Limbaugh network. Last night’s show was a perfect example, in that it revolved around the guilt that permeates liberals’ relationships with individual blacks.

[SPOILER ALERT: THE NEXT TWO PARAGRAPHS GIVE AWAY PLOT AND JOKES. IF YOU WANT TO SEE FOR YOURSELF WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT, GO HERE AND VIEW EPISODE 16. AND IF YOU WANT TO SEE AN EPISODE THAT HAD BOTH ME AND MY HUSBAND IN TEARS OF LAUGHTER, VIEW EPISODE 15.]

The show’s premise was that Fey’s character went out on a date with a black man, only to discover that they were completely incompatible. When she tried to tell him during dinner that she didn’t feel they had anything in common, he insisted (loudly) that she was rejecting him because he was black. When her friend asked her later how she handled this situation, she confessed that she did it the only way she knew how: some light necking in the taxi, followed by the promise of more dates. She then wondered aloud how many more dates she’d have to go on before she could break up without being accused of being a racist. All the while, in her interactions with black people in subordinate positions (delivery man, secretary), she repeatedly patronized them, being overly friendly or making assumptions about them based on their race.

In the funniest scene of the show, Fey tells the man that she really plain old dislikes him. “Can’t we just not all get along?” “Nope,” he says. Maybe their children or grandchildren can be free to hate each other regardless of race, but they haven’t gotten to that point yet. She’s stuck with him.

[RESUME READING HERE IF YOU DIDN’T WANT TO READ THE SPOILER MATERIAL]

As I said, it’s impossible to imagine this type of humor — and it was really funny — being allowed from a source with conservative, rather than (probably) liberal credentials. Of course, part of why it works is because Tina Fey is, I think, a brilliant comic mind, both as a writer and a performer. Where she’s delicately sardonic and self-knowing, someone else could be grossly crude and offensive.

I did wonder, though, after watching the show, whether it had a larger truth that will affect a potential Obama candidacy. To the extent people are afraid of being viewed as racists, no matter their actual thoughts and motivation, will we see an increase in lying when pollsters call people to find out whether they’ll vote for him, either in the primaries or in the actual election? What do you think?

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Unbecoming Jane

Miramax is releasing a new motion picture called “Becoming Jane Austen,” which purports to tell of Jane’s abortive romance with a wild Irish lawyer. There is no doubt that, when she was young, Austen met Tom Lefroy, a young Anglo-Irish lawyer, thought he was nice, and had fun dancing with him. That’s it. That’s what we know about him. If there’s anything else, it’s long gone, since her beloved sister Cassandra destroyed all of Jane’s letters. From this minute bit of information, the film’s makers have created an elaborate story that has Jane railing against the confines of her ordinary life, setting people’s backs up, and spying on skinny dipping young men (shades of another Miramax film, Room with a View). I’ve read several biographies of Jane Austen and none of them indicate that she was anything but an ordinary young English woman of the time, albeit one with splendid observational skills, a sparkling sense of humor, and biting wit. There’s no hint in the real history that she deviated from the social mores of her times (although one solid fellow citizen in her town did think her silly).

The movie makers seem to be succumbing to an uncontrollable urge to modernize poor Jane. The 2005 movie version of Pride & Prejudice turned me off completely because, within minutes of opening, it had Keira Knightley prancing and preening like a modern girl readying herself for a hip-hop evening. Not content with updating the books, the studios are now trying to update Jane herself. What they seem to have done, though, is turned the whole thing into a generic modern romance, with a feisty heroine who bucks the trends, and finds her true self at the end. It’s a perfectly fine plot conceit, but it offends me that they’ve involved Jane Austen in this effort.

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

I won’t blog here about my thoughts about Love, American Style, because I already wrote about it here, at American Thinker.  Check it out, and then be sure to come back and let me know what you think!

What’s in a name?

My son asked me how Valentine’s Day began. I explained that, a long time ago, there was a man named Valentine who was known for his kindness to young couples who wished to get married (and he may have given doweries to poor girls so they could marry). He was also a Christian who died for his faith. When he was made a Saint, February 14 became his “Saint’s Day.” Every year, on that day, when people thought of him, they also remembered how he helped bring about marriages. St. Valentine eventually became associated with love, and the cards, chocolates and flowers soon followed. (You can read these and other theories about the holiday’s origins here and here.)

Valentine’s Day, sadly, isn’t what it used to be. While the little kids are still handing out cheesy cards to their classmates and eating candy hearts, big girls across America are castigating rape and having love-ins with their own vaginas. St. Valentine would be rolling in his grave.

All is not lost, however. As an antidote to the paranoid “Take Back The Night” feminist approach to love and romance — a view that equates all men with rapists — the Independent Women’s Forum has launched it’s “Take Back The Date” campaign, an idea aimed at re-romanticizing Valentine’s Day:

Take Back the Date is an IWF initiative to reclaim Valentine’s Day from radical feminists on campus who use a day of love and romance to promote vulgar and promiscuous behavior through activities like The Vagina Monologues.

This isn’t just about demanding flowers and candy from men. Instead, as I understand it, it’s about elevating both men and women to a higher plane of conduct that’s not just about random hooking up (read: “casual sex”) and date rape. Instead, it’s about respect, attraction and romance, old-fashioned ideas that might look pretty darn good to young people immersed in the sterile, hostile, demeaning world of modern college dating.

So, if you are in college or know someone who is, maybe it’s time to remind yourself or your friends what Valentine’s Day is really about.

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Hurrah!

I wonder where she’ll go from here? It’s a tough (impossible?) act to follow.

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” the last of seven installments of the boy wizard’s adventures, will be published July 21, authorJ.K. Rowling said Thursday.

Rowling announced the publication date on her Web site.

The next Frank Rich

In a peculiar way, I’m becoming very fond of David Denby, one of The New Yorker‘s resident movie reviewers. It’s clear that he aspires to be another Frank Rich — Rich, of course, being the former New York Times‘ theater critic who made the leap to ultra liberal political op-ed columnist.

In the short time that Denby has floated across my radar, he’s never succeeded in writing a review that didn’t include an attack against the current administration. (See my posts here and here, for examples.) His latest movie review is no exception, as he waxes ecstatic about Spike Lee’s When the Levees Broke, which he calls “the most magnificent and large-souled record of a great American tragedy ever put on film.”  Come on, Denby.  Don’t hold back.  What do you really think about the movie?

The review has the obligatory FEMA bashing, and “where were the Feds” statements, but what’s really interesting is the part where Denby gives a laundry list of those people in the movie whom he most admires.  Here it is, and I’ve inserted a few hyperlinks to give a little more background on some of the things he references:

Keeping his own voice largely absent and his presence invisible, he [Lee] finds the city’s tattered survivors. He also consults a variety of lawyers and local politicians, and such luminaries as Harry Belafonte and Al Sharpton; the musicians and New Orleans natives Wynton Marsalis and Terence Blanchard (the latter wrote much of the beautiful music for the film); the historian Douglas Brinkley, who makes impassioned critiques of Bush Administration officials and the Federal Emergency Management Agency; and the Mississippi man (a doctor) who publicly advised the Vice-President, when he visited the area long after the storm, to go fuck himself.

Yeah, that’s quite a cast of luminaries there.  To the extent a man is known by the company he keeps and the people he admires, I’ve just learned a whole lot about Denby, all of which he would have done better to keep hidden from public view.

Wearing your Leftist heart on your sleeve

I’ve become very fond of David Denby’s movie reviews in the New Yorker, largely because he can’t resist letting his politics leak out all over the place. I’ve blogged before about his slobbering praise for Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, and his compulsion to use Garrison Keilor’s Prairie Home Companion as a forum for attacking George Bush. The same leakage occured when he reviewed Little Miss Sunshine, although to a lesser extent. Although I can’t get my hand on a copy of that review right now, I know that he attributed the family’s impovished state to George Bush’s America. Apparently Denby’s been a bit out of contact with the good news about the American economy.

This time, we’re told that Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center is a good movie despite the fact that conservatives like and praise it. I’m not kidding — that’s precisely what he says:

“World Trade Center” is about courage and endurance as a function of family strength; it’s about suburban and small-town America trying to save the big city. Those are conservative themes, much praised for their appearance in this movie by the kind of right-wingers who have long hated Oliver Stone. Some of the euphoria—Cal Thomas, a columnist and a commentator at Fox News, calls the movie “one of the greatest pro-American, pro-family, pro-faith, pro-male, flag-waving God Bless America films you will ever see”—is not only inane, it’s enough to turn you off moviegoing altogether. Can “World Trade Center” really be that bad? No, the ideologues laying hands on the movie won’t sink it.

The ostensible review spends only a scant one paragraph talking about the movie before turning to a rundown of Stone’s career, all aimed at assuring us that Stone loves his country:

For all the rough talk and messy action in “Salvador,” Stone was as earnest as any collar-grabbing country preacher: he wanted Americans to confront the country’s sins. The conservatives who began to attack him after “Salvador” had him all wrong. Stone was not some anti-American crank but an anguished patriot with an outsized capacity for anger and shame.

After the hagiography about stone, Denby returns to a couple more paragraphs of movie review. Then we get the last criticism: how can you believe in an ex-Marine who will drop everything, put on his uniform, and go to save people?

There’s only one element in the movie that feels too stiff. A slab-faced ex-marine, Dave Karnes (Michael Shannon), an accountant who lives in Connecticut, hears God’s call on the morning of the attack, dons his old uniform, and moves into the smoking ruins after the official rescue teams have been called off for the night. Stone’s iconic treatment of Karnes could have used a touch of humor—like many inspired men, he seems a bit mad. But Karnes, solemn and remote as he is, may be important to Stone in ways that go deep. The vets in “Born on the Fourth of July” longed for home and for “things that made sense, things you could count on, before we got so lost.”

Of course, we all know that this is precisely the type of thing an ex-Marine will do.