Tag Archives: “Team America: World Police”

False equivalence, even in ‘comedy,’ isn’t funny; it is dangerous

Bernie Sanders Reacts to Larry David's 'Saturday Night Live' Impersonation

Larry David admittedly does a pretty good Bernie Sanders impersonation, especially vocally, but I, for one, find corporately sponsored take-downs of Sanders to be chilling because there is a dark agenda of corporate self-preservation behind them. (By “self” I don’t mean to imply that corporations are people. They most certainly are not…)

It’s easy to laugh when a politician whom you despise is spoofed on “Saturday Night Live” or elsewhere. This was the case for me with parodies of Sarah Palin (Tina Fey won an Emmy for that portrayal) and yes, of Billary Clinton (both Amy Poehler and Kate McKinnon have done a pretty good job of portraying Her Highness).

It’s a little more difficult when the politician who’s being lampooned is your favorite, such as, in my case, Bernie Sanders.

Don’t get me wrong; Larry David overall did a great job as Bernie Sanders on last night’s “SNL.” He has Bernie’s voice down pat, and it’s OK, I suppose, for David or anyone else to portray Bernie as a bit of a crank, a curmudgeon (as David did). Long live free speech. (Did you detect my enthusiasm there?)

It’s that, of course, NBC is a mega-corporation, and so of course pro-corporate bias is going to seep even into a “comedy” show like “SNL.”

Larry David’s Bernie Sanders’ opening statement in “SNL’s” mock Democratic Party presidential debate of last night, for instance, includes: “We’re doomed! We need a revolution! Millions of people on the streets! And we’ve got to do something! And we’ve got to do it now!” He then pauses for a moment and then, waving his hand dismissively, declares: “Nah!”

David’s Bernie also declares, in his closing statement, that he’ll end up being Billary’s running mate, which is right in line with the corporate punditry’s “conventional wisdom” that Bernie can’t win. (He can, actually, but, of course, the corporatocrats and the corporate whores who love them will do what they can to ensure that Bernie doesn’t.)

Um, yeah, I don’t know. It’s important for us not to take everything too seriously, or at least to be able to laugh now and then, but the danger, it seems to me, of spoofing Bernie Sanders like this is that it’s meant to negate pretty much his entire message — which is awfully convenient, of course, not only for a corporation like NBC but for the entire elite establishment that benefits from the status quo, which hinges on corporations continuing to drain the life blood of working-class Americans and even destroying the planet itself in the process of profiteering obscenely.

It’s not really funny shit, and to laugh at it as though it were — Hey, if “SNL” is spoofing it, how serious can it be? — serves to enable us to continue to ignore it at our own collective peril.

Not that Bernie Sanders was the only one lampooned last night; the first words spoken by Kate McKinnon’s Billary Clinton in “SNL’s” mock Democratic debate are: “Oh, hello. Thank you for having me. I think you’re really going to like the Hillary Clinton that my team and I have created for this debate.” Ouch. (Because it’s so true.)

But while Billary Clinton indeed keeps rebranding herself like a human weather vane spinning around in a tornado (just very recently she went from being a proud “moderate” to being a “progressive”), Bernie Sanders isn’t a Chicken Little. The problems that he repeatedly talks about — such as climate change and insane income disparity — are severe and persistent, and it’s not difficult to foresee the future if we wave them all off like a joke, like Larry David’s Bernie Sanders does.

Another problem with spoofing presidential candidates and politicians in general is that there so often is the concern of the writers to give the appearance that everyone is being spoofed equally and that all sides of any political debate are presented as being equal. (This is meant to accomplish at least a few things, such as to avoid allegations of bias [probably especially by right-wing nut jobs] and to keep the money flowing [money might not keep on flowing if you have stepped on some toes].)

But that blatantly false equivalence so widely communicated within the corporately owned and controlled media, probably especially in the “news” media, inevitably infects our general discourse to the point that many if not most Americans cannot effectively and accurately analyze politics and politicians. They cannot discriminate between truth and bullshit and they often even (often enthusiastically) support politicians whose political practices harm them while only helping those who already are filthy rich.

The “tea-party” dipshits, whose darling right now apparently is billionaire Donald Trump, are experts at this, experts at being chickens supporting Colonel Sanders (who is not to be confused with Bernie Sanders).

How stupid is it to vote against your own best interests?

But millions of Americans do it every election, such as even with their blind support of Billary Clinton. (Well, Wall Street supports Billary, as it does Jeb! Bush, the Wall Street weasels’ top two beneficiaries, so their support of corporate whores like Clinton and Bush certainly makes selfish and greedy political sense for them, but the vast majority of us voters aren’t Wall Street weasels who will benefit directly from another Bush or Clinton presidency.)

Equal spoofing is bullshit because everything isn’t equal. To assert that it is is its own form of nihilism that, only in our own minds, lets us off of the hook of our duty, as the citizens and denizens of this nation, to ensure that our descendants, that all of the other species of life and the planet itself don’t continue to suffer degradation (or even extinction) in the future because of our selfishness, laziness and greediness in the present.

It’s not just “SNL”; take also 2004’s “Team America: World Police,” for instance. In that movie, which overall is pretty funny (with some truly hilarious scenes) and was a pretty good response to the hyper-jingoism that followed 9/11, the “South Park” creators make leftists from Hollywood (including Alec Baldwin [who played Jim Webb in “SNL’s” mock debate last night], Matt Damon, Sean Penn, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon) and, of course, left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore, into villains, apparently only or primarily for the purpose of not being accused of taking a political side, of being an equal-opportunity offender.*

But, again, not all political sides are equal. Sarah Palin, for instance, is not the equivalent of even Billary Clinton, and Billary Clinton, while she calls herself a “Democrat” and even “a progressive” (“a progressive who likes to get things done”!), is not the equivalent of Bernie Sanders.

In a nation whose denizens can barely analyze political matters and politicians as it is (if they haven’t already given up the effort entirely for sports, celebrity gossip, consumerism and/or other forms of entertainment and/or distraction) — and who consequently, again, thus routinely actually vote against their own best interests (when/if they vote at all) — this false-equivalence-as-comedy shit just isn’t very fucking funny.

*It’s perfectly OK to take down limousine liberals, who by definition don’t walk their own talk, but that doesn’t seem to have been the “South Park” creators’ main intent with “Team America.”

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No good options for Sony Pictures with ‘The Interview’

This photo provided by Columbia Pictures - Sony shows, from left, Diana Bang, as Sook, Seth Rogen, as Aaron, and James Franco, as Dave, in Columbia Pictures' "The Interview." (AP Photo/Columbia Pictures - Sony, Ed Araquel)

Associated Press image

Seth Rogen and James Franco are shown in a still from “The Interview,” a movie that Sony Pictures Entertainment has put on indefinite hold because of threats made by apparently-North-Korean hackers to retaliate should Sony release the movie not only in movie theaters, but in any other form.

I don’t recall that at any time in my life was a movie not released because of terrorist threats.

Sony Pictures Entertainment has taken criticism from many for deciding not to release “The Interview,” starring Seth Rogen and James Franco as a team who ultimately assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

Sony’s decision not to release the movie as planned on Christmas Day wasn’t enough; hackers who have been identified as probably North Korean apparently demanded in an e-mail to Sony that “anything related to the movie, including trailers” be removed from the Internet and that Sony “never let the movie [be] released, distributed or leaked in any form of, for instance, DVD or piracy,” as though it were possible for Sony to police the entire Internet and prevent all leaks or acts of piracy.

The Associated Press reports that “Sony Pictures has been removing all signs of ‘The Interview’ from its websites and taken its trailers off YouTube. On Wednesday, the studio canceled its Dec. 25 release after the hackers made threats of violence against theaters showing the film. Sony has said it now has no plans to release ‘The Interview.’”

While I doubt that any actual terrorist attack at a movie theater would have been committed had “The Interview” been released as planned — North Korea has no operatives within the United States, to my knowledge, and as North Korea doesn’t want its inhabitants to leave the Asian nation at all, I don’t really see the United States ever crawling with North Korean operatives  — I imagine that Sony would like to avoid any lawsuits or negative publicity (or both) should any such terrorist attack actually happen, even though such an event is fairly highly unlikely.

While I would like to see Sony at least release “The Interview” on DVD and streaming, as it would any other theatrical release, I imagine that Sony doesn’t want to have to worry about further problems with North Korean criminals in the future. Sony Pictures Entertainment is, after all, first and foremost a business. Its No. 1 reason for existing is not to enlighten us or even to entertain us, but to profit from us, and if Sony perceives that releasing a film would or could cost it more than if it withheld the film, Sony’s probably going to withhold the film.

“Team America: World Police” (which was distributed by Paramount Pictures) went off without a hitch in 2004 (I saw it at a movie theater and I’ve seen it on DVD), but maybe that’s because the late Korean dictator Kim Jong Il was portrayed by a puppet (and was not assassinated technically; at the end of “Team America” his human body is destroyed, but from his body a cockroach emerges – Kim Jong Il actually is [or was…] an alien in the form of a cockroach, you see – and flies off in a miniature spaceship, promising to return). And maybe it’s that Kim Jong Un is a lot more sensitive than was his daddy.

Just as “Team America,” had it never been released, probably wouldn’t have been a great loss to American culture, the pulling of “The Interview” (as much as I’ve liked some of the work of Franco and Rogen in the past) also probably isn’t a huge loss to American culture. We can take some comfort in that, I think.

We can assert that Sony Pictures Entertainment shouldn’t cave in to terrorist threats, but at the same time, should any terrorist attack actually occur at any movie theater showing “The Interview,” we then would lambast Sony’s greed that put dirty profits above precious human lives (and, as I noted, I would expect at least one lawsuit to ensue).

As much as I’m not into sticking up for corporations, I don’t see that Sony really could win in this case (except that if I were in charge at Sony, “The Interview” probably would, minimally, get an online and/or DVD release…).

Still, one day I’d like to see “The Interview” at last, in one format or another, and we have the apparently-North-Korean hackers, with their terrorist threats, to thank for that. It’s a movie that I probably would have skipped otherwise, at least in its theatrical release.

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