|11-20-2006, 01:21 PM||#1|
Join Date: Apr 2001
Pop culture's new bad dream
Part of this article picked my interest, i don't agree 100% with him - but the part bolded is what got me:
Pop culture's new bad dreamAssassination is threading its way through movies, plays and TV shows.
is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and author of "Progressive Hollywood: A People's Film History of the United States"
Four recently released films - All the King's Men, The U.S. vs. John Lennon, The Last King of Scotland and Death of a President - are focusing attention on a troubling trend in pop culture: an eerie parade of assassins in features, documentaries, plays, television and books since Sept. 11, 2001.
As popular culture often does - as imaginative art usually does - this may simply be reflecting the mood of the world we live in, for better or for worse. One thing that's important to note: All of these films portray assassination as a horror, as a terrible crime. No one's suggesting anything - but they may carry a sobering message nonetheless.
The U.S. vs. John Lennon is a documentary about the Nixon administration's scheme to sabotage the ex-Beatle's effort to present rock concerts across America that would register young voters during the 1972 presidential race. Lennon was murdered eight years later.
In All the King's Men, Sean Penn portrays Willie Stark, a fictionalization of Huey P. Long, the Depression-era Louisiana governor and senator who was gunned down in 1935. The Academy Award-winning Penn has a heritage of political activism. He is the son of Leo Penn, a director blacklisted for refusing to testify during the McCarthy era. Penn himself is one of Hollywood's most outspoken dissenters. King's Men is the third in an "assassination trilogy" for Penn, including the 2004 film The Assassination of Richard Nixon, and Sydney Pollack's 2005 film The Interpreter, co-starring Nicole Kidman.
The Last King of Scotland is a biopic starring Forest Whitaker as the African dictator Idi Amin. During his brutal 1970s reign, 300,000 Ugandans were butchered, and Amin was the target of repeated attempts to whack him. In the film, dissidents try to mow Amin down as his convoy drives near Kampala. Later, a Scottish doctor played by James McAvoy (a fictionalized composite character inspired by three actual figures) attempts to poison Amin with bad medicine. Throughout the movie, Amin frets about opposition plots against him.
Death of a President, which won the Toronto Film Festival's International Critics' prize, sparked criticism by daring to dramatize the unspeakable: George W. Bush's assassination. In the film, set in 2007, Bush is shot after flying to Chicago to make a speech in the wake of massive antiwar protests. Death employs special effects to superimpose Bush's face on a similarly built actor in the scene where the commander in chief is liquidated by a Syrian sniper.
Talking heads tried to head this British made-for-TV movie off at the pass. On MSNBC, outraged culture warrior Pat Buchanan joined most U.S. pundits in calling the film "out of bounds." On Fox News, U.S. Rep. Peter King (R., N.Y.) called on U.S. distributors not to screen it. In a statement, Death of a President's co-writer/director Gabriel Range said it was "a serious film which I hope will open up the debate on where current U.S. foreign and domestic polices are taking us."
These films join many others that include assassinations or assassination attempts. Consider the 2004 remake of John Frankenheimer's 1962 classic The Manchurian Candidate, about a brainwashed veteran-turned-assassin. V for Vendetta, starring Natalie Portman, depicts terrorist and mass resistance against a futuristic fascist British state. After the London subway bombings in July 2005, the film's November 2005 release was delayed until 2006.
And the moviefest continues. John Wilkes Booth - granddaddy of American assassins - will be portrayed in Manhunt, due to be released in 2007. The film is based on James Swanson's 2006 book subtitled The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer. In September 2007, Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck and Sam Shepard will star in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, about the 19th-century murder of the infamous outlaw. Also in 2007, Whitaker, Dennis Quaid and William Hurt are to star in Vantage Point, about yet another attempted presidential assassination.
The theme is everywhere. Stephen Sondheim's musical Assassins - about successful and would-be presidential killers - returned to Broadway in 2004 and was Tony-nominated. On TV, HBO's Rome and ABC's Empire mini-series depicted Julius Caesar's assassination, and ABC's much-discussed mini-series The Path to 9/11 focused heavily on assassination of key figures.
In books, we have Eric Rauchway's nonfiction book Murdering McKinley; Stephen Hunter and John Bainbridge Jr.'s American Gunfight: The Plot to Kill Harry Truman - and the Shoot-out That Stopped It; and Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation, wherein the author visits sites associated with the Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley assassinations.
Why has this cavalcade of assassinations emerged in pop culture and what does it symbolize?
In The Interpretation of Dreams, Sigmund Freud writes that a dream is a disguised fulfillment of a suppressed or repressed wish. Such wishes aren't simply banished by the superego (the psyche's equivalent to network executives). Rather, through a compromise process called dream censorship with the id (the unrestrained self), repressed wishes reemerge as symbols, usually emanating from the unconscious during sleep.
Contemporary depictions of assassinated historical figures such as Caesar, Lincoln, Long and Lennon appear to be projections of the collective unconscious. Bush's cowboy-style "dead or alive," "with-us-or-against-us," and "bring-them-on" rhetoric has famously alienated millions of his countrymen and people around the world. The Texan's approval ratings have sunk to Nixonian Watergate levels, about 30 percent. Administration blunders - WMDs, Iraq, Katrina, Dubai ports, preemptive war, warrantless surveillance, extraordinary rendition, Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, threatened nuclear strikes, torture, etc., plus numerous GOP/government scandals - could well be generating a not-very-well-suppressed wish that pop culture is bodying forth.
To explore this theme publicly, however, is not to advocate it. All of these books and films and plays and TV shows are cautionary. After Death of a President opened at Toronto, Range told Reuters: "We portrayed the horror of assassination... . I don't think anyone would get the idea of assassinating Bush from this film." Certainly, a hit on President Bush would be a national and global tragedy that could plunge America, and perhaps the world, into chaos.
Still - artists often have a sense of the global room well before anyone else does. Today's chilling pop-culture obsessions could be warnings from the Zeitgeist.