Cinema Psycho

"You know what? You have a losing personality." – Manhattan

Bobcat Goldthwait Shoots Pop Culture in the Face in God Bless America

Posted by CinemaPsycho on July 8, 2013

“Why do we bother having a civilization when no one is interested in being civilized?”

So, remember all the stuff I was saying about pop culture and the media in my last post? Turns out writer-director Bobcat Goldthwait already said it in 2011’s God Bless America. And he said it a hell of a lot more effectively.

I don’t really do reviews any more, and I’m not really doing one now. But I finally got around to watching this on Netflix, and I have to say, God Bless America pretty much encapsulates everything I was saying – and much more – in one 104-minute primal scream. I don’t know what Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic has to say about this film, and I really don’t care. I think it’s a film that has something to say that people desperately need to hear. It may not be the Network of our times, but Goldthwait is definitely mad as hell and he’s not going to take it any more. Neither should you.

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Granted, subtlety is not this film’s strong suit. And I’m OK with that. Frankly, I think subtlety is hugely overrated. Sometimes what people need is for someone to just hold up a mirror to society and just fucking show you the problem. Sometimes that’s the only way they can see it. God Bless America does exactly that – it captures a country overrun by what Joel McHale calls the “douche tribe”, in which reality TV, morning DJs and hate news affect the population’s behavior, conversation and thought. It’s a sad excuse for a culture in which everyone has an opinion but no one has an original idea in their heads.

In other words, it’s exactly what I was talking about in my last post. It’s the reality I see in 2013 America. It’s a society controlled by Media Think rather than logic, reason and education. And that scares me far more than any horror movie.

Now, God Bless America is a dark, twisted black comedy, and the characters in it behave accordingly. The main characters, middle-aged divorced Dad Frank (Joel Murray) and disillusioned teen Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr) decide that the answer is to kill those who are part of the problem. Is violence the answer in real life? Of course not. Goldthwait assumes that you’re smart enough to know that. If you’re not, then you’re an idiot. The movie is a fantasy, just like all movies are fantasies on some level. It’s not a guide on how to live your life.

So what is the answer? I don’t know. I’m not the person people come to for answers. But if I had to take a stab at it, I would say, stop watching reality TV. Stop watching and emulating the worst of human behavior. Take responsibility for what you watch and listen to. Hold yourself to a higher standard than the bottom of the barrel. Who knows, maybe the people around you will take a lesson from you. But even if they don’t, that’s not your responsibility. You are your responsibility.

Here’s what I have never understood – who cares what a bunch of douches on morning radio think? What qualifies them to have an opinion on anything? Who are they? Why does anyone listen? What makes anyone think the assholes on Fox News are experts on anything?? What are their qualifications? Why do you listen? What do they know? WHO CARES WHAT THEY THINK? Facts are what matter. When did we lose sight of that?? When did stupidity become not only acceptable, but encouraged? And when did we start repeating what idiots say as if they know something we don’t??

I have to disagree with one point Goldthwait makes in the film, in which he puts down Green Day and exalts Alice Cooper. Yes, Cooper was great in the 70’s, I’ll grant you that. But now he’s a Republican who plays golf and hasn’t made a decent record in decades. If anyone’s part of the problem, it’s him. Whether or not you like their music (and I do), at least Green Day are relevant and writing songs about the world we live in now. And at least they fucking play their instruments, so of all the current musical artists to take shots at, they seem like an odd target. No way do I buy that a 16-year-old girl listens to Alice Cooper anyway, any more than I bought that Juno listens to Mott the Hoople (ironic, given that Goldthwait also takes shots at Juno and Diablo Cody in the same scene). That’s a Rob Zombie fantasy, not real life.

Other than that though, I think God Bless America is dead-on and a modern classic. Whatever you wind up thinking of it, it’s a film that needs and deserves to be seen just so the subject matter can be thought about and discussed at the very least. Yes, other movies have tackled reality TV, singing competitions, etc. But other than maybe Mike Judge’s Idiocracy, which was more of a far-flung conjecture about where our society may be headed, I can’t think of any movie that’s nailed our culture to the wall with such accuracy. It’s angry and bitter and cynical, and it’s also exactly right. And that’s just fucking sad.

God Bless America is currently available on Netflix streaming and DVD.

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