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An Anti-American Carol?

Director David Zucker is currently directing a new film called "An American Carol" that is sure to pack a lot of the zany punch that some of his earlier works are famous for. Zucker's earlier works include classic comedies such as the "Airplane!" and the "Naked Gun" movies and they were rife with witty laugh-a-minute jabs at some of the idiosyncrasies of our culture and our times. The new film will use the classic "A Christmas Carol" as a template for a story about Michael Malone, an America-hating documentarian with the goal of whipping up public sentiment for the eradication of Independence Day with his film "Die You American Pigs." Malone supplants the classic Scrooge character, and he is visited by three ghosts of freedom past who guide Malone toward a proper appreciation of freedom, independence, and the Fourth of July.

The "Airplane!" movies played host to a variety of politically incorrect jokes from which virtually no segment of humanity was spared. Who can forget the scenes with the jive-talking (literally) African-American men with the English subtitles in the original Airplane!? Or the scene where the Iran Air courtesy bus pulls up to the curb and a bunch of machine-gun wielding terrorists hop out? Even the handsome white-guy WWII fighter pilot veteran and hero of both Airplane movies, Stryker, had a "drinking problem" – his memories of combat scarred him so that when he would go to take a drink, he would miss his mouth and spill the drink all over. The even-handedness with which various ethnic groups and sub-cultures were lampooned helped to drive the humor. The humor worked because it thrived on taking an honest look at our sometimes ridiculous selves.

But no more.


In stark contrast with past films in which nothing and nobody was sacred, Zucker's new film will have a very specific politically-driven agenda. As Stephen F. Hayes recently opined in a piece for the Weekly Standard entitled "Hollywood Takes on the Left", "An American Carol", "...is a frontal attack on the excesses of the American left..." (The article is well worth reading because Hayes talks with Zucker at length and it reveals much about popular right-wing attitudes.) The film will feature jokes specifically aimed at Democrats and other popular-culture figures that the right associates with liberal or left-of-center politics. The script will hew closely to popular right-wing talking points.

Hayes pointed out in his article that, like many Americans, Zucker was incensed by what he perceived as a "blame America first" attitude among many of his Hollywood cohorts in the wake of 9/11. Like a lot of people, he didn't want to entertain the idea that, maybe on some level, past and then-current American policies toward the Middle East might have spawned unintended consequences. Perhaps he was swept up in a wave of emotion, as many Americans were at the time. At any rate, he began to renounce his past associations with the Democratic party and others that he perceived as too liberal. His shift to the political right cost him some relationships too, both personal and professional, as some individuals that he had long known chose to no longer associate with him for his newfound conservative views.

One of the primary problems that I have with the right is that, either by conscious choice or by way of sheer ignorance, the right often dilutes serious issues down to the point where the political arguments made by the right are no longer based on the issues at hand, but become superficial nonsense designed to divert attention from the issues as opposed to address them.

While Hollywood and many of its personalities are certainly worthy of ridicule on several levels, it sounds to me like the basic premise of this film is rooted in a fundamental misunderstanding by the right (with which, apparently, Zucker now identifies) not only of centrist/left politics, but of the very freedom that they purport to ardently defend.

Case in point: Per Hayes's article, a scene in the film depicts two would-be terrorists at a security checkpoint at a New York train station. Police officers set about inspecting the bags that the terrorists are carrying when some American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawyers intervene with an order for the officers to stop their search. The terrorists scurry off thanking their good fortune, presumably to inflict great harm on an unsuspecting public. Now, one of the core founding principles of the United States of America, namely that searches and seizures by the government should only be conducted pursuant to probable cause, is misrepresented to the point of ridicule. The ACLU, which often plays a sort of legal-world devil's advocate by representing views or individuals who are unpopular, hence its unpopularity in some circles, is presented not as defenders of our fundamental rights, but quite the contrary – as complicit with radical Islamic terrorist who are out to kill us all. Perhaps defense of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States is an example of the left's excesses Hayes alluded to in his article. Perhaps Hayes and Zucker would be more comfortable if the government simply began to raid homes, offices, and vehicles either at random or in politically motivated efforts to mold the citizenry to a president's or party's liking. That's a movie that humanity has seen before. It has a lousy ending.

The Michael Malone character (Kevin Farley) is obviously modeled after documentarian Michael Moore. Malone is presented as anti-American, thus reinforcing the misguided right-wing idea that Michael Moore himself is anti-American. To Zucker, apparently, Moore is anti-American because he had the gall to release "Fahrenheit 9/11" during the 2004 campaign season, which exposed viewers to information pertaining to the 9/11 attacks and the Iraq invasion that had been conveniently overlooked by the mainstream media. Moore's other films examined some very real problems faced by ordinary Americans (not millionaires like Zucker): What happens when you have health insurance, but you're still screwed ? ("Sicko"); What is going on in a relatively wealthy white suburban community that drives two schoolboys to kill their fellow students ? ("Bowling for Columbine"); what happens to a town's people when their primary source of employment vanishes? ("Roger and Me"). There's plenty of healthy debate to be had about these issues raised in Moore's movies, but for even raising them, the likes of Hayes and Zucker declare Moore anti-American. It's as if Moore thinks that he has a right to free speech or something.

Hayes noted that a scene in the film depicts an anti-war rally with protesters carrying signs, ranging from anti-war boilerplate such as "9/11 Was an Inside Job," "Kick Army Recruiters Off Campus!" and, "End Violence - War Is Not the Answer!", to the absurd; "End Disease - Medicine Is Not the Answer!" and, "Overpopulation - Gay Marriage Is the Answer!" The absurd signs lack the nuggets of ironic truth that made some Zucker's jokes from the old days shine. Whether or not gays can marry has nothing to do with overpopulation since they're probably not going to reproduce no matter what the marriage laws say. The idea that medicine is not the answer to disease might be funnier if we didn't occasionally have people who decide to rely solely on prayer to heal themselves or their children, sometimes with predictably tragic results.

On a similar note, Hayes reported that, "when (Zucker) heard Rosie O'Donnell claim that 'radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam in a country like America where we have a separation of church and state,' he knew he had several minutes of material. (Snip) In the film, a rotund comedian named Rosie O'Connell makes an appearance on The O'Reilly Factor to promote her documentary, 'The Truth About Radical Christians.' O'Reilly shows a clip, which opens with a pair of priests walking through an airport--as seen from pre-hijacking surveillance video--before boarding the airplane. Once onboard, they storm the cockpit using crucifixes as their weapon of choice." I'm not here to defend Rosie O'Donnell, but the crux of this bit is clearly that Christians are good and incapable of mass murder, as opposed to Islamic radicals. There are 918 ghosts in Jonestown, Guyana that gave themselves up for Jesus. To even suggest that Christianity has radical elements, which it clearly does, is enough to have one branded as an America-hater.

The problem with the right is that they are predisposed to dismiss people who raise important issues facing America as anti-American unless they toe the right-wing line. It is a method of marginalizing voices that the right disagrees with, but lacks the character to engage constructively or critically to defend its own views. So why does the right insist on propagating the fallacy that to hold an opinion other than one endorsed by the right is tantamount to treason? I'll offer as an explanation the following from Herr Joseph Goebbels, "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State." Clearly, the end goals of the Bush Administration (the State) and Germany's Third Reich are/were radically different, but mechanically, the tactic is equally applicable and effective. Dare I call it anti-American?

The film's release is scheduled for October 3, 2008, just in time to influence the election in November. Of course, such a film wouldn't be complete without taking a pot shot at Barack Obama. Hayes reported that in one scene, a "...slave, played by Gary Coleman, finishes polishing a car and yells 'Hey, Barack!' before tossing the sponge to someone off-camera." I'm sure "An American Carol" will have its moments, but I think I'll pass.

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