(originally posted to http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=175888830161 )
A friend commented on her status that she thought the movie “Drop Dead Gorgious” was one of the funniest movies she had ever seen. So I chased down a copy and proceeded to watch it. Suffice it to say, I didn’t find it very entertaining posted a comment to the status asking if she was serious. In some of the exchanges that followed, I tried to elaborate specifically what it was that bothered me about the film but was having a hard time putting a finger on the precise reasons myself, so my comments were bouncing around a bit all over the map. I was close, but hadn’t quite nailed it down.
When it finally hit me earlier today, the answer was so obvious I am amazed that I missed it. My comments were heading in the right direction but hadn’t quite fully explained what my ‘gut’ was telling me about the nature of the film. I used words like ‘prejudice’ to describe the way mid-western folk were portrayed and attributed that depiction based on the ‘intent’ and ‘source’ of the parodies seen in the film. Some suggested other satires in comparison to which I offered some of my own from ‘regional’ midwestern talent such as Jeff Daniels. Although on the right track, it still hadn’t hit the mark.
Well, I’m an obsessive type when it comes to things my ‘gut’ tells me. I’m not satisfied with simply having a ‘feeling’ about something, I need to break it down and figure out ‘why’. And as I already eluded to, it finally started to become clearer. It was hiding the whole time in the concept of ‘prejudice’ itself and, not surprisingly, to some of my core ethics, many of which I’ve already described in previous notes.
Ultimately it broke down to three things:
- definitions of Ignorance, Stupidity and Idiocy
When it comes to prejudice, the most predominant ’cause’ is a lack of understanding, or in short ‘ignorance’. When it comes to my definitions (see the link above), acting on it in spite of that ignorance is idiocy. And when you do (or should) know better before acting, it borders on or outright represents evil. (or at least evil intent)
- the nature of value
(see also, “the notion that partisans miss“)
Each person has their own perspective, their own background, their own experiences and beliefs. What one person thinks may be strange or even bad, to another can be a source of joy or reverance. Diversity in our society should be a matter for awe and inspiration but more often than not it inspires distrust and deceit instead.
- the notion that “all good comedy has a foundation based in fact”
I’m not sure who said it first, but generally it is true, ESPECIALLY in the case of satire and parody. If you are making false or inaccurate representations by way of caricature or farce, it loses it’s comedic appeal and reverts to condescension and insult instead.
My use of references to someone like Jeff Daniels was a good one because he does the same kinds of parodies and satires of people from this region – in some cases even more outlandish. But what’s the difference? It’s not simply that Jeff is ‘from here’ but that Jeff takes pride in being ‘from here’. When he picks on things, he is not only picking on himself, but he is picking on things that he 1) understands and 2) values himself. There can be no question of his intentions and his goal is to laugh at himself and those he cherishes, not to rip them down. And flawed as they may be, he creates almost all his characters to be admirable and loveable deep down.
Although the writer of this film was from Minnesota and in beauty pageants*, it would be a far stretch to say that the depictions of all but one or two of the characters in this film were; demonstrating anything of ‘value’ in their behavior, anything the creator cherished, or anyone intended for anything other than being laughing ‘at’.
The only two characters that came even close to having good qualities were the characters Amber Adkins (played by Kirsten Dunst) and Lisa Swenson (played by Brittany Murphy) – the former busting her ass the whole movie and never really ‘achieving’ anything other than by the misfortune of others rather than by her own hard work and talent, and the latter portrayed as a giggling buffoon!
Some of the other characters that tried to be ‘admirable’ included:
– a retarded obese son of one of the judges with a propensity for exposing himself in public
– anorexic former pageant winner
– a nymphomaniac airhead cheer leader who was 3 months pregnant
– a nymphomaniac alcoholic neighbor who hit on everyone from the film crew to the bartender
– another judge who is a pedophile skulking around with a video camera after the young girls
…and mother who’s idea of being motherly was insisting from her daughter all the things she wasn’t able to do herself. (and then only when she took 2 seconds away from chain smoking, cracking open beer or being abusive)
* but I should note, the director is from New York and often what the author had ‘written’ is nothing close to what actually ends up on the screen
As far as accuracy, there are too many things to list so I’ll focus on one that is close to my heart. Some of the jokes love to rip on the use of firearms. One that sticks out in my head was when Amber has to turn down a date because her work (in a funeral home) is ‘real busy’, to which the punch line is “Hunting Season” – but they still weren’t done, they had to add in another $0.02 by adding “it’s real dangerous out there”. Woops, meant to be a joke, but nothing could be less accurate.
Hunting is in fact one of the safest forms of recreation in America. The latest annual data from the International Hunter Education Association indicates that a total of 850 incidents occurred in the U.S. In comparison golfers have totaled more than 39,000 reported injures while tennis players totaled 19,633.
And this is just one example.
So if you like jokes about anorexia, the mentally retarded, chain smoking alcoholics, pedophelia, teen promiscuity/pregnancy, trailer parks on the Cops greatest hits list and general humor that degrades an entire region and peoples of the country maybe this movie is for you. It’s not for me.