Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Fun with Dick and Jane

We watched Fun with Dick and Jane, a Jim Carrey send-up of Enron and corporate fraud in general.

The class humor was a lot more biting (and, not coincidently, really funny) than I expected. I had expected the movie to make out the executives to be the unequivocal villains, and the workers of Globodyne to be the gosh-just-folks good-guys. But there was almost no attempt to tar and feather the executives, but quite a bit of spoofing of the upper-middle-class:

  • The Harper family has a Hispanic housekeeper/nanny, and while film is completely sympathetic to the woman, it repeatedly reminds the audience that the child is speaking better Spanish than English. Dick and Jane never react to this, more than the missed beat necessary to let the joke settle it, but nonetheless the barb is there: somebody else is raising their child, and it shows.
  • The movie opens with a graphical homage to The Truman Show, with Dick walking out of his house and waving to the neighbors. It was a pointed reminder that there is something more than a little fake about the suburban lifestyle. There is the petty keeping-up-with-the-Jones conversation over the neighbor's new car. And then a long row of nearly-identical Beemers in the parking lot of Globodyne. The message: yes, all these people have good jobs, but there is a hollowness to it.
  • When Dick spends a day standing on the street corner with the Mexican day-laborers, you are reminded again of class distinctions you had nearly forgotten. Dick and Jane feel utterly humiliated to take entry-level service jobs, and they feel like their world is ending . . . but meanwhile there are illegals making even less, who seem to be a lot happier and less neurotic.
  • When Dick and Jane try to make off with the plasma flat-screen TV to sell, their son absolutely freaks out. "Go, go, go!" Dick is yelling, while the nanny clings to an utterly despondant boy screaming. Yeah, it's funny, but . . . ouch. The kid is more torn up about losing his TV shows than his parents. Are we still feeling like the American middle class are the good guys?
  • Dick's first venture into crime is stealing sod to put back his lawn. The lawn . . . the ultimate symbol of suburban comfort and wealth. Beautiful and useless. (Can you tell I don't have a lawn?) And the world-ending crisis that drives them to armed robbery? Foreclosure on their home. The message is pounded in, again and again: these people are utterly identified with their material wealth.

I admit, I enjoyed the ending. It's a nice little fantasy that (sadly) everyone wishes could happen: we fleece the super-rich executive who perpetrated the fraud and give it all back to the people who lost everything. If only it was so easy.



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