Turning Into Margaret Dumont
I hate to talk in terms of our side, this side, that side. But our side, the liberal progressives, the open-minded people – I don’t want us to be the scolds and the shushers. That was always the role of neoconservatives and the religious fundamentalists, to restrict and remove words. I don’t want our side to be the one that’s parsing language.It just really, really bothers me, if the liberal progressives have now become the scolds. We were the Grouchos! We’re not the Margaret Dumonts — and we’re turning into the Margaret Dumonts on a lot of levels. That lets the misogynists and homophobes and racists seem like the rebels: “Well, we’re saying what people can’t say anymore.” We should be having way more fun with language and jokes and going too far. If our side starts doing that, then I think we’re fucked in terms of moving forward as a society. -- Patton Oswalt
This is an area that has been crawling up my ass for a while now. Oswalt nails it so perfectly that simply quoting him suffices to sum it up on some level. "We're turning into the Margaret Dumonts." Spot on.
Further illustrating his point is the recent trend of conservatives desperately trying to convince us how it is they who are, as Oswalt claims, "the rebels." White men starting exclusive groups because they aren't allowed to spout their advantaged masculinity without scrutiny. CEOs claiming victim status using the same language as actual victimized citizens. White Nationalists/Supremicists banding together online and bearing tiki torches purchased at Home Depot. PJ O'Rourke once claiming that "The Breakfast Club" is, in fact, a conservative film on its 30th Anniversary.
Like all of John’s movies, The Breakfast Club is conservative. Note that the first thing the disgruntled kids in detention do is not organize a protest, not express “class (of 1985) solidarity,” not chant “Students of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your locker combinations” and not claim it takes a Shermer to raise them.
They present themselves, like good conservatives do, as individuals and place the highest value, like this conservative does, on goofing off. Otherwise known as individual liberty.
O'Rourke makes an interesting case (you should read it) - I suspect he is correct in surmising that "a 2015 remake of The Breakfast Club [would need] Latino-American, African-American, Islamic-American, Born-Again Christian, Undocumented Alien, Feminist, Post-Feminist, Occupy Activist, Tea Party Member, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender… To cover all the bases of Identity Politics, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, Emilio Estevez and Anthony Michael Hall would have had to double- and triple-up. And wear some strange cosmetics."
That doesn't mean that the film is conservative (even if Hughes was a Reagonite). O'Rourke makes the mistake in stating that individualism and the belief in individual liberty is a conservative value. It is not.
Studies have shown that conservatives are far more in tune with ideologies that support conformity and the ability to enforce that homogenous view of how a citizen should respond to authority than progressives. Just because conservatives believe they should get to own assault rifles and protect their Christian values with the threat of violence doesn't indicate a love of individual freedom. It indicates a love of self interest over the interests of all others.
"The Breakfast Club" is, yes, a homogenous group racially but tracks five different types, filled with that conservative love of self above all others as they slowly learn empathy and common interests in the face of authoritarian requirements of fealty to the rules. And they do it by sharing stories with one another. So, rather than a conservative comedy, it is a comedy about abandoning the selfish, narcisstic ideology of the Right and learning to become more empathetic and progressive through common interest and community.
O'Rourke's National Lampoon credentials don't suddenly make his humor open-minded or satirical (as he tends to 'punch down' with the best of the unfunny Ann Coulter's and Rush Limbaugh's of the Right Wing). My experience with conservative humor is that it always feels just a bit off - like the Jock in high school getting laughs at the expense of the Geek or bigoted college students pointing out how funny their song about torturing blacks is but you just don't get it.
Back to Patton. We on the Left mock those in power. That's our job. When we spend our energies knee-jerking after every perceived slight and tearing each other down, we open up the playing field for idiot savants like Joe Barton (R - TX) and Steve King (R - IA) to own the 'disenfranchised revolutionary" cloak. Does this mean we swallow everything everyone says with a grain of salt? YES. If we can't laugh at ourselves, we can't effectively mock anything else. THAT'S the lesson we learn from the Right. Laugh at ourselves or lose all credibility to play the Fool.
And society needs the Fool.