untitled

Jonesing For “Normalcy”

(Soundtrack: Sheryl Crow–Self-Titled)




“America’s present need is not heroics, but healing; not nostrums, but normalcy…”
–(Warren Gamaliel Harding)

Leave it to Grant Morrison to exploit the latent potential in this factoid: the term “normalcy” was foisted upon America by executive fiat–and by the same president that took the country by the hand and led it into an unprecedented orgy of repression: Prohibition.


In our Derridean times, it’s a given that the “privileged” term in a binary relationship is always “contaminated” by its opposite number. So “good” is “tainted” by “evil”. Masters are dependent upon their slaves. And 1984 is actually fascist pornography.

That last example is introduced by Sir Miles, an unpleasant denizen of Morrison’s Invisibles


I’m not really prepared to discuss The Doom Patrol or The Invisibles yet–this is just a preliminary exploration of one key aspect of Morrison’s aesthetic. To wit:


Postmodern artists are exceedingly prone to Scooby Doo-style debunking excercises. Take American Beauty, for instance, the ultimate nineties deconjob. The film charged into the culture war, “empowering” every marginalized term in sight by knocking binaries on their heads with movie-of-the-week subtlety.
I despise its validation of the “I’m a freak and I’ll never fit in anywhere” mindset. This is all well and good when you know that, by the end of the movie, the bad repressed nazi guy is gonna crack and be dragged away, leaving the “meddling kids” in possession of the screen and the audience’s sympathy. However, in real life, the determination–amongst many of the most intelligent people in our society–to remain “alternative” at all times is the single greatest impediment to change.


Talk about your binary quandaries! You can’t be “alternative” without a “mainstream”. This is why Grant Morrison is so important. Here’s a guy that no “conservative” could possibly accept as “one of their own”–and yet, he triumphantly declares, in all of his work, “this is not alternative–this is for everyone!”

In Morrison, the struggle is not between “freaks” and “normals”–it’s between binary logicians and those who come to realize not only the bankruptcy but the true immorality of this mode of thinking. Morrison doesn’t wait until the end of his stories to “reveal” that his custodians of the status quo are at least as conflicted/fucked up as his punks–it’s all right there on the surface. “Mr. Jones” is a perfect example of this: “Hi Honey! I’m home!” [what–no laugh track?–let’s try that again “honey”–get with the program!]…


Morrison’s oeuvre (what I’ve read of it so far, anyway) is not a deconstruction of “normalcy”, it’s a dismissal. And he’s right. That’s not a word.



Good Afternoon Friends!
Dave

Advertisements

4 comments

  1. Dave,

    I know we’ve disagreed on movies before, but you flat out nailed it on American Beauty. Just spot on.

    Dave

  2. “I despise its validation of the “I’m a freak and I’ll never fit in anywhere” mindset. This is all well and good when you know that, by the end of the movie, the bad repressed nazi guy is gonna crack and be dragged away, leaving the “meddling kids” in possession of the screen and the audience’s sympathy.”

    I don’t know if this is a long-running ‘thing’ with your blog or not, but I did want to point out that at the end of American Beauty the ‘meddling kids’ were the ones fingered for the crime, the nazi-fuck got away with it clean. I recommend tracking down the original, Oscar-winning screenplay as it casts all of the characters in a very different light than what you seem to have taken from the film.

    Best,

    Christopher

  3. Christopher,

    I wouldn’t say I have a thing about American Beauty , but I do hate the film, whenever I happen to think about it…


    The film is unbelievably schematic in almost every way–all it does is pat all of us good liberals on the back for disliking nazis, and materialism and homophobes and “puritans” of all types. Of course, I dislike these things too, but I don’t need a movie to rubber stamp my political stances for me, and, that’s absolutely all American Beauty is offering…


    Well, that’s not entirely true. The scene in which Spacey’s character makes a radical choice not to act upon his cheezy desire to have sex with the daughter’s friend (who, for reasons of her own, is willing, but certainly not eager, to allow herself to be objectified) is quite good, in that it shows us a character at war with himself. The rest of the time we get Chris Cooper and Annette Benning and SUBURBIA as the heavies in a lamer heroes-vs-villains story than anything Marvel ever released…

    Peter Parker has a lot more to think about than any of these people do.


    Dave

  4. Wasn’t that the movie that taught Americans, “If you go jogging with gay men, you’ll end up dead”?

    –Josh

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s