Sunday, May 13, 2007

Extremist Ridicule

American Dreamz is now being aired by Cinemax. I do not recall seeing very much about this film when it was released. I am not sure when (or, for that matter, if) it was released anywhere in the San Francisco Bay Area. However, this may be closest I have ever seen to a production in the spirit of the San Francisco Mime Troupe rendered in cinema. In fact that spirit was so alive in so many ways that I had to check Paul Weitz' past credits over at IMDB to see if he had ever been affiliated with them. He does appear to have been, nor does Wikipedia say anything about an SFMT connection. Nevertheless, I would not be surprised if Weitz had at least been exposed to the SFMT approach to satirical agitprop.

The reason I like SFMT is the no one escapes ridicule. They recognize that every story has multiple sides. Then they make sure that every one of those sides is subjected to the knife of their satirical writing. Weitz took a similar no-prisoners approach in American Dreamz. Taking American Idol as his point of departure, his initial targets of Simon Cowell, the production process of American Idol, and all touched by that process (contestants and those closest to them) are quickly supplemented by the current occupants of the White House, an al Qaeda training camp and an Orthodox Jew. In other words Weitz was not afraid to write a script dangerously close to the edge that left no one feeling particularly comfortable about anything: He afflicted the comfortable without caring very much about comforting the afflicted.

Nevertheless, to the extent that we are all afflicted by what just about all of Weitz' targets dish out to us, one way or another, the laughter he induces provides some level of comfort. As I have previously written, there is just too much out there for us to be wasting our intellectual and emotional energy on indignation. So, unless, like Oliver Stone, we have a budget for attacking these problems on the advertising front, ridicule is the most effective weapon we have. We simply have to remember, as Weitz seems to have done, that ridicule is most effective when delivered in a good-nature, rather than haranguing, tone.

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