PolitiPop has returned!
Yes indeed, after a few solid weeks of rest and relaxation, travel, and a slew general summer activities, PolitiPop is back and ready to bring you the best in politics and pop culture. Looking back at the news from our time apart its pretty clear — the apocalypse may very well be upon us.
Ok, I’m exaggerating, I don’t believe in Revelation’s, but here’s a few stories from the last couple of weeks that could make one think (wish?) it were the end-of-days:
– Congress and President Obama finally came to a deal on raising the debt ceiling… by leaving the “job creators” (a.k.a the wealthy folks) alone with their cash and slashing federal spending, with the promise that more cuts are to come at the discretion of a Super Committee, where entitlement programs, like Medicare and Social Security, and the defense budget are all on the table.
– Following up the debt deal the U.S. loses its AAA rating from S&P; it’s unfortunate for Obama that this happened on his watch, but with outrage set firmly against the ratings firms (who are said to have botched calculations) and Congress’ petty bickering along party lines, it seems like the blame is being pretty well spread around.
– London’s burning; this is not a reference to The Clash.
– Texas Gov. Rick Perry throws his ten gallon hat into the ring for 2012. Back in June, The Texas Tribune ran a very informative piece detailing why the Republican and frequent First Amendment violator, should not run for president. Why God, why?
– Newsweek ran this extremely horrifying cover featuring Michele Bachmann. No, seriously God, why?
On the upside, if you want to call it that (and I do, I loved the movie), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, grossed over $1.2 billion worldwide, making it the 3rd highest grossing film of all time. Moviegoers flocked to the theaters to watch the wizarding world finally break free from He Who Must Not Be Named, briefly escaping the endlessly depressing news reports inundating every facet of our lives, but our Muggle troubles are nothing compared to what the Ministry of Magic is now facing post-Voldamort. Foreign Policy ran a fascinating piece looking at the long road ahead for the wizarding community.
Finally, I spent last weekend in Chicago, attending the city’s yearly music festival Lollapalooza. Despite the torrential rain and the ankle-deep mud, acts like the Foo Fighters, DeadMau5 and Cold War Kids played on for the dirty-yet-enthusiastic crowds. One performance that stood out was Damien Marley and Nas; their plea for unification was moving especially in the song, “Leaders,” when they asked for all to stand up and lead, not just in politics but in life, singing, “Oh leaders, let’s all change the world.”
And then, I kid you not, a rainbow appeared.
This morning The Donald went on Fox and Friends to explain why he thought congressional Republicans should reject any plan brought to the table by Obama and the Dems: “Frankly the Republicans would be crazy unless they get 100% of the deal that they want right now to make any deal…If this happens, for instance if this stuff is going on prior to an election, he can’t get reelected”
Brian Kilmead pointed out that contrary to Trumps views, recent polls indicate that in the event that the US government should default on August 2, the majority of Americans would blame the Republicans. Trump countered, saying, “… I don’t care about polls. When it comes time to default, they’re not going to remember any of the Republicans’ names. They are going to remember in history books one name, and that’s Obama.”
I find it shocking that The Donald doesn’t care about polls, considering how quickly they dashed his hopes for a presidential bid in 2012. His April lead disappeared a mere ten days after Obama and SNL’s Seth Myers skewered the real estate mogul at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner on April 30. Shortly after dropping to fifth place in a survey taken by Public Policy Polling in May, Trump announced that he would not be running for president in 2012.
Read more at Think Progress.
As we approach the possible sequel to Barack Obama’s New Hope the Empire is surely striking back. Personally, as a fervent Obama supporter in 2008 (I made calls to New Hampshire, Florida, and Pennsylvania) I’m happy that should he be reelected there won’t be a trilogy. There doesn’t need to be. Like Luke Skywalker in Return of the Jedi, Obama is being tempted and seduced by the dark side. Gitmo is still open; Afghanistan has drained the wealth of our nation, debilitating its ability to weather the global financial storm, while thousands of young Americans and Afghani civilians have died. Furthermore, an assault on the middle class in the form of debt championed by corporate welfare in the Senate and the White House has gone unfettered by our president. The empire has indeed co-opted this promising young padawan.
I’m not a fan of Lucas’s prequels to his masterful and visionary Star Wars Trilogy and I especially hated Episode 1: The Phantom Acting Ability. However, Lucas’s take on the process of political decay that befalls all republics has been spot on. In The Phantom Menace (the real title) it is a permanent bureaucracy in conjunction with a monopolistic business class that has true control while representatives squabble over inane policies and our kept in the dark on military and regulatory action. This bureaucracy knows no party affiliation or check on its power and through a combination of fear tactics, media malpractice (business class), and money has allowed for a reversal of civil rights of all Americans.
It’s on the back of these events that the Tea Party has successfully funneled white anger against the system only to reinforce the system. Senator Palpatine used fear of this bureaucracy to force of vote of confidence in the chancellor and take control for himself. The current rising star of the republican presidential field, Michele Bachmann, has stated in a Wall Street Journal interview that her favorite philosophical author is Ludwig Von Mises, the economist known for such writings as Socialism, Omnipotent Government: The Rise of Total State and Total War, and surprise surprise, Bureaucracy.
The Tea Party continues to push back against this bureaucracy but through an unbalanced approach, blowing away sensible regulation of what pollutants go into our water and food while supporting tax credits for industries, deregulation of the financial system and the Sherman Anti-trust policies, and the reauthorization of the patriot act, all programs that have successfully crowded out the free market from American business.
The Tea Party should be careful not to make the mistake of propping up a messiah figure forth right that only serves to indulge their nativist attitudes while allowing the same monopolistic and bureaucratic policies to continue.
We must remember that the problems facing America are not the sole creation of big business as the left would preach or big government as the right preaches, but a collusion of both. This collusion of classes –political and financial– in the protection of a noble class in Washington must be stopped but not at the expense of creating a strong executive with wide powers over the state’s monopoly over violence. There are indeed admirable qualities that Ms. Bachmann possesses outside the hyperbolic religious fervor she espouses in Taliban-like rhetoric.
Many societies have stood on the doorstep of totalitarianism before a charismatic leader, Rome before Caesar, Germany before Hitler, and the intergalactic senate before Darth Sidious’s alter ego Senator Palpatine. I’ve never recommended the Star War prequels to anyone before, but to my Tea Party brothers and sisters I suggest a movie marathon… I’ll bring the popcorn.
The superhero genre is an American creation, like jazz and stripper poles, exemplifying American ideals, American know-how, and American might, a mating of magical thinking and the right stuff. (May Vanity Fair)
After Barack Obama was elected in November 2008, Hollywood saw the trend: This man would save America, from the economy, from foreign opinion, from war, from the Bush era. He would bring America back to its former glory.
After a decade of sorted superheroes flying across green screens with the greatest of ease, in 2009 and 2010 only two films from the superhero genre were released, Iron Man 2 and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Both films were sequels; America didn’t need any new superheroes, we had Obama.
Now over two years into Obama’s term and things are changing. If you needed any other signs that summer is finally (almost, kind of) here, you only need to look at the swell of blockbusters hitting the screens. Johnny Depp with his raven locks and guyliner, took over the box office last weekend with the release of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, but two weeks ago it was America’s superheroes who officially launched their summer tour. Thor, which has grossed over $145 million in the US since its May 6 release, is the first of four big-budget superhero films set for theaters this summer (X-Men First Class, June 3, Green Lantern, June 17, Captain America: The First Avenger, July 22).
Even more capes will be flashing across the big screen in 2012 with The Avengers, Superman: Man of Steel, The Dark Knight Rises, and The Amazing Spider-Man.
So what’s going on?
In almost every year since 2000, at least one film from the superhero genre has cracked the top 20 list of domestic box office grossers. The X-Men and Spider-Man franchises alone have grossed over $1.9 billion domestically, spanning across seven films.
Comparatively, however, the 2000’s were unable to capture a tone befitting the era, as the genre has done in the past. Superman ruled at the box office from 1978 until 1988, releasing four films in the franchise. The escalating Cold War and an economic crisis encouraged a country in distress to embrace the nationalistic timbre that defined Ronald Reagan’s presidency; Superman, with his ability to withstand bullets and leap tall buildings in a single bound, was an ideal guardian for America during the turbulent 1980’s.
As the last great enemy of the United States vanished with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, America became the world’s only remaining superpower, and in turn with the tide in 1989, Tim Burton would reboot Batman. A superhero who lacked any superhuman abilities, save perhaps his high intelligence, Batman a.k.a. Bruce Wayne, was a wealthy businessman-turned-vigilante fighting crime at night dressed as a bat, using an array of highly developed, tech-savvy weapons. Batman was symbolic of the abundant wealth and economic dominance of Wall Street and Silicon Valley throughout much of the 1990’s. In addition to America’s dark knight, Hollywood also created film versions of dark, morally ambiguous superheroes in The Punisher (1989), Spawn (1997), and Blade (1998).
But the post 9/11 America never found itself a consistent superhero; along with the X-Men and Spider-Man, Hollywood also gave us Hellboy, The Fantastic Four, Hulk, Ghost Rider, Chris Nolen’s take on Batman, another Superman, and Iron Man.
What makes 2011/2012 different is that, contrary to previous years when we saw the same characters over several films, only two of the upcoming superhero flicks are sequels, The Dark Knight Rises and Ghost Rider. The remainder are either brand new franchises or reboots, such as Captain America and Superman: Man of Steel.
In 2008, America thought it had found its hero. Now, however, it seems the “honeymoon” is over. Obama’s campaign of “hope” and “change” were stalled by reality, and despite the achievements he has made thus far — passing health care legislation, over-turning “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and now the death of Osama bin Laden — people still can at most times only talk of his failures, such as the slow economic recovery, high unemployment, and unforthcoming closing of Guantanamo.
Obama couldn’t perform miracles or walk on water, and he couldn’t instantly pull America out of the hole it had dug for itself since 9/11, as so many had expected him to after they built him up during the campaign.
Perhaps the words of Commissioner Jim Gordon closing lines of The Dark Knight best describe the decline of Super-Obama: “he’s the hero Gotham deserves. But not the one it needs right now. And so we’ll hunt him. Because he can take it. Because he’s not our hero. He’s a silent guardian. A watchful protector. A dark knight.”
May is a bittersweet month; in the nice weather I can eat lunch outside and avoid my least favorite subway stations by walking, but at the same time I have to say goodbye to the vast majority my favorite TV shows for nearly 4+ months (or indefinitely, RIP Chicago Code, we barely knew ye.)
Now the Glee kids are coming into town, stuff is happening on Bones (finally!), and as a sick reminder that I have only True Blood to look forward to in the coming months, the big four networks start to publicize their fall lineups by hacking down any under-performers and hyping pilot scripts in development.
But the biggest hit of the 2011/2012 season won’t be a sitcom or drama, like the newest J.J. Abrams venture or The Playboy Club on NBC (really NBC?).
It will be a reality show: The 2012 presidential elections.
As Benjamin Svetkey wrote about on EW’s PopWatch last week, despite the Republican’s weak field of candidates and President Obama’s return to awesomeness following the death of Osama bin Laden, the 2012 election still promises to be an entertaining one.
With this cast of characters how could America not be enthralled: Sarah Palin (and Tina Fey), Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul and anyone associated with the Tea Party, President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and of course, Donald Trump and that fox that lives on top of his head.
The 2008 elections were no doubt thrilling, with the candidates setting the bar high by poking fun at themselves on Saturday Night Live and appearing on everything from the national news programs in prime time to the The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Late Show with David Letterman. But America can do better.
November 6, 2012 is still 17 months away and there is plenty of time to comment on the dramas of the next presidential election, but with Obama already gearing up a new campaign, releasing not only his long form birth certificate but a video of his actual birth (which we can all thank The Donald for), and Newt announcing his candidacy via Twitter, there is no question that the 2012 election promises to be the stuff of Hollywood legend.