NOTE: This article was originally published at In Mala Fide on May 7, 2012. I’m re-posting it here as the site is now defunct.
It doesn’t take a genius to notice that our world is full of morons. Annoying reality TV stars, loudmouth talk show hosts, funeral-picketing gay-bashing Christians, rude moviegoers and other scum of the earth run rampant, aided by an increasingly dumber populace only concerned with what’s on TV tonight or what stupid viral video they saw on YouTube the other day.
Wouldn’t it be great if somebody picked up a gun and killed them all?
C’mon, you’ve all at least thought about it. Hippies, vegans, girls with tattoos — there are whole swathes of society that we’d be better off without.
If you’ve ever thought this country needs an aggressive and retroactive eugenics program, boy have I got the movie for you.
Last Wednesday, I had the pleasure of attending an advance screening of Bobcat Goldthwait’s new movie God Bless America courtesy of the Syracuse International Film Festival, featuring a Q&A with the man himself after the show was over. Goldthwait is a Salt City native, the only reason why anyone’d bother coming to this dead-end town. (In Mala Fide’s own Ferdinand Bardamu is also a Syracusan. There’s something about this place that breeds social malcontents.)
God Bless America may well be the defining movie of our generation. It’s not perfect, far from it, but as social commentary on the state of the American empire, it’s the most honest and truthful film in years.
I know it’s not normal to want to kill people, but the problem is that I am no longer normal.
The story is about Frank Murdoch (Joel Murray), archetype of the American loser. He’s a middle-aged fatso with a demeaning office job. His ex-wife is a manipulative bitch who spoils their daughter rotten. Speaking of his daughter, she openly despises him. His neighbors are obnoxious white trash who let their annoying baby scream its lungs out all night. His cubicle-mate is a vapid guido. Even worse, he lives in Syracuse. (Indeed, as Goldthwait pointed out before the show, many of the film’s exterior shots were done in the ‘Cuse itself, specifically Eastwood, Clinton Square and East Syracuse. Hey, I used to go to that church!)
After being fired from his job on a bogus sexual harassment charge (sending flowers to the house of the office’s fat receptionist in an attempt to be nice) and being diagnosed with a brain tumor, Frank decides to blow his brains out. After watching a little brat throw a tantrum on My Super Sweet 16, he changes his mind and decides to kill her and her parents instead. In the process, he teams up with Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr), a psychotic, foul-mouthed teen girl with similar grievances against society. Together, they travel across America forcibly aborting its idiots with steaming, hot lead. “If I’m going down, I’m taking all of you fuckers with me.”
God Bless America cribs generously from “outlaw” movies like Bonnie & Clyde and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, but is fresh and original enough that it doesn’t feel like parody. It’d be really easy for a film like this to backfire, but even with all the carnage going on (the film opens with Frank murdering a baby with a shotgun, for instance), it stays funny and poignant throughout. I found Roxy’s character to be a little unbelievable and preachy at points (though I did laugh at her praise of Alice Cooper and her rant against Diablo Cody), but given the movie’s fantastical premise, this is a minor point.
That’s the amazing thing: despite the horrific acts they commit (and despite Goldthwait’s frantic backpedaling in interviews), Frank and Roxy come off as enormously more human and sympathetic then the people they kill. For example, both are partially motivated to go on their spree after witnessing a mentally retarded kid being humiliated on an American Idol-type show.
Why have a civilization if we’re no longer interested in being civilized?
Naturally, there are going to be people offended by God Bless America. We call these people “pussies.”
For example, conservatives are already denouncing the film as “snuff porn,” missing the forest for the trees as they always do. At its core, God Bless America is a fundamentally traditionalist, reactionary movie, a commentary on the atomization and emptiness of modern America. Taxi Driver for the Internet Age. Do we really want to “conserve” America as it is? A country full of self-absorbed, narcissistic dolts with no empathy or concern for their fellow man? A country where a willingness to debase yourself is all you need to become rich and famous?
Gee, that message sounds awfully… conservative.
As I mentioned already, Bobcat Goldthwait had a Q&A with the audience after the film was over. One guy asked if there any individuals that Goldthwait would have liked to off but couldn’t squeeze in. He responded to the effect that the guy was missing the point: God Bless America isn’t simply a vigilante movie about seeing your least favorite public figures gruesomely killed, but an indictment of the kind of society where those figures can rise to prominence. As an example, he recalled a screening in Calgary where someone came up to him and said, “Dude, Simon Cowell’s not on American Idol anymore!” to which he responded, “You’re part of the problem, buddy.”
God Bless America, if not a perfect movie, is still entertaining, still truthful and still relevant. Rest easy, Mr. Goldthwait. You’ve done your hometown proud.
God Bless America is out in theaters nationwide this Friday. Don’t bring your kids.
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