Tag Archives: american myth

How he got over: The Trump his followers see

25 Nov
Contrary to how he was portrayed in the mainstream media Trump did not talk only of walls, immigration bans, and deportations. In fact he usually didn’t spend much time on those themes. Don’t get me wrong, Trump is a racist, misogynist, and confessed sexual predator who has legitimized dangerous street-level hate. Most of all, Trump is a fraud. And his administration will almost certainly be a terrible new low in the evolution of American authoritarianism. But the heart of his message was something different, an ersatz economic populism, which has been noted far and wide, but also a strong, usually overlooked, anti-war message. Both spoke to legitimate working class concerns.
Furthermore, his message was delivered with passion and a strange warmth. Dare I say it? Donald Trump has charisma. It is a mix of almost comic self-confidence, emotional intelligence, a common touch, but also at times slight vulnerability. Let’s face it, even the aura of sex around Trump—sleazy and predatory, sometimes sophomoric, as in the “small-hands” jokes—was at least part of a libidinal aura.
And here comes that Peter Thiel line you’ve been hearing:
One of the few coastal elites to have cracked the Trump discursive code is the otherwise odious Peter Thiel, who told the National Press Club, “the media is always taking Trump literally. It never takes him seriously, but it always takes him literally.” Voters on the other hand, said Thiel, “take Trump seriously but not literally.” Bingo!
Or to translate this into the academese of Roland Barthes, perhaps Trump’s discourse was more “writerly” (scriptable) than its simple sounds suggested; that is his meanings, because of the form of their delivery, were open to multiple understandings and re-assembly by the listener. Even his endlessly invoked wall, in reality a proposal for more militarized policing, could sound like a public works scheme, an infrastructure based jobs program. […]
In Trump’s discourse A does not necessarily connect to B. If you don’t like A, just focus on B. The structure of Trump’s discourse will never demand that all the pieces be connected. That, in part, is what he meant with the Orwellian phrase “truthful hyperbole.” He has even described his own statements as mere “opening bids” in a negotiation.
Style and the little guy:
Choppy as they were, Trump’s speeches nonetheless had a clear thesis: Regular people have been getting screwed for far too long and he was going to stop it.
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Truth and Tradition in Disney’s Dumbo

25 Jun

Several years ago I sent a long email to Mike Barrier, the animation historian, about Disney’s Dumbo. I couple days later I noticed that he’d posted it on his website, along with some frame grabs he’d added. I’m now reposting that essay here.

That’s all well and good, you say, but what has THAT got to do with Truth, Tradition, and the American Way?

Everything, I say, well, not everything, but a lot. Which I explain in some detail in the analysis. But I’ll give you a little taste here and now.

In the first place that film reaches deep into American myth and lore: trains, the circus, the value of labor. Yes, the value of labor, in Dumbo. The tent-raising scene is stunning, showing hard-working men. AND animals, because the animals helped raise the tent as well. So we’ve got cross-species solidarity. Further, those workers and animals are skeptical about management, deeply skeptical. Yet management, then as now, is sneaky.

Sneaky sneaky sneaky!

The film depicts managment manipulation of workers to set them at odds with one another. We see scapegoating in action. Poor little Dumbo is made to take the fall for managment greed and stupidity. Let me repeat that: Dumbo is made to take the fall for managment greed and stupidity.

And you know how Dumbo gets out of it? Interspecies solidarity with Timothy Mouse and with a mess of jivometric crows. Those crows teach Dumbo about the importance of groovology. There is nothing so deep and traditional about America as groovology, groovology of all sorts. Why, the first book published in America was a hymnal. What’s hymn singing but Groovology 103?–patty cake is Groovology 101 and double-dutch is Groovology 102.

I’ve gone on enough setting up this thing. Read review, watch the movie, and ask yourself: Could this film be made in American today and now with the 1% lording it over the 99%?


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