Hollywood Kids The Democrats Because They
Love The Democrats
It's Spring Movie time, which means that Hollywood gets to
take a few loving, if awkwardly executed, jabs at the Democratic
Party. This time of year last season gave us Head of State
and Malibu's Most Wanted, each of which blasted
the White California Congressmen With Pictures of Himself
Shaking Hands With Famous Black Leaders--ala Jay Billington
Bulworth. This season gives us Barbershop 2 and Welcome
to Mooseport. There's a few funny scenes in Welcome
to Mooseport, including Ray Romano's faux-Dean scream
featured in the commercials. Or, try this: President Monroe
"Eagle" Cole is helicoptering into his vacation
home in Mooseport, Maine. Cole, bitching about how he's the
President dammit and they should let his plane land first,
looks out the window of Air Force One and comes face to face
with a Red Cross helicopter airlifting a critically injured
donkey from the marshes below. If I were to give this movie
more credit, then I would say that this is a pretty funny
comment on the state of the Democratic Party.
But Welcome to Mooseport resorts to the movie cliche
that the President is an empty suit who couldn't wipe his
own ass without his staff. Somebody's got to cover the mic
when President Cole observes about his new hometown, "It's
deader than Nixon down here!" Besides, can we take a
movie seriously that thinks that "the most popular President
since Kennedy" can also be suffering a divorce from Christine
Baranski? Still, Welcome to Mooseport has its moments,
like when Fox News polls the Mooseport Mayoral Race (They
could have knocked this joke out of the park if Frank Luntz
had assembled a Mooseport Focus Group). There's also some
funny stuff with Hackman bitching about his library "not
being as big as Clinton's."
In fact, Hackman's performance has an odd, accidental brilliance:
Clearly, Gene Hackman doesn't give a damn about being in Welcome
to Mooseport, which is great because his President Monroe
Cole doesn't give a damn about being in Mooseport. "I
had dignity once. Does anyone remember that?", he asks.
Yes, Gene, we do, and we don't understand why you're in this
movie. But Gene wakes for the big finale. In the end we respect
Monroe Cole because he drops the political pretense and speaks
from the heart. He stops beating down the little guy and lifts
him up--and in doing so, lifts himself up. Isn't that what
being a Democrat is all about?
Barbershop 2, on the other hand, goes right after
Jesse Jackson. The randy city alderman accepts a bribe to
bring a "Nappy Cuts" (a ghetto Supercuts) right
across the streets from Calvin's shop, and then hits on pretty
young ghetto chicks. But is satirizing Jesse Jackson really
sporting? Good thing Barbershop 2 has a lot more going
for it. Essentially the movie is about balancing the preservation
of a neighborhood and economic development, but the important
question Barbershop 2 raises about Jack Kemp's "Empowerment
Zones" is this: Who's really empowered if big corporations
own the businesses? Empowerment is about ownership; a man's
self-worth, and by extention the worth of the neighborhood,
is measured by his own self-determination. By selling out
the old businesses in favor of chains, we tear down the self-determination
of those who make their living there.
I know this is sort of a black man's John Edwards argument,
but I just don't think the blanketing of "problem economies"
with neon chains like Nappy Cuts is the answer. The reason
Calvin's Barbershop has an identity is because it's wrought
directly from the history of the city--which Barbershop
2 spends some time developing by giving us flashbacks
to Eddie's (Cedric the Entertainer) early years with Black
Panthers and what-not. What's the point in just working for
a set hourly wage with shitty benefits and little chance of
advancement? At least if you own the shop, and if the boss
is a local, workers have a voice--their own ability of self-determination.
Listen, I come from a small Missouri town which boasts a town
square with over ninety retail stores, all of which are locally
owned. That's why people move to our town (and bring their
money with them), and that's why people stay--it's a community,
dammit. We fought the Wal-Mart Supercenter for four years
before the Evil Empire finally won. People in my town firebombed
the foundation three times during its construction--that's
right, we set off dynamite and tried to blow up Wal-Mart.
And you know what? That fucker is one of the least profitable
Supercenters in the state of Missouri (last year's statistics).
I think I understand where Barbershop 2 is coming from.
When we blanket the country with homogenous chain stores,
we cheat ourselves out of the opportunity of ownership--the
American ideal of self-determination. Workers are removed
from workplace decisions, and in the absense of viable unions,
being neutered. Essentially, we're being bribed out of our
local control with the promise of low everyday prices. And
don't give me this shit about the "global marketplace".
When are we going to realize that a twenty dollar pair of
jeans is costing us our identites? When are we going to realize
that it's far better in the long run to tip Calvin in ones
at the barbershop than run our debit cards through Nappy Cuts?
When are Democrats going to realize that truly rebuilding
black and rural communities is going to require a balance
of preserving local culture with economic investment? When
are they going to come up with a plan to do this, and then
communicate it to the voters?