October 21, 2004

In Defense of TA:WP

UPDATE 1:25 PM: Shawn Macomber calls the blog-link to his Team America column "a handy place to put all of your angry comments," and having been the recipient of the odd hate-mailbag myself I'm tempted to simply delete my criticism; I hate to be part of a pile-on on a guy that I both like and admire. Instead, I've collapsed this post so it isn't quite so prominent on the main page.

Team America: World Police has shaken the gentle soul of my colleague Shawn Macomber, who compares it to MoveOn.org-style Bush hatred. Says Shawn, "by using the names and likenesses of left-leaning actors, the film makes its attacks on that side intensely personal. The message is simple: These are traitors who serve our enemies."

Actually, I don't think that's the message at all. With the exception of Michael Moore the suicide bomber-- unfair? That's debateable, quite frankly, given his openly anti-American rhetoric in speeches overseas and his implicit collusion with the Mullahs in the distribution of Fahrenheit 9/11 in Iran-- none of the celebrities lampooned are portrayed as evil. They are portrayed as naive. Sean Penn declares that he visited Saddam Hussein's Iraq and "before Team America showed up it was a happy place. They had flowery meadows and rainbow skies and rivers made of chocolate where the children danced and laughed and played with gumdrop smiles." This is different only in degree from his real life statements. And Janeane Garofalo's assertion of her right to repeat what she read in a newspaper as if it were her own idea is mocking her stupidity, not her patriotism. The Alec Baldwin-led Film Actors Guild meet with Kim Jong Il in pursuit of peace, which is only a small stretch-- remember, Sean Penn really did allow himself to be Saddam's propaganda tool. When they take up arms against Team America and get slaughtered, it's merely the climax that fits on the What-Would-Jerry-Bruckheimer-Do template.

"Celebrities with silly political views are not comparable to Kim Jong Il," insists Shawn. No one said they were. The movie's final geopolitical synthesis, in fact, specifically separates the dictator from the actors with the assertion of a relationship between various organs found between the waist and knees; the actors, Team America, and Kim Jong Il are held up as examples of each. Shawn complains about the lack of decorum in Hans Blix being eaten by sharks, but fails to mention that he's portrayed being fed to the sharks by Kim Jong Il. That's a cuttingly incisive portrait of the wages of appeasement. It isn't hypocritical, as Shawn argues, to get this joke and still "complain about Bush being called a fascist or being portrayed as a demon on a protester's sign." The main problem with the Bush-is-Hitler crowd, at least in my view, is not that they're rude, it's that they're tragically, ridiculously, painfully wrong. There's quite a difference.

Posted by John Tabin at October 21, 2004 03:56 AM

"Celebrities with silly political views are not comparable to Kim Jong Il," insists Shawn. No one said they were.

I think what my gentle soul was saying here was, in fact, accurate. The last half hour of the movie is a showdown between Team America and the heavily armed actors who are trying to kill them rather than have Kim Jong Il's party broken up. That's about as naieve as John Walker Lindh.

Further, my article wasn't really criticizing Team America. Those guys have never had an agenda, that's always been clear. My beef is with a conservative blogosphere that has been crying crocodile tears for a week now because John Kerry was so insensitive in the last debate brining up Dick Cheney's daughter, is now beating their chests and calling for blood on the big screen. So which is it?

You can play this off like I'm some kind of sissy who can't take it if you want, but I trust if you asked or around or came to New Hampshire you would quickly find that is not the case.

Posted by: Shawn Macomber at October 21, 2004 07:34 AM

Easy there-- I was being tongue-in-cheek with the "gentle soul" line; it wasn't meant as an insult. I assure you that I write only in the spirit of respectful disagreement.

The actors take up arms because they believe that Kim Jong Il's party, a summit of world leaders, is the key to world peace, and that Team America is simply angling for war. I think it's perfectly fair to call this a send up of their naivete rather than an equation of the actors to Kim Jong Il. (The real reason they take up arms, of course, is to generate a Bruckheimeresque climax.)

I don't know which bloggers you're talking about; if you have a specific gripe with someone, lets hear it. I honestly don't understand what you're getting at with the analogy to the Mary Cheney flap, so I can only assume you have a particular crocodile-tear-shedder or two in mind.

Posted by: John Tabin at October 21, 2004 09:12 AM