Bush league, by and by
By the time you finish reading this column, I will have seen Oliver Stone’s film “W.,” and I swear I’ll tell you honestly if my suspicion that it is irresponsible trash was well-founded or not. Right now, though, allow me to gamble.
It’s getting hard to hear the foghorn of reality over the persistent engine noise of a media arts culture gone haywire. And when, with a touch of noblesse oblige, Oliver Stone deigns to tell us all that just happened these past eight years in a fictionalized highlight reel of the Bush Regime, I can’t help but feel a little seasick.
I don’t know about you all, but I’ve been paying attention, and while I’m pretty sure I got the gist of it, I think it would be handy if the facts were in order before they got spun into legend.
“W.” and similar intentional efforts to blur the lines between political discourse, history and pop-culture consumption are part of the historical record now, just as the real events of the Bush administration (save those jealously guarded secrets) are being duly noted in the register.
I’m not afraid that the historical discourse will conflate the two. The sometimes antagonistic interplay between occurrence and anecdote ultimately rests in the hands of historians who — tirelessly bent over their suede elbow pads with decanters of brandy nearby — continue to diligently record events, stories, embellishment and inaccuracy, enter them into the record, and let the historical discourse do its job of keeping things more or less honest. History, I feel, is as safe as it ever was.
Potentially in danger, though, are current perception, and the popular drive toward accountability and resolution. My concerns are with our place during the perilous transition between current event and history, and the power of Hollywood and her bruja sisters to spin the zeitgeist toward complacency just when our vitriol should be at its peak and the unified call for accountability its loudest.
One of the ways fiction gives us perspective is by distilling the chaos of the human experience into something emotionally manageable. It has incredible, humanizing potential to motivate people toward consensus and action. Additionally, it often has a culminating effect, like a present that, once opened and appreciated, wraps itself back up, ties its own bow and places itself in the hall closet. When we close a book or finish a movie, sometimes it’s as though the thing has been completed and is over. This is my concern.
I don’t want this thingto be over until it has been completed.
I don’t want us to willfully suspend disbelief where George W. Bush is concerned. Nor do I want to be moved, by means of deft character development, struggle, resolution and emotional complicity, to engage in forgiveness of what may have been the most criminal presidency in U.S. history before its trespasses have been accurately and completely documented. I don’t want to hear bedtime stories about the well-intentioned bumbling bear that got caught with his paws in the honey pot. Not now.
I want answers now. I want democracy and history to judge this period before the media industrial complex screws up the facts and hypnotizes our short-term memory in the name of entertainment.
I want Bush, Cheney, Rove and the rest to be brought to trial on treason and war crimes because (jazz hands!) I think they may be fucking criminals.
If after that someone sees fit to make some courtroom drama complete with low-angle shots of a steely prosecutor, humble yet triumphant, on the steps of the Hague, fine.
Can we as a culture have a second to gather ourselves though? Please?
Honest author dutifully sits through Stone’s “film”…
Wow. This movie is an absolutely stunning turd in ways that I could not have possibly imagined. The things I did imagine, though, were just about spot-on.
In short, I think it a trivializing and maybe damaging exercise to focus on the heart of the man instead of the reach of his actions.
I don’t need to be told about W.’s daddy syndrome or how much he liked to drink Jack Daniels from the bottle.
I have not been unfair in my assessment of George W. Bush, and I balk at the suggestion that I have. The film seemed to ask for his absolution and, Christ-like as this action may be, a proper indictment of his trespasses first seems a reasonable request.