A Pocket Full of Clemsonite

July 11, 2009

What’s In The Mind Of An Iranian Fundamentalist Militia Man

Filed under: Doom & Gloom — Tags: , , , , , , — floreign @ 5:33 pm

Inside the Iranian Crackdown – WSJ.com.

The early Hitler had the Brown Shirts volunteers. Ceausescu relied heavily on the Securitate and its network of informers. Had his network been as developed as the Basij militia, he wouldn’t have been executed by his own army who eventually sided with the people. Still, the former rank-and-file members of that network flourished even after the collapse of communism in the Eastern European Bloc. I’m sure other totalitarian regimes have had their share of such friendly thugs.

Now we see the religiously conservative Iranians in the Basij Militia having the same perks, which will definitely build a ruling caste in time.  They have all it takes: do what they are told, beat and kill before asking questions, and, most of all, believe uncritically that they are right in what they do and have the right to do so, even at the expense of other people’s lives.

The only optimistic part is in the end of the article: the underdog female gender could be able to call for a reality check (and overall improvement of our species). It’s beyond my understanding how a repressed female population could have voted for the denial of  their most basic rights during last month’s elections.

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July 10, 2009

Bruno At A Glance: The True Distorted Mirror

(A funny thing that happened before the actual feature presentation was the US Air Forces advertisement. Besides the fact that a military camp shows up in the movie, it makes you feel the lack of the slogan “don’t ask, don’t tell”.)

Once you get over the first reactions of disgust during the first minutes of this movie (see the reviews at Rotten Tomatoes here and a trailer above), the rest of the exaggerated stuff becomes bearable. Kind of like an immunization that makes you dig further and get the message. Because there are some reasons why at least some of the film’s skits were put in place.

A character from the Austrian TV fashion world, looking significantly different from Borat, is revealed to us after the first moments when we get to hear a Scooter song. He has a “suicidal” take on the fashion (I won’t reveal what caused what), and he is subsequently fired. While Borat was driven by the wish to “make sexy time” with Pamela Anderson, this time we have a very non-standard Austrian gay guy driven by the need to get famous.

His trajectory may seem a bit haphazard and the plot may seem minimal, and I’m not going to deny it too much. But I want to make a point here that there actually is a certain structure/plot, albeit different from the Hollywood typical recipe.

The careful watcher can identify a number of cultural themes that Sacha Baron Cohen is making fun of. Actually I think that the main purpose of the whole thing is to make people acknowledge them. The main pupose of this post is to discuss these succinctly.

So, beyond the satire aimed at the fashion world, we get to laugh at:

– the desperate will of Hollywood parents for their children’s accomplishment in the world of movies. The list of conditions made by the TV host -to-be Bruno to the parents of the would-be stars is at least breathtaking.

– the shallowness of the humanitarian approaches of the stars: they only want to embrace fashionable causes, so that people will worship them more and more;

– the inferior status of the Latinos, which were told to pose as chairs and tables when Paula Abdul came in the house having no furniture;

– the political correctness tendency related to African Americans shown during the show at which Bruno was invited as a single parent. Frankly, even I have difficulties in finding a term for European Americans, or for African Africans;

– the very little margin for alterity people allow: the hotel personnel was completely shut off mentally at the sight of two men entangled in bed with erotic paraphernalia. Another memorable scene was the one with the psychic.

– the selectivity of fame’s gatekeepers: they only promote straight people, so the gay Bruno decides he wants to become straight. A pretext for lots of other commentaries.

– the empty pretenses of certain Christian pastors aimed at converting “sinners”, they only want conversions to their religion, showing a clear lack of understanding toward the personality and needs of other people. There was a much milder joke than I feared with the first preacher about proselytizing, but this one was not well received by the people in my little Southern town (although they laughed quite loud at other jokes);

– the attitude toward women within the church, explained by use of the second preacher’s words, who was explaining Bruno that although women are boring and meaningless, they would be better for him;

– But all these pale in comparison with the great finale when Bruno finally landed a wrestling gala’s moderator job as “Straight Dave”. Let me get this straight (pun partially intended): wrestling is a male preferred fun thing to watch, which is very close to NASCAR, and additionally the wrestlers actually move and fight in a fashion that is considered by many (but not by its fans) as “gay”. Well, the crowd was cheering in the beginning, but when the fight turned into a gay body contact, although it still seemed similar, people became disgusted and angry. Oh, the Celine Dion track from “Titanic” fits magnificently in this scene.

I believe the bottom line is he started from the straight scene and he replaced it with gay behaviors, heavily exaggerated. in this fashion he managed to make a distorting mirror like the one Hans Christian Andersen created in his “Snow Queen” tale. Only this mirror of Bruno allows us to see right, while Andersen’s mirror makes people see nice things as being ugly.

Who knows, maybe Bruno can be credited with handing us the mirror of truth. Thumbs up from me for this demential comedy.

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