Losing the Pop Culture War
There’s talk of America’s decline as the last great superpower. People think we may have lost a step from the ascendant society that came out of WWII as an economic powerhouse due to a huge industrial base, agricultural zones, and means of moving products quickly to where they need to go as America was entirely (excepting Hawaii) untouched by the ravages of war that shattered Europe and Asia.
Perhaps we came out of the Cold War damaged: psychologically impaired and paranoid. We had to know everything and run everything for fear of annihilation. It’s possible that all that time spent keeping an eye on the spread of Communism and acting as ideological police spread us too thin and forced too many compromises, leading us away from the infinite promise of our vision for a free and open meritocracy guided by laws passed by moral men.
We’re in debt. We can’t feed all our citizens. We can’t decide who is and isn’t a citizen. We’re behind in every aspect of education when compared to the rest of the industrialized world. We’re committing resources, time, and the lives of men and women brave enough to serve in conflicts that we can barely define, let alone understand, in parts of the world that don’t want us there.
I can’t speak to that. I’m not smart enough to fully map out the causes and fallout of the Cold War or try to put into words and charts all the ways being involved in a nuclear stalemate over ideology can affect a society. Frankly, I don’t think anyone has any idea what’s going on now in the Middle East, on either side, and whatever will happen will happen, and any sort of insight or formal timeline is only going to come from hindsight and some distance from the events.
Having said that, I do think America has lost a step. We’re no longer a colossus astride the Earth. My evidence has nothing to do with a dead industrial base, a schizophrenic foreign policy, and such a blind devotion to the left or right that both tend to disappear right up their own asses.
No, America has lost the war in a conflict where we not only won on a very profound level every time, but we were still winners when other countries were doing WAY better.
I speak of Pop Culture.
America truly stepped onto the world stage at the birth of mass communications, and as such, we were perfectly primed to take the reigns into this brave new world and begin to dictate how it would work as we would be the first player in international relations to exist wholly within it.
Yet, disaster has befallen us. Thor will actually premiere in 40 other countries ten days before it premieres in the US.
That’s fucked up. That is profoundly fucked in an ascending fashion.
Americans invented everything good in entertainment. Let’s just get that out of the way right now.
Rock n’ Roll: Us.
Comic Books: Us.
Car Chases: Us.
Shoot Outs: Us.
Mob Movies: Us.
It’s not even close.
Hell, even when we weren’t the best, we still won. The Beatles weren’t considered a success until they hit it big in America. Same thing with the Stones and Zep. Oh, you’re number one in the UK? You sold out shows in Germany?
Who gives a shit?
Sell out a stadium in the USA, though? You’ve made it. Hell, they didn’t consider their lives lived until they came here and got to meet the rock stars that they eclipsed when they conquered the charts. Foreign rock stars had to come to the US to pay tribute.
All the action cinema in Asia, which in terms of form and structure walked all over the US (we still had charisma and we cornered the market on one-liners), but those directors and choreographers couldn’t consider themselves true purveyors of stylized violence until they had a movie that was financed here and released here first. We are, for better or worse, a nation of taste makers and that is now being taken away from us.
Neal Stephenson, an author who made his name in science-fiction is generally regarded as a man who is well ahead of the curve in terms of technology, culture, and the each thing’s reaction to the other. He foresaw America’s decline in his book Snow Crash.
America had fallen into disarray. It was a nation divided and as a true laissez-faire society, began to eat itself as corporate infrastructure reigned supreme and the government and military became entirely privatized in the future.
Stephenson created a world where America was no longer a powerhouse on the world stage (though certain American corporations were). However, we would forever be in charge of all cool shit.
“When it gets down to it — talking trade balances here — once we’ve brain-drained all our technology into other countries, once things have evened out, they’re making cars in Bolivia and microwave ovens in Tadzhikistan and selling them here — once our edge in natural resources has been made irrelevant by giant Hong Kong ships and dirigibles that can ship North Dakota all the way to New Zealand for a nickel — once the Invisible Hand has taken away all those historical inequities and smeared them out into a broad global layer of what a Pakistani brickmaker would consider to be prosperity — y’know what? There’s only four things we do better than anyone else:
high-speed pizza delivery “
Yet here we have a superhero movie, based off of a comic book – in which said superhero is on a team with Captain AMERICA – premiering in 40 other countries before the US.
Apparently Iron Man 2 also did this completely under ours noses. A narcissistic billionaire weapon’s manufacturer who wears a flying tank suit was not premiered in the only country that could have birthed such a creature.
I mean, really, Australia gets our superhero movies first? Granted the US is filled with actors who are pretty boys and giant pussies which is why almost all the superheroes and comic book movies are filled with performers from other countries that have a more enlightened view of the arts than America, but two things: 1.) that’s how we decide who really wants to do it. You think Steve McQueen, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Lee Marvin, and Charles Bronson were naturally that tough? Hell no, they got that tough because they beat up every close-minded asshole who yelled “faggot” at them as they left acting class and rehearsals. Our toughest actors were forged in a crucible of close-minded fire.
2.) It doesn’t matter who’s playing them, the character was born here, in ‘Merica. Yes, Thor’s a Norse god. Yes when he talks his word balloons are filled with fancy font, but he’s still a giant person who solves all problems with violence while maintaining that he’s the good guy.
That’s the most American goddamn thing I’ve ever heard, ever.
Yet, the movie’s premiering in Australia first? I’ll remind all of you that Australia is a nation founded entirely by convicts and their first flag was a celebration of forced sodomy.*
*may or may not be factually correct
Guys, this can’t happen. Global politics and world culture is like high school. We can be loud, brash, and violent so long as we are still cool. You can do anything you want if you’re cool, but letting our movies premiere somewhere else is ridiculous and it cannot stand. I don’t know what Marvel’s plan or strategy is, but if there is anything we can do to make them rethink their approach, we, as a nation, must come together to do it.
Otherwise, we have nothing. We might as well be… literally anyone who’s not the US and none of us want that.
Posted on April 19, 2011, in History Lessons, Lists, Matt Loman, Movies, Music, Pop Culture, Television and tagged 'Merica, Action movies, America, beatles, Matt Loman, rant, thor, USA. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.