I’ve seen several people mention on social media that they refuse to celebrate Independence Day, which is understandable in the light of all the crap that’s going on now, much of which has always been present in the United States. I can’t say I did that much myself, but I do still enjoy eating hot dogs, probably more than I did when I was a kid. I have to say I’m a little uncomfortable about patriotism even in the best of times, as the whole notion of the nation is pretty arbitrary. But there’s also a difference between patriotism and nationalism, and people’s insecure insistence that their country is The Best fits more into the latter. I think most countries are better than their leaders, but at the same those leaders, even the ones who come into power illegally, obviously have significant popular support or they wouldn’t stay in power. It’s good that most of our nation doesn’t seem to like Donald Trump, but way more people do than I had thought possible. I feel that, on a personal level, I’ve always been ostensibly against racism but was largely unaware of it in practice, an unfortunate reality for a lot of people who grew up in mostly white spaces. I feel that Trump being in power has made it pretty much impossible to ignore the systemic racism in the country, and yet not much has changed in that respect. Anyway, I’m going to move on to some movie reviews.
Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy – Not a very patriotic choice, perhaps, but Wednesday was Canada Day. I had only seen this once before, at the student union when I was a freshman in college, and I’d never heard of the Kids in the Hall prior to that, at least as far as I can remember. I only became aware of them when I became a fan of They Might Be Giants, as they have a significant overlap in online fanbase. A few seconds of the TMBG song “Spiraling Shape” (or “Spiralling Shape,” as it’s spelled in Canada) appear in the movie, and I know Kevin McDonald has been photographed wearing a TMBG shirt, but I can’t say I really know what KITH and TMBG have in common. Anyway, Beth has shown me most of the TV show by now. I remember finding parts of the film pretty funny when I first saw it, but I’ll admit I was a little put off by the raunchier jokes. I had some weird hang-ups at that age, and really not very common hang-ups for someone who was eighteen or nineteen. It’s not like the movie requires the audience to have any particular knowledge of the troupe in general, although it helps to understand the kind of humor used in it. Some of it is pretty dark, like Chris Cooper’s father’s incompetent suicide, the Cancer Boy character, and the fact that Scott Thompson’s old lady’s happiest memory is of her family paying her a really short visit where they insult her. The character of Don Roritor, played by Mark McKinney, is a Lorne Michaels parody, and I couldn’t help thinking of Dr. Evil, who’s Mike Myers doing a Michaels impression. They guy has obviously pissed off a lot of comedians. I couldn’t help thinking on this viewing how depression and sadness are not the same thing, but that’s not really a criticism since it’s not like they were aiming for realism. It’s just that I find it irritating when people really do think that way. It kind of presented the moral as being that happiness all the time isn’t a good thing, which is true but obvious. The satire was more on how the for-profit pharmaceutical industry leads to a lot of immoral decisions. And Bruce McCulloch made a pretty cute woman playing Cooper’s love interest. This was a flop at the box office, but I liked it, and I know other people who do.
Hamilton – Beth was really into the soundtrack for the musical, as I guess society in general pretty much is. John Bolton even referenced it in his book title, and I doubt he was the intended audience. I’d listened to it as well, and while I wasn’t as much into it as she was, I could certainly appreciate the cleverness. There was a Family Guy episode where Stewie Griffin called it something like “Gilbert and Sullivan for Hispanics,” and while I’m not sure about the last two words, the G&S comparison definitely fits. A lot of it is fast-paced, and there are a lot of witty rhymes and wordplay. Finally actually seeing it performed was interesting, as there’s a lot that’s confusing without the visuals. That includes physical acting, but also how I couldn’t always tell who was singing what line.
There’s kind of an irony in that most of the performers are people of color playing slave owners, an irony of which I’m sure Lin-Manuel Miranda was aware. On a certain level, it’s a celebration of the United States that ignores many of the harsh truths about the nation, and makes many of the Founding Fathers out to be cool guys. Aside from Alexander Hamilton himself, Thomas Jefferson especially was portrayed as very coolly self-confident and witty, even though he was opposed to Hamilton.
At the same time, you have to read between the lines a bit. I mentioned the similarity to Jesus Christ Superstar to Beth, and she asked if I meant because the main character’s friend caused his death, which I guess is also true. But no, I meant in that it was a heavily mythologized historical tale told through a modern lens, with the music, vernacular, and sometimes values of today.