Sunday, September 2, 2012

Republicans Jumping the Proverbial Shark



The Clint Eastwood debacle is turning into one of those cultural moments of convergence when even the most tuned-out voter realizes that something has changed and we've taken a step into Bizarro World. Clint's "chair improv" moment is even listed now on Wikipedia's Jumping the Shark Page.

The phrase "jumping the shark," comes from a ridiculous episode in the series Happy Days when "The Fonz" (Henry Winkler) put on swim trunks and went water skiing wearing a black leather jacket. That scene managed to turn the coolest character on TV into a silly wimp pretending to be in danger.

 In Clint's case, we were forced as a mass audience to watch his weird self-indulgent parody of imaginary Obama as a foul-mouthed brutha from the ghett-o, which is every tea partier's stereotype and nightmare as described by Rush Limbaugh - the "community organizer" from "thuggish Chicago" who is actually a "Kenyan" and who needs to "get out of the White House" because he's not a "real American." The only thing Clint could have said to make it a perfect ten would be to pout and tell Obama-Chair belligerantly: "I want my country back."

Instead, we have to settle for one of the greatest living actors on stage drawing a finger across his throat while saying "We Gotta Let Him Go." The fact that Clint was lynched in more than one of his movies (Hang 'em High and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly) doesn't help matters because it just means he knows exactly what racist reference he is possibly making to his wingnut audience.


Here's the description of where the phrase "Jump the Shark" from the LA Times
In 1987, Jon Hein and his roommates at the University of Michigan were drinking beer and had Nick at Nite playing in the background. They started talking about classic TV shows when someone asked, "What was the precise moment you knew it was downhill for your favorite show?" One said it was when Vicki came on board "The Love Boat." Another thought it was when the Great Gazoo appeared on "The Flintstones." Sean Connolly offered, "That's easy: It was when Fonzie jumped the shark." As Hein later recounted, there was silence in the room: "No explanation necessary, the phrase said it all."
Thus was born an expression that would quickly make its way into the pop culture mainstream, defined by Hein as "a moment. A defining moment when you know from now on … it's all downhill … it will never be the same."

To connect this to politics, I think the Republican Party members believe they are in a never-ending series like . . . let's say . . . Gunsmoke - all tough and macho and frontiersy, beginning and ending with a shoot-out Ted Nugent style.

But in reality, the Republican Party is more like All in the Family on steroids, or worse - the ever-conventional and color-coordinated (white mostly) Brady Bunch when Vincent Price trapped the boys in a cave in Hawaii because of an evil Tiki idol that put a curse on them. I think Joe Arpaio and his Arizona pals would understand this - he sent his minions there to get the real scoop on Obama's birth certificate, and what happened? The Feds started investigating him for hate crimes. Must be the curse of Hawaii once more. Or maybe the Republican Party just jumped too many sharks on the way to Hawaii and birtherism, period.


Kooky and Creepy Old Guest Star Vincent Price

(Sorry, I couldn't resist throwing in Hawaii because even the youngest Brady knew that they were still in the good old United States. What do Republicans think the name "Hawaii 5-0" means anyway?)

Or maybe Mad Men has it right - Don Draper's wife Betty ran off with a successful politician, but instead of her life becoming more modern, they end up living in the House of Dark Shadows with a weird old grandma out of The Addams Family. I think there's definitely a parallel there to the American Gothic negativity of the modern GOP, with their bag full of dusty torture devices and their witch hunts.

Another parallel to Mad Men is the fact that a very conventional British character Lane - the "Anglo-Saxon" character - kept lying to people about his money situation until finally his only way out was to hang himself at the office. That somehow seems familiar this year, since Mitt Romney has been unwilling to release his tax records or tell the truth about his real connections to Bain Capital. And every time he or his wife open their mouths about it, the noose tightens more.

I would compare the Repubs to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so convinced are they that life in the U.S. has become a Hellmouth under Obama, with the Apocalypse just around the corner. The only problem is that they would deny that a woman, or even an army of women, could save the world. The only women superheroes in their world are the Moms, especially the wealthy homeschooler Moms, or conversely the bleach-blonde bitches on Fox News, plus Condileeza Rice, the warmongering Amazon. Even the fact that Buffy wore a cross and carried around holy water while killing vampires and satanic demons wouldn't matter to the GOP. Also, while Buffy was a rather silly show at times, it never jumped the shark, and had one of the best final episodes of any series in history. Something tells me the Republicans aren't going to have a happy ending.


Buffy is too much like Sandra Fluke anyway - you know, young, opinionated, intelligent and female, with lady parts that she controls - and is therefore a slut and probably popping birth control pills like pez. Don't even get me started on Buffy's friends, the Wiccan Lesbians in the series - they don't exist in GOP Land. Let the shark eat them. "Let them go."

I'm sure the day after Clint Eastwood made that speech, many Republicans all over the country woke up wondering if it had been a dream - like the time everyone thought Bobby Ewing was dead on Dallas, but then he stepped out of the shower alive and well. I know they don't like the word "HOPE" but that's really what they wanted to gain from the GOP Convention. They wanted to wake up in a place like Dallas where there's plenty of money and people who will vote exactly as they do and Obama isn't going to be President anymore after November. They wanted a big bounce, and a big lead.

Except that this is reality TV, and Clint Eastwood steered his speedboat through the middle of the Convention Center and ran his own embarassing wrinkly shorts up the main mast for all to see, while mumbling crazy talk to an empty chair. It was much more of an Evel Knievel show-stopper than anything Fonzie ever did on Happy Days, and its effect on society - Priceless, and not good news for Mitt Romney. Too bad it didn't happen during Shark Week.

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