The first five paragraphs of “The Perverse Thrill of Chaotic Times“, a 3.25 N.Y. Times piece by Teddy Wayne, offer an uncannily accurate capturing of how Type-A types have been feeling deep down since Donald Trump‘s election. I fell into it like a guy on a bungee cord. Yes, exactly…we’re in a monster movie, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, and while I’m 70% freaked, I’m also 30% jazzed.
But the thing that really turned my head arrived about 14 paragraphs in. After noting that “political journalism — itself under attack by the president — hasn’t been this ardent since Sept. 11,” Wayne reminds that the World Trade Center attacks “ushered in the era of the superhero, with desire for American might to overcome evil projected onto a single figure.”
Illustration for Teddy Wayne’s “The Perverse Thrill of Chaotic Times” by Anthony Freda and Dan Zollinger.
This reminded me of something I said almost exactly 13 years ago about Tony Scott‘s Man on Fire, in my mind the best rightwing superhero whoop-ass movie ever. Denzel Washington‘s Creasy made the bad guys (i.e., Mexican cartel kidnappers) howl and sweat and scream before killing them like a meter maid hands out a parking ticket, water off a duck’s ass.
In my mind (and in Scott’s, I’m thinking) the cartel guys were stand-ins for the terrorist “other.” Everyone understood that, I think, and millions relished the feeling of payback. No mercy, no quarter. No CG superhero movie has ever made me feel this way. I was in the men’s room adjacent to the Zanuck theatre after my first Man on Fire viewing, and guys at the urinals were going “whoa, fucking Denzel…he doesn’t fuck around…Jesus!”
Man on Fire opened on 4.23.04 — two and a half years after 9.11. I don’t think I’ve ever succumbed quite as fully to a film espousing this kind of rightwing, scorched-earth vengeance. No, I don’t feel good about the likelihood that Steve Bannon and the Breitbart guys probably like Man on Fire as much as I do, but I can’t deny that I feel and endorse what it’s putting out. Yes, still. (more…)