Sunday, October 23, 2005

Bullies can get back to '82

I'd like to take a moment to harsh everyone's mellow. This is a movie review for the film "Napoleon Dynamite." While everyone seemed to have a good time and the film spurred a sudden marketing push of true "outsider" art and what I'm guessing will be a line of t-shirts bearing the slogan "Autism can be Cool," I do not believe people have actually grasped what is occurring. I figured someone else would eventually deconstruct the movie in similar fashion, but given endless rave reviews and a cult status, I now feel I should make this argument heard:

Napoleon Dynamite is nothing more than a character sketch of social outcast (or nerd) after social outcast. Any semblance of a plot is used only to introduce more nerds or to wind down to a barely acceptable stopping point for the film. The overall premise of the movie is: "Hey everybody, come laugh at the big nerd!" This applies to every character.

If you are a bully, nastalgic about being a bully, or have always wanted to see what it's like to kick someone while they are down, then this film is for you. Better than that, Hollywood has added a spoonful of "heart-o-gold" to the character and a big velvety bow for the ending, so it is a guiltless experience. It will have the most freckle-faced, buck-toothed, frizzy-haired, flat-chested, wide-bottomed, clarinet-playing girl and all of her scabies rolling on the floor laughing and dreaming of big-screen acceptance as she watches the film in her top-loader VCR, amid the formica walls of her single-mother's dilapidated home.

The film-makers know bullying is an issue. They intentionally add several scenes showcasing kids being pushed around. Pedro mentions the problem in his campaign speech. And yet the film is written directly for an audience of "cool kids" who can see why Napoleon, Kip, Uncle Rico, Deb, Summer (the popular girl) and her boyfriend are all so deplorably uncool and deserve to be laughed at.

You may say: They are just characters. Even if they are outcasts, the best thing to do in a bad situation is laugh. Except, here it is the appeal of the film to laugh AT these people. Not with them. These characters do not laugh. They head into the bathroom to console themselves with a dip of Big League Chew.

The makers did an excellent job. It is funny and effective, if not mean and callous. I wouldn't go so far as to say it is creative. It seems more that it was well put together. It is easy to imagine a group of college kids sitting together. One says, "Hey, do you guys remember Hannibal Atomsplitter?" (Let's just use that name to reference all the nerds we have all known throughout the course of our lives.) "Yeah, do that impression of him. Gosh! Idiots! Remember how, after years and years of us using him as the butt of our jokes it reached the point where we'd say 'what are you going to do today, Hannibal?' and he would get all mad cause he didn't want to talk to us and he'd say 'whatever the heck I feel like, gosh!'. That would be a great opening to a movie, except instead of his tormentors asking, we'll show a little kid." Genius. In the film, we are privileged to go beyond shoving people in the halls to get an inside look at all the gossipy aspects of the life of a nerd.

If you have ever talked to a Hannibal, while the falsehoods they will use to impress you are entertaining, it is also quite sad. People who are so used to deluding themselves also never really seem to make good friends. They don't seem to go for the 1% milk, side pony-tail girls either. Despite any shortcomings, they seem to think of themselves as short like Tom Cruise or ugly like Lyle Lovett. They are often irrational and drive away even those people who actually have social skills. Patient, tolerant, empathetic, doesn't matter.

Perhaps we should show films like this in schools like Columbine and Red Lake to give outcasts a better idea of their role in our society. "If you can't stay out of the way, could you at least be comical and stick to your own kind? Take our abuse with a grain of salt like that good boy, Napolean."

So if you're wondering how bullying will stay fresh and fun for years to come, I've got your 32 piece set right here. It's a funny movie and I always admire any film that dares to be slow-moving (In this case it seems to be a necessity for the faux-humility needed to set up quirky situations). I know MTV is known for their cautiousness and good judgement in molding the minds of our youth, but my utmost intention is simply to request that people acknowledge what they are laughing at. I thought this movie was more realistic and insightful when it was originally released as Stephen King's "Carrie."

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