W ere it not for our Third Post-Reconstruction period in America (e.g. McCain-Palin campaign's vile march to the right, rather than the unified middle), these two flicks would've held a tad more impact. Mediocre, yet still important. Now, they seem quaint. Yes...quaint. Tugging us back to a time of the rotten Tootsie Pops, perhaps? 1992-2007 America. You know--flick the ants off and the candy shell's still sweet. The stick's white and not soggy so it must be right, right? But the Tootsie Roll center's been rancid since it left the factory.
"W": Freudian father issues. Nuff said. Oliver Stone has cooked, warmed over and diced into hash this tale in what--about five of his flicks now? It's got nothing to do with liberal vs. conservative, or destroying Bush's legacy or Hollywood snobs offending O'Reilley's America. It's plain Ollie working out his issues on us, which would offend anyone regardless of politics. Ultimately, however, the film proffers empathy...then sympathy. I liked it on that level. A cross between Hamlet and an SNL/MadTV skit.
"Secret Life of Bees" is based on Sue Monk Kidd's paeon to post-racial sisterhood. Oprah's favorite novel. Of course, per my thesis, this was Oprah pre-Barack, as with Al Roker when he railed against Don Imus. Before the white housewife magic was gone. Director Gina Blythewood (who I met this summer) does the material proud. But make no mistake, this stuff is the next level of evolution vis. Donald Bogle's thesis of black woman as magical symbol/mammy/transformative benign necromancer/sassy sexual alter ego for a white female protagonist--and by implication white female audiences in middle America. The mamy stuff's been with us since "Gone With the Wind." Male counterpart: most Will Smith flicks from "Bagger Vance" to "Hancock." Indeed, the construct here is Black male as Peter Pan fantasy antithesis to The Color Purple's buffoons (Harpo) or brutes (Mister). There's pathos galore in the film. No banal reality, ugly reality. The film's set in the 60s when stuff expressed at Palin rallies or Southern wingnut churches was a daily occurence. And yet, womanly co-sanguinity and love conquers all. This is the old paradigm. Pre-Hillary vs. Obama. "Bees" is essentially a Lifetime movie on 'roids. Bring your box of tissues to collect your tears of angst and joy. And even Sarah Palin pre 2008 would have sniffled for a thick armed hug from Queen Latifah, right? The honey metaphor discussion at this point would be facile. Still, like W, it all seems quaint these days. Lifetime movie or not, conveying quaintness was neither the goal nor intent of Kidd or Bythewood. Ironic huh?
Too bad. We're coming to the gist, grist and graveman of my thesis. It stings us with why the DiCaprio-Crowe flick was a flop, as was "Miracle at St. Anna" (okay, Spike's style has something to do with that). It's why "Max Payne" and "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" rule the box office and "High School Musical 3" will rule them all. In our 2008 milieu of cognitive dissonance we retreat to ignorance...to things that tickle our base emotions. Ignorance is warm, safe. Mindless fear is energizing. In good times, calm times, even scary times like 9-11 mediocre flicks like W and Bees become pleasant distractions. But there's a difference between a distraction and pathological escape. Distraction, dear fanboys & girls, seems quaint these days...