A quick google search indicated that this ad has been floating around The New Republic, Harvard Magazine, and various other rich people magazines since 2004, before finding its way to NY Review of Books.
Is this the work of some prankster? A long term book project? Is someone collecting thousands and thousands of e-mails from desperate twenty-somethings? Or a real life troll?
Some mild spoilers about THE DARK KNIGHT RISES so if you aren’t as lame as I am and haven’t seen it yet, maybe don’t read this? Or do. I don’t know, some people get really upset about even minute spoilers and I didn’t want to assume anything about you.
So anyway, the movie! There’s certainly plenty of things to talk about, both good and ill, but if there’s one point that I want to strongly underline and put in bold is that The Dark Knight Rises heralds the return of my favorite film archetype: The 1980s Asshole Master of the Universe.
The 1980s Asshole Master of the Universe is a character who, as is suggested by the name, really rose to prominence in the 1980s. He (and it is ALWAYS a he) pops up in just about every important 1980s blockbuster to irritate and impede the progress of the main character. The 1980s Asshole Master of the Universe is not, strictly speaking, the bad guy, but he is a bad guy, an irritating, sniveling piece of shit who is convinced that he knows better than you because he’s got a healthy stock portfolio and dinner reservations at Indochine. When the bad guy kills him, it shows the audience how serious the bad guy is while also letting us revel, if only for a second, in the downfall of a person who we somehow liked even less than the bad guy.
Die Hard is positively loaded with this character type, from the shit-eating TV reporter who reveals that Bruce Willis is married to Bonnie Bedelia, to the stock broker/whatever-it-is-the-people-who-worked-for-Nakatomi-Industries-did manager who tries to talk Bruce Willis into surrendering (it is important to note that Alan Rickman is not, strictly speaking, a 1980s Asshole Master of the Universe since he is the primary antagonist, even though he possesses all of the character traits of one; you can think of him as a 1980s Asshole Master of the Universe who has fulfilled his highest potential).
Perhaps the quintessential 1980s Asshole Master of the Universe is Walter Peck, the douchey EPA agent who shuts down the Ghostbusters, unleashing every ghost they had captured up to that point on the city (he’s the guy about whom Bill Murray says, “Yes, it’s true. This man has no dick.”). It is a true masterpiece of the 1980s Asshole Master of the Universe but the true genius stroke is that fact that he is a GOVERNMENT REGULATOR, working for the EPA. The concept that the government’s pigheaded determination to stand in the way of independent businessmen nearly destroys the entire city of New York is such an inane, poorly thought-out fantasy that it could really only come from a 1980s Asshole Master of the Universe, creating an infinite mirror of libertarian, free market assholery.
And that brings me to The Dark Knight Rises, which pulls this character out of cold storage. And oh, does it bring him back, with two separate 1980s Asshole Masters of the Universe. There’s Matthew Modine’s idiot police captain (not Gordon) who COMPLETELY IGNORES BANE to chase after a guy who was a criminal eight years ago. He’s decent, especially when he’s yelling at Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the chase scene, but he’s no match for Bruce Wayne’s business rival.
I can’t remember his name (and IMDb isn’t helping), but he is introduced by yelling at Marion Cotillard about how stupid it is to try to save the world when you can make some money. He gives Bane, a crazy muscle-dude supervillain who wears a terror-mask, the money and backing he needs to get a foothold in Gotham because he wants pull off a hostile takeover of Wayne Enterprises. And, best of all, he then tries to boss around the crazy muscle-dude supervillain who wears a terror mask. What did you think was going to happen?
That guy is a total 1980s Asshole Master of the Universe, one that would fit comfortably into Die Hard or Ghostbusters. And I love it. The character is a tribute to the vapid, airheaded know-it-all-ness of a certain group of people who think that because they were lucky enough to be successful, they have all the secrets to life. That their success is somehow indicative of a sort of higher moral and metaphysical quality and that the people who are not able to achieve what they have achieved, regardless of the circumstances in either case, must be inferior.
And, not to put too fine a point on it, but I think I may have a guess or two about why this character may be making a comeback.
“My shows are the ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ of TV. Especially the part where a woman is humiliated in front of her peers.” - Aaron Sorkin, apparently
Aaron Sorkin, the Top 40 pop-song writer’s TV writer:
“Nobody’s getting killed off on an Aaron Sorkin show, no information is going to be withheld, and every episode is going to be a self-contained, organic whole. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he is absolutely uninterested in the idea of an episode of television in which nothing happens. As he said recently, in relation to his own method of television writing, “To resolve a melody, you have to end on either the tonic or the dominant. Try humming ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ right now, but leave off ‘snow.’ You’ll feel like you need to sneeze.” This is a cute joke, but it’s also the fundamental disconnect between Sorkin and the Chase School of Dramatic Anti-Climax. Serial television today is built around avoiding the sneeze. Aaron Sorkin is the episodic television writer par excellence in the post-episodic age.”
Linsanity may have been my favorite two weeks of living in New York but that’s pretty much all over and, at the point, the humane thing to do is to send him off to somewhere else.
Forgetting the irony that no one would care about Jeremy Lin if he had been putting up 20 and 10 games in Houston (well, people would have cared, but it would have been the same people who were watching the Thunder in 2009 and saying “these guys are kind of worth paying attention to”), the fact is that Jeremy Lin doesn’t really make a lot of sense on a D’Antoni-less Knicks. An iso-heavy, Carmelo first team really needs either an Andre Miller passing and D type point guard or a Jason Kidd who will be content to stand back and shoot 3s. Lin thrived in a system that put the ball in the point guard’s hands and let him go wild. Don’t forget that the same system that created made Chris Duhon seem like a guy who deserved $15 million (not to mention those crazy weeks where Raymond Felton seemed competent).
But, that said, it is stupid for a team that has been spending like a drunken sailor on every 35+ player in sight for the last three weeks to pass on the one guy who may actually be better in 4 years than he is now. Looking at all the bad contracts on the Knicks’ books, it makes no sense not to take a chance on a guy who, at worst, will probably still be the best point guard on their roster.
But then its not my money and really not my place to say. And its a little disingenuous to pretend like people wouldn’t be beating the Knicks up and down if they matched and Lin came crashing back down to Earth (an outcome that is more likely than not, if only because he was putting up numbers that matched MJ and Magic during Linsanity). At the end of the day, Linsanity was probably not going to last (even D’Antoni wanted to acquire Deron Williams, which would have sent Lin back to bench).
The problem is that the Knicks aren’t passing on Lin because they don’t think he can keep up his level of play or because that 14 million scares him. They’re passing because a young player taking a step up towards greatness is simply something that they can’t comprehend. This is the team that hasn’t had a home-grown talent since Allen Houston. The primal scream that came from this city during Linsanity was caused by 1,000 different factors, but one of them was almost surely seeing a young guy who was identified by the Knicks coming into his own and thriving and being New York’s player, as opposed to that guy we bought. That’s something JD and the Straight Shot don’t get and don’t see the value of, as opposed to the number of “proven” “winners” who have received max contracts from the Knicks in the post-Ewing era.
I’m not sure why I’ve been taking this so hard. Maybe because I didn’t want to have to support the Nets or maybe because some of the things that people have said about Lin have been, not just awful, but awful and completely unfounded and disconnected from reality (unless someone once offered Stephen A Smith $14 million to leave ESPN and he refused out of loyalty in which case I apologize for making an assertion based on gossip and conjecture, since I know he would NEVER do that). But really, this seems like the best outcome for everyone. The Knicks never knew what to do with an exciting young player who had the possibility to improve for years to come and Jeremy Lin would have never been able to replicate the delirious joy of those first days.
But oh man do you have to be terrible at basketball to make the team that traded for Joe Johnson look like the smart guys
What happened to you, Of Montreal??? Where did things go so wrong