The Fish
for 6 May 1998. Updated every WEEKDAY.
 
 
Suck Staff
 

Joey Anuff
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& Ass Kicker

 

[yes, it's a plunger. i'll l
eave the rest up to your imagination ... ]
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Matt Beer
Matt Beer
Development Manager

Wrong Answer

Dear Hypatia,

Lovely work as always. I've
been fuddled by the
near-complete lack of
meaningful criticism on
Gummo, at least in any
popular forum. As you pointed
out, the caustic blather of
hacks (no offense to present
company) like Paul Tatara (CNN) and
Wendy Wilson (RoughCut)
refuses to evaluate the film
in any but the starkest moral
terms, and then drops the
ball on that count, too.
Admittedly, Korine himself is
not much of an improvement as
a source of enlightenment
(although the ridiculous
reach-around between Korine
and his idol Werner Herzog
presented on Fine Line's
official site for Gummo is at
least worth a chuckle).

Gummo seems to do its best
work on levels almost beyond
its director's own
comprehension, or at least
his ability to articulate.
The one bit of Korine's
self-important schtick that's
gotten, er, schtuck in my
head was something about how
Gummo uses a "different
syntax" from conventional
movies, and one that's
supposed to register with
younger viewers. I think the
kid's onto something here;
watching the movie, I was
struck by the way the sound
elements seep in and out of
scenes, the end of one scene
overlapped by 10 seconds of
live sound from the next
scene, which then dissolves
into musical accompaniment,
or silence, or Spazz, or some
mucking around with tape
recorders. Periodically, the
sound and picture jar into
phase with each other, and
the movie lurches into one of
the "vignettes" it's
supposedly composed of. I
actually found these moments
of relative clarity less
interesting than all the mess
involved in shuttling us
between them.

Korine may have actually
stumbled onto the first major
breakthrough in cinematic
style since Hollywood
discovered MTV in about 1988,
although as long as critics
like Roger Ebert continue to
herald the cut-and-paste
futuristic tripe of Dark
City
as "visionary," it may
be a while before anyone
notices.

Z

P. S. I can't confirm this,
but the Internet Movie
Database (IMDb) lists Jacob
Reynolds
(Gummo's Solomon) as
the son of actress Debbie
Reynolds, who also spawned
Carrie Fisher. The idea of
some weird half-sibling
connection between Solly and
Princess Leia is too
irresistible to sacrifice to
fact-checking.

I think your point about the
"mess shuttling between" the
moments of clarity being the
heart of the movie is very
acute. Isidore Isou said "I
believe first of all that the
cinema is too rich. It is
obese. I announce 'the
destruction of the cinema,'
the first apocalyptic sign of
rupture in this fat organism
we call film." He suggested
that the history of film from
the '50s on would be a
history of erosion -
reduction of the massed
inventory of techniques that
had been built up since
Lumière - until it was
whittled back down to pure
light, sounds, letters, etc.
In light of the constricted
range of Hollywood technique
today, Isou's prophecy seems
to come true in a way he
could hardly have imagined.
Gummo's innovations then read
like the rediscovery of fire
on the part of some benighted
gimp, avec Black Metal.

Hypatia

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

Hail,

As someone with a stake in
the success of Gummo and its
foremost accessory, the
soundtrack, I howled
grievingly at the
winterdarkmoon when
media-designated "gifted
young talent" status slipped
out of Harmony Korine's hands
last fall, to be snatched by
those prats Ben Affleck and
Matt Damon-DiCaprio. The
lesson here is that newcomers
have to be demonstrably more
square than baby boomers to
be endorsed by Hollywood, and
Dustin Hoffman and Tom Hanks
are slightly better-looking
than real retards. Of course,
while thrice-nightly ads
during The Simpsons for Good
Will Hunting
have come and
gone, Gummo continues to draw
crowds on the one modest
screen it started with in New
York.

Ave,
Dark N¦rd

Unchain the Wolves, fucker!
At midnight at the Angelika
in NY.

Hypatia

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

Dear Hypatia,

I thought I was the only
person who saw Gummo. I
thought surely if others had
seen it, they would be
talking. I haven't heard
much, but truth be told I
haven't said much either. I
didn't know what to say. It
was pretty powerful stuff.
Beyond that I couldn't really
articulate what I saw and
thought. You did. Very well.
I couldn't agree with your
Suck piece any more. Thanks
for the good read.

regards,
cedward

Just doing my job.

Hypatia

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

Subject: The Gummo Generation

Another reason mainstream
critics trash Gummo is their
utter alienation from its
glue-sniffing white trash
world - a bleak place they
only encounter on daytime
talk shows.

Gummo exposes baby boomer
critics' self-indulgent
belief that they're immune to
a generation gap by virtue of
their radical youth.
Nostalgia for abandoned
social and sexual revolutions
has blinded them to the fact
that the youth of today have
taken up the old causes,
albeit in our own perverted
and commercialized way.

Korine's outlook is familiar
to children of a violent,
sex-crazed, and drug saturated
world. I can't relate
directly to Xenia, OH, but
most anyone in the Gummo-aged
demographic will find
something in it similar to
their own urban or suburban
American wastelands. The
Leave It To Beaver generation
may have ducked, covered, and
gone to Woodstock, but we can
proudly claim the warping
effects of crack, AIDS,
cable, and hydroponic herb as
our own.

Moronic, self-righteous
disses of Gummo aside, we
shouldn't taunt our elders
when they can't comprehend or
just dislike new standards of
coolness and beauty. It
doesn't bode well for the
millions of current hipsters
who are determined to stay
cool forever.

Then again, maybe it's just
the stupid people who don't
get it.

Brian
<dolan@mediaone.net>

Ah, the stupid people. Always
taking the blame for
everything from bad TV to bad
taste to bad fries. Some day
the stupid people are going
to rise up and overturn the
oppression they've endured
from the smart people for
years now, with its onerous,
over-serious fixation on
education and "worthwhile" or
"enriching" activities. Leave
us to our insipid little
lives! Maybe we're happy in
our anonymity and our
inanity! Maybe we couldn't care
less about the reduction of
the massed inventory of
techniques that have been
built up since Lumière! Is
that so wrong?
Power to the stupid!

Anonymous, Inane Suckster

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

Dumbstruck

So what point were you trying
to make? That it's really
cool and postmodern to be an
idiot?

Sure, 99 percent of culture
has always been dumb, but at
least it wasn't held up to be
as valid as Shakespeare by
deconstructionist academics
scraping the barrel of
popular culture in the name
of novelty and academic
celebrity.

Hurumph!
Lee Caulfield

Obviously it's really cool
and postmodern to be an
idiot, but the point was more
that our culture is plagued
by Chicken Littles screaming
that the whole country's
going to hell in a handbasket
because of the Teletubbies,
or something equally
innocuous.

OK, maybe those Chicken
Littles have always been with
us too, but if you want to
see what we mean, go to the
Museum of Television and
Radio and dig some of the
electronic entertainments
from the Golden Age of TV.
That our country was able to
perfect the Electronic Brain
and endure a nuclear standoff
at a time when Queen for a
Day
was entertaining the
masses and Murrow, Huntley,
Brinkley, and the rest of the
pompous charlatans we
mythologize today were
considered the Voices of
Truth should make you feel a
little more secure about the
general state of stupidity in
America.

Vicki

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

Vicki,

I believe you are dead-on for
the most part. I do think
something else is going on.
Every employer that I have
had has always gotten upset
when I show mastery of the
tasks at hand. We are not
only dumbing down, but we are
discriminating against
achievement.

The only place left in this
culture that excelling at the
task at hand is expected is
my Tai Chi class (but only
after 20 years of practice).

I fear that managers
everywhere are afraid that to
have you good at something is
an indication that you want
the boss' job. This is a
carrot and stick problem. The
carrot is being left alone
for being a schlep, the stick
is to prevent you from being
better than the boss.

David

Come on, David: Being good at
something is an indication
that you want the boss' job.
For my money, I want
everybody except me to be
completely incompetent and
fail at everything they try.

You might want to consider
journalism, where the only
necessary skill is the
ability to move in the right
circles. We even have a word
for people who are good at
nothing. We call them
"Editors."

Vicki

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

Vicki;

I enjoyed "Dumbstruck," it
reminded me of how many times
I've thought how many hands
and fingers I would need to
count how many times someone
in casual conversation has
said to me, "Everyone is so
stupid," as though the other
person and I shared some big
secret. I guess a lot of
people feel it underlines
their point or makes them
feel like they really know
what they are talking about
or something.

It was refreshing to hear
someone say, "Everyone saying
everyone is so stupid is
getting really annoying." But
Zardoz? Really....

Tim

Thanks, Timbo (You mind if I
call you "Timbo"?)

I'm sure there must be some
Poor Richardish axiom about
how "People who think
everybody's an idiot, etc."
but I don't know what it is.
Anyway, that business about
sharing some big secret has
always fascinated me. It's
kind of like when your
interlocutor brings up the
international Zionist-media
conspiracy once he's
ascertained that you're not a
Jew. They never seem to
consider that you might be on
the side of the dummies.

Vicki

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

Tonight was the first time I
had the pleasure of surfing
your site. There was a
feature on your site on "The
Computer Chronicles," which
made me curious about your
site. Your site is a fresh
and bold look at what the Web
could be.

I found your comments,
cartoons, and articles about
the Dumbing of the American
Culture to be very
entertaining. Keep up the
good work. I am from South
Africa, and it would be very
interesting to have an
article on how the media
tries to lead you to believe
that we are a backward,
third-world country. I was on
the IRC one evening, when I
told a channel member that I
was from South Africa and the
response was: "I never knew
you had electricity there."
The person was from America,
and my thoughts were, what
exactly are they leading you
to believe about South
Africa? Naturally, my
response was, "How do you
think I am typing to you
now?" The lack of a response
spoke volumes. You may have
already done a parody on
South Africa, if so could you
please point me to where I
could have a look at it.
Otherwise, it may be fun to
do a parody of us. I always
enjoy seeing what people come
up with when you mention the
words "South Africa."

Something we notice here is
that many people in America
say, "I didn't do nothing."
Now that immediately means
that you did do something,
and this has led some people
to say that Americans don't
speak English. This is a
gross generalization, but I
thought it apt for your topic
today.

I look forward to visiting
this site regularly.

Regards
Hylton Clarke

South Africa? Isn't that
where all these big ol'
Watusis dance around in grass
skirts with bones in their
noses, and shrink heads and
shit? You're right, we should
do something about that
country. Too bad I don't know
nobody from there.

Vicki

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

I re-read my previous message
about Dumbstruck, this one:

"I meant to write something
about the fact that the apex
of snobbism is to snob the
snobs. Then I read the mail
you received and got even
more convinced that (at least
some of) the snobs you snob
are not that wrong."

And it reads just the
opposite of what I meant: The
mail I was referring to is
that of those idiots who sent
you flames quoting six-figure
incomes and the like, while
the snobs that you were
snobbing are the ones
deploring the apparently
swelling number of such
idiots around.

I don't mean to say that all
of those snobs are right, but
it seemed to me that you
canned together too many
people, labeled them with a
single "brand," and used the
most unfortunate quotes from
extremists in order to make
your point.

It has always been true that,
as we say in Italy, "the
mother of the stupids is
permanently pregnant," but I
do believe that life is
nowadays too easy (or,
better, pre-packaged) for too
many people, depriving them
of the challenges that would
force/help them to evolve.

By the way,
Webster's has a
has a different origin for
the word "snob" than the one
I know; I was told that
originally "snob" was a short
form of "sine noblilitate,"
Latin for "without noble
origins."

Guido Gambardella
<tddge@tin.it>

Your original meaning was
probably closer to the truth.
Since the greater part of
dumbing-down paranoia in
America comes from the
Republicans (they're the ones
who think poor people should
be destroyed), bragging about
your six-figure income is
pretty close to kvetching
about how stupid everybody
is. In particular, the
collection Dumbing Down and
Bloom's Closing of the
American Mind
- both cited
prominently in the article -
are thinly veiled polemics
against people who have the
temerity not to be white.

Sure, the mother of the
stupids is permanently
pregnant, but you know, I
think people still have
plenty of challenges to "help
them evolve."

Vicki

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

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