The Fish
for 28 October 1999. Updated every WEEKDAY.
 
Suck Staff
 

Joey Anuff
Joey Anuff
Editor in Chief

 

[Tim Cavanaugh]
Tim Cavanaugh
Special Guest Editor

 

Terry Colon
Terry Colon
Art Director

 

[the fixin'
pixie... ]
Emily Hobson
Production Manager
& Rhythm Guitar

 

Heather
Havrilesky
Heather Havrilesky
Senior Editor

 

[Ian
Connelly]
Ian Connelly
Marketing Manager

 

[Copy Edit]
Erica Gies
&
Merrill Gillaspy

Copy Editors

 

[Phillip Bailey]
Phillip Bailey
Production Editor








	
Suck Alumni
Suck Alumni Text
 

Carl Steadman
Carl Steadman
Co-Founder

 

Ana Marie
Cox
Ana Marie Cox
Executive Editor

 

Sean (Duuuuude)
Welch
Sean Welch
Suckgineer

 

Owen Thomas
Owen Thomas
Copy Editor

 


T. Jay Fowler
Production Manager
& Ass Kicker

 

[yes, it's
a plunger. i'll l
eave the rest up to your imagination ... ]
Erin Coull
Production Manager

 

Monte
Goode
Monte Goode
Ghost in the Machine

 

Matt Beer
Matt Beer
Development Manager

 

[Brian
Forsyth, " we're just spanning time "]
Brian Forsyth
Production Editor
& Pool Monitor



Shamesploitation

You'll recall from
Slaughterhouse-Five that the
aliens didn't really believe
in death. Being able to see
in all dimensions, they could
look at a dead body and say
that while he looked pretty
bad here, if you just looked
there, he was having a fine
time.

Did Vonnegut believe that? Of
course not. He was
recognizing that there is no
workable response to
mortality. What can you say
about the murder of
thousands? Of millions? What
can you say about a single
death? "So it goes."

So, does Mendez believe his
happy epilog? Of course not.
Nor are you expected to
believe it, any more than you
are expected to believe in
time-traveling aliens. You
are expected to believe in
the firebombing of Dresden
and in an unexamined life
meaninglessly ended. The coda
is just another cheery kick
in the teeth.

Which isn't to say your basic
point isn't valid. Anyone who
watches a movie like American
Beauty
to feel superior to
its characters — and I
sat in a theater with lots of
people just like that —
has missed the point. It's
not a movie about "someone
else."

"It is what you were born
for. / It is Margaret you
mourn for."

Nice article. Thanks.

Alan S. Kornheiser
<ASKornheiser@prodigy.net>

Your letter brings up an
interesting point about
American Beauty: To what
extent are we supposed to see
the Spacey character's life
as "unexamined"? Spacey's
after-death narration puts an
unavoidable spin on his
actions throughout.
First-person narration is
often muddling in films, even
more so when the film
presents so much information
the narrator couldn't have
been in on. I guess his point
of view from The Beyond
somehow mitigates that, or
those parts of the movie are
separate from his parts just
because you can do that now
— the pressure's off to
make a film that hangs
together. In any case, I
didn't buy it. Spacey was
likable even as a schmuck and
his victories were well
deserved if pathetic.
Benning's reaction to his
qutting his job, for
instance, didn't work as
noncommunication in a scene
about noncommunication. She
wasn't any more out of line
than the scene was.

The main point of American
Beauty
doesn't seem to me to
be the senselessness of
American life; it seems to be
its emptiness. When you
compare it to
Slaughterhouse-Five (the
novel, not the movie), I
think you're placing slightly
more weight on it than it can
bear. I do agree there is
something novelistic about
shamesploitation that
suggests comparisons to books
instead of to other movies.
They are literary, skeletal.

In shamesploitation, the
directors rarely allow
emotion to build, only
suspense, and they fill us in
on the rest with narration
and dialog. To create emotion
in a movie demands that the
director actually care about
his characters, and I don't
think these directors do.
That's why the performances
often don't jibe with the
films. I think the actors do
care about the parts they
play. To make their points,
the directors of
shamesploitation have to
disfigure their actors with
freeze-frames and bee stings.
When compared to a Douglas
Sirk melodrama — American
Beauty
begs the comparison
— I don't think it can
hold a candle to the
directorial control, level of
insight, and meaningful
(sometimes false, sometimes
happy, sometimes false happy)
endings of movies like his.

Slotcar Hatebath
 
Fish With Letter Icon
 


Did you go to an Ivy League
university? Should I feel bad
that I haven't?

Sincerely,

Kevin Spacey
<erik.schwartz@oberlin.edu>

Dear Kevin-Erik,

As it happens, I didn't go to
an Ivy League school. And
fear not, K-E: I don't have
to tell you that Oberlin
doesn't share any of those
snooty Ivy attitudes, does it
now?

Thanks for writing!

Slotcar Hatebath
 
Fish With Letter Icon
 


Hello,

I was intrigued by your
recent Suck article. I even
learned a new word —
odious, defined by Webster's
as "exciting in that naughty
kind of way." Having grown up
under a communist regime, my
views often conflict with
those around me, probably
because I don't spend all my
free time chuckling along
with laugh tracks on those
pathetic sitcoms. There is
much that sickens me about
the state of this society,
but it is movies like
American Beauty that offer a
glimmer of hope. Sure, it
might be shamesploitation,
but perhaps that's what's
necessary for people to take
their heads out of their
asses.

One thing I'm not clear
about: Did you like the
movie?

Thomas Kapler
<thomask@semiconductor.com>

Tom,

Despite your daffynition, you
bring up an interesting
question: Are new American
movies capable of offering
hope? I guess I don't think
American Beauty offers any. I
certainly don't think it's
the strong medicine you seem
to think it is. But I will
grant you this: Even though
it has a lot in common with
them, it is better than the
sitcoms you deride.

Shamesplotation may someday
produce a masterpiece. If
genres like the service
comedy and the soft-core
horror movie can, why not? On
the other hand, the
talking-mule movie has never
really delivered on its
promise. Anyway, thanks for
writing.

Slotcar Hatebath
 
Fish With Letter Icon
 


Filler

Subject: Another Popover

Dear Polly,

Thank you for the knowing
references to frogs in
children's media. While I
enjoy references to other
aspects of pop culture, like
popular hair styles and
failed online magazines,
references to the frogs of
children's books, songs, and
stories are, to me, a
particular pleasure. Ah,
sweet reminiscence! Where can
I get a Frog and Toad poster?
Where is my dog-eared copy of
Frog and Toad are Friends? What did
The Dream really mean? And
those delicious popovers.
What happened to that record
I had of Kermit the Frog
retelling The Frog Prince? Is
it still in print? I remember
the first meeting of Robin
the Brave and the fair
princess. She dropped her
ball down a well, and brave
Robin announced he would
retrieve it. He dove into the
well, lingering there longer
than was comfortable for me.
Kermit's play-by-play
narration only added to the
suspense: "He didn't come up!
He didn't come up! And
finally ... he came up!" My
copy had a skip at that
point, though, so Kermit kept
repeating "He didn't come up!
He didn't come up! He didn't
come up!" over and over
again. I would wait
breathlessly for Robin's
reemergence, shaking with
anxiety, until my older
brother took pity on me and
advanced the needle. To this
day I still cannot bring
myself to overcome my fear
and retrieve golden balls
thrown by princesses into
deep wells without a stiff
drink. But I do love
popovers, and never resist an
invitation to have another.
For your next knowing
reference to frogs in
children's media, may I
suggest you invoke the
prophetic, eponymous frog of
Russell Hoban's The Mouse and
His Child?
As the frog says,
"A dog shall rise, a rat
shall fall."

Bake the hall in the candle
of my brain,

G. Gooding
<knucks98@hotmail.com>

It warms my heart to know
that someone out there
understood the "Have another
popover, froggy" reference.
When I want someone to keep
quiet, I find it's the first
thing that comes to my lips.
But alas, no one knows what
I'm talking about. It's a
lonely life.

A dog shall rise, a rat shall
fall. Too true, too true.

Polly
 
Fish With Letter Icon
 


As a recent college dropout,
I was shocked and appalled by
how unrealistic your article
was. There's no way someone
fresh out of college can
afford an apartment, let
alone in the city. If they
could, they would last
several years in more modest
circumstances without having
to work at all. Do you
remember back when online
publishing was called
"uploading t-philez"? What I
mean is, you're basically on
social assistance already. If
you accept that university is
an enormous, state-funded
summer camp and dating
service for the middle class,
then it's less than
surprising that the vast
majority of white-collar jobs
are state-funded, "welfare
plus!" programs. I can't
imagine why anyone would get
so many favors from the
government unless they were
dangerous somehow. So what
would an "I'm bored mom,
entertain me!"-type temper
tantrum look like on a vast
scale? It would probably look
like the 1960s. And no good
came of that, except the
discovery that middle-class
kids need concessions too.
And No. 1 on their list of
demands is freedom from work.
So in the current political
climate there is no need to
work. You may need to dress
up and whine in the right
direction to upgrade your
handout level, but no matter
what, the state will provide
enough for you to live above
the eyesore level.

Demmy Rooster
<root@treehouse.dyndns.org>

What country are you talking
aboot?
 
Fish With Letter Icon
 


Hit & Run

Sucksters, "(She is, in fact,
wearing underpants, boys.)"

You used my favorite word in
a column! Underpants!

Not that I haven't been a
Suck fan for months, but this
really seals the deal.

Underpants! Underpants!
Underpants!

Not wearing any underpants,

Alexandra Sarkozy
<asarkozy@ hotmail.com>

Hey! We're not wearing
underpants either!

the Sucksters
 
Fish With Letter Icon
 


Subject: Platinum in cars?

Whoever,

Sulpher, not platinum, is the
stuff in catalytic converters
that smells like rotten eggs.
It's also associated with
brimstone in certain contexts
you might be familiar with.

Go Mavs!

Rahm McDaniel
<sliderule2000@hotmail.com>

Um. Oh! OK.

Go suck an egg!

the Sucksters
 
Fish With Letter Icon
 


Look, there's nothing new
about student staffs (and
small-brained administrators)
kowtowing (is that
offensive?) to the demands of
noisy but misguided people.
As a student editor at a
similar newspaper, I nearly
lost my position because I
ran Matt Groening's Life in
Hell
cartoons. There was this
series, School is Hell, and
in one panel, the teacher,
having previously been
identified repeatedly (about
10 times per strip) as a
complete idiot/jerk/loser/
fool/demon, used the
word nigger.

Well, Groening's office said
the strip had run in about
110 papers a year prior (we
were backward, but trying to
catch up) without a single
complaint ... until then. The
paper, of course, went out of
its way to kiss ass —
we're talking full pages of
letters-to-the-editor,
meetings, and racial
sensitivity training
(retraining?). There was a
lot of support from the
literate members of the
university community who
understood that the strip was
condemning racism, not
condoning it. Maybe those two
words just look too much
alike. I dunno. But I don't
get the whole idea of
trashing someone who's just
published a commentary
condemning racism just
because some readers didn't
do the processing necessary
to comprehend it. And anyone
who had even a vague idea of
what Groening was doing at
the time (this was
pre-Simpsons) would have seen
that the man produced
anti-idiot, antibigot,
antiracist cartoons that also
happened to be a hell of a
good read. I mean, if you buy
into some sort of "turn
potential allies into enemies
unless we kill them first"
ethic, sure, trash the
messenger and walk away
bloodied but triumphant. But
there was no support from
administration,
paper pushers, bench warmers,
or other student editors.

OK, so that's my story. I
can't think of anything witty
to say. It just pisses me off
thinking about it, and that
was 15 years ago. The bozos
who caused all the shit to go
down and the losers who
crumpled under the combined
pressure are either still
there or writing sports for
one of Cleveland's suburban
dailies. I hope they stay put
until the end of time.
Problem is, they've spent the
past 15 years squishing the
ideals and daring of several
generations of students ...
exactly like the teachers in
the School is Hell series.
Sort of ironic.

So, um, have a nice day.

Jim Youll
<jim@agentzero.com>

The only problem with the
Rutgers story is that the
controversial piece in
question was not really such
a good read. There's nothing
worse than being forced to
defend something that really
doesn't deserve it.

the Sucksters
 
Fish With Letter Icon
 


Hey,

Do you read your own links?
In the Rutgers story, you
have a link that says (quite
clearly) the offending comic
strip was suspended for two
days and was then returned to
the pages of the paper. Also,
the only person whose pay was
docked was the editor in
chief.

Best, Gen

Both facts were duly noted in
Hit & Run (and to date, the
actual distribution of pay
dockings has not to our
knowledge been settled). Even
if we had gotten these things
wrong, the fact remains that
the spineless editors of our
alma mater's daily paper
would sooner cave than defend
their own editorial
judgments.

the Sucksters
 
Fish With Letter Icon
 


Liked it.

The affair reminds me of the
situation around Ms. Britney
Spears' prelegal sexuality.

Makes one wonder: Are either
of these young women being
exploited, as the Christian
Coalition claims, or are they
the ones doing the
exploiting?

Both Ms. Melissa Joan Hart
and Ms. Britney Spears show
signs of blossoming marketing
analysts with a savvy for
what sells and to whom, never
mind the fact that their
blossoming is legally
untouchable, and must, under
law, be concealed.

Thanx,

Tim
<s0crates@gateway.net>

These teen girls exploit
themselves, on screen, for
our pleasure?

Yes, yes! We are very
grateful to them for this.

Blossom of snow, may you
bloom and grow.

Except that Hart is actually
23, a bit long in the tooth
for our rarefied tastes.

Grrrr,

the Sucksters
 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

 The Shit
Seeing Calvin Coolidge in a Dream, John Derbyshire, St. Martin's Press, 1996
Peekaboo's Masks, 2492 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco
West Beirut, director Ziad Doueiri, 1999
"The Smartest Cartoonist on Earth," Daniel K. Raeburn, The Imp, Vol. 1/No. 3, 1999
Mad Monster Party, Rankin/Bass Productions, VHS, Deluxo & Black Bear Press, 1967/1999
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill, America's Best Comics, 1999
Hermenaut No. 15: "The Fake Authenticity Issue," editor Joshua Glenn, summer 1999
Guillow's Sky Streak rubber-powered balsa-wood glider (without landing gear)
Webvan
Very Emergency, Promise Ring, Jade Tree, 1999
Mean Magazine No. 5, summer 1999
Slickaphonics, Replikants, KillRockStars/Rue St. Germaine, 1999
"Cash, Interesting, Summer Holiday", The Young Ones, Foxvideo (BBC Video), 1988
Driver (PSX), GT Interactive, 1999

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