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Sunday, August 18, 2002

Those Horrid Americans

[Note: 3/27/03---Yes, after months and months, I have noticed that the man's name is Tim Robbins, not Tom Robbins. There is also a Tom Robbins, a writer. These sorts of things ought to be illegal. Anyway, Tim's the blithering fool. Tom's viewpoints are mercifully still unknown to me.]

Friends, I will freely confess to you that there are times when an American says something---sometimes at home, but usually abroad---which makes me writhe in embarrassment. Now your foreign types will probably think that this only applies to big-bellied Texans in huge Texan hats bellowing at French waiters in what passes in Texas for English, demanding to know why there is no chili on the menu, and by God my Daddy did not liberate you unwashed heathen from the godless Nazis in Dubya Dubya Two so that his boy could travel to your stinking city and not get a damned decent bowl of chili.

In my (admittedly limited) travels, I have never come across an American of this legendary stripe. But I sometimes wish I had. It would at least be refreshing.

No, what is causing my cultural cringe today is this gem of wisdom from noted intellectual Susan Sarandon:

The actress said one of the positive results of the September 11 attacks was that it gave America something in common with other countries who have fallen prey to terrorism.

"Afterwards, I said to my kids: 'We've joined the rest of the world now'," she said.

"You're so lucky in Ireland, England and Spain. Everyone there already knows what it's like to have inexplicable terrorist violence."

Let's have that zinger again: "You're so lucky in Ireland, England and Spain. Everyone there already knows what it's like to have inexplicable terrorist violence."

No comment seems adequate here. Surely compassionate Susan couldn't possibly have meant that terrorist-caused death and injury was a good thing? Possibly what she meant was that Americans have generally seen terrorism as a distant evil (oops, maybe not "evil"), and that September 11 has given them a new perspective. But surely, surely she didn't mean to imply that it was better for Americans to experience terrorism than for the Irish, English, and Spanish to be free of it?

The ineffable fool was quoted at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where she and hubby Tom Robbins are putting on a play called "The Guys". Tom plays an ordinary working stiff fireman, grieving for his buddies lost in the disaster. The Festival's website has bits of a press conference with the two foremost thinkers of our age. Highlights:


Q: Do you feel a responsibility as actors to help people come to terms with events of September 11?

Robbins: In LA we had people coming up saying thank you [for the play---A.S.] because right after [the event] people shut it off. We moved into an artificial way, people started to sell products off the event, to sell cars, trucks and weapon systems off the event.


Q: Do you think the entertainment industry is cashing in on the events?

Robbins: What about all the other industries? Lay off the entertainment industry. They're trying to reflect, to make some sense of the madness. It's a natural thing to do.

Sarandon: It's up to the public not to go [to a show] if they think it's exploitative. It's a part of human nature to be exploitative.


Q: Do you think it's too soon for dramatic interpretation of the events?

Robbins: I agree. It's too early to gain enough perspective before a metaphorical piece [can be developed].


Q: You have a reputation as being a politically active couple? What are American's views on the War on Terror and the events following September 11?

Sarandon: I think we're still trying to define who the enemy is. The Government is separate from the people. A lot of questions are being asked and they [the Government] need more information. I don't know that they have a lot of global perspective. You can't typify the American people. It's changing day by day.


In The Guys you are A-list Hollywood actors playing working class heroes. Is that part of its appeal?

Robbins: It's why we live in NY. We're trying to get away from the Cult of Celebrity. It's a more honest place to live.

Sarandon: First thing I said to my kids was "we've joined the rest of the world now". [Britons] are accustomed to terrorism.

Now obviously I've selected the ones which caught my eye. The conference contains a lot more stuff, most of it not extraordinarily foolish for an interview with major actors. But I don't think I have manufactured the oblivious hypocrisy of these people: It's wrong to exploit such a tragedy, except when it isn't. Except when it's us, because we're trying to place things in a bit of perspective. Of course it's too soon for perspective...

Note that they cling to the fantasy---many bloggers would call it a leftist fantasy, but I won't, because I've seen right-wingers use it often enough---of separating the government from the people. Since the government isn't following our wishes, it can't be following the wishes of The People.

Oh, and New York being a "more honest" place to live. Whatever "honest" means in this context, I'm sure that it describes much of New York. But living in New York will not turn tailored silk slacks into cheap blue jeans, you overpaid cretins. And I haven't a clue what question Sarandon thinks she's answering here. Does terrorism make you working class?

NOTE: I did some digging on this topic, and the only service to quote the "you're so lucky" remark was Ananova. Quite a few organizations had quotes from the press conference, including the Festival's official site, mentioned above. While the Ananova article quotes some of the reponses from the press conference, the "lucky" remark is unique to them. Where did they hear it?

Just when I am ready to mentally cast Sarandon and Robbins into the outermost pit of Hell, however, the Guardian comes to the rescue, by being even more obnoxious. Here the Guardian's Michael Billington sniffs that "The Guys" was "politically naive" because Sarandon's character (a journalist) does not lecture Robbins's character (a grieving fireman, remember) on the root causes of September 11. Well done, Guardian! Whenever I think we've hit bottom, you always show up with a shovel.

Ananova report via Tim Blair. Unfortunately, Blogspot is doing something peculiar today, by redirecting links to a non-existent archive page for some blogs. Hawkgirl and I aren't affected. It might have something to do with the way archives are handled. (Mine are handled stupidly, and I've been meaning to fix them.)

Of course, if you aren't reading this, you know I've been affected too.