Falling Down, 25 Years Later
May 1, 2017 12:34 PM   Subscribe

"It’s April 1992, and ABC commentator Judith Miller’s voice has an exasperated tinge as she reports to her audience that not one of the officers who beat Rodney King on that infamous videotape has been found guilty of any charges. Soon, riots break out in Los Angeles. Thousands of stores are destroyed. At least 55 people are killed. And less than a mile away, Joel Schumacher is directing Falling Down." April Wolfe writes for LA Weekly on the 25th anniversary of a film that remains as polarizing and provocative as ever. Hey, White People: Michael Douglas Is the Villain, Not the Victim, in Falling Down
posted by naju (107 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't remember Douglas being the hero in that movie. Very dystopian. Anti-hero like The Punisher maybe, but far darker.
posted by k5.user at 12:41 PM on May 1, 2017 [8 favorites]


I once briefly dated a guy who made me watch this movie. He told me he identified with the main character. Reader, I promptly dumped him.
posted by all about eevee at 12:47 PM on May 1, 2017 [163 favorites]


yeah good move there
posted by clockzero at 12:49 PM on May 1, 2017 [8 favorites]


I recall the movie mostly for its shock value. I won't lay claim to much woke-ness today but I sure as hell wasn't even in the same zip code as being "woke" back then and the term "white privilege" wasn't in wide use having only been coined in an academic paper three years earlier. I think Schumacher's commentary on privilege was more accidental than conscious. Seems like it might be worth my time to re-watch this one of these days to see how my perception of the movie has changed.
posted by GuyZero at 12:49 PM on May 1, 2017 [3 favorites]


Just like with American History X, this movie is one where the wrong people simply "eat around" the parts they don't like, so specific is its message to a certain archetype of dude. Same with Fight Club as well in fact.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 12:50 PM on May 1, 2017 [47 favorites]


Hey, White People: Michael Douglas Is the Villain, Not the Victim, in Falling Down

No, he's both, that's the whole point. He's a tragic figure that the movie initially tricks you (just as D-Fens tricks himself) into seeing as an anti-hero. I mean, this isn't exactly subtext, it's right there in the script.

“I’m the bad guy?”
posted by leotrotsky at 12:50 PM on May 1, 2017 [74 favorites]


I was watching something recently - some horrible little YouTube video churned out by some content farm - that was talking about "movies in which you didn't realize the bad guy won". And they cited Falling Down, because Michael Douglas dies at the end.

And I was like, wtf? Michael Douglas is an embodiment of white male privilege storming around town. He's not the hero. We aren't supposed to be rooting for him.

Robert Duvall's character is the one I always found more interesting.
posted by nubs at 12:55 PM on May 1, 2017 [5 favorites]


No, he's both, that's the whole point. He's a tragic figure that the movie initially tricks you into seeing as an anti-hero.

How can I have cogent feelings in a non-binary world? Did such a world once exist?
posted by Ogre Lawless at 12:56 PM on May 1, 2017 [4 favorites]


Same with Fight Club as well in fact.

I know we're talking movies, but what's the deal with the species of wanna-be writer dudes who seemingly think that Chuck Palahniuk is all of literature? (Well, I will assume they are also into Hunter S. Thompson and Bukowski).
posted by thelonius at 1:04 PM on May 1, 2017 [21 favorites]


...and David Foster Wallace, apparently. Wasn't there a post recently?
posted by leotrotsky at 1:05 PM on May 1, 2017 [6 favorites]


I have a 25-year-old argument with a dear friend over exactly this point; the film seems to me entirely ambiguous as to whether D-Fens is the hero or villain until that last moment -- and I think the audience (to the extent they identify with him) should have a wake-up call right then.

I didn't love the film, but thought it was interesting and absolutely *should* be seen as portraying Douglas as villain and Duvall as hero, whatever the filmmakers intended.

(Duvall as hero and white savior still problematic, but Douglas's character is everything wrong with the U.S., was my thought then, and more or less now.)
posted by allthinky at 1:07 PM on May 1, 2017 [2 favorites]




Does the author mean Judy Muller of ABC News? Judith Miller was with the NYT.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:14 PM on May 1, 2017 [3 favorites]


I have a 25-year-old argument with a dear friend over exactly this point; the film seems to me entirely ambiguous as to whether D-Fens is the hero or villain until that last moment -- and I think the audience (to the extent they identify with him) should have a wake-up call right then.

I think the article makes a good case that his wife makes his villain status clear. I think I missed that watching it as a teenager, in part because the default perspective of so many late 80s-early 90s movies is the estranged dad trying to see his kids.

Believe women, even fictional ones.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:15 PM on May 1, 2017 [39 favorites]


It's been so long since I've seen this movie that I have a hard time actually making any point of this, but there is something to be said about this being a movie about intense, violent hetero-masculinity directed by a gay man who put (or retained from the screenplay at least) a character saying "faggot" into this film and has directed films with pretty intense gay subtext (and probably just text) before.

In many ways this was a movie about personal homosocial interactions (iirc most if not all of D-FENS' interactions are with men) that either turn or are threatened to turn violent. The way D-FENS the Defense Contractor dresses becomes parodic when you consider that Schumacher started his career as a costume designer. And if I remember it correctly, at the end of the movie the tough-guy vigilante (or whatever) essentially goads or tricks the reluctant tough-guy cop into shooting him.

I think there's a way to consider this movie as Schumacher just waving his arm over the landscape and saying "this is where this got us" and whether D-FENS is a hero or villain or whatever isn't particularly relevant when he is the personification of violence.
posted by griphus at 1:16 PM on May 1, 2017 [10 favorites]


dudes who seemingly think that Chuck Palahniuk is all of literature? (Well, I will assume they are also into Hunter S. Thompson and Bukowski)

The other two I could take or leave but come on, who doesn't have a soft spot for weird uncle Hunter?
posted by Dr Dracator at 1:19 PM on May 1, 2017 [20 favorites]


I have a 25-year-old argument with a dear friend over exactly this point; the film seems to me entirely ambiguous as to whether D-Fens is the hero or villain until that last moment -- and I think the audience (to the extent they identify with him) should have a wake-up call right then.

I think the moment of decision is entirely different for different people. My wife was distinctly uncomfortable with the character early on, earlier than I was the first time I saw the film.

(Duvall as hero and white savior still problematic

Been a long while since I've seen it, but my recollections make me both agree and disagree with you; having Duvall's character working towards understanding what was going on was important because it gives the audience a counter-point to D-Fens; here's a white guy who can work with women and minorities, and display emotional insight and sensitivity into what is going on and be part of this society. I fear that if the police detective had been played by a non-white actor, the subtext of the ending of the film would have been perceived quite differently.
posted by nubs at 1:22 PM on May 1, 2017 [15 favorites]


No, he's both, that's the whole point. He's a tragic figure that the movie initially tricks you (just as D-Fens tricks himself) into seeing as an anti-hero.

I think this depends strongly on who the "you"/audience is, though, and what perspectives they bring to the viewing. The piece poses but never quite satisfactorily resolves the question "Which side is Schumacher — and the audience — supposed to be on?" This is part of what I see as the unusual deliberate tension of the film (I haven't seen it in a while, so a new viewing might change my mind) - it intentionally rides that ambiguity so completely and milks the sympathetic-cheering/disgust-condemnation line for most of the running time, and uses political incorrectness to do so, in a way that reveals the particular pathology of the person watching it. It's not enough to say that the film tricks you into sympathizing and then drops the reveal on you at the end - this is both simplistic and incorrect for most people watching. It's doing something a lot stranger - because a certain kind of audience "knows" he's the bad guy from reel one! But predictably roots for him despite that. There's no twist involved, just a gradual introduction of a broader worldview and perspective beyond the initially-constricted one (the main character's) that we have access to. It's playing with this mentality that he's doing "wrong" things and acting on the impulses and id that (white male reactionary) viewers have but bury deep inside, and the film plays out like it's allowing that viewer to vicariously live through this fantasy.

That's something super interesting about the far right and their anti-PC philosophy, or just nationalists in general around the world - they are convinced that everyone, deep down inside, feels the same way they do, is fed up and at the breaking point with a society that devalues them and mocks them and vilifies them - and they are convinced that if people would stop being so polite, neutered/cucked, and obedient, then they would finally DO something and bring this country back to its proud traditionalist roots. That not everyone thinks this way, that this one-sided victimization narrative has deep flaws, and that the psychopathology involved is usually a result of extreme narcissism and lack of perspective is something the film manages to get at, but not in a way that ever defuses its anti-PC tactic. I don't think the filmmakers ever realized just how effective and intoxicating the ploy really is.
posted by naju at 1:25 PM on May 1, 2017 [54 favorites]


I have vivid memories of watching it, and I think I liked it because D-FENS's narrative is so clearly all about how he's just struggling to do the right thing, and you keep forgetting the horror of his behaviour and going in an empathising with him or even enjoying his anger, then catching yourself. Like exercise for your moral muscles.

But probably, I was far too in thrall to the fact that the man who looks like me gets to do whatever he wants, and fuck the harm it causes.

I think it did make me less complacent and probably would for most people who grew up without access to an echo chamber to amplify hatred. Sadly, hate echo chambers are commoner nowadays.
posted by ambrosen at 1:34 PM on May 1, 2017


The headline of the linked article surprised me for a second -- does anyone think Michael Douglas's character is a hero? Then, blessings be upon the internet for serving as a window into the bottomless septic tank of the human psyche, came the thought that of course some people see it that way.

The movie is not terribly ambiguous. D-FENS's first action after abandoning his car in a traffic jam is to smash up a store because it's not the way he wants it. That's where it starts. He takes understandable frustrations (traffic jam, overpriced sodas) and reacts with blinding violence.

His inability to deal with frustrations or challenges of any kind are contrasted throughout by Robert Duvall's character, who navigates the indignities of life -- and his prove to be a lot darker than Douglas's character's -- with calm and compassion.

And yeah, Barbara Hershey's character is plainly terrified of the guy. She signals that D-FENS is Not a Good Dude. She's not portrayed as a nasty woman keeping the man away out of pettiness; she's afraid of him. Again, not subtle.

Then there's the end, where Duvall flat-out tells Douglas what's going on. Douglas claimed he didn't know what he was going to do when he got to his old home. Duvall called him on this, saying that he'd seen this before. Douglas would kill his wife and daughter, to make it easier for him to then kill himself. Douglas's reaction to this declaration was plain: he realized Duvall was right.

To see Douglas as the hero requires serious misreading. Not surprising that people do, but holy shit, it's not subtle.
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 1:35 PM on May 1, 2017 [104 favorites]


This movie was introduced to me in college by a group of friends who were mostly from blue-collar Vietnamese and Hispanic backgrounds, and seemed to look at it very much as "working man hero dies a heroic death fighting against everything wrong in society." They saw a lot of themselves in Douglass, and seemed kind of wistful at the idea of just unleashing a tide of unstoppable righteous fury. We didn't really have the language to talk deeply about it at the time. I wonder what they'd think of it now that we're all adults who've actually had to function in the world.

It's definitely something of a Rorschach Test as a film. I suspect a person's gut reaction to it says a lot about where they're at. I remember finding it really good but pretty unsettling, somewhat underscored by learning my friends all agreed it'd be just awesome to hold a McDonald's hostage out of spite.
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 1:40 PM on May 1, 2017 [10 favorites]


I just looked up a synopsis to make sure I'm remembering the right movie—I am—because it never occurred to me that anyone would consider Douglas' character to be anything other than a villain in this story.

I'm thinking this may explain why I am having so much trouble understanding the election returns, i.e., that perhaps the thinking that leads someone to consider him to be a victim could also lead someone to decide to support Trump.

(Fwiw, I'm a white woman.)
posted by she's not there at 1:42 PM on May 1, 2017 [13 favorites]


I cannot speak to the reception at the time it was initially released since I wasn't old enough to see it, but over a decade ago I wrote a paper (partly) about this movie for a college course. Maybe im not typical but I cannot fathom seeing D-Fens as the hero of this movie.

The article suggests that when he steals the Korean store owners baseball bat and starts smashing the shelves of inventory were supposed to agree with his assessment that inflation has made his white male life uniquely worse and is unfair?

on preview - everything Harvey Jerkwater said better than I did.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 1:42 PM on May 1, 2017 [1 favorite]


The movie is not terribly ambiguous. D-FENS's first action after abandoning his car in a traffic jam is to smash up a store because it's not the way he wants it. That's where it starts. He takes understandable frustrations (traffic jam, overpriced sodas) and reacts with blinding violence.

And somehow I'm certain the people most likely to cheer on Michael Douglas in this scene are also among the first to complain about "thugs" when a convenience store gets smashed up during a protest against racism and police brutality.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:42 PM on May 1, 2017 [27 favorites]


leotrotsky: "...and David Foster Wallace, apparently. Wasn't there a post recently?"

You're probably thinking of this post. Apparently his work has an added level of meaning to a certain type of white dude that I, as a white dude, am just not comprehending[*]. Not sure if it's quite as directly comparable as the appeal certain people find in Falling Down and Fight Club, but it's there nonetheless.

[*] I think his famous 2005 commencement speech is fantastic, but I never fell for Infinite Jest, and Brief Interviews with Hideous Men just wasn't good at all IMHO.
posted by mystyk at 1:49 PM on May 1, 2017 [2 favorites]


There's something rather too wholesome and naive about assuming that any apparent protagonist is supposed to be a "good guy." Cinema doesn't exist to give us a parade of sympathetic protagonists:

These scenes [of terrifying, random violence that holds innocents hostage, in one case literally] seem designed to test how far down the road white or male viewers are willing to hitch a ride with this character before they realize, wait, he’s not the good guy here.

The idea that there has to be a "good guy" in any given representation of human life is itself kind of condescending and absurd. It's no less steeped in patriarchy than the character D-FENS himself; part of his problem, of course, is that he sees himself as a "good guy," and struggles to understand or care how his terrible actions affect other people (to the extent that he tries).

In a strict dramaturgical sense, he's an anti-hero, because he's morally compromised but drives the action forward; Duvall is an anti-villain, because he frustrates D-FENS' forward momentum for the good of other people.

The title of the movie is a pretty big giveaway: D-FENS descends, morally and personally, his personhood disintegrating around the core of his anger, entitlement, and frustration. He's not a good person; he's never been a good person. He was just a law-abiding one before. And this, of course, is the key: aggrieved White guys invariably feel that Society is humiliating and constraining them by forcing them to abide by rules and laws that do not match the informal privilege we're raised to inherit. I never sympathized with D-FENS, but I always thought this movie was a painstakingly accurate portrait of (mostly) White, masculine dysfunction at a particular socio-historical moment. The film dares us to sympathize with him, and I think Douglas' performance certainly does as well, but the reasons to do so are all extrinsic to the film itself; instead, we bring them in with us.
posted by clockzero at 1:52 PM on May 1, 2017 [31 favorites]


In a lot of ways, D-FENS is like a progenitor of Walter White.
posted by clockzero at 1:54 PM on May 1, 2017 [33 favorites]



The headline of the linked article surprised me for a second -- does anyone think Michael Douglas's character is a hero?


I was 15 when I saw it, and by the definition of a Greek tragedy, he is the hero. He's the character whose character failings have led him down a path, starting with just a few missteps, a path that will end badly. As in Macbeth, Hamlet, Saul, Walter White, et cetera.

But in the more general sense? WTF?

I didn't fall for that notion even as a 15 year old. I saw the story as a warning not to wind up like him.
posted by ocschwar at 1:59 PM on May 1, 2017 [4 favorites]


I can see your point, but I thought of Breaking Bad as really, really dark comedy/drama—can't say the same of Falling Down.
posted by she's not there at 2:00 PM on May 1, 2017


Falling Down is a dark satire in that it ridicules society without actually being fun or funny.
posted by griphus at 2:03 PM on May 1, 2017 [8 favorites]


I just looked up a synopsis to make sure I'm remembering the right movie—I am—because it never occurred to me that anyone would consider Douglas' character to be anything other than a villain in this story.

I also remember the TV trailers for the movie, and they were cut to make it plausible that all of D-FENS's victims rightly earned their comeuppance.

It's been 25 years, and so the memory people have of it may be part of the issue.
posted by ocschwar at 2:04 PM on May 1, 2017 [8 favorites]


That scene where D-FENS hides out in the Nazi guy's military surplus shop is pivotal, I think.

I can see why that would reinforce some people's mistaken idea that D-FENS is the hero of the story. He rejects the Nazi, he's a good guy!

But, when you take it in context of the rest of the film, especially the conclusion, it's really a warning, isn't it? If you've got Literal Nazis rooting for you, even if you don't identify as a Nazi yourself, you're probably on the wrong goddamned path, aren't you?
posted by tobascodagama at 2:06 PM on May 1, 2017 [48 favorites]


It's definitely something of a Rorschach Test as a film.

By which I assume you mean it is a test to see if you are Rorschach, because nobody else could identify with that asshole. (Hurm.)
posted by The Bellman at 2:09 PM on May 1, 2017 [30 favorites]


In a lot of ways, D-FENS is like a progenitor of Walter White.

Yep. Even down to the Nazis.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:09 PM on May 1, 2017 [2 favorites]


And Schumacher followed this up with his other radically potent film.. Batman Forever!
posted by Liquidwolf at 2:16 PM on May 1, 2017 [8 favorites]


it was long long time ago that I saw it, but I recall reading the ambiguity of Falling Down as a fatal weakness. I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, but the Douglas character doesn't actually kill anyone who isn't awful, does he? He threatens people, for sure, but in a classic case of Hollywood weak-kneedness, never crosses that line ... and then he ends up conveniently dead at the end anyway.

A dark film about a complex character who loses it one day for ... reasons, then ends up with innocent blood on his hands, and survives it all, thus having to live with the consequences of his rage driven action. That's a movie that might've meant genuinely something.
posted by philip-random at 2:18 PM on May 1, 2017 [3 favorites]


I remember not wanting to see the movie when it came out because I found D-Fens to be despicable in theory and was appalled her was being treated like a hero. Then I saw it and was like 'Oh, he's not the hero, morons just thing he is." I'm not sure that made me feel better.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:20 PM on May 1, 2017 [2 favorites]


I've always been surprised that a movie that documents what I saw as a decent into madness and consequences thereof would leave D-Fens being perceived as a hero. Just the way he menaces the wife and child should be evidence enough.
posted by shagoth at 2:30 PM on May 1, 2017 [2 favorites]


it was long long time ago that I saw it, but I recall reading the ambiguity of Falling Down as a fatal weakness. I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, but the Douglas character doesn't actually kill anyone who isn't awful, does he? He threatens people, for sure, but in a classic case of Hollywood weak-kneedness, never crosses that line ... and then he ends up conveniently dead at the end anyway.

If he had been murdering innocent/morally unobjectionable people the whole time, it would have been a completely different movie. One might pretty easily argue that the ambiguity makes it a better film than it would have been otherwise, because it invites the viewer to dwell in moral doubt. Morally unchallenging films are obviously preferable for a lot of people but I'm surprised to see it suggested that making the protagonist unambiguously villainous would have strengthened the film in some way.
posted by clockzero at 2:30 PM on May 1, 2017 [4 favorites]


On my short list of Movies That Uncomfortably Remind Me of My Father.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:40 PM on May 1, 2017 [9 favorites]


I remember not wanting to see the movie when it came out because I found D-Fens to be despicable in theory and was appalled he was being treated like a hero.

plus

I also remember the TV trailers for the movie, and they were cut to make it plausible that all of D-FENS's victims rightly earned their comeuppance.

plus having a reeeally strong reaction against basically all the anti-heroes that Douglas played in the 80s and 90s, means that I have apparently been avoiding this movie since 1993!
posted by epersonae at 2:44 PM on May 1, 2017 [3 favorites]


In my head canon this movie is the reason macdonalds now offers breakfast all day.
posted by valkane at 2:58 PM on May 1, 2017 [53 favorites]


I saw this in theaters with then-mrs-hanov3r-the-first. 26 year old me, from a pretty right-wing conservative family, totally bought in to the whole "he's just doing what we're[1] all thinking!" reaction through most of the movie, and it wasn't until the end that I had a "wait a minute, that's not right" moment.

I tried to rewatch it recently, and was *appalled* at younger me for empathizing with the main character at all and attempting to mentally justify most of his actions.

[1] ... where 'we', obviously, is 'right-wing white people'
posted by hanov3r at 3:18 PM on May 1, 2017 [4 favorites]


So, I'm pretty shocked at the people who are shocked that anyone could find D-Fens to be the hero of the movie. I seem to remember when it came out that the general consensus was that most people (or maybe just white men, but those are the people who "matter" most of the time) loved it and really identified with D-Fens and his "righteous rage." I was young enough to be sort of enthralled by the idea of a "regular guy" turning into a "badass" and punching the system in the nutsack, but I was also really uncomfortable that all of his violence and rage was directed at women and minorities. I didn't have the vocabulary at the time, but yeah, it was pretty obvious TO ME that he wasn't a character to emulate, despite Douglass' charisma. But I heard all the time from other people how cool he was, how he stood up for what was right, blah blah blah. I wasn't really surprised by that, though, and I'm not sure why anyone else would be. I've met people who watch Full Metal Jacket and Apocalypse Now and other "war is hell" movies to get themselves "pumped up" -- "Dude, that scene where they kill the sniper chick is TOTALLY HARDCORE! Fuck yeah!" I mean, there are people out there who think that Jesus Christ was pro-capitalist free markets; is it surprising they'd interpret Falling Down to suit their own self-serving victimization narratives?
posted by Saxon Kane at 3:21 PM on May 1, 2017 [24 favorites]


These scenes seem designed to test how far down the road white or male viewers are willing to hitch a ride with this character before they realize, wait, he’s not the good guy here.
This is very much Walter White's progression in Breaking Bad, with a number of white male viewers willing to hitch that ride to the very end.
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:28 PM on May 1, 2017 [15 favorites]


I think there's also something that was tempting (white? male?) people on the left to want to buy into the fantasy, at least in the abstract - keep in mind, in the early 90s we were just absolutely starving for any major movie at all to portray a deep dissatisfaction with capitalism and the soulless white collar lifestyle and the cheap mcdonalds globalization of everything, etc., and this seemed like it might deliver the goods - that this was not borne out by the reality of the movie was obvious enough within the first 30 minutes. But it's worth considering that the premise of an anti-hero dressed up like an everyman worker bee who finally gets fed up with being a cog in the machine, was something that a ton of people on the left were primed to want to buy into, especially in the zeitgeist of grunge and anti-corporate chic that was well-marinating by the time of the movie's release.
posted by naju at 3:33 PM on May 1, 2017 [13 favorites]


I'm glad I'm not alone here... you can't imagine how often I had that argument. I've been ridiculed numerous times for thinking that Michael Douglas was the villain. Glad I don't hang out with those people anymore. Don't get me started on Fight Club...
posted by Ashwagandha at 3:34 PM on May 1, 2017 [1 favorite]


As a white male, I saw this movie at probably the worst time possible in my life, as an impressionable young teenager. If you don't have the context or emotional maturity to grasp the nuance, it's far too easy to identify with D-Fens' grievances and violent reaction to everything. I haven't seen it since becoming an adult, but I'm embarrassed to think back on my gleeful reaction to his violent excesses. And yet...

Believe women, even fictional ones.

Even I, at my least empathetic point, recognized the truth of D-Fens as a violent and probably murderous father and partner. As soon as the truth of the domestic violence entered the plot, it became clear that he was not hero or antihero.
posted by Existential Dread at 3:36 PM on May 1, 2017 [2 favorites]


Saxon Kane, your comment makes me think of red-pillers who are certain they are being oppressed by women and POC demanding equality. they see a character like this as punching UP against "the man" and "the system" that is oppressing the white man to whom all is owed. in fact though he is punching DOWN at women and minorities who face actual oppression on a day to day basis. and he is blind to it in his rage that the world may no longer be structured to cater to his every whim and need.
posted by supermedusa at 3:37 PM on May 1, 2017 [13 favorites]


I really love this movie, and have loved it since I was a kid, but don't recall ever thinking D-FENS was the "good guy". I understood him cracking, and sympathised with him to an extent, and even vicariously enjoyed a lot of his outbursts, but, yeah, he was the baddie, no question. I think his encounter with the Nazi in the disposal store was a half-arsed attempt to cast him in a better light, and I guess it did cast him in a better light than the despicable Nazi guy (and I think that was his only actual kill in the movie?), but yeah.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:57 PM on May 1, 2017 [3 favorites]


Hero or not, "Give us your briefcase, man" is still a great line to say to a man with a briefcase.
posted by Ten Cold Hot Dogs at 4:10 PM on May 1, 2017 [3 favorites]


Hey, April Wolfe!

I know her IRL, so I can't post her stuff, but she's a pretty great critic with a keen feminist eye. (As an aside, it's nice to see her posted here, since LA Weekly publishers are like, "Hey, these insightful essays are great, but they don't get clicks like listicles so y u no listicle?" She writes a ton of great stuff, so hopefully this will help.)

Anyway, I just downloaded this to watch again, since the first time I watched it, I was, like 13 or so, and I remember it mostly as a "reasonable man pushed to the brink" action flick that had been really built up but was kinda disappointing. I'm curious to see it with an adult eye.
posted by klangklangston at 4:28 PM on May 1, 2017 [7 favorites]


I wouldn't say that D-FENS is either a villain or a hero; he's crazy, a tragic figure destroyed by his own failure to understand his circumstances, and when he finally runs out of fucks to give he sets forth on a thinly veiled (even to himself) quest for meaning. Nobody has mentioned yet the reveal that he has been going out with his briefcase and lunch for months even though he lost his job, a bona fide All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy moment.

The resulting ride is funny because it's a movie, and would most definitely not be funny as actual news. On the one hand we've all had the horrible experience at fast food hell, but his obliviousness to how his antics with the bag o'guns are being received make it obvious he is a dangerous and unwell person. His shock and horror at being admired by the Nazi anticipate the real horror he has to confront when Duvall penetrates his denial and makes him understand that yes, he actually was going to kill his family, because he is out of fucks to give. But Duvall makes him give one last fuck, and he does the only thing left, which is the only way the movie could properly end.
posted by Bringer Tom at 4:54 PM on May 1, 2017 [11 favorites]


I only saw it once, a long time ago, but my overwhelming impression was "scary as fuck white dude with an entitlement pathology so severe that he turns into a literal rage monster over things that normal people roll with all day every day." I'm appalled but not surprised that other scary as fuck white dudes are like "yeah, and he's awesome, bruh!"
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:33 PM on May 1, 2017 [4 favorites]


I saw it in my early 20's. I was a young white male in a remote small city with a monoculture. Unemployment in my age group was sky-high. I was so very very angry. This movie spoke to me like few others did at the time. For that matter, although it was foreign to me, so did Rodney King. For many a young male, anger is a way of life. Falling Down captured it very well in so many ways. Hero? Who gives a fuck if he was a hero or a villain. He represented how I felt. Burn the fucking world!

Now, a long time later, I see an awful lot of that young man in many Trump supporters. Maybe some of them didn't grow out of it. That young man anger is a hell of a strong force, fuelling wars and revolutions and violence. It doesn't care if he was a hero or a villain.
posted by Bovine Love at 5:46 PM on May 1, 2017 [16 favorites]


...a bona fide All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy moment.

Speaking of movies that uncomfortably remind me of my father...
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:51 PM on May 1, 2017 [2 favorites]


Nobody has mentioned yet the reveal that he has been going out with his briefcase and lunch for months even though he lost his job, a bona fide All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy moment.

Right. His mom also talks about his temper. It's the same thing with Walter White, who flips his shit twice in the first episode, albeit at low-level targets (his boss at the car wash, the kids who are teasing his son). There's also the never-explained reason why he broke up with Gretchen, and why he sold his interest in Gray Matter for $5000 (which would end up costing him about a cool billion or so).
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:04 PM on May 1, 2017 [2 favorites]


I always thought Dilbert was intended to resemble this guy. Also Frank Grimes.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 6:10 PM on May 1, 2017 [10 favorites]


Oh shit he's totally Dilbert.
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:30 PM on May 1, 2017 [9 favorites]


Stop; you're going to summon Scott Adams again.
posted by sara is disenchanted at 6:43 PM on May 1, 2017 [34 favorites]


So, I'm pretty shocked at the people who are shocked that anyone could find D-Fens to be the hero of the movie.

Where?
posted by ODiV at 7:00 PM on May 1, 2017


If nothing else I guess this thread is a good indication that different people can engage with the same text and come away with an entirely different reading of it.
posted by ODiV at 7:06 PM on May 1, 2017 [3 favorites]


The headline of the linked article surprised me for a second -- does anyone think Michael Douglas's character is a hero?

Same. I immediately just thought it was the internet thing of recasting history in a muddled way; "Not everyone in the 80's thought Rick Astley was the greatest singer of all time!"

I seem to remember when it came out that the general consensus was that most people (or maybe just white men, but those are the people who "matter" most of the time) loved it and really identified with D-Fens and his "righteous rage."

I'm a White guy, and I don't remember that. I think it really depends on who you were around.
I didn't think it was a great movie at the time (and haven't seen it since) but it was an interesting movie, if it could have reached what it aspired to.

"The main character represents the old power structure of the U.S. that has now become archaic, and hopelessly lost. "


Just look at his character, how could you personify "archaic" more obviously at that time? One of my biggest problems with the film at the time was I thought it was to ham-fisted and obvious. Apparently I was wrong and it was entirely too subtle for some people.
posted by bongo_x at 7:10 PM on May 1, 2017 [4 favorites]


I don't think D-comic-guy (hey, I'm not going to put his name here for the third time and finish the spell) has the temper problem both D-FENS and Walter White had.

D-FENS was a smart guy who gave his life and skills to his country, only to be driven into a rage when that gift was rebuffed. But on the day of his rampage D-FENS isn't being particularly brilliant, he's just a guy who's out of fucks and doesn't care much whether he lives or dies.

Walter White may be the scarier character because while he's got the temper and out of fucks problems going on, he continues to be brilliant and in fact his rage channels his genius into a toolkit of ascendance and vengeance. D-FENS and Heisenberg both want to put a mark on the world that has failed to recognize their gifts, but D-FENS just runs a little rampage while Heisenberg becomes an international criminal empire. Because Heisenberg's pet demon enslaves his genius, while D-FENS has just pushed his aside.
posted by Bringer Tom at 7:13 PM on May 1, 2017 [2 favorites]


I have to give props to Douglas, though. Whatever he had in himself as an actor, he left it all on the screen. I don't think that Douglas thought for a second that he was portraying anybody admirable, and only sympathetic in the sense that someone in pain engenders our pity, up to a point.
posted by Chitownfats at 7:29 PM on May 1, 2017 [7 favorites]


i actually sympathize with a lot of D-FENS* frustrations, and I've been in enough traffic jams and mass transit fuckups to understand his walking away. But I would've told him to go to the beach or to some dive and have a sixpack or something. He's the classic story legitamiote anger being mis directed.

*my dad, a home furnishings salesman at JC Penney, who weatrhered a lot of layoff rounds,...well, my dad isn't a murdereer, but... I dunno
posted by jonmc at 7:37 PM on May 1, 2017 [3 favorites]


I was oblivious to all the white privilege undercurrent going on when I first saw it in the theater. I mean, I got the fact that this was a man who was being left behind by the changing times and Modern Living is an existential bitch. But the whole time I was like "this is a weird dystopian fantasy, no one does stuff like this" until the end when I was like "oh my god, dudes kill their wife and kids and then themselves all the time, I finally understand all those crazy news stories."

And that was the moment I realized how completely fucked up and mentally ill we (America, particularly white American male) are as a society, and how important it is to resist the "values" we are instilled with.

Yes, it's primarily white American males that are disenfranchised, but the real message for me was the absurdity of buying into the myth in the first place.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:03 PM on May 1, 2017 [8 favorites]


Just a side note to anyone looking for a new hero in the realm of film crit: April Wolfe has been on fire this past year. In particular her interviews with female pillars of the film industry (Ava DuVernay, Laura Dern, Vivica A Fox, Allison Janney) and coverage of female directors (especially in the horror genre) have been top notch.
ETA disclosure: she's a personal friend of mine
posted by carsonb at 8:23 PM on May 1, 2017 [6 favorites]


I have vivid memories of watching it, and I think I liked it because D-FENS's narrative is so clearly all about how he's just struggling to do the right thing, and you keep forgetting the horror of his behaviour and going in an empathising with him or even enjoying his anger, then catching yourself. Like exercise for your moral muscles.

Interesting. When I saw it as a (white, male) teenager not too long after it's release, I read it as a cautionary tale about how you can easily take reasonable motivations and turn them into unreasonable acts. That (relatively) pure intentions don't count for shit when the response is ridiculous levels of violence.

That said, I very much enjoyed over the top fantasy violence at the time, so I found it entertaining despite the moralizing message.
posted by wierdo at 8:24 PM on May 1, 2017 [3 favorites]


"I was oblivious to all the white privilege undercurrent going on when I first saw it in the theater. I mean, I got the fact that this was a man who was being left behind by the changing times and Modern Living is an existential bitch. "

One thing that really drives that home is the "Not Economically Viable" guy — the white dude runs amok, blowing up sewers and actually murders someone, and the cops still try to talk him down. The black dude just protests with a sign and out come the bracelets.
posted by klangklangston at 9:13 PM on May 1, 2017 [9 favorites]


I think it's way too easy to simply classify Douglas's character as a flat out villain. It ignores any complexity or empathy.
posted by tunewell at 9:18 PM on May 1, 2017


From Roger Ebert's review, way back when:
What is fascinating about the Douglas character, as written and played, is the core of sadness in his soul. Yes, by the time we meet him, he has gone over the edge. But there is no exhilaration in his rampage, no release. He seems weary and confused, and in his actions he unconsciously follows scripts that he may have learned from the movies, or on the news, where other frustrated misfits vent their rage on innocent bystanders.
Ebert downplays the racial dimension of D-FENS' rage, but he captures this aspect of him rather well.
posted by um at 9:57 PM on May 1, 2017 [5 favorites]


I always thought Falling Down pulled a deliberate bait-and-switch D-FENS' put-upon-everyman-who's-had-all-he-can-stands-and-can't-stands-no-more shtick is just the sort of thing that would appeal to someone with a little privilege, but no real power, who's confused and angry as he's being left behind by a changing world, and then proceeds to point up the stupidity and wrongness of that sort of revenge fantasy.
But I'm not at all surprised that this went completely over the heads of the kind of people that find the character's antics commendable.
posted by Trinity-Gehenna at 10:03 PM on May 1, 2017 [2 favorites]


One factor that might have become lost in time is the significance of D-FENS' haircut. That kind of flat-top was decades out of fashion at the time, it signifies something other than a straightforward hero, a somewhat comic figure. Today it probably doesn't look more dated than anything else.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 11:02 PM on May 1, 2017 [16 favorites]


I remember seeing the movie when it came out and thinking how tired I was of seeing Michael Douglas play irredeemable assholes who are treated kindly and set up to be the object of sympathy (or, at least, admiration) when they are, in fact, irredeemable assholes. See Basic Instinct and Wall Street for other examples of this same character.

I keep on meaning to watch Beyond the Candelabra " but, Christ, I can't stand Michael Douglas.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 11:03 PM on May 1, 2017 [5 favorites]


how tired I was of seeing Michael Douglas play irredeemable assholes

rather how I feel about Joel Schumacher movies. An irredeemable asshole, or certainly an irredeemable incompetent. I mean, this is the man that gave western culture St. Elmos Fire. Some transgressions are beyond remorse.
posted by philip-random at 12:41 AM on May 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


But if it started out in a mediæval tavern (or, I guess, with the protagonist stuck behind cattle being driven to market), and there were wizards and mythical creatures, nearly everyone would think he was the hero.

He's just your standard D&D murderhobo but in 90s LA.
posted by ambrosen at 12:54 AM on May 2, 2017 [3 favorites]


I think his encounter with the Nazi in the disposal store was a half-arsed attempt to cast him in a better light

At the time, I did too - I was annoyed the filmmakers couldn't just let him be irredeemable. But on a re-watch I thought he killed the Nazi because he knew that "We're the same" is correct, and he doesn't want to know that.
posted by harriet vane at 1:28 AM on May 2, 2017 [4 favorites]


Just watched it through for the first time.

The thing that got me is Duvall's character finally "wins" at the end by telling his wife to leave the skin on the chicken, and telling his boss to fuck himself. So the bad white guy got what was coming, and the good white guy took up the burden to be the Man.
posted by Meatbomb at 6:09 AM on May 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


Well, that's the thing. The ending leaves me feeling uncertain about Duvall's character, which I like. If the whole movie is about creating discomfort in the audience about D-FENS, then the ending is about transferring that ambiguity over to Pendergast who until that point has been portrayed rather sympathetically. It's showing us that this isn't as simple as one man or one set of circumstances; it's everywhere.
posted by nubs at 6:28 AM on May 2, 2017 [4 favorites]


An irredeemable asshole, or certainly an irredeemable incompetent. I mean, this is the man that gave western culture St. Elmo's Fire.

Most people would have gone to Batman and Robin for that statement. I think that at its worst--and it does get pretty bad--St. Elmo's Fire is a good illustration of why people who (as far as I can tell) didn't actually graduate from college themselves shouldn't make a movie about recent college graduates; people who go to a big-deal university like Georgetown generally do not stick around town after graduation, unless they're all working for the government in one capacity or another (and, aside from the one guy who's a junior staffer for a Congressman, there's no indication that they do), and they don't need a lot of persuasion to stop hanging around their favorite college bar. (There's also the guy whose essay on, fuck me, "the meaning of life" gets published on the front page of the Washington Post. I can't even.) It doesn't help that even Schumacher admitted that one studio exec called the main characters "the most loathsome humans he had ever read on the page." At least he can take credit for effectively breaking up the Brat Pack, just as Batman and Robin shows you what not to do in a Batman movie, although Zach Snyder ended up creating his own lesson on that subject anyway.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:37 AM on May 2, 2017 [4 favorites]


Just like with American History X, this movie is one where the wrong people simply "eat around" the parts they don't like, so specific is its message to a certain archetype of dude. Same with Fight Club as well in fact.
posted by Senor Cardgage


OK I haven't seen it in decades, but what were the parts of American History X that people would eat around? Maybe I'm just not remembering it properly.
Def agree about Fight Club and Falling Down.
posted by Theta States at 7:11 AM on May 2, 2017


The headline of the linked article surprised me for a second -- does anyone think Michael Douglas's character is a hero?


Have you ever been to Nebraska?
posted by Senor Cardgage at 8:28 AM on May 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


"OK I haven't seen it in decades, but what were the parts of American History X that people would eat around?"

Ive heard lots of stories about neo-Nazis making redemption-free edits to pass around.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 8:29 AM on May 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


To see Douglas as the hero requires serious misreading. Not surprising that people do, but holy shit, it's not subtle.

I saw it in the theater as a 20-something white guy and I don't recall ever entertaining for a moment the idea that he wasn't a "bad guy" of some kind. The only arguments I remember having about the movie were over whether D-Fens was a tragically deluded bad guy or just a straight-out psychopath. I haven't seen the movie since then, but my memory of it is closer to bongo_x's. If anything, the movie seemed to be heavy-handedly begging the audience to regard this creepy, angry, violent, crew-cutted relic as a perfect symbol of white rage.

And actually, what I'm struck by now is how Falling Down falls squarely in the middle of a spate of movies about violent-men-acting-violently—Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Natural Born Killers, Unforgiven, Bad Lieutenant, The Professional—and yet how uncharismatic and unsympathetic the character of D-Fens is compared to any of the other protagonists, even the ones who are supposed to be monsters.

this is the man that gave western culture St. Elmos Fire. Some transgressions are beyond remorse.

Oh come on. Don't tell me you didn't go home and try to make an aerosol torch.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:34 AM on May 2, 2017 [4 favorites]


I'm in the bongo_x camp on this one. If you think the main character is sympathetic more than a very very short way into the movie, then you have a problem. No surprise that many people turn out to have this problem, but that's why it was possible to make a movie about it in the first place.

To the extent the movie has a hero it is indeed Robert Duvall's character. Linda Fiorentino seems to be held up as the normative woman, whereas Duvall's wife is an anachronism of exaggerated femininity. It is implied that Duvall is in denial that his wife may have killed their daughter (he says she died of cot death at the age of two); to all appearances this is because the wife wants to be the one in the infant role. D-Fens' abused ex-wife is closer to Fiorentino on this spectrum. And as noted, Duvall's endless patience make him the adult to D-Fens' squalling infant.
posted by tel3path at 9:07 AM on May 2, 2017


The Fraternal Order of Alt Knights is having a contest to design the symbol for their newly formed 'tactical defense' team. *cough*brownshirts*cough*

Check out this submission. (Both links lead to non-creepyassnazi sites.)
posted by LindsayIrene at 9:20 AM on May 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


I was asking myself where in the popular, visible web we might find people who identify with Douglas's character and completely miss the context and subtext:
I give you the IMBD comments for the film.

If I've seen Falling Down it's been a very long time, but I recently rewatched American History X and my mid-thirties definitely gave it a different context than watching it around the time of release, when I was finishing high school, did. To past me, Edward Norton's character's main failing was that he fell in with the wrong crowd. He was a motivated, intelligent kid who fell in with neo-nazis and while he was older and calmer, I put the blame for most of his aggressive behavior on the racists who mentored him.

As an adult, I don't see it. The neo-nazism espoused by Stacy Keach's character eggs him on and gives him a reason to hate, but all of the aggression is his. He sees himself as a victim of the system as a kid, and when he gets out of jail it's clear he understands that he was a perpetrator.
posted by mikeh at 10:11 AM on May 2, 2017 [3 favorites]


One factor that might have become lost in time is the significance of D-FENS' haircut.

Yes, this is part of what I was trying to get at. At the time his look was such a caricature of another time it sent different signals than it does today. I feel like that's pretty important, and is one of the fascinating ways the meaning of things gets lost.
posted by bongo_x at 10:35 AM on May 2, 2017


Not to overanalyze things (I tend to save that for Star Trek), but another thing about D-FENS' haircut is that it's very not Michael Douglas. From The Streets of San Francisco to Ant-Man, he's had fantastic hair; even his look as Gordon Gekko is perfect for a man of that time and stature. It's not just that D-FENS has a crew cut, but that it is perfect in its own way: extremely neat, and not just a sixty-second army recruit buzz cut, but also perfectly wrong for the time and place. I bet that, before he was fired, his co-workers told others to avoid the guy with the crewcut, and everyone knew exactly who they were talking about.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:14 AM on May 2, 2017 [6 favorites]


This was one of my favorite movies for a brief period when I was a teen, because of both its wacked-out premise and its refusal to provide an easy answer. It may have been the most ambiguous movie on my radar at the time, and it fascinated me for that reason. (I bet I would have liked it less had I seen Taxi Driver before it.) But like most folks here, I never thought of D-FENS as admirable in any way. Relatable in the early scenes, maybe, to a young fellow wrestling with a growing feeling of unjust confinement (albeit for personal, non-societal reasons), and with the earliest glimmers of resentment toward crass, market-driven American society.

I'd like to think that the intent all along was to lure certain viewers in with the whole "ha ha this guy's a badass" element and then, by shifting the moral landscape as the film went on, forcing such viewers to confront these ugly impulses in themselves. I'd like to think that, but Schumacher's association with the project makes me hesitate to conclude that this was intended. Or, as TFA puts it:
[D-FENS is] blind to the simmering resentment of blacks in the city and the inevitable riots raging next door. The question remains: Was Schumacher?

Halloween Jack: I bet that, before he was fired, his co-workers told others to avoid the guy with the crewcut, and everyone knew exactly who they were talking about.

See, what's funny is, even when it was a relatively recent release, I always felt like the haircut was somehow too on-the-nose. Like, that it creates an almost comic distancing between the audience and D-FENS—like the glasses Milton wears in Office Space. One wonders if (A) the movie might've sent fewer mixed messages had his hair been as bland as the rest of him, and (B) the right-wing fanboys (BTW LindsayIrene that is a terrifying flag) might hesitate a bit more to identify with this villain if he'd lacked that distancing accessory, like how some people (such as, it seems, Steve Bannon) idolize Darth Vader because it feels safe to do so. In other words, here's an additional reason to be puzzled by the movie's true intentions. But that being said, I'm inclined to conclude that, at minimum, the movie WAS meant to challenge us, and that some of the style choices (the haircut, the almost slapstick performance by the burger joint guy) were merely unfortunate misreadings of how best to handle this complex concept.

Perhaps a deeper question is, do we need to consider the filmmakers' intentions at this point? Or has this film attained "historical artifact" status, freeing us to view it more freely, more "outside time"? My gut tells me no, not yet; as the article says, the changes affecting D-FENS are not only still affecting us today, but in a sense, all the D-FENSes out there just won a bunch of elections. Maybe the lesson in Falling Down isn't just for the deplorables, but for the rest of us who need to figure out how to respond to them.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 11:48 AM on May 2, 2017 [4 favorites]


Yeah i don't doubt that the movie sets us up to sympathize with D-FENs before we realize what he is capable of and that the moment of realization comes at different points for different viewers.

However, the idea that the authorial voice is unaware of what it's saying is inconceivable to me. As mentioned above, the smoke in the darly scened is from the riots.

That people are seeing so much ambiguity in this film is another thing that's bringing home to me the extreme violence of the American culture and mindset. I have been watching it all my life but it took recent events for me to begin to realize how much I'm an outsider looking in. It's not just that Americans have guns and it's not just right wingers.
posted by tel3path at 12:38 PM on May 2, 2017 [3 favorites]


Just watched it through for the first time.

The thing that got me is Duvall's character finally "wins" at the end by telling his wife to leave the skin on the chicken, and telling his boss to fuck himself. So the bad white guy got what was coming, and the good white guy took up the burden to be the Man.


This is an interesting, subtle, and important point.
posted by clockzero at 1:20 PM on May 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


One factor that might have become lost in time is the significance of D-FENS' haircut.


His whole outfit really -- the button down shirt, the tie, and the glasses in particular, which serve double duty as a vehicle for a heavy-handed bit of symbolism when the lenses crack and he continues to look at the world through them.

But nowadays, in the ironic fashion world of millennial hipsters, that style of eyewear is all the rage. Alas, not something Schumacher could have predicted.
posted by mikeand1 at 2:10 PM on May 2, 2017 [5 favorites]


D-FENS is essentially in 1950s Defense Department cosplay, and that includes the license plate we get his name from. I mentioned above that Schumacher was originally a costume designer and while I have no idea how much input he had, it is a very designed costume.
posted by griphus at 2:43 PM on May 2, 2017 [4 favorites]


I can't remember which one, but I have a book on wargaming that has a photo of bunch of dudes dressed exactly like D-FENS playing a tabletop game around the late 1960s and it's pretty clear the look was an affectation for them even then.
posted by griphus at 2:44 PM on May 2, 2017 [1 favorite]




I didn't say ironic, but on D-FENS it is absolutely an affectation in 1993.

The guys playing tabletop in the basement in the late 60s I still argue are affecting it during a photographed social outing as a Look. It was well past the point where it was socially opprobrious for a dude to not look like that and they definitely weren't all at work.
posted by griphus at 3:00 PM on May 2, 2017


It's the non-military implicit uniform

Black pants, black shoes, white shirt, skinny tie, Buddy Holly glasses, pocket protector, and a high and tight is how my dad (a civilian DOD employee) dressed for work every day until the late '60s. Sometimes he accesorized with a cardigan. By 1970, tho, that look was out of style even among Feds (unless, maybe, you were FBI or something).
posted by octobersurprise at 3:16 PM on May 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


"He's just your standard D&D murderhobo but in 90s LA."

Uh, murderhobo traditionally has a dead family to avenge; D-Fens has a family that's trying to avoid him. In my '90s D&D group, he would have been the bad guy on a rampage toward people he wrongly felt were responsible, and our murderhobos would have to take him out before he got there.
posted by klangklangston at 5:29 PM on May 2, 2017 [3 favorites]


White Privilege, cinematized. He is bulletproof. The drive-by shooting that targeted him completely misses and hits several bystanders, mostly women. There is screaming and agony all around him, and he just walks off, shoots the guy, makes an ugly comment, takes their guns.

Now that you guys are making the connection to the U.S. war machine, it seems more like straight imperialism. Like, how is the US going to adapt, now that there's no communist threat?
posted by eustatic at 5:47 PM on May 2, 2017 [7 favorites]


My father was obsessed with that movie after his divorce. He watched it constantly, got a crew cut, bought a couple of guns, and actively stalked my mother/myself/my sister. In retrospect, I'm surprised that we all survived.
posted by wormwood23 at 8:12 PM on May 2, 2017 [4 favorites]


I saw it when I was young and angry, too, and yeah, I'm hella embarrassed by how much I liked it. It feels like this sort of thing keeps coming up, but these threads, when I read about other people's interactions, or how people they know took the worst possible interpretation and loved the movie, it scares the living shit out of me. I'm pretty much a pure child of the 80s/90s sort of upbringing where I was always told how special I was and how successful I was going to be, but never really pressured to put in the work. When I saw Falling Down, and yeah, later, Fight Club, they resonated. It's only much later, let's say in the last ten years, more likely in the last five that I've really come to understand the only person responsible for my utter lack of success, or any of my dozens of abject failures, is me. It hasn't been a pleasant time, and it's fucking painful to realize. More than anything else, it's given me the former adict's hyper-sensitivity to the thing they used to be addicted to. I see things like this, and I see how easy it would have been for me to just accept that maybe it wasn't my fault, that it was others keeping me back. That shit is a lot easier to accept than the idea that I am the reason I'm not rich, or famous, and that my unwillingness to put in the work required, when given every possible advantage is why my life has been the way it was.

The one thing I still take from that movie is the rant about how the golf course should be a playground. I still believe that.
posted by Ghidorah at 1:01 AM on May 3, 2017 [8 favorites]


Hero or not, 'Give us your briefcase, man' is still a great line to say to a man with a briefcase.

Not if it's Tom Cruise.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:07 AM on May 3, 2017 [3 favorites]


"OK I haven't seen it in decades, but what were the parts of American History X that people would eat around?"

Ive heard lots of stories about neo-Nazis making redemption-free edits to pass around.


ugggggggh

I worry there is a whole genre of movie edits out there whose whole purpose is to celebrate late capitalism and remove any sense of redemption
posted by Theta States at 10:33 AM on May 8, 2017 [2 favorites]




In fairness though, The Wolf of Wall Street seems to include a redemption arc in the most perfunctory way possible while winking at the audience and crossing its fingers behind its back. It's entirely unsurprising that audiences would think the film glorifies rather than vilifies; I'm still not even sure where I come down on that question. (Most likely it's "the absence of heavy-handed moralizing" rather than "glorifying", but when the end product seems like a sequel to The Hangover is that really the takeaway for most people?)
posted by naju at 3:43 PM on May 8, 2017 [2 favorites]


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