Sunday, 21 October 2007

Lessons of Stupid

Last week I was in Vegas, because my friends were going and I'm trying to uphold my rep as the Nicest Guy in Hollywood. In my 2 day stay, I discovered that Las Vegas is at once America at its finest (and by finest I mean lowest), and kinda cool provided you can ease yourself into a level of stupidity that lets you get off on its extravagance.

Since I have high empathy levels, and can usually engage in non-condescending discourse with people far dumber than me, this wasn't really a problem.

Joseph and I are in the hotel elevator when a drunk guy strikes a conversation. (Take note: He was holding a glass of whiskey. I wouldn't typically accuse someone of being drunk just for lacking social inhibitions.)

"Software guys, huh?"


"You're software guys, right? I can tell."

"Yeah, Microsoft," Joseph lies.

"See, I knew. You guys dress however the hell you want."

I'm wearing a Disneyland t-shirt and Joseph is wearing a Star Wars tee and shorts. Admittedly, this is not proper fancy hotel attire in a city where everyone is trying to prove they're high stakes players. But it takes a level of stupidity to openly negatively stereotype someone based on their wardrobe.

Today's topic of discussion: The Stupid.

They may be the most unfairly, routinely, and without the aid of rights-activitists, universally bashed legal group in the world that isn't founded on sociopathy. For some reason, it's considered alright to bash midgets in movies too. But midgets have some activists on their side. Nobody likes The Stupid. It's politically correct to hate them. Even stupid people hate other stupid people.

Let's start by distinguishing 3 prominent groups of stupid people. (For the sake of brevity, I'm leaving out purely hateful idiots: Terrorists, racists, etc.)

1) Those who know better but choose to be stupid anyway.

These are the people of whom it's most OK to disapprove. They're the university kids who go out on city streets at night and think they're being clever by yelling "Drugs!" really loudly. They think it's cooler to not care about anything, and write letters to the paper complaining that my reviews aren't dumb enough. They're the people who have been alive for 80 years, and still haven't found the time to learn what side of the street they're allowed to walk on. Fuck these people.

The second group isn't much better.

2) The stupid people who try to sound smart in really insincere ways.

In some ways, this group ranks among the most horrible people on Earth. We call em pseudo-intellectuals ("pseuds" for short.) You can identify one right away if he or she claims to have no regrets. No sane person has "no regrets," and the majority of people who say they don't just talk without thinking. Anybody over the age of 3 who sincerely doesn't regret anything either has no life experience or is a narcissistic asshole. The people in this group also talk about movies like they're quoting things they read out of a magazine. They give their opinions loudly in public places so everyone can think they don't kowtow to the party line if they adore Wes Anderson and hate Spielberg. They love the idea of "indie", but secretly despise truly independent thought. They use backwards sentence endings like, "Explosions and nudity does not a good movie make." And they throw around the always unnecessary pseud-phrase "the fact that" verbally and in writing.

(If you want to work at hiding your pseud-status, I'd also recommended always saying "I feel" in place of "I think." "I think" indicates uncertainty; the way you feel can't be wrong. I'm just helping out my fellow man.)

I remember when I was 19, standing in a short line with 2 friends to take in Bride of Chucky on a weeknight. This line was parallel to a much longer line. In the longer line, a guy was trying to impress his girl by snickering at our line's apparent poor taste in entertainment. What was that other lineup lined up for? Practical Magic! The movie about Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman as sister witches with dating problems. At least going to see Bride of Chucky is an honest stupid way to spend 2 hours.

The third group is the most innocent.

3) People simply of below average intelligence.

They don't want to be stupid any more than the blind want to be blind. But people hate them for it, as though they can magically start being smart. It's like when clinically depressed people are told to just snap out of it. Or like asking a wheelchair-bound person if they've ever tried walking. No. They can't do that. With those groups, we realize such attitudes are wrong. The Stupid, on the other hand, are treated as a blight on our well-being.

Let me add to this that I truly believe that most people are smart in their own way. There are people you think are dumb that are better in some situations than you are. On the other end of things, people who are basically smart are stupid about certain things. For instance, just because you major in biology doesn't mean you know how to get a date. And just because you can crush a beer can on your head doesn't mean you can program a computer.

But people who are thought of as stupid are usually stupid frequently and in pronounced ways. And it's not curable by just accumulating more knowledge. They're dopey like some people are clumsy. It's a poor sign of one's character to hate them for it. There are other qualities as valuable as intelligence.

The irony here is that society is designed for The Stupid. You don't have to look around much to see this is true. Just turn on the news and listen to commentators theorize that Barack Obama has no chance of being President because some people consider him too smart. Being too smart is an issue?! If you're smart you get what they're skating around: Obama has no chance because some people consider him too black. The media doesn't need to be truthful, because it has already assumed you're an idiot.

This is an example of why the smart fear the social influence of The Stupid. And as Yoda taught us, fear turns to hate.

But can't we just accept that some stupid people are not malicious and just lack the brain-function of the rest of us? So long as they're not ruling a country, just put up with it. Our basic humanity accepts that the ugly are valuable, so why not The Stupid? My dog isn't evil because he isn't as smart as me.

Perhaps my altruism comes from feeling a kinship with many stupid things. I know some episodes of Beavis and Butt-head line-by-line. I enjoy twisted stoner movies, humour, and cartoons in a sober state. Within limits, I enjoy hanging out with drunk friends. At the same time, I hate elitist elegance, and anything stupid that's trying to appear smart.

I have, however, always had some problem with Jackass that I couldn't pinpoint at first. Now I know. It was a show designed to kill The Stupid.

Copycat Jackass stunts have resulted in death and injury to many stupid people. This is usually defended by people saying it's a way of cleansing the gene pool, or it's evolution in progress. The old to-the-point standby in dismissing an accidental death is, "Well, that person was stupid for doing that anyway." The problem is there is no level of stupid that's too stupid for Jackass. The Stupid is an ideal audience for that show. It preys on them. So of course idiots will watch it and die. Just because you're stupid doesn't mean you don't deserve to live.

The supposedly educated public (ie. the ones whose prefered topics of discussion are the things they read on Perez Hilton that day) secretly enjoys it when unstable celebrities die. They take it as a win for intelligence whenever this happens. This smug elite killed Anna Nicole Smith. They created a demand for a reality show about how stupid she is, which made her lose any shred of her self-esteem, leading to an increased negative media spotlight, and then to her suicide. Score.

But sometimes the world surprises you...


Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Joseph Kahn Hates Sandwiches

Seriously! What kind of shit is that?

A sandwich is a compact, portable food that can encompass all 4 food groups within one convenient food item. It can employ limitless taste combinations and sensations with the fresh ingredients of one's choosing. Plus, sandwiches are historical. Did you know that Leprechaun was the first R-rated film to have tie-ins at a fast food joint? That fast food joint was called Subway. The invention of the Internet directly followed.

I'll tell you what this is really about. Despite everything I just said, Joseph thinks sandwiches lack flavour and are white people food.

To illustrate, here are some pictures of white people eating food.

Now, it's true that Mexican, Thai and various other food types are spicier than the average tuna on rye. And in a weird way, I know and agree with where Joseph is going with this. I just don't entirely believe his sandwich dismissal. My friend Mike Gillis is terrified of pies to the point where he won't be in the same room as one. It's much different than Joseph Kahn's anger at sandwiches.

I suspect I was just challenged by some mixed messages I was struggling to interpret. Joseph once told me that I have more soul than any other white person he knows. Then, when sitting in class last week, he told me that I should embrace my whiteness more through the way I dress and act. I never realized I was denying it.

This isn't to say that certain races are prefered over others, just that it's taken as a sign of confidence when people comport themselves to their own station in life rather than to someone else's. I'm opposed to this thinking for several reasons, principally because I'm not sure how it applies to me. But then, I hope I don't come across like Fergie either.

"Look," Joseph explained, "I'm a Korean American. When I was growing up, I had no idea how to get girls until I reinvented my look as an Asian rock star. But it put me in a position where I noticed what kind of white guys girls go for. I know more about what it takes for white males to score than white males do. Trust me on this. I directed 2 Janet Jackson videos, 2 Britney Spears videos, and 2 Eminem videos."

If you look around in LA, the trendiest white guy hairdo is something we'll call Extreme Bedhead. This goes along with collared t-shirts, and five o'clock shadow. In other words, to be the most desirable white guy one must look like actor Ryan Gosling.

So I did it up.

The next step in my white identity project was to buy some indie rock. Joseph was in Seattle for his cousin’s wedding, but left me to look over his Hollywood home for the weekend and gave me permission to his car. If Joseph saw the Dana Carvey epic Opportunity Knocks he would know this was a terrible idea. But anyway, I drove down to Sunset, parked and began walking to Amoeba Music. The plan was to get the trendiest indie rock possible.

It seemed like a stupid idea at first. But then, walking out of the store, I noticed Mary Elizabeth Winstead, star of Death Proof, Live Free Or Die Hard, Sky High and Final Destination 3. It’s hard to recognize celebrities immediately because when you see them in person their facial characteristics are in check, but they’re slightly differently proportioned than how they look on screen. Actors have giant heads because they’re easier to light that way.

This was definitely her, though. She’s cute as hell. And my mission was validated when I noticed her hand-in-hand with a white boyfriend who is clearly uglier than me. (This isn’t just the ego of the world’s best-looking film critic talking. It’s observed fact.)

Winstead looked at me, in my new sell-out get-up and hair-dew, and smiled. It didn’t matter that my soul crushing make-over made me feel like an absolute dork. In that brief moment she totally eye-fucked me.

There were a lot of people in Amoeba Music that day. I decided to just stand in line at the register to ask for assistance.

“Can I help you?, a white woman with dreadlocks asked.

“Yes. I’m wondering what the hippest indie rock CD is right now?”

“Hmm. Have you heard the latest TV on the Radio?”

“No. I need something more white?”

“Excuse me??”

“I’m trying to impress this girl who thinks I’m racist against white music, which is a thoroughly untrue and inappropriate supposition for her to make, but still I’d like some help.”

“There’s The Arcade Fire. They’re a collective without a real group leader. Like the white Wu-Tang.”

“That’s not white enough.”

At this point, the true silliness of this race based presentation exercise was starting to hit me again. Taking interest only in the small piece of the world one's born into has always seemed ignorant to me. Yet this is how so many people choose to live. I rail against xenophobia a lot in my writing because life is about the experience of branching out—understanding yourself, your situation, and others’ by taking interest in the world around you. Almost as annoying to me as outward racists are people who think they’re combating racism simply by ignoring it altogether—denying its presence in everything.

More specifically, where are the people complaining about Superbad? Sure, it’s just one in a long line of teen movies to relegate adolescence to an all-white experience. But in 2007, this view is reflective of nothing. The only black character in Superbad is the liquor store cashier. The only Asian is Evan’s male cooking class bitch. There’s a substantial number of white kids for whom this media fabricated view is their embraced reality. Check out the movies and music on many 20
-something caucasians' MySpace pages for proof. It’s a sickness of hegemony—a subliminal racism wherein the non-white world just doesn’t exist. And I’m not trying to come off as righteous. It seriously bothers me. Who casts a movie with only white people, and then sees nothing wrong?

Let me make this much clear: Joseph Kahn has nothing against white people (he likes some of them more than I do), though his sandwich-hate is perhaps unconsidered. He simply has an outsider-understanding of how white America works and wants to let me know that game can be played to my advantage if I want.

Which brings me to the next topic. The most cruelly discriminated against group (by the educated elite, no less!), with the least support from anyone, isn’t a race at all. It’s The Stupid. Next blog.