Last man talking

FINAL

If you don’t usually read or have never read Vox.com, the in-depth news website, you should — today in particular.

Two stories from the current edition of Vox.com practically jumped out at me. One was about the Tim Allen sitcom “Last Man Standing,” which has returned on the Fox Network after having been canceled by ABC. The story details how the show has transformed from a mild retread of Allen’s previous sitcom hit, “Home Improvement,” into an “All in the Family” for conservatives, wherein Mike Baxter (Allen’s character) is a stand-in for all men (Read: all privileged white men) who feel marginalized by our ever-evolving society.

The second eye-opening article is about the U.S.’ current political football: Will Brett Kavanaugh win sufficient House and Senate votes to become a Supreme Court justice? The article includes a significant quote from one of Kavanaugh’s most vocal supporters, Sen. Lindsey Graham:

“I’m a single white male from South Carolina, and I’m told I should just shut up, but I will not shut up.”

Vox.com declares:

“Graham is elevating the stakes of the Kavanaugh hearing. No longer is this about Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford…[I]t is about showing that white men in power are not going anywhere — that they will not listen, will not budge, and will not give ground to #MeToo or the Black Lives Matter movement…This was always the subtext of the Republican approach to the sexual assault allegations. But now Graham has officially made it the text: Voting ‘yes’ on Kavanaugh is the battle cry of the reactionary man.”

Which leads me to the question that has been rolling around in my mind ever since Donald Trump began to be taken seriously as a Presidential candidate:

What in God’s name are these guys so threatened about?

Let’s talk about the milder case first. Tim Allen has worked with the “Last Man Standing” showrunners to make a case for how the concerns of conservative males are being brushed off. The thing is, when “All in the Family” did this sort of thing, the show made it perfectly clear that Archie Bunker’s bigoted, far-right views were meant to be laughed at.

But Allen wants us to take these concerns at face value, even when the show’s very premise belies him. Mike Baxter is the well-off senior employee at a sporting goods store, and his life’s biggest challenge is having to listen to his wife and daughters point out how silly some of his philosophies are. Black American males who live in fear of getting pulled over and/or killed by cops merely because of their skin color would consider Mike Baxter’s problems a walk in the park.

As for Sen. Graham, he is a stand-in for all of the rich white politicians who simply can’t stand it that women are daring to vocalize their anger about men who sexually and non-consensually thrust themselves upon women. When did anyone decide that women should have a say in their own lives, anyway?

Again I ask, what are these conservative males so threatened about? They have the ultra-ultra-conservative President they voted for; they have a Republican majority in both the House and the Senate; and I boldly (and sadly) predict that they will get Kavanaugh into the Supreme Court.

What more do these guys want? What more do these guys need?

My answer to this question is pretty basic. I knew plenty of guys like this in high school — the macho boys who felt it was their right to bully other males who didn’t have their muscles, good looks, or money and who had to have the girls they wanted, whether the girls wanted them or not. Many of these guys never lost their sense of entitlement. For some of them, that sense followed them right into their political careers.

As an adult, I’m as tired of these kinds of guys in politics as I was in high school. They don’t realize they’d probably be more popular if they would only do what they can’t bring themselves to do: Shut up and let some other people have the floor for a while — maybe even some people who have to struggle just to survive every day. Maybe they might learn something from those other people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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TOY STORY 3 (2010) – A toy valedictory

Toy3

Toy Story 3 was released in June of 2010, just in time to garner Father’s Day box-office, but it would have been more appropriate for high-school graduation day. The movie has an elegiac tone to it – with plenty of the expected laughs, but also with the throat-catching idea that we’re seeing the end of an era for a group of old friends.

And did I just write all teary-eyed about a movie with a “3” in its title? For that, thank the wizards at Pixar, who continue to maintain their standards of high quality and never forget to include a storyline with pulse-pounding heart. In a movie world where every successful trend gets copied to death, why can’t Hollywood pick up on this one?

The story here is that toy-owner Andy is heading off for college, dooming his childhood toys to a drab life in the attic. Most of the toys, including Buzz Lightyear (voiced again by Tim Allen) and cowgirl Jessie (Joan Cusack), brighten up considerably when they hear they might be donated to a day-care center. Loyal cowboy Woody (Tom Hanks) advises the toys to stick with Andy’s choice, but the others relish the thought of being endlessly played with. The remainder of the movie dramatically demonstrates the old adage, “Be careful what you wish for.”

Along the way, the veterans compete for screen time with new toy characters. These include Lotso (Ned Beatty), a seemingly huggy bear with a dark side that Darth Vader would be proud of; and Ken (of Ken-and-Barbie fame), who has a retro side we’d never imagined, and is voiced by Michael Keaton with all the gusto of a career comeback.

Happily, the old characters get some hilarious new quirks of their own. By itself, the results of switching Buzz Lightyear to Spanish-language mode might have won this movie its Best Cartoon Feature Film Oscar.

Funny thing is, just when you think the movie’s over, it finishes with a valedictorian scene that will have many moviegoers – including your faithful correspondent and his son – blubbering in the aisles. Again, that’s Pixar standing head and shoulders above the mass of indistinguishable CGI stuff. Just try and copy this formula, Hollywood – moviegoers everywhere are begging you.