erik lundegaard

Sunday September 18, 2011

How great is it to be as stupid as Maureen Dowd?

In her latest column, “Eggheads and Blockheads,” Maureen Dowd chastises the Republican party as the “How great is it to be stupid?” party, which it is, by comparing its current front-runner for president, Rick Perry, to ... wait for it ... John Wayne.

So she attempts to trash a man by comparing him to one of the most iconic heroes of American cinema? How great is it to be as stupid as Maureen Dowd?

Maureen Dowd of the New York TimesDowd uses John Ford's “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” as her prism for the upcoming presidential race. She casts Barack Obama as Ransom Stoddard (Jimmy Stewart), the thin lawyer from the east who is often bullied by the likes of Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin), whom, in a final showdown, he shoots and kills. From this he gains acclaim, becoming an ambassador to England and U.S. Senator. But it's all a lie. Tom Doniphon (John Wayne), from behind a corner store, was the real man who shot Liberty Valance. Stoddard's shot missed high and wide.

What's the connection between Ford's film and our current reality? None. The comparison is facile. The connective tissue is barely there. She merely sees Obama as an egghead (forgetting Stoddard's rage), Perry as a blockhead (forgetting Doniphan's heroism), and the rest of us as the townsfolk caught in the middle (forgetting that most were stereotypical Scandinavians, a favorite Ford trope.)

As she puts it:

So we’re choosing between the overintellectualized professor and blockheads boasting about their vacuity?

What's awful about Dowd is not just her myopic dichotomies, not just her clumsy Hollywood analogies, but the fact that she misses the bigger picture. Because what's fascinating about modern Republicans, who continually trash Hollywood, is how their candidates fit so easily into Hollywood western and action-adventure archetypes. This is intentional. The party that trashes Hollywood is the party that apes Hollywood. Both the GOP and Hollywood create wish-fulfillment fantasies in good vs. evil battles because that's what we, the public, wish to see. Until reality intrudes. Which makes us wish to see it even more.

It's not an insult, in other words, to compare Rick Perry to John Wayne. It is, in fact, the whole point to his awful, awful career.

Posted at 01:46 PM on Sunday September 18, 2011 in category Politics  
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