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since 1997 | by maryann johanson

it’s the hope I can’t stand…

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How is this day even real? I cannot fathom it.

When I was dorky SF-loving kid in the 80s, I so looked forward to the 21st century. It was gonna be the future! We were gonna have moon bases and bootprints on Mars and flying cars and first contact with nice aliens and it was gonna be awesome.

I wish someone had taken me aside and told me that, instead, The Future was gonna be the dystopian vision of a cheesy 80s action sci-fi junker starring a former Olympic kickboxer named Gunther who fancied himself a turn in Hollywood, that it would be all militarized police and outspoken hate and smart educated people scrambling for too-few shitty jobs and child refugees living in squalid camps and corporate rights over those of citizens and toxic food and climate disaster. And that we wouldn’t even have Gunther to fight for us.

As John Cleese said in the movie Clockwise, “It’s not the despair. I can take the despair. It’s the hope I can’t stand.”

Fuck this shit. And fuck Donald Trump. Now and forever.

And fuck me: I still have hope. One tiny good thing for me personally over past couple of months is that I am so energized creatively: anger is good fuel for me. I think I am going to write good stuff this year (not just film criticism, and you can hold me to that). But I also have this theory of history that I call the Fuck This Shit theory: Important stuff doesn’t get done until enough people say “Fuck this shit,” and then they make the big changes. The Puritans looked around Europe and were like, “Fuck this shit,” and they sailed off to the New World. The American colonists looked at how the King was treating their colonies, and they were all “Fuck this shit,” and so we got the American Revolution. (This doesn’t always work out well for everyone. I’m sure Native Americans were thinking “Fuck this shit” at how the invading Europeans were treating them, but that wasn’t enough.) If and when we ever settle on Mars, it will be because enough people on Earth are finally “Fuck this shit,” and sail off. But maybe, before we get to that point, enough people will look around at the inequality and the injustice of the world we have created and say, “Fuck this shit,” and change it in a realistic way.

There’s so much work to be done, and so much pain to be endured along the way. But it has to be done, no matter what. The hope: it’s gonna kill me.


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  • bronxbee

    the despair for me isn’t even Trump — it’s the massive cadre of bigoted, uncompassionate, uncaring, greedy, selfish and egotistical Congress that rushed in in his wake. they didn’t even wait for his investiture to start taking down all the progress (little as it is) we’ve made since Johnson’s War on Poverty (which we didn’t win, but at least there were some battles). i am almost ready to give up… what bothers me the most is that the people who voted him in, are the ones who are most going to lose out. what will people who already have no jobs, no industry and no upward mobility going to do when they have no social platform to at least give them some retirement money, disability, or health insurance. i am outraged for them, and they brought it on themselves, rollo! a guy who cannot even fill the administrative jobs needed to run his administration cannot be trusted to bring jobs back or even make new ones. and of course, most of the people who voted for him, do not realize how actually little presidents can do for the economy… just witness how congress stonewalled President Obama — and yet, these people are blind to it. i am ready to give up on all of them and live with penguins.

  • Bluejay

    GIMLI:
    Then it has all been in vain. The Fellowship has failed.

    ARAGORN:
    Not if we hold true to each other.
    We will not abandon Merry and Pippin to torment and death. Not while we have strength left.
    Leave all that can be spared behind. We travel light.
    Let’s hunt some orc.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XD-PfIdGIBE&t=54s

  • althea

    I agree with you, of course. Just, right now, I found myself thinking, “What does giving up look like?” It’s a disturbing thought that I’ll shy away from for a while.

  • LaSargenta

    No, the ones who voted him in *will* lose out, but they won’t be “the ones who are most going to lose out.” That will be everyone we need to work to protect: the people who are going to be targets because they belong to the wrong demographic, too female, too gay, too non-white, too poor, w/ a pre-existing medical condition, whatever. THOSE are the people who are going to lose out the most.

  • Bluejay

    Upvoted 1,000,000x

  • bronxbee

    thanks for that.

  • amanohyo

    Our president is literally a cheesy 80’s movie villain. It would be hilarious if I didn’t know how many lives will probably be ruined by his incompetence and greed. Maybe the Democrats will counter with a Matthew Broderick/Molly Ringwald ticket in 2020. Hang in there Ginsberg and Breyer! You guys are the last thin branch left that can check this unbalanced town.

  • RicoSuave

    Why not Alec Baldwin and Madonna ? They’ve both been quite politically active.

  • amanohyo

    I was trying to think of people with valuable experience bringing people together to fight over the top douchebags in front of a camera in a fictional 80’s setting, but I guess those two would qualify too. They’re a bit abrasive for the Democratic brand – although it would be depressingly cathartic to hear Madonna grab her crotch and say “fuck you” to Trump in a “debate” while Baldwin repeats every line he says like a bratty six year old. Politics is officially another reality show, one more tweeted rap battle between petulant, insecure teenagers – we might as well embrace it and elect nothing but celebrities. Who cares about detailed solutions and nuanced compromise, if it ain’t a clickbait worthy headline, I don’t wanna hear it – it’s 60 degrees in the middle of winter in DC, I’m livin’ in a post-fact world and I’m lovin’ it!

    Seriously though, while it was cool to see the women (and allies) march in DC and witness Madonna’s continuing struggle to stay controversial, I still think there’s something fundamentally wrong with our educational system and I think it’s being kept wrong on purpose. I don’t know if a large percentage of people have always been intellectually lazy and I’m just starting to notice it because I’m getting old, or if it’s a generational gap between cynical, suspicious Gen-X culture and trusting, materialistic, tribal Millennials, or if technology is actually reducing our ability to comprehend opposing and/or compromised viewpoints, or if this is just an emotional side effect of having an arrogant, opportunistic dumbass as a boss, or some combination of them all, but I really expected more from human beings. In four years, when the climate and supreme court are fubar, illegal immigration is still unresolved, unemployment in American factories continues to rise, and inequality is even more ridiculous than it already is, if we re-elect this doofus because he has some more great zingers in the debates, I will lose all faith in the political process on a national level.

    What can sensible people do? Hope for the best, support charities and the local community, point out the idiocy, lies, and corruption we see from the sidelines, all while knowing the majority of the country will stick their fingers in their ears as soon as anything uncomfortable is said, and pull facts, figures, and counterpoints out of their teams’ assholes while talking past each other. Trump is 99% of what I hate about American culture and human nature encapsulated into a single filterless monstrosity. The worst part is there’s a part of me that enjoys the spectacle of it all. I have to keep reminding myself, “stop laughing, you live on this planet too dumbass.” Whew, sorry I had to vent for a second. I see the man at work, and it’s my job to protect him, so the next four years are gonna be rough. This must be what hardcore racists felt like when Obama got elected.

    On the plus side, the one thing I like about Trump is his lack of a filter. After so many years of two-faced assholes in politics, it’s refreshing to see someone just be true to their inner asshole and own it: “Yeah, I’m an arrogant asshole – society has rewarded me for it at every step of my life, so why should I stop?” There are a lot of assholes out there who were trying to improve themselves and become more compassionate and sensitive, but now they can stop all that fake bullshit and just be themselves. It’s a dog eat dog world and the richest dog gets to take what he wants. He who dies with the most toys wins. Fuck the haters – haters don’t know shit. Started from the bottom with a small loan of a million dollars, now we’re here! Aaaand now I’m depressed again.

  • RicoSuave

    Given that Hollywood has been so heavily vested in campaigning for and funding political candidates of their choice, it makes sense that now their best and brightest should try a run for office themselves, and draw on their experience to set a higher standard of ethics and personal conduct in the political sphere

  • amanohyo

    That’s a very generous and optimistic spin – I’m glad you’re finding ways to stay positive. I will admit that despite the fact that Hollywood stars are, in essence, professional bullshitters suckling at the teats of their corporate overlords, they do tend to be more generous and compassionate on average than the average achievement-hunting, power-hungry politician, probably because so many actors and actresses can remember what being poor and underprivileged feels like. Hey, if can they deliver the party platform in a more entertaining, appealing way, go for it. It’s gotta be better than whatever the hell this is.

  • Danielm80

    Have you read RicoSuave’s comments over on the Meryl Streep thread? He seems to be using the term “best and the brightest” sarcastically, to make the argument that Hollywood liberals have such low moral character that they’re not qualified to complain about Donald Trump’s ethics.

  • RicoSuave

    Nothing says ethics and high moral standards as Hollywood. Though I wonder if they will give up their private jets for the sake of the environment that they are concerned about, or their multiple mansions to reduce their carbon foot print.

  • amanohyo

    Hey, we both agree that the average member of the Hollywood elite is just as adept at attention-grabbing bullshittery and hypocrisy as the average politician. Not quite as adept as Trump of course, but he’s not the average politician. As you point out, there is a growing disconnect between the politically correct liberal party line and the way the Democratic elite actually live their lives, so I can see how a lot of people find Trump’s “honest” assholery refreshing. Unrepentant assholes can sometimes be entertaining in fiction (In the Loop, The Wolf of Wall Street, Scarface, etc.) but when they get rewarded in real life publically, it just reinforces the worst aspects of humanity.

    I have a theory that it is the goal of corporations (not a conspiracy, just parallel evolution) to accelerate our mental development to teenagers as quickly as possible (shorten childhood), and then extend that adolescent mindset for a long as possible, ideally until death. A teenager is the easiest type of person to sell something to: they tend to be insecure, impulsive, moody, shallow, conformist, tribal, brand-conscious, etc. There was a time not long ago when the average kid under the age of thirteen didn’t give a shit about what brand of clothes they were wearing, and the idea of paying a company for the privilege of wearing or viewing an advertisement was ludicrous. Ditto for the average adult above the age of twenty-five. In a short amount of time, corporations have taught us all to behave like teens forever, to identify with what we consume rather than what we create, seek attention, praise, and validation, and cliquishly follow lifestyle trends and purchase their accompanying, constantly updated paraphernalia. Donald Trump is a spoiled teenager trapped in a man’s body. He is the perfect avatar of the zeitgeist and speaks to the lowest common denominator in us all.

    So, if the choice comes down to the selfish asshole who is proud of being an asshole, or the selfish asshole hypocritically spreading a message of compassion, self-sacrifice, and generosity, I think I gotta go with the latter.
    Hopefully, at some point there will be a third option: the sincerely unselfish, sensible problem solver, but that doesn’t seem likely to happen again for a while, at least on a national level. For now, well-meaning Hollywood bullshit is the best smelling available. A few dozen mansions and private jets aren’t going to destroy the climate anywhere near as quickly as Rex Tillerson’s and Rick Perry’s backroom (and frontroom) deals.

  • RicoSuave

    So far Hollywood has just been virtue signaling about the issues they claim they care about. What exactly are they trying to achieve if they fly in private planes while bemoaning greenhouse gases, praising and awarding fugitive criminals in their ranks while talking about crime, wanting open borders while living in gated guarded communities with private body guards ? How is that “better smelling”. Seems to me that it is pretty much the same, except presented on a stage under spotlights and accompanied by dance numbers and music for the distracted masses.

  • RicoSuave

    The French women who are protesting Polanski’s appointment as the President of the Cesar Awards seem to be far more aware of his behavior than the clueless in Hollywood. Somebody should let Ms Streep know.

  • amanohyo

    Don’t forget that in some significant ways, Donald Trump is also member of the Hollywood elite, or at the very least a celebrity. But putting that aside, and concentrating on the the liberal majority of Hollywood, I see the situation this way:

    Imagine there are two televangelists, both of whom live in mansions, cheat on their wives with hookers, use the congregation’s money to buy private jets and fund their cocaine addiction, and are all around horrible assholes to almost everyone around them.

    Televangelist A preaches in their sermons that greed and materialism are good, the most important thing about a woman is whether or not she is sexually attractive, and lying and cheating are fantastic as long as you get away with it (and sometimes even if you don’t). They call anyone that disagrees with them an idiot.

    Televangelist B preaches in their sermons that generosity and selflessness are virtues, women have more to contribute than their bodies, and honesty, transparency, and compassion are good practices. They also call anyone that disagrees with them an idiot.

    Which shit smells better? Televangelist A who is spreading the horrible ideas that truly guide their life or Televangelist B who falsely promotes good ideas that they don’t actually believe? Even in this grossly exaggerated scenario, I think Televangelist B is less dangerous and damaging, because A’s message is not only awful, it’s also already over-represented in popular culture. For many people, the knowledge/suspicion that Televangelist B is bullshitting completely undermines their message, so they go with A. I get it, but it’s the wrong choice if you want to make any lasting improvements.

    Compromise is hard, sacrifice is hard, planning and enacting long term solutions is hard, it’s hard for regular people and it’s hard for celebrities (including Trump). Our educational system, our entire culture is built around easy, instant, self-gratification. Trump was the easy choice – who doesn’t want to be a winner, to be a billionaire, to take what we want, to laugh at things that are strange and foreign, to tell people that make fun of us to fuck off and go home, to write our own rules, to write our own reality, to be great?

    There’s a part of all of us that wants material achievement, to be a winner. There’s nothing wrong with having those feelings and honestly acknowledging that competition and wealth are good in moderation. There are other parts too though, parts that wants to help others when they fall on hard times, to discover new perspectives and test new solutions, to find common ground and accept our differences gracefully. They more I listen to Trump, the more I suspect that he doesn’t have those parts… at all. Even if the average liberal celebrity is 99% faking it when they claim to have those parts (and I don’t think they are.. it’s closer to 75%), they are still several orders of magnitude more worthy of attention and admiration than Trump. He is a broken human being. Essential pieces are missing.

  • RicoSuave

    So basically your metric for choosing between two horrible choices is the person whose tall tales are served with glib words of fake goodwill, even though you know those words are phony ? It sounds like you would prefer to go with some sugar coated infomercial for a specious cure-all given by huckster. What does that achieve ?
    If celebrities wanted to be taken seriously then perhaps they should run for office. It is one thing to emote on stage or in front of a camera and collect a paycheck and another to actually do something. Jimmy Stewart put his acting career on hold in WW II and flew combat missions over Germany when he was needed. Perhaps the current crop in Hollywood can take that as their inspiration. And not Polanski.

  • amanohyo

    First of all, we’re in agreement when it comes it Polanski (and probably Woody Allen). It makes no sense for anyone to be up in arms over a stray comment Trump made about finding his daughter sexually attractive or inappropriately touching/assaulting women if they aren’t considerably more outraged about a man who literally had sex with his daughter and an admitted child rapist. They’re both talented directors of course, but as far as I’m concerned, Polanski should get the full Cosby/Sandusky treatment, Allen should be blacklisted from Hollywood events, and an asterisk should be placed next to all of their awards. That said, Polanski and Allen aren’t trying to become the head of the US government. One would hope that standards would be a bit higher for the guy who has the nuclear codes than the guys who make movies.

    But yeah, if those are my only two choices, I’ll take the phony who isn’t 100% the moral paragon they preach over the straight up moral monstrosity who preaches almost pure evil Words have effects and effects matter. Of course, it would be nice if those words were 100% backed up by actions and heartfelt conviction, but sometimes they’re backed up by 0% action, 10% conviction, and 90% self-serving bullshit. In my book, that’s still better than poisonous ideas that are sincerely held and spread without shame.

    I feel similarly when it comes to religious people. Some non-believers criticize moderate religious people for choosing to ignore the parts of their holy books that they find uncomfortable or out of touch with modern society. They’ll say something like, “you’re a hypocrite if you follow some religious teachings and ignore others! If you truly believed, you would be a fundamentalist!”

    That’s a horrible approach in my view. If someone has to perform to mental gymnastics and a little self-delusion in order to be a more decent, moral human being, they’re at least on the path to becoming a better person. It’s counterproductive to criticize them for not living their life 100% in line with what they say they believe. There’s always going to be some level of disconnect between our self-image and who we are to others.

    In a similar way, if a celebrity says good, moral things publically, and privately doesn’t 100% live up to those words, it’s counterproductive to try to force them through criticism to shift all the way to one extreme or the other. Maybe one day, if they spout their positive, compassionate message long enough, they’ll start to actually live it. At least they’re on the path as opposed to a person that is openly and unrepentantly immoral and has no hope of improvement or redemption.

    I understand your perspective – a lot of people obviously shared it during the election. It’s uncomfortable to think of trust on a spectrum. For many, either you trust someone or you don’t, and people didn’t trust Clinton because they smelled the bullshit. Sure Trump is a self-serving, lying asshole with no morals, but he never claimed to be anything else. He’s honest about being a liar, and in some sense that’s refreshing after listening to so many politicians lie through their teeth while pretending to be sanctimonious do-gooders. At the end of the day though, as entertaining and refreshing and novel as he might be, Trump’s still an asshole with no morals, integrity, or solutions. Hopefully in the next four years, he proves me and all of his other critics wrong and manages to follow through on some of his better ideas like that whole swamp draining project. Not off to great start though – reminds me of when Obama immediately fired all of his progressive staffers and brought a bunch of Goldman Sachs executives into his cabinet. I was hoping Trump would have the balls to butt heads with some of the powerful Republicans, but it looks like he’s gonna let the same old dogs run the show one more time.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Oh jesus is it trying to be clever again? Sad!

  • Danielm80

    See if you can spot the techniques he’s been using:

    http://www.wnyc.org/story/taxonomy-trump-tweets/

  • Bluejay

    Which is how he’s turned the comments section of a post on Trumps’ threat to the republic into yet another thread about Hollywood hypocrisy.

    Great link, by the way. It was interesting to read about how languages aren’t grammatically equipped to describe systemic causation, which is maybe why we have trouble talking about (and why some people have trouble perceiving or accepting) systemic injustices.

  • You’ve beaten this horse to death. Give it up.

  • RicoSuave

    Yes, the thread has run its course and everyone presented their points of view without any ravings about wanting to destroy historical residences… :-)

  • J.T. Dawgzone

    Wait, you work for Secret Service? Did I read that wrong?

  • amanohyo

    Hah! An admirable try, but did you really think I hadn’t heard the legends of the masked canine assassin with the bite that never misses its mark? How much is Putin paying you Mr. “Dawgzone,” or perhaps I should call you by your given name…. Comrade Jimmyjojonovich Terwilliger Von Doggensteubenheimerolnikov!!!!

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