Sunday, September 26, 2021

Explaining Al Pacino, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Donald Trump

When actors in movies throw plates around, screaming, everyone starts mentioning Oscars. What a performance! Such power!

Really? Just for that? It took me years to understand that most people never feel rage or any other strong genuine emotion. They shamble through life numb, limp-dicked, popping tons of Prozac and never feeling much of anything, ever. To them, Al Pacino chewing scenery is masterful acting. Wow, he really went somewhere!

This always mystified me. I can do that! In fact, I want to holler at people all the time! My Powerful Acting Skill is the opposite: I can unhook that impulse and stand there grinning amiably at all the nonsense. But if you'll hand me a stack of plates, and give me permission, I will fling dishware, screaming and carrying on, red-faced, for your camera, all the livelong day. So where's my freaking Oscar?

It took years for me to understand the disjoint: strong emotion and intense feeling are impossible for most people to muster, so that stuff seems stirring and impressive (hence the anointment of hams like Pacino as celebrity gods). From there, I began to notice that when lesser actors rage on screen, they often seem whiny and almost comical. It's not that they're uninspired, or not trying hard enough. They've hit a hard limit. That's their peak, right there. That puny little display represents their maximal unthrottled rage. That's all they've got.

This explains Republicans right now. Consider the fatuously pouty and piqued delivery of Marjorie Taylor Greene, Tucker Carlson, Josh Hawley, and the rest. They're off. They're performing (hey, we knew that) and they're not Pacinos. So they're trying to goose their flabby numbness into a low simmer, flinging their arms about and furrowing brows to connote stirring rage. It's not the real thing, because they can't "go there". This is all they've got.

None are anywhere close to the ballsy characters they're straining to portray. Marjorie Taylor Greene is a super-wealthy businesswoman. She's "spa days with the girls", not the choleric trailer trash lunatic she portrays (weakly) on TV. Nearly all those down-home corn-fed MAGA-wannabe politicians went to, like, Yale. They feel nothing and can only faintly simulate emotion of any sort. That's why their sneering, glassy-eyed affect is so least to anyone who's ever witnessed actual emotion and intensity.

Finally, this explains the exaltation of Trump, who is not faking the seething rage. So he's Pacino. Such power! He really goes there!

If I were a flaccid drone, easily awed by transgressive emotion, I suppose the snarky/whiny weak-sauce faux rage of a Marjorie Taylor Greene might feel “relatable”, while Trump would seem all-powerful and deeply authentic.

I remember no shortage of rage growing up, among my family, friends, neighbors, and general mass of fellow humans. It was the rule, not the exception. Was that a misapprehension from my parochial youth, or has society changed, turning everyone into squeaky mice, highly susceptible to enthrallment by any remaining shred of full-blooded humanity?

Maybe it's that I grew up around Sicilians and Jews. Or maybe it's because corporate styles of communication, which arose for business purposes in the 70s, have dominated the mainstream since the 80s, leaving everyone psychotically averse to friction of any sort (much less full-scale emotion). Or maybe this is inevitable given the huge shift I keep pointing to: most every American now is an aristocrat. Mrs. Howell couldn't manage a white hot rage, either. She has people she could hire for such things.

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