THE POPCORN REEL ESSAY
Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark in "Iron
Man": A superhero for America's political future. Could John McCain,
seen here in a 1973 picture with his first wife Carol (whom he divorced for
beer heiress Cindy Hensley) back on U.S. soil after being in captivity in
North Vietnam, ever be capable of living up to Stark's higher moral and
political ground? (Photos: Paramount Pictures; Associated Press
Summer's Superheroes And Mega Zeroes: Leaders You May
May Not) Believe In
Everything about the McCain presidential campaign suggests that
it not only has the utmost contempt for its opponent, but also for himself.
Perhaps the summer's big screen film heroes and villains can teach the
Arizona senator something
Omar P.L. Moore/The Popcorn Reel
August 27, 2008
Can the movie superheroes of this
successful box-office summer teach a presidential candidate like John
Tony Stark was a corporate giant who did something revolutionary (and
unbelievable): fought those within the corporation he owned while
becoming something of an unlikely superhero.
Man" flew on more than a wing and a prayer, punctuating everyday
American sensibilities with the idea that nuclear weaponry would have no
place at Stark Industries -- a fictional corporation to be sure, but
thanks to Robert Downey, Jr.'s acting, Mr. Stark was a leader you could
believe in. He self-actualized and resisted the stereotypical
"fat-cat" CEO label and did the heavy-lifting himself in trying to stop
wars, just as John Cusack's character was trying to make one in the
fictional Turaqistan, all in the name of defending Tamerlane as its
corporate hit-man in the short-lived film satire "War, Inc."
"Wall-E" fought the good fight as well, trying to clean up the
environment in a post-global warming climate and tried to influence
earthlings to treat the planet with respect and care in order that it be
inhabitable once more. Buy 'N' Large Corporation had its grip on planet Earth and
expanded its multinational corporation to intergalactic heights into
outer space, but "Wall-E' proved to be the lovelorn machine who fell to
Earth after finding a heart and a fondness for his "Hello Dolly"
Harvey Dent managed to fight crime in
"The Dark Knight", and he
blurred the lines between vigilante and valiant crime-fighting
crusader. Perhaps by implication in Christopher Nolan's
record-box-office hit film in progress, Batman himself had to admire
District Attorney Dent, who made Batman think twice about his own place
in Gotham City.
But the ultimate pugilist brave heart hero, John McCain,
a prisoner of war for more than five years in North Vietnam from 1967
the early 1970's during wartime, has in the space of a few short
summer weeks in 2008 gone from hero to zero faster than the
a pancake and speedier than the ascension of Jim Carrey's nobody
character in "The Mask".
Senator McCain needn't wear a 2000 "maverick" mask however, for
these days he's auditioning for the November 2008 comedy hour (or years)
as The New And Improved Joker. Heath Ledger's big screen portrayal
gripped and shocked audiences, but it's equally shocking (or perhaps
not) that Mr. McCain's behavior on the presidential campaign trail
reveals not only consistent (and inconsistent) lying, but has, in that good ole Saturday
Night Live Stuart Smalley-Al Franken-would-be Minnesota
U.S. senator-tradition, been deceitful -- telling lies and telling lies
about lies, becoming a lying liar in the process.
The Joker's Card: Heath Ledger at his most
menacing and macabre in "The Dark Knight". John McCain, an
admitted gambler, has played a card that has "prisoner of war" written
all over it. (Photo: Warner Brothers)
The big-screen Joker of Gotham showed utter disdain for his henchmen but
Senator McCain's henchman-in-chief Karl Rove (affectionately known as "turd
Agent G.W.B. 43, the current U.S. commander-in-chief who clearly
didn't graduate from the
"Get Smart" school), showed similar disdain for
Mr. McCain in 2000 when Mr. Rove was the chief architect of the John
McCain-has-a-black-baby ads that played on white Southerners' racist
fears in South Carolina during McCain's initial bid for the White
House against fellow Republican rival George W. Bush, to whom Mr. McCain
is still very closely tied. Mr. McCain didn't seem to like those
ads too much, calling them "reprehensible".
Flash forward eight years and a few months to 2008, when Mr. McCain and
his would-be First Lady wife and beer heiress Cindy (whom he had the genteel manners and
presence of mind to call the
c-word that rhymes with
runt in public
before reporters in 1992) -- pledged that there'd be no negative
campaign ads coming from them, that's for sure.
But when you have the man that Texas political journalist/author James Moore
has chronicled as "Bush's Brain" as your Lord of Manure-Slinging and
cowardly attacks, then you know that something wicked this way comes.
And it smells of turd blossom.
That fragrance. That aroma!
One needs no "Naked Gun" to detect that the smell of fear is back
this campaign season.
In the last couple of weeks Senator McCain has said that Senator Barack
Obama wanted to lose a war in order to win an election. Not even
the campaign strategists behind their candidates in "Swing Vote" stooped
so low -- and that was a movie.
De-emphasis of hero: Batman played down his
heroism and took an introspective look at his place on Gotham City's
stage. John McCain has yet to do the same when it comes to where
he fits on America's stage and telling the world what he'd do on it.
(Photo: Warner Brothers)
As stated earlier, the contradictions of Senator McCain are most telling.
And the so-called "race card", one of the most trivial and insulting
terms used in the contemporary American lexicon amidst a very real
historical backdrop and legacy of the most virulent racism, is the kind
of trump card that Republicans have played oh so adeptly over the years,
even if they aren't the political party that supported slavery. Despite the painful
lessons that McCain supposedly learned eight years hence, despite the
pledge to stay positive about his own campaign and gentlemanly while
critical towards his opponent, the Arizona senator has imitated
Fleetwood Mac and gone his own way. Yes, it's official: the
Straight Talk Express has become the
Pineapple Express -- especially
when a McCain campaign operative a few days ago said that
doesn't necessarily speak for the John McCain campaign.
Apparently racism does -- and loudly.
For M.C. Rove -- as he called himself as he literally
rapped and danced
during the White House Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner in 2007 -- has found a full-time rapper he can pick on: Obama supporter Ludacris, who as alter ego
Chris Bridges just happens to ply his trade as an aspiring big screen
actor. Mr. Bridges, who played a philosophical carjacker in the
film "Crash", recently released a rap song in support of Obama.
The song, in which he tosses out very unkind and misogynistic epithets
at former Democratic presidential candidate Senator Hillary Rodham
Clinton (b---h) has lyrics that include "black people should vote Obama
and paint the White House black". The McCain folks and the
Republican National Party decried the lyrics as racially incendiary and
had the temerity to link them to Senator Obama, whose campaign came out
strongly against Ludacris' song.
The same indignation however, was not shown by M.C. Rove and his fellow
Republican minions at the Texas Republican Party Convention in June 2008
had a vendor stand selling buttons that said,
is President . . . will we still call it The White House?" Somehow that wasn't
incendiary enough. Nor were Senator Obama's own words on June 20,
when he self-referred to a crowd: "did I tell you that he's black?",
as the McCain campaign was either silent or turned a deaf ear or got amnesia --
and then again earlier this month when Senator Obama repeated them
without adding the word "black", before the Pineapple Express's
flip-flopping and deciding to go on the attack by week's end. For
the record, earlier this year the Texas GOP also sold buttons with highly offensive
statements about Senator Clinton, including the "b"-word. Again,
the Republicans were not moved to condemn such sentiments.
Wall-E: The lovable robot did all he could to clean up the environment
in America and in outer space. The $64,000 question: What would
John McCain do? (Photo: Disney)
Some Democrats as well as more than a few Republicans believe that
celebrities have no place on the political stage. During and after
the prelude in 2003 to unauthorized war with Iraq, the kind that Dr.
Strangelove would have not admired, celebrities spoke out,
Hollywood-based and otherwise. The Texas-based Dixie Chicks were slammed by
the Republicans when they said during a concert in London in 2003 that they were ashamed to be
from the same state as President Bush. Their CDs were
destroyed in public rallies and they received death threats.
Despite the Republican disdain for celebrities speaking out about
political matters, Mr. McCain decided to insert Paris Hilton and Britney Spears (the latter
whom he has something in common with) into his political matter: an
attack ad about Senator Obama's trip to Berlin. Most people,
including even the
mainstream media that loves McCain so, saw the ad for what it was:
ridiculous, childish, but some missed the racial overtones -- the appeal
to fear, that somehow Senator Obama was having a subliminal menage-a-trois
with the two blonde celebs. (As an aside, one telephone caller to a national
talk radio show in June who identified himself as a white man actually admitted
live on the air that he wouldn't vote for Mr. Obama because he was afraid
that if he did that his own wife
would want to start dating black men. I kid you not. The
caller actually said this.)
This kind of bizarre and irrational racial fear is precisely what Mr.
Rove with the Spears-Hilton-Obama "celebrity" ad is attempting to tap into
among some white voters.
(To an extent in some parts of the country according to recent polls, it
may have worked.) And if you are yet to be convinced by the final two or three sentences
of the previous paragraph, consider that M.C. Rove, aka Master of Contempt Rove (who's currently being held in contempt by
Congress for his refusing to answer the subpoena to testify in yet
another Bush criminal and corrupt matter), said about Senator Obama in
June, that "he's
the guy with a beautiful date on his arm at a country club . . . making
snide remarks at the people who pass by." (In a
country club, who would the date more likely to resemble?
Michelle Obama? Or Cindy McCain?) Maybe
this is the fear mongering that McCain is counting on, as well as
reminding everyone (almost self-exploitatively) that he was a prisoner
of war -- even though from there's
that McCain actually received most of his injuries due to his crash
landing in Vietnam, and not his torture while in Hanoi
over a five-and-a-half year period.
Green with envy: The Incredible Hulk
may have given Senator McCain a failed lesson in anger management, given the
Arizona senator's famous temper. (Photo: Universal)
Just as offensive -- even more so -- however, was Senator McCain's
offering up his own wife as perhaps the "first woman to serve as First
Lady and Miss Buffalo Chip" before a crowd of 50,000 at the Sturgis
motorcycle weekend in South Dakota earlier this month.
Miss Buffalo Chip, by the way,
is a competition where the women do some not-so-First-Ladylike-things
with bananas and strut around not just scantily-clad before the public
but skankily clad as well. Given Mr. McCain's record of how he
the fact that he appeared in the film "Wedding Crashers" in 2005 wasn't
necessarily a coincidence.
The truest thing that can be said is that the heroes and zeroes wrapped
up in the race of race (and sex) are not focusing enough on the real concerns of
What John McCain needs to do is engage the country in a serious
discussion of the issues. The facts are that gas prices are
through the roof, foreclosures are happening in abundance and quicker
and than the warp speed and ignition of
Clone Wars light sabers.
Half a million jobs have been lost this year so far in the U.S. (as of
this story's date), and close to 50 million people in the U.S. are
without healthcare. The so-called middle class is without a roof
over its head in a number of instances, banks are going belly-up, and
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have left severe destruction which has still
not been cleaned up.
Will Mr. McCain invest as much positive energy into talking about these
issues as he has negative energy in false, outrageous lies in sloppily
Mr. McCain, whose heroism amidst the killing fields of Vietnam has
become the stuff of legend is fast trying to erode that image -- the
same one that Republicans at their own 2004 National Convention in New
York City tarnished in the case of Democratic candidate John Kerry, when
convention attendees wore Purple Heart band-aids, openly mocking Senator
Kerry's Vietnam service. Mr. Kerry, who by then had been
swift-boated into oblivion (by an author who is working hard but failing to do the
same to Senator Obama) and further undercut by Ohio Republican
chicanery at the voting booth just months later in November '04, had
suffered some partially self-inflicted wounds even scarier than Glenn
Close's character Alex Forrest's were in "Fatal Attraction".
Senator Obama could do the same if he's not careful, especially when
making the mistake a few weeks ago of challenging Senator McCain to a duel on
taxes (ala Zell Miller in 2004). Perhaps Mr. Obama thought he was
Zorro, or maybe he was relying on the fact that his distant cousin Dick Cheney
shot his hunting partner
Harry Whittington in the face in 2006) would be at
the ready to defend him.
Perhaps he could become the live-action version of Kung Fu Panda, or far
less violently, The Candidate, without the "now what?" kind of president
that some Americans fear he will be if he wins in November. Mr. McCain,
who has his 72nd birthday at the end of this month -- Senator Obama's 47th
birthday was earlier this month -- needs to morph into
Indiana Jones, who was at the height of
1950's swashbuckling heroism in Mr. Spielberg's latest celluloid story -- and
fast. If not, Mr. McCain could always morph into Harrison Ford,
who's 63 and has proven that he can restore order and tranquility even
after a 19-year-absence from the hard-boiled action world. But
maybe Jones isn't quite Mr. McCain's style, since he, supposedly like Obama, spends too much time traveling outside the U.S.
If McCain wishes to revive a flagging, bumbling and uninspiring campaign
he should have a campaign ad featuring him donning Mr. Ford's onscreen
wardrobe and doing a karaoke edition of a reworked song entitled "Me And Mr.
Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones: The
traveling man that John McCain wishes he was? Shia LaBeouf is
pictured, in "The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull". (Photo: Paramount
Still, becoming Indy may be the only chance Senator McCain has to turn
around an abysmal showing thus far. If Shia LaBoeuf can
be a transformer and exhibit
a mean Errol Flynn or Johnny Weissmuller on the big screen while getting into a
road accident off it last month, maybe Senator McCain can learn to get his
Pineapple Express to actually talk truthfully and honestly about both Obama
and the serious issues Americans face -- before it's too
late. Senator McCain's infamous temper (his fellow Republican
colleagues have attested to it) may not have got the Incredible Hulk
green with envy, but that
green backdrop as he spoke on June 3
night Senator Obama wrapped up the presumptive Democratic presidential
nomination -- probably did. Certainly P.O.W. National Alliance of
Families representative Delores Alfond back in the 1990's was victimized
by Mr. McCain during a U.S. Senate hearing, doing his best imitation of
Bruce Banner and his warning: "McGee, don't make me angry. You
wouldn't like me when I'm angry." (Read:
McCain, don't get angry. No one likes you
when you're angry.) In fact, he didn't even know
which Louisiana city in America he was in, as he started his bizarre,
widely-panned June 3, 2008
speech by saying,
"My friends, good evening from the great city of New Orleans!" (He
was actually in Kenner.)
There's actually a superhero not emblazoned on multiplex marquees this
summer that Mr. McCain thinks he most resembles, and that's Captain
"America First" can currently be seen emblazoned on podia where the
Arizona senator speaks on the campaign trail. The irony is that
Senator McCain has not put America first at all, voting no less than 15
times to allow corporations to eliminate jobs in America and send them
overseas. You can go to this website and see for yourself, as well
as look at all politicians ' voting records at
and enter McCain's name and select the issues you want to see his record
on. In fact, Senator McCain was so concerned about America that he
no fewer than
20 occasions as a P.O.W. gave information to the Vietnamese for their
own propaganda against the United States. He
seems to have no problem endlessly repeating at best, and exploiting at
worst, his status as a P.O.W. whenever he can't or won't answer a
question, whether one asked in jest or seriously. He loved America
so much that back on March 13, 2008 in an interview with Fox News McCain
really love America until I was deprived of her company."
(By the way, for all the bluster about Barack Obama being born in
Hawaii, which is one of the 50 states of the United States of America
for all you geography lovers, few in the country know that the would-be
Captain America, John McCain,
was born in
the country of Panama, and not in one of America's 50
Senator McCain loved America so much that he voted against American war
veterans benefits and funding of Veterans Administration hospitals too
many times, incurring the wrath of
veteran soldiers everywhere, including soldiers in
Iraq who are donating six times as much money to Obama than to McCain.
McCain loved America so much that on his birthday in 2005, when
thousands were drowning in Louisiana
President Bush were in Arizona eating cake.
McCain didn't visit New Orleans or anywhere on the Gulf Coast of the
U.S. for the first time since the tragedy
months after Hurricane Katrina hit, sending thousands
to their deaths. (Obama arrived there on September 5, 2005, the
same day Bush did.) McCain loved America so much that his trusted
advisor Phil Gramm called America
"a nation of
whiners". Mr. McCain, who may own between
seven and eleven houses
in the U.S. at a time where house foreclosures among the middle class
are rising significantly, believed that the
fundamentals were strong.
Captain America would blush at the McCain self-heroism gig -- so would
Superman for that matter - McCain crashed his plane four times in flight
school. And at the Naval Academy in Annapolis
894th out of a total of 899
graduates. And for all the anti-celebrity messages in his
Britney-Spears ads, guess who has appeared on The Tonight Show With Jay
Leno more times than anyone?
That's right, John McCain, with 13 appearances,
including just this past Monday, where he used the P.O.W. trick once
Voters will need to turn out in mass this November if real
change is to come to the U.S. and by extension, elsewhere. The
real heroes of the big screen summer may be the American public, who
have turned out in droves to see blockbuster films, investing in
fictional heroes they believe in and identify with because the ones they
have been taught to trust have continuously let them down. They can be
even bigger heroes this November and might just be able to teach the
unknown Mr. McCain a
lesson about lies and lying liars. Massive voter turnout despite
distortion and a candidate Pinocchio would be proud of?
Now that's change
you can believe in.
Copyright The Popcorn Reel. PopcornReel.com. 2008. All