So here’s an absolutely humorless article from the somewhat humorless liberal Salon that accuses the seemingly philosophic filmmaker Harold Ramis of having been a semi-closeted (well he’s loud and proud in Ghostbusters) Reaganite. The critic says that quite negatively, as evidence of Harold’s genuine lack of wisdom and justice. Let me just add a few words in support of his perceptions of Ramis’ irresponsibility, although I’m far from denying the filmmaker’s transformatively prescient wisdom.
I thought one of the highlights of the Oscar ceremonies was Bill Murray sneaking in a tribute to Ramis (one that was admittedly rather self-serving).
Caddyshack did mock the heck out of Country Club Republicans for their snobbish prejudices and for not really having earned their money. It can reasonably be said to anticipate the emergence of the new wealth of Silicon Valley, which has been well earned by relatively unkempt young people who don’t share those prejudices. Still, Caddyshack is actually an enormously sloppy movie made by self-indulgent guys that made a lot of undeserved money. And the only thing I really remember fondly is the groundskeeper (Bill Murray) vs. the gopher. That was a little funny, but only a little.
Animal House seems to mock our fraternity system insofar as it is populated by uptight and unerotic future country clubbers with fascist tendencies. But it also made fraternities cool again, insofar as they are animal houses filled with guys who never study, drink to excess, wreck expensive cars, steal from grocery stores, ineptly cheat on tests, lie to women about love and death, and take advantage of their female party guests at toga parties. Fraternities did make a comeback on exactly that basis, parents being assured by the movie that those guys who flunked out and were kicked out would eventually become senators and stuff.
It would have been better had the spirit of the Sixties mugged our fraternity system to death. Instead, that spirit was tweaked by that highly influential (but also fairly sloppy) film to allow the “animal house” to replace “the commune” as the model of enlightened extended adolescence. There’s no doubt that Animal House made college life more fun and less serious.
Animal House also seemed to say that real education–liberal education–in America had become a joke. First you have the motto of Faber College–“Knowledge is good.” Clearly nobody remembers why. The pseudo-hippie, pot-smoking, pseudo-novelist professor (played by Donald Sutherland) doesn’t even like the great books he teaches. That joke confesses to his bored class that Milton is boring, even the poet’s jokes aren’t funny. The professor’s pathetic last words in class: “This is my job.” Libertarian policy analysts and Republican governors who say we shouldn’t be wasting students’ and taxpayers’ money on such humanities’ “jobs” no doubt have the Sutherland character in the back of their minds.
Stripes and Groundhog Day provide evidence in the more responsible direction. More on that soon.