More Proof Mexicans are Ruining Our Culture

So, the tattooed friend has a job that involves putting things that “nothing runs like” together, not for farmers, but heavier equipment.  Like any good union man, he’s a Democrat.  There are quite a few Mexicans who work in his shop and I asked him how he felt about that.

He said that he liked and was good friends with the guys he worked with, that they work hard and are really nice, but that they have a really hard time with some of the other white guys there.

“Why?” I asked.  And the tattooed friend put down one cell phone and dug in his pocket for the other.  “You have two cell phones?”

“Yeah, one I use to call people and stuff and the other one…” he opens it up, flips a button, and turns it towards me.  There scrolls picture after picture of naked women doing everything from just innocently jiggling their boobs to doing some dude up the butt with a strap on “… is for all the porn the guys at work send me.”

“Holy shit.  Y’all spread that around at work?”

“Not the Mexican dudes, though.  That’s why some of the white guys don’t like them; they won’t swap porn with us.  I don’t give a shit, you know.  Do your job, be cool, that’s all I ask.  But these guys don’t even do drugs.  And they want to tell you all the time about their kids.”

It’s 14 Year Old Boyland Here

So, the boys are going to some wine tasting, which for some reason involved the tattooed friend running around with no shirt on while digging around in his bag for something.

He then stands up and proceeds to spray this god-awful aerosol crap in a low swinging arc.

“Are you spraying your crotch with that shit?” I ask, incredulous that he would think that such a smell would make any person with a nose come closer to him.

“It’s body spray, B. I was spraying it on my body.”

“You were spraying it on your crotch.”

“If he’d been spraying it on his crotch, he would have just dropped trou and sprayed it on his crotch.”

“Don’t get into this.  Doesn’t it burn your delicate bits when it touches them.  It smells like it’s nothing but rubbing alcohol and cheap cologne.”

“I, myself, like the feeling of rubbing alcohol on freshly shaven balls.”

“Yeah, it’s great.”

“Oh my god!  Now you’ve put the image of my brother’s hairless balls in my head.”

“Not totally hairless.  I’ve left myself a little testicle goatee.”

“Shut up!”

“Are you crying?”

“Well, I got your fucking crotch spray all in my eye.”

“Sorry about that.  Next time I’ll try to keep it in your mouth.”

The Tattooed Friend’s Visit

I have seen things I cannot unsee and I have heard the term “beef sleeve” more often than one person should be required to.

But my dog is delighted and it will be worth the flashbacks to the afore-mentioned un-unseeable things to have my dog happy.

She has been sitting in his lap, licking all on his neck, snuggling in between him and the back of the chair, showing him her tricks (sitting, catching dog food in the air, and… well, that’s it), and when he took her out, she tried to walk him down the street so she could show him off to the other dogs in the neighborhood.

Footloose, The Explicity v. the Implicit

So, I was thinking about it, what bugged me about Footloose, which I still think you should go see.  And again, I keep coming back to this thought that everyone involved in this production is better than the source material.  Especially when it comes to casting choices (though, I might have just gone ahead and let Hannah McGinley somehow turn Footloose into a one-woman show, because she’s a firecracker).

I mean, for a play being put on in a library up in Metro Center… well, it benefits from the truth of Nashville, which is that there’s no lack of extremely talented folks.  But whenever you stop the music to focus on the acting, you are inevitably wishing that the play gave these folks more to work with.  Cary Street, who played Ren’s mom, and Susan Taylor, who plays the Reverand’s wife, do a great job of conveying to the audience a lot of information about how conflicted and wound up and oppressed their characters are, but they have so little time in which to do it.  I already said how good Ed Amatrudo is at his part, when he finally has something more to do than just be the bad guy.

But the most brilliant/problematic casting decision was to cast Deonte Warren as Ren.  Don’t get me wrong–he’s great fun to watch and conveys that kind of pent-up youthful combination of rage and exuberance.

(And can I just say that the more I think about this, the more I do think that this show would be great fun to take Supermousey and a couple of her friends to, or Slarti’s kids?  There are some “shits” and a little sexual innuendo, but if your kids have ever watched MTV for longer than 3 seconds, they’ve seen much, much worse.)

Where were we?

Oh, yes, my point.

Warren as Ren.

It makes explicit what was, in the movie, and I imagine in renditions of the musical where the male lead is white, implicit–what being “from the big city” meant, for better or for worse, to those of us growing up in small towns in the 80s.  It was kind of a “holy shit, of course” moment for me, but in my defense, I haven’t seen or thought about Footloose in ages.

But there it is.  The kid from the city who listens to that music with drums and who has rhythm and can dance and who only has a mom and who’s pissed off and can’t be controlled and doesn’t respect authority.  Ren has always been “black.”  (And I put black in quotes deliberately because obviously Ren is not black, but I think, and so do most film critics, that movies give us a safe way to talk about the things we’re feeling anxious about, often without having to acknowledge that that’s what we’re up to.  See the Batman controversy, for further proof*.)

So, while Ren’s just implicitly *black*, the movie and the musical move forward under the conceit that there will be some way to reconcile Ren into the community–which is, of course, “white.”  The “white” folks can learn to loosen up and dance and enjoy music again and Ren can settle into the community on his own terms, finally figuring out how to shape it to meet his needs.

(Whew, you could have fun with a feminist critique of that plot, couldn’t you?  How all of the women are obviously miserable under the control of the town Patriarchs, but how they have no effective means to rebel on their own terms and can only hope that the new Patriarch, Ren in this case, puts in place a less stifling regime.)

Ren, when played by a white guy, is almost the opposite of the magical negro–in that he teaches white people to love black culture without having to actually like any individual black people.

But the second Ren is played by a black guy, like I said, all those things become explicit.

And that to me is both the genius and the problem.  I love that it makes you confront head-on that this is a story, in many ways, about race.  But there was a reason that, in 1984, they didn’t make the movie explicitly about race–in that it wouldn’t not have mattered that he was black.

So, on the one hand, it’s cool to see it played as if it’s no big deal that he’s black.

But on the other hand, seeing as how it makes explicit what the subtext of the story is, it seems really, really strange.


*I would argue that, while the Batman as George Bush theory is interesting, it’s bullshit.  Not because it’s not true.  I don’t know if it’s true or not, but because at the level this shit works, it usually can only be understood in retrospect, like waking from a dream.  Like Ren has always been coded black, but you only notice it years later or how Top Gun is all about homosexual and homosocial desire–even the “woman’s” name in Charlie, folks, come on!–but you don’t see it at first.  Yes, surely there’s something going on with Batman which is speaking to a lot of folks on some level and maybe ten years from now it will be obvious that it was about finding some way to redeem George Bush, but I don’t know.  To me, it sounds like wishful thinking.