John Cleese -- and imperialist humour

Tom O'Lincoln suarsos at alphalink.com.au
Thu May 29 17:53:18 MDT 2003


James:
>>the part of Manuel, taken up enthusiastically by Andrew Sachs, as a real
idiot<<

Yes very true. After sleeping on this a couple of times, I want to suggest:

1. We can't compare Cleese with Bush, because one is an artist and the
other is a politician. Not that artist = good, but they play different
roles. An artist with reactionary politics may still, if they have talent,
capture some truths about the world. Marx pointed to Balzac; another case
is the "People's Front of Judea". Leftists of my generation feel that this
captures a real experience -- so much so that it has effectively entered
the English language.

2. The Holy Grail and the Life of Brian are different to Fawlty Towers. The
latter is more right wing. Presenting a Spaniard as a Frito Bandido
caricature is genuinely offensive. Lou is right that everyone ends up
looking like an idiot, but I'm not sure that's exactly progressive either.
In fact I found Fawlty Towers painful because there was no relief from the
humiliation. Compare that with the touch of hope at the end of the Life of
Brian. I expect the reason for the shift is the rightward drift of British,
and western, society over the years. Speaking of how The Life of Brian
ends:

3. In the early nineties there were days of protest against the AIDEX trade
fair in Canberra. This was about military equipment. I wasn't there, but I
have heard this story more than once. The demonstrators were sitting down
in the roadway. The cops moved into to attack. Everyone was nervous, many
were scared. As the cops drew near, someone starting singing: "Always Look
on the Bright Side of Life."

In genuine art, there will always be something for revolutionaries to
value.



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