[Marxism] remembering reagan

DLVinvest at cs.com DLVinvest at cs.com
Sat Jun 5 23:14:21 MDT 2004

In a message dated 6/5/04 7:48:10 PM Mountain Daylight Time, 
rakeshb at stanford.edu writes: 
> ichael Rogin recently observed the number of times
> President Reagan has, at critical moments in his career, quoted lines
> from his own or other popular films.
Rogin hit the head (Reagan) on the nail of mediated imagery: The 
correspondence between script in the movies and script in political theater was reflected 
through the mass media as presidential reality rather than film fantasy. This 
was more than a cliche of life imitating art. The dialectics were inverted: In 
acting the fool, he was fooling the act of propaganda. Whoever scripted 
Reagan's political persona made him the perfect vessel for the emptiness of popular 
culture, the narcissim elaborated by Christopher Lasch and lambasted by Neil 
Postman as "amusing ourselves to death." In the only life he represented 
realistically if not truly,  that of the mirror image, the pinnacle of his movie 
career was the critically acclaimed role in All the King's Men in which he 
famously asked upon discovering his leg had been amputated, "where's the rest of 
me?" Appropriately, that became the title of his sanitized autobiography and the 
metaphor for his political career, which was the perfect confusion of image 
with substance. He was always as shallow as he had to be, as was expected of 
him. There was another ole that was more telling: In Santa Fe Trail, Reagan 
played a young cavalry officer, J.E.B. Stuart, as sidekick to the dashing George 
Armstrong Custer, played by Erroll Flynn. They manage to snuff the raid on 
Harper's Ferry by abolitoonist John Brown, who hoped to seize the arsenal to 
distrbute guns to teh slaves who would free themselves by guerrilla warfare. Brown, 
played by Raymond Massey, is depicted as a religious fanatic -- the 
conventional and racist stereotype. Stuart went on to "glory" on behalf of the 
slaveholders' rebellion, proptrayed as a lost but noble cause against overwhelming 
odds since the betrayal of Reconstruction inverted the imagery of good and evil 
of the civil war. And Flynn, as Custer, got what was coming to him in a sequel, 
They Died with Their Boots On.. In the Hollywood version of history, though, 
Reagans epitaph shall yet be written in the denouement in Bedtime for Bonzo 
where he plays second-fiddle to a chimp. Paradoxically, playing the fool was one 
of his better performances as an actor. Now the world of Hollywood Babylon, 
as Kenneth Angier's expose' was titled, is played out Reaganesque in the 
occupied Babylon, where that girl-soldier Jessicawhatshername fought the drooling 
rapists, captured Saddam has his orifices exposed to American dental-cams and 
Lyndie England plays prison-camp moll in a campy send-up of imperial 
spear-and-sandal epics. Wouldn't you love to see Reagan's video order and pay-per-view 
bill for the last ten years of addled exile in Santa Barbara?
Douglas L. Vaughan, Jr.
for Print, Film & Electronic Media
3140 W. 32nd Ave. 
Denver CO 80211

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