Sunday, February 22, 2009

Gay/Barr, Oscars


•I don’t know who the winners at the Oscars will be, but I do know that two of my favorite acting moments at the movies last year were sort of gay:

(1) Heath Ledger (formerly best known for playing a gay cowboy) as the Joker, called crazy by one of the other gangsters in The Dark Knight, yet insisting with such emphatic conviction “I’m not — I’m not,” even though the Joker most certainly is.

(2) Sean Penn whining “No” (as I recall) as Harvey Milk, just before being shot.

It might sound insulting or sadistic to say that I thought a final whine from a gay politician was a nice touch, but, on the contrary, I thought it was a courageous choice on Penn’s part: He didn’t feel obliged by the legend-like status that the rest of the movie had bestowed on Milk to show him as invulnerable or inhumanly stoic in that awful final moment.  We’d seen him do enough impressive things and wouldn’t begrudge him a perfectly human bit of fear or indignity at the end (made all the more convincing and natural-seeming by the fact that it sounded like he was still trying to communicate in some small way with Dan White, who after all was not some anonymous gunman but a colleague and therefore, had he been just a bit saner, perhaps persuadable).

Dare I say it, I think it worked in much the same way that Shatner choking up for a moment while saying “human” during Spock’s funeral did (even though we know now Spock was resurrected in the next two movies, went on to reunify Romulus and Vulcan on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and will briefly appear as an elderly twenty-fifth-century Spock on the big screen in May — during my second “Month of the Nerd.”)

I should also add while I’m at it that Milk worked very well as a “movement” film depicting a lot of frank, crass, strategic political organizing details that might easily have been left out by a film more bent on romanticizing individual characters.  The Van Sant/Altman/Soviet-montage approach of essentially making “Harvey + San Francisco” the only (composite) character that really mattered (besides White) seemed right to me.

•Many gays who liked the film are probably also delighted to hear that George Mason University (notoriously libertarian, not quite the same thing as the decidedly leftist film) has just elected its first male (drag queen) homecoming queen.  A Nobel in economics, an amazing basketball team, law prof Michelle Boardman, and now this — is there anything George Mason can’t do?

•In other gay/libertarian news, Bob Barr — the Republican turned Libertarian who ran for president last year (and made a stop at one of our Debates at Lolita Bar, featuring Ken Silber, who also tried unsuccessfully to persuade our audience this past Thursday that the right’s prospects are looking up) — said last month that he was wrong back in his Republican days to push for the anti-gay-marriage Defense of Marriage Act, a turnabout that comic book industry veteran Mark Evanier sees as too little too late, by the way (Marcia Baczynski and Ali Kokmen pointed out the Barr and Evanier pieces to me).

•Not being a “liberaltarian,” I think the issue of gay marriage, no matter which side you’re on, is trivial compared to the devastating consequences of rampant statism in the economic realm, such as the obscene stimulus bill just passed.  Anyone who mere months ago was touting the idea of a liberaltarian alliance — or even voting for Obama on ostensibly libertarian grounds — owes the entire population of the planet an immense apology mere months later, the idea of liberaltarianism (or a legit “Obamacon” position) permanently exploded by the socialistic stimulus bill.

Having done virtually nothing to roll back Bush war and national security measures that bothered some libertarians, Obama has greatly increased spending and plainly intends to help the one-party-rule Democrats increase the burden of regulation as well.  Liberaltarians were wrong — and may well have helped kill their nation.  But rather than apologize, they will no doubt continue their highbrow, enlightening “dialogue” with liberalism as America is sent to ruin.  Nonetheless, as a practical matter, say what they will, liberaltarianism has now been weeded out of the political genepool, so to speak, by political consequences and economic reality.


Jacob T. Levy said...

Since there was apparently no magnitude of spending increases under GWB that would lead you to pronounce an end to the libertarian-conservative alliance, you lack a certain credibility in making that sort of pronouncement.

Let’s make a Simon-Ehrlich bet. I’ll bet you that delta real federal spending, or delta federal spending as a % of GDP, either measured using common accounting standards, will be smaller from 2008-2012 than from 2000-2004.

Would you find such an outcome relevant to your views on liberals and conservatives?

If not, why should we liberaltarians respect your pretense of rejecting liberaltarianism on the basis of empirical political experience?

Todd Seavey said...

I think the delta will be determined largely by the fact we have no goddam money left, which is not exactly the sort of thing that indicates which philosophies are most compatible.

Jacob T. Levy said...

So, again, you’ve declared your view unfalsifiable and evidence irrelevant to it– so why should I be concerned that you think the evidence has falsified mine?

Todd Seavey said...

Jacob, while I admire your empiricism, I’m not sure you grasp what’s relevant to the hypothesis ostensibly being tested. Your delta will not determine whether left-liberals espouse a philosophy saying _we ought to expand the state_ any more than the total number of actual bombs dropped by a given fascist state (in the Hitlerian mode) and a given liberal-democratic state in a given year settles the question of whether fascism is a more warlike philosophy than liberal democracy (Australia might just have a troubled year or something).

Left-liberals say they want to expand the state, and given the opportunity, as we’ve been reminded, they do so — though circumstances might well constrain them in the future (as they constrain us all). Unpredictable noise may influence your delta; it won’t change the fact that a Rahm Emanuel sees in crisis a chance for state expansion while a Newt Gingrich sees a chance for decentralization.

But let’s just resume this conversation after a few more years of focusing on fighting delta instead of bickering about the lesser of two increasingly bad evils, shall we?