I used to pay a great deal of attention to the Oscars. I’ve been a serious movie buff ever since I saw Spielberg’s “The Color Purple.” Before you all get started, yes, I know all about this film. I won’t go into details, or the reasons why I continue to watch it in spite of how it disdainfully showcases black men, except to point out that even though she’s a feminist, the author of the book upon which it is based, Alice Walker, treated the character of Mr.____ far better than in the movie, and her masterful book, “The Third Life of Grange Copeland,” centers around a far greater and more admirable male character. Feel free to hate the movie, but I have to admit, that’s when the love affair with cinema started for me.
Since then, I’ve always wanted to take movies more seriously, and a very basic way to tell what’s good and what’s not is to note who gets nominated and who wins. Sometimes the Academy gets it right, and sometimes totally wrong. Then there are a few occasions when they mislead me into believing that I’m going to enjoy something I don’t.
Such was the case with “No Country for Old Men,” an intense cat-and-mouse thriller off of which I could not take my eyes, not only for the intensity, but for Javier Bardem’s mesmerizing (and deserving) Oscar-winning performance. However, I wish, like “Nine,” that I could have found the strength to press the “eject” button. Instead, I was subjected to far more frightening and graphic violence than I can stand. Like a bagel I accidentally bit into when I was a teenager that was glazed with salt on the bottom, an act that has prevented me ever since from salting anything, this movie has turned me off to violence in a big way.
Therefore, when I saw a trailer for “The Road,” starring the very manly Viggo Mortensen, and realized that it was based on a book by the same author as “No Country,” in spite of the fact that I found the teaser intriguing, I thought, “No way.” I’ve seriously had enough. Lucky for me, there’s this dude who calls himself Angry Harry, who mentioned this guy named Paul Elam, who has this cool website where I post now. Paul and a commenter named Jabberwocky calmed my squeamish self down, and assured me that violence was merely incidental in the film, and not the main bloody point.
What a fantastic film. On every level. Every man should see it. This includes politicians, who for the most part are nearly shells of men, as far as I’m concerned, and even alpha males, who probably won’t get it, but you never know. However, before I can give you the reasons why every man should see it, I need to explain why, as an anarchist, I loved it so much, and how it enhanced what I have been thinking about lately, concerning the advance of feminism in our lifetime.
By itself, feminism could never have gotten anywhere, except on the back of a relentless machine set in motion and largely supported by alpha males: government. It is the nature of government, as I pointed out in “Coercion Is Death,” to initiate coercion over everyone who inhabits a particular land mass (or masses, if you live on an archipelago, or if you intend to build and empire). By itself, feminism is basically powerless to force itself onto anyone other than another feminist.
Men like me don’t do this. My general attitude, in spite of my Religious Right upbringing, when confronted with opposing beliefs, viewpoints, and behaviors face-to-face, has always been, “Hey, whatever floats your boat.” Anarchy has only augmented that, and I have now joined in by floating my own boat. It has always been, and always will be, alpha males who set about sinking the boats. Their general attitude is opposite mine. It largely consists of, “Screw you. That’s mine.” I have never liked men like this. That is why I had such a hard time with Bardem’s character in that horrific film. The kindly old gentleman who offered assistance on the side of the road did not deserve to get punctured in his brain. The alpha male takes and hurts. All I do in the presence of one is get taken from and hurt. In general, I don’t care for gangster movies, either. Why would I want to indulge in watching alpha males take from others? As far as I’m concerned, they deserve their comeuppance.
There are certainly a few alpha females out there (okay, probably more than a few), but in general, when a woman says, “Screw you. That’s mine,” she is unable to take on her own, as an alpha male would, unless she has a gun, which is seldom. It reminds me of an interview with a nineties gay male porn star I read in a magazine a long time ago. He was a former bouncer at a gay bar, and he remarked that he had to be careful, because gay men would get “bitchy like women, but they’re strong like men.” An effeminate-acting gay man may seem like a weak female, but have you forgotten? He’s 200 pounds with thick arms. That’s the essential difference between alpha males and alpha females.
And alpha females know the difference. Men conceive of guns, design them, gather the resources to make them, hire workers to fashion them, hoard them, sell them, make improvements to them, study them, share information about them with like-minded alpha males, obsess about them, write songs about them, paint them, draw them, praise them, covet them, buy them, steal them, show them off, practice with them, bond with their sons using them, dream about them, mimic them with their dicks, etc. Alpha females know this. Alpha males know alpha females know this. The power struggle begins.
When power-hungry feminists see the opportunity, they pounce on the government created by these men, and the revenge fantasies begin. Alpha males with fewer guns, less money, and less smarts, along with the rest of us males, suffer, along with a great many women. Even if feminism went by the wayside tomorrow, this would still be the case. It is the smartest (and sometimes luckiest) alpha males who sit at the top. I had an alpha male dog as a teenager. (Cute story: As a puppy, he would hold his cloth leash in his mouth when I took him out for a walk. “Screw you. I’m taking you for a walk!”) He could bark any other dog into submission, and he always did. My non-alpha male father remarked that in a pack of dogs, ours would either be dominant or he would be dead. This was one of the most correct things Dad ever said. This is how alpha males are. Feminists are aware. Like minarchists, those who believe in a small, constitutionally limited government, feminists see a system that isn’t going to go away, so why not use it to their advantage?
This is what was going on when Betty Friedan wrote her seminal “The Feminine Mystique.” America was a brand new empire, at least to the rest of the world. (The empire was building before the ink was dry on The Constitution, but we’ll leave that for another rant.) By the late Fifties and early Sixties when Friedan was researching her book, women had enjoyed more than a decade of corporate, imperial luxury. The poorest of American housewives could expect what Stephen Sondheim wrote in “America” from “West Side Story,” sung by Puerto Rican immigrants who came from nothing:
“I like to be in America!
O.K. by me in America!
Ev’rything free in America
For a small fee in America!
“…Automobile in America,
Chromium steel in America,
Wire-spoke wheel in America,
Very big deal in America!
“…I like the shores of America!
Comfort is yours in America!
Knobs on the doors in America,
Wall-to-wall floors in America!”
All this prosperity, so effortless and available even to the poorest among us, and now we’re bored. I believe Friedan when she remarked at how surprised she was to have these women, who were virtually strangers, talk to her about their sexual fantasies. When you’re bored, a sexual fantasy or two usually does the trick. The point of the empire was to ensure that the minions (that’s you and me) are happy, the ruling elite have a comfortable, easily controlled populace, and the empire remains forever and ever. We’ll leave aside the glaring fact that no empire on this earth has ever lasted, and it wasn’t because modern technology wasn’t available. Empires, based on initiatory coercion, are death-oriented, and must therefore eventually die. Feminism, the whore-wife of empire, is also death-oriented and won’t last long when the emperor is finally dead.
When life comes this easily and quickly — when machines can now take care of the house, and since all women on this land mass have been subjected to numerous systems of coercion, one especially egregious one, government schooling, that spends countless hours drilling into you the idea that the empire of which you are a part is the best, with the best government, and the best way of life — why not grab at the reins of power and wield a little more of it on behalf of other bored housewives?
I have no doubt that the sometimes stifling manner of suburban culture was not sufficient for women, but then, I don’t think it was sufficient for men, either. Small communities and big cities have always been a bit more spontaneous. People tend to gravitate to one or the other. Suburban life is good for a few things, and where it can grow organically, I would think it would have the appearance and attitude of small towns. But so much of modern community planning requires the input of a coercive body of people in order to ever come about (zoning, building permits, property taxes to keep out the n*ggers, et cetera, ad nauseam). Beyond the overarching system of coercion known as government, there are the softly coercive traditional roles for men and women, once crucial to our very survival, many no longer necessary, but tradition speaks louder (and more coercively) than individuality. In spite of modernity, we are still quite tribal. So we have bored housewives, malcontents like Friedan, government-planned suburbia, and a system of coercion in which these women have all been indoctrinated to place their trust. This is what’s otherwise known as a powder keg. It also would have been impossible without the efforts of the alpha males to coerce, coerce, and coerce some more. “Give that to me. I have a date with an alpha female, and she wants some.”
What does this have to do with the haunting, dark, and exquisitely beautiful movie, “The Road”? Well, the movie takes as its premise a great conflagration of the earth, accompanied by massive earthquakes, which wipe out swaths of humanity, virtually all animal life, and kill all crops. What’s an alpha male to do?
They congregate amongst themselves, riding about the wasteland formerly known as America, shooting at will, taking, and generally causing distress to anyone unfortunate enough to come into their path. We are talking about a rapidly diminishing food supply, since the only things left to eat are canned goods and other humans. (There is a particularly disturbing scene in the middle, where a hapless mother and child are running from some of these alpha cannibals.)
What about the rest of us? How would we fare? As someone who believes that the state is not the answer, I found my own beliefs challenged, making the film darker than it already was. Ultimately, however, I found the direction of my present thinking enhanced, and in a way, cemented by the unfolding of the story. It centers on Viggo Mortensen as Papa, and his prepubescent son. They wander further and further south, perhaps clinging to the idea that they might eventually meet up with the boy’s mother, who has left their once happy home, in a desperation that does not disparage women, so much as show how different people would react to such an unprecedented world event. The abandoned father and son have adventures, conversation, bonding, fear, arguments, and live the lives of refugees.
It is extraordinary to watch the level of intimacy between these two: one man, and one soon to be. It is the very essence of what a father and son relationship should be. In spite of the difficulties facing a father who knew a completely different world, the primal frustration is never taken out on the son. Beyond that, Papa constantly imparts to his son preparatory advice, which will come in handy late in the film, as it reaches perhaps its most touching moment. Anybody who thinks this is a misogynist film due to the mother’s flight, or the relative absence of female characters in the movie, must watch until it’s all over. Only then can you understand why this is the first film I have ever bothered to completely review. It is truly magnificent.
Beyond the wonderful father/son relationship you are privileged to see, the movie ultimately hints at the necessity of men in order to build the world. Although it never happens in the course of the film, you get the sense that someday crops will be sown again, due to the presence of the good men you see in this movie. Perhaps people will once again, when the earth ceases the constant burning and shaking, be able to rebuild society. Even more importantly, you are left with a hope that this time it will be built by men and women who understand and repudiate the true nature of the alpha personality, but that ultimately men, with their greater bodily strength, and their higher numbers of intellectually-minded members, along with the lesser numbers of women who are up to the task, will form a society that can deal with the new challenges that the planet has provided with its upheaval. The remaining women will concern themselves in general with the desires of their sisters and children. One of the last lines in the movie seems to hint at this, and it’s the essence of motherhood and womanhood.
After all, in the world this gifted author has dreamt up (if the movie is any indication of the book), rights, privileges, opportunities, feminism, fascism, corporatism, militarism, statism, liberalism, libertarianism, socialism, communism, capitalism, and virtually every other -ism you can imagine, have all been burned to a crisp. All that’s left is what individuals possess inside. They either have the will to live, to merely scrounge, or to take by force. All pretense has vanished. There is no time for women to think of luxury when the young haven’t been fed for several days. Friedan’s concerns would not exist. All that would be left for women to think about, and for the children to observe, is how hard the men have to think, work, and live, simply so that everyone else will go on. (Incidentally, I would not recommend this film to women, as it touches too strongly on what I believe a great many women fear the most.)
It’s a tremendous concept, and one that was wrongfully ignored by the Oscars (can’t always depend on them). Its spare, imaginative, horrifying look at the fragility of what we have built in the modern age, and the pretentious ideologies we have pulled so tightly over it, should have been praised to the high heavens, including the filmmakers’ use of costuming, makeup, set design, sound and visual effects, music, and excellent pacing.
Perhaps the reason it was ignored was because of the blatancy of its portrayal of the essentials of manhood. Maybe if a couple of irresponsible feminists who shot a rapist had sped their Cadillac through the proceedings, it might have gotten the attention it deserved. No matter. When the America sung about by those Latina immigrants has finally collapsed, I pray that I will find myself in the company of the family that appears at the end of the movie. They think like me.
B.R. Merrick writes for “Strike The Root” and “A Voice for Men,” lives in the Northeast, is proud to be a classical music reviewer at Amazon.com and iTunes, and in spite of the poisonous nature of television, God Himself will have to pry his DVDs of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” out of his cold, dead hands, under threat of eternal damnation.