— Bill Murray as Carl Spackler from Caddyshack, 1980
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June 21, 2012
What “God Bless America” Says About American Society
— Posted by Kenny Miles
“God Bless America,” the new scathing anti-American pop culture satire might have a bizarre ‘love your freedom, hate thy citizens’ mentality. Reminiscent of the imbalanced, yet somewhat witty American satires of years past such as Mike Judge’s “Idiocracy” and Paul Weitz’s “American Dreamz,” “God Bless America” has a lot animosity toward our culture dominated by stupid reality television, vile crudeness, and the embrace of mediocrity. This is a hard sell and was naturally dead on arrival for the box office. However, once audiences discover “God Bless America” playing at a limited theater independent theatre or catch it on NetFlix or the Red Box very soon, this has the potential to be a highly discussed dark comedy among small film circles.
As the synopsis states, Frank (Joel Murray) has had enough of the downward spiral of American culture, which he sees as overrun with cruelty, stupidity and intolerance. Divorced, recently fired, and possibly terminally ill, Frank truly has nothing left to live for. Instead of taking his own life, Frank decides to take the life of other “bad Americans.” While on the journey he meets Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr) who joins in on the jaded fun. Written and directed by filmmaker and comedian Bobcat Goldthwait (“Shakes the Clown,” “World’s Greatest Dad”), “God Bless America” is a very dark satire meant for the cynical fed up with the stupidity displayed in American pop culture. “God Bless America” is at times brilliant, yet flawed satire similar to “American Dreamz” or “Idiocracy” where some jokes soar as other ones crash & burn. Writer/director Goldthwait portrays an America in the toilet, where the crudeness and consumption is king and the absurd rule us all. A heavy-handed liberal message obviously dominates the discussion. One such slanted perspective is when the killers target a cable news host baring a striking resemblance to Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck. The political jabs are vicious especially when Roxy rants about Texan Presidents who talk to an imaginary man in the sky. Some of the observations delivered spot on description which honestly deconstructs the mediocrity. The portrayal of the media spinning a story to fit their mold was on display when they ‘interpret’ the meaning of the random murders. From the contestants on a fictitious show American Superstarz, nearly identical to the hyped American Idol (Frank claims these are just singers with a perfect pitch and little other talent) and hack screenwriters like Diablo Cody (“The only stripper with too much self-esteem.”), it delivers some sharp jabs. The celebrity-obsessed program appropriately lampooned as TMI induces some well-earned chuckles, too.
While watching “God Bless America” I found myself in agreement with some of the thesis points about how trashy American pop culture has become. Are we a nation of mindless consumers like the citizens portrayed in Idiocracy? How did we get to this point? The movie doesn’t explore that idea, but exploits are toleration for it declaring we have already arrived. The actions of Frank and Roxy committing so-called “justified homicides” were brutally offensive. (Though few could resist grinning as both Frank and Roxy gun down the Westboro Baptist protesters.) People like Frank and Roxy have a right to be furious with our selfish culture. However, those who preach “cant-we-all-get-along” tolerance like Frank embrace the ultimate form of intolerance by murdering what he deems inappropriate and unacceptable.
What does a movie like “God Bless America” say about our American society when these characters kill people? Out of frustration, Frank claims, “We’ve lost our kindness; we’ve lost our soul.” However, Frank and Roxy are themselves cruel by committing vile acts of murder. And maybe that’s the point of “God Bless America.” We can complain about American culture and declare ourselves better then the trashy, selfish, or mean. However, we are the depraved hypocrites for watching, re-tweeting, and talking about reality TV stars and celebrity gossip. Based on this conclusion, “God Bless America” is a cultural satire bombarding us with the garbage while offering many critiques worth pondering.
“God Bless America” is currently playing theatrically in a VERY limited release, available OnDemand, and will be released on DVD July 3rd.
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Whether something is overlooked by Hollywood or whatever business trend has captured the Entertainment Industry’s attention, Kenny Miles loves to talk about movies (especially the cultural impact of a film). He covers various aspects of movies including specialty genre films, limited release, independent, foreign language, documentary features, and THE much infamous "awards season." Also, he likes to offer his opinion on the business of film, marketing strategy, and branding. He currently resides in Denver, Colorado and is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society critics group. When he isn’t writing, Kenny channels his passion for interacting with moviegoers (something most movie pundits lack) as a pollster for the market research company CinemaScore and working as floor staff/special events coordinator in the film community. You can follow him on Twitter @kmiles723.
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