Though I never like being fooled, there’s a certain variation of “being fooled” that makes “just being fooled” feel barely worth making a fuss about. I’m referring to the situation where the people trying to fool me do so in an insultingly transparent manner. Not only are they trying to fool me, they’re insulting me by putting shockingly little effort into pretending they’re not.
Two examples. One trivial, one important. I’ll let you decide which is which.
My cable television package includes a Westerns Channel. The channel broadcasts old western movies and TV series. You will not be surprised to hear that I watch the Westerns Channel a lot.
I confess I don’t restrict myself to watching the better westerns and TV shows. I watch them all. I can’t help it. I have always found myself soothed by the sight of horses appearing on the screen.
So I’m watching this B-level 1950’s western called Sitting Bull. In a scene setting up the climactic battle, an Indian lookout spots the U.S. Cavalry on the move. He immediately mounts his pony, to race off and warn his people that the “Blue Coats” are headed their way.
The lookout’s pony has a brightly colored blanket spread across its back. Indians traditionally ride bareback. No saddles.
However, when the Indian “lookout” mounts his pony, he puts his foot
Into a stirrup.
I have never seen a blanket with a stirrup. I’ve seen saddles with stirrups. In fact, that’s generally where you expect stirrups to be.
Well, I’m no dummy. What I’ve just witnessed immediately tips me off.
“I’ll bet there’s a saddle under that brightly colored blanket.”
It’s the logical thing to believe. A saddle under the blanket; hence, the stirrup.
But what about the illusion? Indians are supposed to ride bareback; hence, the blanket.
What we’re obviously looking at here is an Indian, or rather an “Indian” – meaning a non-Indian actor playing an Indian – who, unable to ride bareback, is receiving a little “help”, in the form of a saddle hidden beneath the blanket. (I don’t mean to stereotype here. I imagine there are a few actual Indians who can’t ride bareback either. But this is unlikely the case here. In movies produced in the 50’s, one of the rarest elements in an “Indian picture” – even an Indian picture called Sitting Bull – was an actual Indian.)
Okay, we’re not children here, although some of us occasionally need to be accompanied to the doctor’s. I’m aware that actors playing Indians in 50’s westerns often required assistance when pretending to ride bareback. So fine. Slip a saddle under the blanket. No problem. There’s a big lump the middle of the blanket? I’m okay with that. I’m buying the illusion.
You show the guy putting his foot into a stirrup!
At that point, I’m out. The illusion has been irreparably shattered.
Could they not pretend “The guy’s riding bareback” a little better than that? Would it have been so hard to have the “Indian” vault onto his pony, as if he were riding bareback?
Or if the “Indian” actor lacked the ability to vault, could they not have had him begin to get on the pony, cut to a long shot, so that a stunt man could be inserted to vault onto his horse for him, then cut back to show “Indian” actor riding off to warn his people?
Some illusion-preserving effort. Is that asking too much?
I find a guy who’s supposed to be riding bareback putting his foot into a stirrup to be highly insulting. It’s like they’re telling the audience:
“We’re not even going to pretend to fool you. We don’t have to.”
It’s not just me, right? That’s really insulting.
The second example?
It happened the same day I was watching that western.
The Supreme Court announced its decision, allowing corporations to spend as much money backing political candidates as they want to.
With this five-to-four decision, and others like it – such as the Bush v. Gore decision which originally gave George W. Bush the presidency – the Supreme Court, voting entirely along party lines, exposed itself as, not a thoughtfully deliberative judicial body impartially weighing the evidence before them, but as partisan politicians in black robes.
The legal justification behind the majority’s decision – that in the area of campaign financing, a corporation should be accorded the same rights as a person – besides ignoring a century of normally binding precedent, sends its opponents an unequivocal, in-your-face message.
“We’re not even going to pretend our rationale has legal standing. We don’t have to.”
Judging by their tepid reactions, it appears that Americans don’t mind being insulted.
Or maybe they’re just used to it.