Friday, January 29, 2010

"At Least Show Us Some Respect"

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.

Reality Check.

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.


MikeThe Blogger said...

Earl, when the est of the Western developed world looks at what half the Americans expect of their government they are shocked! The opposition to universal health care for working people, small business owner, the retired, etc... "are they crazy" - yep is the answer. A friend of mine just returned from Europe where she was questioned about the opposition to Obama's plan and they just shake their heads - In Canada we would revolt if Harper starts cutting what is perhaps an underfunded but, I can attest to, an excellent system. So a "Supreme Court" ruling to allow the corporations to completely control government is about normal in an already dysfunctional system. ... second point - not only were there no Indians in your Westerns, the 30% or so of Cowboys who were Black, freed slaves were never portrayed honestly.

cuttybob said...

This decision and the past and future decisions should come to as no surprise for anyone who followed the Robert's hearings.
Anytime he agreed that he wasn't going to do something, e.g., ignore precedent, be an actist judge, etc., one had to know he was a liar.

A. Buck Short said...

Actually, I once did see a blanket with stirrups. But it was at the Chicken Ranch in Nevada – and I had to pay extra for that. The individual in question was a person, but insisted I treat her like a corporation. Working in our Native American owned film company, I’m still bothered by Little Big Man, where they didn’t have the “Two Spirits” character riding side bareback.

Love the segue into Congress and the Supreme Court (ibid, Chicken Ranch). MtheB, I always love it when people cite the alleged shortcomings of the Canadian health care system as a reason not to reform our own – but neglect the corollary to that argument, which would be a failure to observe the fact that if theirs is so atrocious, why aren’t the Canadians exactly clamoring to convert to ours. But what’s “est of the West?” Is it the Werner Erhard sitcom, designed to help each of us reach our maximum potential?

And speaking of the above, I forgot to mention the other day that in the glory days, when Earl was in his forties, and Old Tucson was in the eighties, it was owned and operated by my friend Arthur’s sister and brother-in-law Bob and Jane Shelton. They built the sound stage for High Chaparral and a bunch of the other stuff to which he alluded. Then the stage burnt down before I could get it officially designated as the Noon Stage, and the place was never the same again.

Finally, not that you asked but our company has just optioned a great novel, where the titular character will be played by Augie Schellenberg, who, many moons ago, portrayed Sitting Bull in the Patrick Watson Canadian interview series Witness to Yesterday – but unlike J. Carroll Naish, is actually at least a Montreal Métis. Know any investors?

Mark said...

A century of rational, conservative (in the best sense) legal precedent was cast aside by that ruling, basically for partisan gain.

Great post. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

As you know, I grew up listening to similar criticisms of Hollywood westerns' lack of attention to historical accuracy until it was coming out of my ears! My favorite memory, along these lines, is how Lew knew the faces of all the horses in the movies!
And I can still recall the old days when you and he sat side-by-side on the couch, shooting at the bad guys on the screen while I rustled up some grub in the kitchen.
Yee haw!
As for the other care and judges...I am quite simply in despair for your home and native land. But then, anyone who watches Millionaire Matchmaker or Say Yes to the Dress (don't look at me!) can see that all is not well south of the longest (defended) border.

spreng said...

The Supreme Court only ruled on the ability of corporations and unions to run political advertisements, not political contributions. People always have the power to disagree with a political ad. That's the point of free speech.

This hyperbole betrays a belief that Americans, like lemmings, are merely dull creatures who can be easily led off a cliff. Thus, unless the government protects us from hearing corporations’ speech about politics, we’ll always vote in ways that benefit corporations because they will spend lots of money to convince us to do so.

This conclusion is as ridiculous as it is patronizing. If corporations are capable of making the public do their bidding via advertising, then why isn’t everyone driving their Edsels to Circuit City to purchase Betamax video recorders?

The answer, of course, is that Americans are not imbeciles who mindlessly succumb to corporate advertising campaigns. We are fully capable of evaluating corporate speech on its merits; thus, we do not need protection from it.

Besides, few for-profit corporations will jeopardize their commercial interests by engaging in partisan politics: Republicans, Democrats and independents buy Microsoft's and Pepsi's products.

Bruce said...

Earl, I'll leave a political comment for another time although I am still bemused at the subtle/not-so-subtle differences between the True North and the Land of the Free, despite 10 years south of 49th parallel.
I'm the guy who sat next to you at UCLA's cardiac rehab facility last Monday talking old CFL and NHL stuff and mutual acquaintances.
I began reading your blog that evening and it is sublime. I rarely use that word but it fits perfectly. Not surprisingly, I have now consumed every entry in your blog archive and haven't stopped smiling...or occasionally wiping an eye.
I grew up on a show called Sagebrush Sagas which featured every B western...and a few C westerns come to think of it. I was particularly taken with heroes' sidekicks, Fuzzy Knight, Fuzzy St. John, Pat Brady, et al. And, of course, Saturday night meant the Leafs and Faster Foster Hewitt on a little transistor radio....and scraps with my brother who was a Habs fan.
I am dying to read your next entries...well, not dying, the bypass took care of that. I breathlessly await...well, no, I'm no longer short of breath....the bypass, etc....
Keep 'em comin'!...yeah, that'll do.
By the way, Bob Nevin came from South Porcupine....forgot to mention that in our chat.

emily said...

It wouldn't supprise me to see a stirrup dangling beneath the Supreme Court Justice's robes...