Review: Bob Goldthwait’s “God Bless America”
I’m not sure if Bob Goldthwait totally gets what he’s created in “God Bless America,” and it is summed up in this sentence from his defense of the movie: “a little part of me hopes for copycats.” In the movie, the couple shoot up a movie theatre. This was written before Aurora, and he couldn’t have known that Aurora was going to happen – but Columbine happened, as did Virginia Tech. And these guys also thought they were killing the phonies – they thought they were doing the world a service.
He also says this, so he’s not a total lunatic:
I hope that they watch it and get the message. But the message is not, “Hey you should kill people.” Only idiots would watch it and take that away. And if anyone goes and shoots someone because they saw this movie, even money says any episode of The Golden Girls would have had the same result. Because they are crazy.
But still there seems to be something missing from the movie: and that thing might be reality. There’s still a place for it in satire. The detachment is shown in people’s reaction to the movie. I’ve been poring through the internet looking for people connecting Aurora and GBA – or word from Goldthwait himself, and there’s nothing. Reviews on IMDB and Amazon written after Aurora don’t mention the massacre. And how you can watch a movie with people getting shot in a theatre and not be slightly disturbed is proving Goldthwait’s point – but not the point he was trying to make. The anti-hero continually laments people’s detachment from real feeling – and the reaction from people who like the movie is totally detached from what has happened in real life. It’s a satire and a farce, but what Goldthwait doesn’t seem to get is that shooting a gun at another person is as dimwitted a thing as you can do – thereby negating whatever righteous ideas the character might have.
I think he could have gotten away with this if the killers were a little more clever in how they killed people. Otherwise, they’re just as stupid and brutal as the things they’re criticizing. It is possible to mix satire and violence, but given gun rampages are a reality, and there’s nothing funny about them whatsoever, the movie version loses some of its satire. It’s not just that he’s “unsympathetic” – it’s that he’s proving the desensitization that he’s railing against, and I don’t think that’s Goldthwait’s point, as his anti-hero is the good guy, and all the morons are the enemy. In this case, the anti-hero is also a moron.
Disclaimer: I write books about violence. My novel, The Golden Calf, is about a celebrity stalker, lamenting many of the same things about celebrity culture that the anti-hero in GBA does. It owes a lot to “Taxi Driver,” as does GBA, with many direct references. There are great lines in “God Bless America,” and a lot of what he says is cathartic. Seriously, fuck Sean Hannity or Westboro Baptist. And maybe I’m a little oversensitive in the wake of Aurora – but, again, that’s the point. If this movie was released immediately following Virginia Tech, the same feelings would have arisen. But a couple years later, I’ve forgotten the depression and sense of doom any time one of these killings happen…until the next one comes around. Without letting some of that reality creep into “God Bless America” then you’re only telling part of the story, and in a movie that’s trying to jolt people back into honesty, it loses some of its message.