Sunday, August 1, 2010

Patenting the pre-emptive strike: The Last Picture Show

Peter Bogdanovich's movie, The Last Picture Show, while produced and released in 1971, depicts a small town in Texas in the fifties, during the Korean War. Tumbleweed rolls up and down the vacant streets at the "whim" of the strong winds blowing through the flatlands. A pool hall, diner, movie house and high school seem to be the magnets of the farming community where everyone knows who is sleeping with whom.
And that seems to  be the central theme of this adolescent town, stuck as it is in it own groin, where even the mentally challenged is accused of "molesting" a little girl, the football coach's wife is sleeping with one of the team's players, the wife of  the richest man in town is sleeping with the owner/operator of the pool hall and the movie house and the diner, and the teens are vying for maturity through their "everybody-has-to-strip- naked-on-the-diving-board-of-the-pool" parties.
In the genre of Peyton Place, this is another of the U.S. attempts to "arouse" the movie-going public, this use of sexuality for power and for dulling the pain of otherwise vacant, empty and tragic relationships, lives gone to seed and a culture empty of purpose, except for the church-imposed morality of "don't you know that it is a sin to sleep with someone before marriage" from a co-ed to her mother who has just asked if her daughter is sleeping with "Duane" in the hope that she is, so she can find out how monotonous he really is.
The mother, herself, wife of the richest man in town is, herself, secretly in love with the poolhall owner and has been for twenty plus years, while "parenting" her manipulative, power-driven, empty but beautiful
daughter. When an innocent young man falls deeply in love with Jaycee, her daughter, and they secretly marry, of course the parents, outraged, demand the marriage be ended, and the mother tells the young man, "It is good we got you away from her so early, so you wouldn't get hurt by her!"
This movie would qualify for a list of movies as required viewing for young men, preparing to cope with both their feelings around beautiful women, but also about how those women manipulate their men as playthings.
That same mother, in conversation with her daughter comments, after her daughter says,"Well, you married daddy when he wasn't rich and now he is," "Well, I frightened your daddy into getting rich, and you're not that frightening!"
Little wonder the country that produced this story and movie has a larger military budget than all countries, combined, in the world. Their fear is so palpable that it becomes an excuse, and a reason for their bullying, even before they are threatened. Sexual power of women over men, almost in retaliation for the failure of the men to "relate" in ways the women find tolerable, seems to stalk stalk the town, just like those tumbleweeds.
Talk about pre-emptive strikes, as in the Bush doctrine in the Iraq War, this Texas town patented the pre-emptive strike by women against men, long before feminism had ever been heard of. And the men didn't even know what hit them!

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