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Monday, January 26, 2009
At Tractor Facts this past Thursday, "Fox" posted an essay about last Tuesday's screening of Hi, Mom! in Austin, Texas. According to Fox...Before the show, our emcee prefaced it with a shaky disclaimer of "if you're offended by anything in this film, just remember what era it's from". He also admitted feeling a tad uneasy knowing that "this was the movie we were showing on the day Barack Obama was inaugurated". Having seen Hi, Mom! before, I immediately knew what our timid host was referring to, and that was the (in)famous "Be Black, Baby" sequence that practically takes over the second half of the film.

But what our host completely misunderstood, was that "Be Black, Baby", and the entirety of Hi, Mom!, makes for the most ideal type of viewing on a day when a black man was sworn into our nation's highest office. Because even though we just elected our first African-American president - and probably because of that - our culture has become more gun shy and eggshell aware than ever before. The elephant in the room that is "race" has been shrunk and is now hanging around the neck of every American daring to engage in a discussion of social politics.

Once again, in taking a step toward "political progress", what's sadly come along with that is an underbelly of weak-kneed cultural distress and a hesitation over open discussions.

Fox's post was challenged in the comments section by The Cooler's Jason Bellamy, which led Fox to clarify in a subsequent comment:

So to take the elephant in the room being "shrunk" thing, yeah, it does sound like I'm saying it's lessened, but what I meant to imply was that everyone now carries it with them wherever they go. It's not just in the room, it's around our necks, hanging over our heads, behind our eyes, etc.

More clearly, yes, I think race is even more touchy a subject now that Obama is president. That's not the President's fault, it's just the current climate...

But I think you may be missing my point about Hi, Mom!. (And again, I will concede that I may have done a not so swell job of laying it out...).

I'm not saying that it's so socially relevant today because it openly confronts race issues (which it does), but rather because it highlights both a soft-headed, submissive mentality (the audience members in Hi, Mom! who feel that going through the Be Black, Baby gauntlet grants them instant enlightenment the way many people feel an Obama election grants the country instant salvation) and militant-style discourse (the radicals that who put on the play and confront people on the streets with the notion that only their point-of-view is the just one) that is currently dominating our political culture.

Mind you, I don't mean to imply that the above is exclusive to a leftist/liberal ideologie, it's just the phase we're currently in, and what DePalma chose to target for this particular film. (Still, he makes it clear that Jon slides along the ideological scale, becoming a right-wing bigot in the end after commiting a terrorist attack).

Fox mentions this latter point in his original post:

The final scene in Hi, Mom! brings us back to Jon Rubin, who, overnight, has gone from leftist urban guerrilla to hawkish right-wing bigot. DePalma is showing the fine line that exists between these two ideological fringes of extremism. As a good friend often says to me, when you move too far along either end of the political spectrum, eventually you may find yourself around onto the other side.

After ripping through a slur-filled rant to a news reporter, Jon looks at the screen and says "Hi, Mom!". Freeze shot, the end. And what a timely image for a post-Election '08 American audience to take in in this age where the cult of personality is raging like I've never seen it before.

Also in the insightful essay, Fox says a few words about De Palma and the many labels attached to him over the years before delving deeper into the context of "Be Black, Baby" within the whole of Hi, Mom!, using frames from the film to illustrate the confused motivations between promoting and participating in the radical theater production.

Posted by Geoff at 3:11 PM CST
Updated: Monday, January 26, 2009 7:52 PM CST
Post Comment | View Comments (2) | Permalink | Share This Post

Monday, January 26, 2009 - 5:04 PM CST

Name: "Fox"
Home Page: http://fox-tractorfacts.blogspot.com/

Hey Geoff-

Thanks for the recognition and the link!  I've been reading your site for quite awhile and it's an blast to be mentioned on it.

I'm hoping to see the Sisters screening tomorrow and definitely Phantom next week.  It's a joy to see these films on the big screen for once!

Thanks again and keep up the excellent work.   

Monday, January 26, 2009 - 7:42 PM CST

Name: "Geoff"
Home Page: http://www.briandepalma.org

Yeah, wish I could be in Austin-- that's a great program going on!

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