Dubby’s dvdiscussion: Everything American


This week we look at things American and wonder, briefly, why people actually want to go to America. Then, in time, we forget and go on standing in long queues all over the world to get into the Promised Land. I suppose (and this is something I’ve experienced) there is more to America than the downside subtly portrait in The Simpsons Movie and shockingly shown in Michael Moore’s Sicko.

The Simpsons is a super hit movie based on a television series that has run in America for 18 years. It is a critique of America because as Glenn Kenny says, “It is about a mustard-coloured dysfunctional family and its dysfunctional heartland American town.”

It shows the popular and vulgar father Homer filling the local lake with the droppings of his pet pig causing an environmental disaster. A sinister government agency tries to control the disaster by several means, one of them being to kill everybody.

Premiere’s Kenny sums it up brilliantly by saying, “In a typical Simpsons’ TV episode, Homer will behave insufferably for better than two-thirds of the show, and then do something, if not to redeem himself, at least to renew, a bit, the viewers’ affection for him. One advantage of the long-form Simpsons is that here Homer is even more insufferable (if that’s possible) and for a longer duration, giving rise to a funny subplot in which son Bart flirts with the notion of defecting to Ned Flanders’s clan.”

From its opening scenes to its teeming detailed throwaway gags (Grampa Simpson is seen reading a copy of ‘Oatmeal Enthusiast’), to its inspired Disney parody, to its hilariously overworked ‘Spider Pig’ gag and beyond, this is as jam-packed with hilarious, all-over-the-place jokes as any comedy you’ll see this year. And the variety of laughter it elicits — knowing, ironic, affectionate, and often raucous — makes the picture as refreshing a summer tonic as one could hope for.”

Michael Moore’s Sicko has been called a howl of protest and with good reason because he talks of health insurance and the millions who have got it but derive no benefits because — dig this — the insurance companies have a policy, NOT to pay even genuine claims.

Brian Marder elaborates, “Some 50 million Americans are currently without health insurance and 18,000 of them will die as a result.” But, Moore says, “This movie isn’t about those people; it’s about the ones who have insurance.” His narration in full swing, Moore first takes us on a trek stateside, offering a vast array of “our own people” who have been wronged by America’s healthcare system. From subjects whose medical costs have forced them to move in with their children, to posthumous testimonials from people who were denied necessary operations by their frugal insurance companies. Next he takes us to his favourite place: non-America. This documentary around, he doesn’t stop at Canada to prove his point(s), venturing to Britain and France where healthcare go-betweens are obsolete and medicine is only a doctor-patient relationship — everybody is insured, aka socialised medicine.

Sicko’s third act marks the return of Michael Moore, the Patriot. He sets sail, along with various casualties of our flawed system — chief among them 9/11 workers whose resultant ailments were neglected by the government that once branded them ‘heroes’ — for Guantanamo Bay to ask for the same free medical attention given to captured terroists. Upon arriving in Cuba and seeking free healthcare in earnest, Moore concludes with a message he hopes we won’t soon forget: the Big Boy at the mercy of the Little Fellow, begging for help.”