For months & months we’ve been inundated with American electoral discourse.
- Conventions & nominations
- Debates & speeches
- Polls & statistics
- Ads (sigh)
- The ironic dissection of the GOP in social media (ah yes, this has been fun…!)
The drama of the Presidential election isn’t really over. Not when the stalemate of the past four years looks to be repeated. While the Democratic nominees—Barack Obama & Joe Biden—defeated the Republican nominees—Mitt Romney & Paul Ryan—there is every reason to believe that the Republican controlled House of Representatives will continue to be a place where Democrat initiatives go to die.
There is no longer a single conversation, but two separate monologues, each unable to connect with the other. The Democrats speak of what needs to be done, the objectives and criteria of success entirely at odds with the counter-discourse, the Republican understanding of what’s wrong and how it needs to be fixed.
I had hoped for some release, after months of suspense, but the election failed to deliver. I am worried we’re in the same bad place for another four years.
Tonight, I was ready for political therapy, and I found exactly what I needed. It’s called The Campaign, a 2012 film starring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis. I’d seen the trailer before and to be honest, shivered at the thought. The film shows a pair of candidates who seem to wage a really nasty negative fight for Congressman in North Carolina. For someone suffering election overload it was the last thing I would want.
It’s a few days later. I’d seen so many post-electoral gags and pictures, but honestly, something was missing. I say that as someone who devoured everything out there, including that sentimental moment when Obama breaks down with his support staff.
Yet now, a few days after the election, what exactly happened to me? I wonder, was I suffering withdrawal?
The film suddenly called to me the way second-hand tobacco smoke seduces the nose of someone trying –and failing –to quit smoking.
The Campaign gave me precisely what I had wanted from Obama & Biden, Romney & Ryan. In this film I became engaged in another –fictitious—electoral battle, got involved with all the passions of a partisan, with a heavy layer of comedy. Where the jokes in the trailer scared me off, tonight I was laughing uncontrollably, shell-shocked with electoral fatigue, my resistance broken.
The story reminds me somewhat of Trading Places, a film from the 80s that starred Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy as a kind of anthropological test. Two old millionaires –Ralph Bellamy & Don Ameche—make a bet to investigate whether the privileged son of the upper class (Aykroyd) deserves his advantages, or if a random derelict selected off of the street (Murphy) can do just as well.
This time Aykroyd–with John Lithgow—plays one of the rich guys. The experiment isn’t quite so transparent, only evident in the moral choices made by the two candidates –Ferrell & Galifianakis—in the heat of their campaign.
Both of the comedians are alternatively ugly and silly, but fearless in their quest for comedic truth. I came away from this film feeling finally free of the madness of the election year. Next time I see it (probably tomorrow) I will likely have a totally different experience, knowing where the story is going. Even so, it’s a healthy cure for the twin insanities, believing and doubting our electoral candidates.
I feel cleansed.