Baby boomers

Harold Ramis and the Death of Baby Boomer Subversiveness

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I've got a piece up at Time.com about the death of Harold Ramis, the writer-director-actor who played a leading role in many of the biggest comedy films between the late 1970s and early 1990s. Here are some snippets:

Ramis was nothing less than one of the subversive auteurs behind a whole new way of laughing at the world that mixed brains (he was a National Merit Scholar after all), cheap gross-out gags (see Caddyshack's scene in which a Baby Ruth candy bar is mistaken for a turd in a swimming pool), and unapologetically anti-authoritarian antics (Ghostbusters enjoys a strong reputation as the most libertarian movie ever due to its hostile depictions of regulators as figuratively "dickless").

From the mid-1970s through the early 1990s, he made it seem as if the Boomers were not simply going to inherit the Earth but transform it into an edgy paradise that our parents, stuck in a past where Bob Hope and Johnny Carson and other dinosaurs still roamed the world, could never really grok….

Ramis's oeuvre flattened out after Groundhog Day. In the wake of critical and commercial success, his output became increasingly programmatic and uninteresting. Rather than taking chances and blow up comic forms, he directed movies such as Analyze This and Analyze That, schmaltzy, safe-as-milk comedies featuring Billy Crystal as the shrink for Robert DeNiro's by-the-number mob boss. He appeared in vanilla roles in forgettable movies such as Baby Boom, a late '80s fantasy in which Diane Keaton's businesswoman protagonist not only turns her back on New York's demanding capitalist but gets rich by pushing gourmet baby food.

The raging bulls and easy riders of the boomer generation — who had turned Hollywood and America on its ear in a sustained blast of antinomian anger and humor — slowly became as dulled and self-satisfied as their parents had seemed.

Read the whole thing.

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  1. Suberviseness?

    Lucy’s back!

  2. Baby Boom is from 1987 and Groundhog Day is from 1993, so not getting the timing. Plus, Baby Boom is a good movie and fairly accurate depiction of the consulting industry. I’d think that a libertarian site like this would applaud her desire to choose her own destiny.

  3. . . . regulators as figuratively “dickless”

    Literally dickless – that man had no dick.

    1. Well that’s what I heard !

  4. Sorry, reason, I’m terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought.

  5. But his passing… also leaves those of us of a certain age sad for the ultimately unfulfilled promise of those early years.

    He made some of the funniest movies ever and then basically retired to spend time with his family. Even in his later years he pulled out a couple of hilarious cameos in some very funny movies. What early promise did he leave unfulfilled?

    1. Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes…

    2. What early promise did he leave unfulfilled?

      He didn’t keep working, sacrifice his own happiness and continue to make with the funny for our amusement? I don’t know.

  6. I don’t know if Ramis was responsible for the line, but if he was responsible for “You don’t know what it’s like out there! I’ve worked in the private sector. They expect results”, he will forever be a God to me.

  7. Delta House’s members come across not as high-spirited pranksters and more as relentlessly misogynistic, self-entitled jerks more disturbing and smug than their ROTC foils.

    Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I always assumed that was kind of the point. The Delta house members were not “heroes,” they weren’t people that should be looked up to in any way whatsoever and were actually just as much self absorbed, entitled pricks as the “squares” were. But like I said, maybe I’m reading too much into it.

    1. I don’t get that part, either. The was lampooning our system of higher education. Part of that was showing that it wasn’t exactly shaping young lads into a class of gentleman scholars.

      And apart from that: mysogyny? In a FRAT house of all places? My god, what was Ramis thinking?!?!?!

  8. I grew up on ‘National Lampoon’. There was nothing like it to teach one disrespect for all existing authority.

    Ramis was one of the good guys – http://docquery.fec.gov/cgi-bin/qind/

      1. I went to fec.gov to see who Ramis had made political contributions to.

        Apparently they don’t like links to their site.

        1. It’s possible you linked to the results of the query. That often fails because it’s not a web page per se.

          1. But I thought a link contained the SQL too.

            You’re right anyway. That is what I did.

  9. In the wake of critical and commercial success

    Once you have critical and commercial hits you are by definition not subversive or transgressive or whatever. Also once you get old and the older folks die off you become the Establishment.

    Does Nick realize the irony of him being an old man complaining about the yutes not behaving like in his day and not listening to his favorite music?

    1. Once you have critical and commercial hits you are by definition not subversive or transgressive or whatever. Also once you get old and the older folks die off you become the Establishment.

      I’d modify this. You can be a commercial success and be subversive. However, just because the older folks die off doesn’t automatically make you the establishment. You become the establishment by purposefully moving towards that which is established, or unwittingly by your ideals becoming established.

      I don’t exactly know what Ramis’s politics were, I suspect shrike was trying (and failing) to link to a page showing Ramis’s Obama campaign contributions, but speaking for myself, I’m not reflexively anti-establishment. Sometimes that which is established is established because it works and is effective. I’m anti-authoritarian. I’m not prepared to judge which Ramis was.

      1. I suspect shrike was trying (and failing) to link to a page showing Ramis’s Obama campaign contributions

        You are correct.

        Look, anyone excepting the most devout GOPer should have voted for Obama to punish the Bush/Cheney gang.

        It was the only decent thing to do as a human being.

        1. I suspect Ramis’ views to be fairly mainstream. I would never in a million years even suspect Ramis of being a Republican.

          If anything, I would suspect him of being a confused Baby Boomer. Voting for Democrats by tradition, but long disconnected and confused by the stark separation of liberalism vs. progressivism.

          1. stark separation of liberalism vs. progressivism.

            Worth expounding on later.

            I don’t like progressives but I dislike conservatives more.

        2. So, if you had discovered that *gas* he was actually a Rethuglikkkan, would you have gone home and burned any DVDs/ Blue Rays of his movies in disgust?

          It was the only decent thing to do as a human being.

          Disagree. The only decent to have done on election night ’08 would have been to stay home and get drunk. Because regardless of who won we were gonna be fucked. Come to think of it, you can say that about just about any presidential election night.

          1. Disagree. The only decent to have done on election night ’08 would have been to stay home and get drunk.

            I did that in ’12.

        3. 1) You sure are a great libertarian!

          2) Vote is not the same as contribute funds

          3) Don’t vote

        4. Look, anyone excepting the most devout GOPer should have voted for Obama to punish the Bush/Cheney gang virtually every productive person in America.

          Fixed.

      2. However, just because the older folks die off doesn’t automatically make you the establishment.
        Correct. You need to have the right ideology too.

        I’m not reflexively anti-establishment. Sometimes that which is established is established because it works and is effective. I’m anti-authoritarian.

        Well most of these words are a bunch of nonsense anyway if you think about it. Once you tear down the establishment isn’t it to build up a new one? And isn’t taking someone’s advice following authority? And if everybody nonconforms (especially in the same way) isn’t that just another form of conformity?

        Personally I’m pretty tired of Nick’s bloviating about how the yutes of his day were like so rebellious and subversive while bitching about Boomer nostalgia.

        1. Personally I’m pretty tired of Nick’s bloviating about how the yutes of his day were like so rebellious and subversive while bitching about Boomer nostalgia.

          Meh, I bitched about the yutes when I was young. Now I just bitch about everyone.

        2. Vinny Gambini: It is possible that the two yutes…
          Judge Chamberlain Haller: …Ah, the two what? Uh… uh, what was that word?
          Vinny Gambini: Uh… what word?
          Judge Chamberlain Haller: Two what?
          Vinny Gambini: What?
          Judge Chamberlain Haller: Uh… did you say ‘yutes’?
          Vinny Gambini: Yeah, two yutes.
          Judge Chamberlain Haller: What is a yute?
          Vinny Gambini: [beat] Oh, excuse me, your honor…
          [exaggerated]
          Vinny Gambini: Two YOUTHS.

          ^^Now that’s a funny movie, there.

  10. From the mid-1970s through the early 1990s, he made it seem as if the Boomers were not simply going to inherit the Earth but transform it into an edgy paradise that our parents, stuck in a past where Bob Hope and Johnny Carson and other dinosaurs still roamed the world, could never really grok….

    Nothing says edgy and subversive then movies that are 30 years old!

    1. The edgiest and subversiest movies ever made are mostly 40 years old (give or take 5 years).

      1. Which ones are you thinking of?

        1. How about The President’s Analyst, from 1966? Or The Monitors, a little later?

  11. Ramis’s oeuvre flattened out after Groundhog Day.

    The Ice Harvest is great and has Connie Nielsen.

    As Witchita falls…so falls Witchita Falls.

    1. Yeah I think that movie is underrated.

  12. he was a National Merit Scholar after all

    Yeah, well, so am I, so take that for what it’s worth.

    1. National Merit Scholars are the ass kissing nose-to-the-grindstone subset of National Merit Semi-finalists.

  13. This article is every Nick Gillespie cliche rolled into one.

  14. I usually love Nick’s writing but WTF is this? Ramis was responsible for Caddyshack, Stripes, and Animal House. His movies made me laugh for hours and have more memorable lines than any one other writer I can think of. Thirty years later I’m still reciting dialogue from these movies when I see college buddies. The man deserves a heartfelt thanks. Slagging him because not every movie he made was terrific or using him as a political prop makes no sense to me.

    Save the venom for the politicians and their hangers on Nick. Ramis created movies people chose to see. As far as I can tell his only goal was to make people laugh. And he succeeded.

  15. Ghostbusters enjoys a strong reputation as the most libertarian movie ever due to its hostile depictions of regulators as figuratively “dickless”.

    I dunno, Serenity pretty well set the bar so high by featuring the Alliance as decidedly evil for their attempt to make the people of the Miranda colony ‘perfect docile workers’, killing off over 90% of the population and spawning The Reavers who terrorize the four star systems of The ‘Verse.

  16. Meh. I’d rather watch a Bob Hope movie I’ve seen several times already than any of this guy’s picture shows.

  17. Also, the Marx Brothers were exponentially more funny than the Three Stooges ever thought about being.

  18. Raising Arizona is funnier than Caddyshack.

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