For Anyone Who Wonders What Thomas Frank Thinks of the Films of Harold Ramis…

Liberals do not "own the imagery of subversion and outsiderness."


Idea for a movie: Bill Murray and Amy Adams join the Army.

One of the few memorable moments at last night's largely dreary Oscar ceremony came when Bill Murray, onstage to present the cinematography award, gave an unscripted shout-out to the late Harold Ramis, Murray's frequent creative partner from the '70s through the early '90s. The reactions to Ramis' death haven't quite faded from the press yet: Besides the coverage of Murray's tribute, yesterday saw Salon publish a critique of Ramis' work by the liberal pundit Thomas Frank. Frank, while acknowledging that he enjoys Ramis' movies, argues that liberals do not "own the imagery of subversion and outsiderness" and that Ramis-style comedy can be adapted to other political ends—indeed, that several of the writer/actor/director's pictures are open to libertarian or even conservative readings. The evolution from the anti-square humor of Animal House and Caddyshack to the anti-EPA humor of Ghostbusters is a natural progression, Frank writes, not a rupture.

I can't disagree with that, since I wrote pretty much the same thing last Thursday, albeit from a different political perspective. Indeed, I wrapped up my post by saying my observations were "old hat, really, whether you're a libertarian pointing out those continuities to praise them or a Tom Frank type pointing them out to attack them." Frank was probably plotting his piece already as I wrote that. Or maybe I've stumbled onto the blogger's equivalent of chanting "Candyman" into a mirror.

Frank also adds some arguments that I didn't make. Some are sharp: He's absolutely right that the old-money/new-money conflict at the heart of Caddyshack fits snugly with the supply-side worldview. Some are less impressive: He attempts to find a special ideological meaning in the fact that College Republicans were making anti-Mondale "Fritzbusters" jokes during the '84 election, an effort that runs aground on the fact that Democrats were doing Reaganbusters gags in the same campaign. Everyone was making Ghostbusters references that year. It was like all those forced references to selfies and hashtags today.

Or maybe that was the point all along, and we just missed it?

And Frank gets off a clever line when he writes that "the fraternity at Dartmouth which served as one of the models for 'Animal House' has of late become a kind of pipeline into the investment-banking industry" right after he quotes one of the movie's most famous bits of dialogue—the part where one of the Delta House crew says, "You fucked up. You trusted us." You can see the seeds of an interesting comparison there: If Animal House blurred the boundary between anti-authoritarian fun and entitled assholery, there are people on Wall Street whose rhetoric blurs the boundary between desubsidized deregulation and subsidized moral hazard. Frank, alas, isn't keen on drawing that distinction either.

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  1. For Anyone Who Wonders What Thomas Frank Thinks of the Films of Harold Ramis…

    What about those of us who wonder who Thomas Frank is and why we should care what he thinks?

    1. It is a somewhat self-limiting headline, now that you mention it…

    2. Frank had what was turning out to be a good long-format piece on the college education bubble that he promptly ruined by calling said bubble “a race to the free-market bottom”. Fuck Thomas Frank, yo.

      1. Taibbi’s piece in Rolling Stone on the college bubble was a far better left-wing contribution to the issue. At least he recognizes that colleges getting all this guaranteed government money didn’t do anything to motivate them to keep tuition low.

    3. I’m kind of curious what Frank Thomas thinks of the films of Harold Ramis.

    4. Good Lord! Lefties are still mad over one movie that was vaguely critical of a nonmilitary part of the federal government from 30 years ago? These people are just born unhappy.

  2. One of the few memorable moments at last night’s largely dreary Oscar ceremony

    Blah blah.

    I caught up on five and six of True Detective. That series is so good… I think I’m going to burst!

    1. The plot is like something Ashley Judd would’ve done a decade ago, but the noir dialogue is out of this world.

      1. “I want you to fuck me in the ass.”

        1. Hey, I thought I was your sockpuppet!

          1. It varies from day to day, me. Uh, I mean nicole.

            (grabs head in hands)


            1. Episiarch’s sock puppets have been here a long, long time.

              1. I’m actually the entire staff too.

                1. There were 5 of him at brunch yesterday.

                  1. LOL. He even morphed himself into a onesie and Banjos pushed him around in a stroller.

                    1. He’s a kinky motherfucker.

                    2. Get her to the eye doctor! Even I saw through his disguise pretty quickly.

                  2. Wait a second. When did you add the accent grave and period to your handle? Or are you another of Tulpa’s sockpuppets?

                    1. Shouldn’t it be an acute accent since it’s in Spanish?

                    2. And I do know that the SPanish word doesn’t have an accent.

                    3. And I do know that the SPanish word doesn’t have an accent.

                      Arg! Pistols at dawn!

                    4. It shouldn’t be either, since the Spanish word, playa has no accent marks.

                    5. I know that, but other people don’t.

        2. Word’s getting out; that’s the third time today someone has said that to me.

  3. while acknowledging that he enjoys Ramis’ movies, argues that liberals do not “own the imagery of subversion and outsiderness” and that Ramis-style comedy can be adapted to other political ends?indeed, that several of the writer/actor/director’s pictures are open to libertarian or even conservative readings.

    It’s because Ramis’ movies were liberal not progressive. Where do you think the principled liberals landed? That’s right, libertarianism. The jackboots morphed (or always were) progressives. Big difference.

    1. Well, a lot of them. There are a few principled liberals on the left in the US (I mean, give the ACLU credit for having a brief on the correct side of Citizens United, though all their Progressive friends complained), but they’re far from dominant. (Just as libertarians are far from dominant when they choose to participate in the center-right coalition.)

  4. Fuck Thomas Frank.

    It should have been obvious to anyone with half a brain that one of the points of Caddyshack was that any slob could start with nothing and become filthy rich — the American Dream. Fuck anyone that thinks this is the wrong message.

    1. I always wondered if the Murrays were making any comments about their own success in that movie.

  5. “Where’d it land?”

    “Right in the lumberyard.”

    1. Sad to say, I’ve actually done that.

  6. Ty Webb: You take drugs, Danny?

    Danny Noonan: Every day.

    Ty Webb: Good. Then what’s your problem?

    Danny Noonan: I don’t know.

  7. Chicks dig me, because I rarely wear underwear and when I do it’s usually something unusual.

    1. mr simple, you are a madman. When you stole that cow, and your friend tried to make it with the cow. I want to party with you, cowboy. If the two of us together, forget it.

      1. Nobody cried when Old Yeller got shot? I’m sure.

        1. I believe the exact words were “suck it up, it’s only a dog”.

  8. What’s The Matter With Thomas Frank?*

    *Has someone done this joke already?**

    **Was that joke worth doing in the first place?

  9. As much as it pains me to say it, isn’t this exhibit 635,829 in John’s case that liberals progressives can’t appreciate anything without making it about politics, and therefore, simply can’t appreciate anything?

    1. I don’t know if it is quite as universal as that, but it does seem to apply to a lot of progressives/leftists. Whoever popularized the phrase “the personal is political” ought to be taken out and shot.

      1. This would be the woman you’re looking to shoot.

        1. Thank you… so I didn’t have to look it up.

  10. Or maybe I’ve stumbled onto the blogger’s equivalent of chanting “Candyman” into a mirror.

    David Friedman
    David Friedman
    David …

    More broadly, according to an August report from the Weidenbaum Center at Washington University in St. Louis and the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, regulatory spending has gone up more than $20 billion in constant dollars since Bush became president. Regulatory staffing has decreased in some areas, including labor and the environment, but only slightly?and it has increased by more than 80,000 employees overall. This is not a regulatory apparatus that has been hollowed out and rendered ineffective. It is a government pursuing the same general industry-boosting approach it took from the ’30s through the ’70s. If Frank wants to imagine that we’re in an era of laissez faire now, he ought to extend his fantasy back to the period he prefers.

    That’s in context of Frank accusing market advocates of being responsible for Bush. No wonder JW takes such evident pleasure in making Frank a punching bag; he’s either economically illiterate or disingenuous, and he’s been spreading the myth of deregulation under Bush for years now.

  11. For Anyone Who Wonders What Thomas Frank Thinks of the Films of Harold Ramis…

    The are some things about Thomas Frank I wonder wbout. Like how an obvious retard got a gig writing for the Wall Street Journal. How a person as stupid as he is manages to avoid becoming a Darwin Award recipient. Whether or not people standing close to him on windy days can hear the wind whistling through his empty head.

    But what he thinks about Harold Ramis’ films is not one of them.

    1. Like how an obvious retard got a gig writing for the Wall Street Journal

      I assume the process involved Frank placing various penises into his mouth.

  12. Libertarians ruin everything.

  13. Eventually, the progressives will sacrifice everything – everything – to the state.

    Beloved creative icons of the Baby Boom generation? TO THE FIRE WITH THEM! They made people question authority, which made them doubt the state!

    One day they will even turn on sex, and Thomas Frank will write a column explaining that the orgasm is intrinsically a selfish experience, that turns the subject against the collective and makes them forget their obligations to the state. He will yearn for a day when science finally abolishes the orgasm, and the word is eliminated from the language to erase any memory of this scourge.

    1. …”He will yearn for a day when science finally abolishes the orgasm, and the word is eliminated from the language to erase any memory of this scourge.”

      And when that happens, he’ll have found the New Soviet Man!

    2. My orgasms aren’t selfish: somebody else gets my semen as a parting gift!

  14. This is why we can’t have nice things.

    Also, I finally watched “Ghostbusters” for the first time this weekend (I know, right?). Meh. “Animal House”, “Stripes” and “Caddyshack” were all MUCH better. Unlike those three, I won’t be watching GB again.

    But I finally watched it. So now I know who Gozer the Gozerian and Egon are.

    But I still don’t know who Thomas Frank (whose name I keep reading as “Frank Thomas”) is. Sounds like I’m better off not knowing.

    1. It probably isn’t as good as those others. But I still find it’s worth rewatching every few years. It’s worth it just for the “It’s true, this man has no dick” line if nothing else.

    2. What about the twinkie?

    3. Frank Thomas, way greater than Thomas Frank.

  15. Or maybe I’ve stumbled onto the blogger’s equivalent of chanting “Candyman” into a mirror.

    Let’s be honest. Who the fuck scratches his chin thoughtfully and asks, “Gosh, I wonder what Thomas Frank thinks?”

  16. Back when libertarian references in major media were rare I thought Second City TV was notable in giving them, as well as having an orient’n that seemed libertarian-leaning. I thought it was particularly a signal to us when they dropped a meaningless mention of the Libertarian Party in the news; it was totally neutral, they could’ve picked any political party or organiz’n for the verbal backdrop of a sight gag but they picked LP as if to say “hi”.

    People pointed out to me that my interpret’n relied heavily on which content I took as ironic and which as straight. For instance, when Moe Green fulminated Marxism in a lesson on business, and was then shut up by a call from Mr. Caballero, I took it as making fun of Marxists & Marxism, but I suppose someone could have taken it as approving instead. It just seemed that Ramis’s clownish portrayal made it obvious to me at least that the Marxist was the nut, not the guy shutting him up.

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