"Look at us now," Joe lamented in his often moving 2003 autobiography, Behind the Paint. "We're still scrubs. No Grammys, no Hollywood parties, no celebrity appearances, none of that. We just don't count. Even after selling 5 million albums, we just don't count. It's in our blood. For eternity, we're gonna be the fucking underdog. No matter what happens."
At the two extreme limits of the order, the sovereign and homo sacer present two symmetrical figures that have the same structure and are correlative: the sovereign is the one with respect to whom all men are potentially homines sacri, and homo sacer is the one with respect to whom all men act as sovereigns ["sacred in the antithetical sense of the word now all but lost to us, ... accursed, at the mercy of all."].
For it is the original exclusion of homo sacer, Agamben contends, that authorises the sovereign and ‘founds the city of men’; this act forges ‘the originary “political” relation’.
Admittedly, I went into this hoping for a completely laughable mess. I Am is ostensibly a documentary about Tom Shadyac -- the director of such shit as Ace Ventura, Bruce Almighty and The Nutty Professor remake -- and his road to enlightenment following a near death epiphany. The self-described near death experience was a bike crash where he broke an arm, banged up a knee and received a concussion. The concussion was similar to what football players sometimes receive, which results in an ongoing bout of depression. Since some such sufferers have killed themselves, Shadyac reckons that he faced death. After a few months, his depression lifted, so the world wasn't tragically deprived of another of its artists. His epiphany was that it's unnecessary -- an obscene display -- for one man to own seven mansions and profligate to fly around on private jets. He came to see that wanting more and more stuff that he couldn't practically use as a social cancer. So Shadyac got rid of his personal jet and the mansions, started filming this doc (evidently before he even had his epiphany) and is now roughing it at a trailer park beach community in Malibu. He's learned to live without jets and mansions and multiple cars, so why can't the rest of us? The film is to help us cope with the deprivation.
The title is a clue to the narcissism: Shadyac's mere existence is enough to celebrate and take inspiration from, not his thought. Rene Descartes' res cognitans is elided over by the gobbledygook Shadyac learns from the new age experts at the Institutes of Heartmath and Noetic Sciences. They preach the same kind of nonsense that made The Secret and What the Bleep Do We Know? so popular. The former institute explains that the ontological center is in the beating heart, sending out electromagnetic waves that connect us with everything. For example, Shadyac is shown having his feelings electrically registered in some yogurt. Similarly, the latter institute suggests oneness with everything is our true essence, not individualism. Greed (the director doesn't take a stand on capitalism) is thus working against our essence. To support this, he interviews a bunch of nonscientists speaking on the scientific evidence of cooperation in nature, such as flocks and herds turning in the same direction at the same time. (Despite receiving prominent billing, Chomsky is in the film for about 2 minutes -- if that -- with Zinn given slightly more time. Their notable critiques of capitalism would've been too negative, I suspect.) The film never bothers to connect the dots here: if cooperation or "oneness" is our default position why then such a vast differential between the haves and the have-nots? Well, most obviously, social hierarchy is a form of cooperation that sustains the biological existence of the human species. A monarchy works as long as enough people support it -- this is an example of cooperation. Saying we need to cooperate doesn't mean jackshit, it's how we cooperate that's either moral or not. In place of critical thought, the film amounts to a rich guy using his star power to tell the hoi polloi that we're better off not striving after what he has, that he's to be applauded for realizing this, like an extended version of US Weekly's "Stars, They're Just Like Us." His solution? "Love."
The conflict, therefore, is not between females and males, but between SCUM -- dominant, secure, self-confident, nasty, violent, selfish, independent, proud, thrill-seeking, free-wheeling, arrogant females, who consider themselves fit to rule the universe, who have free-wheeled to the limits of this `society’ and are ready to wheel on to something far beyond what it has to offer -- and nice, passive, accepting `cultivated’, polite, dignified, subdued, dependent, scared, mindless, insecure, approval-seeking Daddy’s Girls, who can’t cope with the unknown, who want to hang back with the apes, who feel secure only with Big Daddy standing by, with a big strong man to lean on and with a fat, hairy face in the White House, who are too cowardly to face up to the hideous reality of what a man is, what Daddy is, who have cast their lot with the swine, who have adapted themselves to animalism, feel superficially comfortable with it and know no other way of `life’, who have reduced their minds, thoughts and sights to the male level, who, lacking sense, imagination and wit can have value only in a male `society’, who can have a place in the sun, or, rather, in the slime, only as soothers, ego boosters, relaxers and breeders, who are dismissed as inconsequents by other females, who project their deficiencies, their maleness, onto all females and see the female as worm.
-- Valerie Solanas, S.C.U.M. Manifesto
If thine balls offend thee, cut them off. With his adaptation of Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enough, Tyler Perry lets us know that he's a card-carrying, auxiliary member of SCUM. Regardless of Solanas' intent, Perry takes the word as an acronym for cutting up men -- in particular, black men. I'm not sure why Perry is so popular among black women, but his success surely suggests there's a serious disconnect, even animosity, between the distaff and staff halves of the black community. To 1995's Million Man March's suggestion that black men weren't living up to their moral responsibilities, Perry's For Colored Girls answers that women shouldn't expect them to, since morality isn't part of their nature. Masculine representation here is summed up by Judith Levine's list of misandrous stereotypes. With only one exception, men are cheats, rapists, incestuous pedophiles, cowards, wife-beaters, murderers, dimwitted poon-hounds, and/or dominated homosexuals. Solanas portrayed the last type in a relatively positive light ("faggots who, by their shimmering, flaming example, encourage other men to de-man themselves and thereby make themselves relatively inoffensive"), but Perry wouldn't take them off the target list, since trusting a gay man can turn deadly. The narrative conflict is that of the epigraph, women struggling to transcend the monstrous masculine.