Pop Cultural Feminist Icons and Why I Really Don't Like Wonder Woman

Posted by Charles Reece, September 2, 2012 11:48pm | Post a Comment

My interest in Wonder Woman has always been lukewarm, with a back issue collection ranging somewhere between Dazzler and She-Hulk. This essay was the result of an invite from Noah Berlatsky over at the Hooded Utilitarian who's currently working on a book devoted to William Marston and Harry Peter's Golden Age run on Wonder Woman (they created the character). Noah had blogged his way through every issue of the comic, and was celebrating with a roundtable on the final issue (#28). Since it was clear that I pretty much loathed Marston's ideas, Noah figured it would be fun to get a negative take, and the following was what I delivered. At one time, the bondage theme had led me to try a volume from the DC Archive editions, but the mind-numbing repetition of  “oh, you’ve bound my bracelets” and “now, I have you tied up with my lasso” only proved what I thought impossible: how meek and boring sadomasochism could be. I imagine what Suehiro Maruo might do with the character -- questionable as feminism, true, but free of tedium. This is a roundabout way of saying I prefer my feminist icons with teeth. And Marston wasn’t interested in artistic ambiguity, but propaganda:

[That w]omen are exciting for this one reason — it is the secret of women’s allure — women enjoy submission, being bound [was] the only truly great contribution of my Wonder Woman strip to the moral education of the young. The only hope for peace is to teach people who are full of pep and unbound force to enjoy being bound. … Only when the control of self by others is more pleasant than the unbound assertion of self in human relationships can we hope for a stable, peaceful human society. [quote from p. 210, Jones]

Submission as an essential quality of womanhood might sound dubiously feminist, too, if not for Marston’s insistence that what is woman’s by nature should be a virtue for man to follow. There was no Sadean intent for us perverts. Submission was Marston’s end to violence, not a subset. When moralizing critics of his day objected to the overtly fetishistic nature of Wonder Woman, Marston’s response was that bondage is a painless way of showing the hero under duress. Unfortunately, he was correct: his and Peter’s depiction is about as troublingly kinky as the traps laid for Batman in his sixties TV show. As issue 28 indicates, even the villains use physical force only to subdue the heroines, never for torture: When Princess Diana and her mom are bound by burning chains, Eviless makes it clear that the flames don’t actually burn. [p. 20] As fetish or drama, this is about as flaccid as it gets.

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Horror, The Universal Language 4: Freedom vs. Conformity in Blind Beast (1969) & Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

Posted by Charles Reece, October 17, 2010 11:52pm | Post a Comment

Halloween's coming, so why not continue with my horror double-feature suggestions? Although based on an early 1930s story by Edogawa RampoBlind Beast can be seen as Yasuzo Masumura's inverted take on John Fowles' abduction classic The Collector (made into a 1965 movie by William Wyler, which might've been recommended here if it were a better adaptation). Fowles' book is about class and the empty exercise of capital, in which an alienated office clerk moves up the economic ladder by winning the lottery, but remains on the outside looking in. His only passions are in the form of commodity fetishism: collecting butterflies and fantasizing about a beautiful young female artist whom he obsessively watches from afar. He uses his newfound wealth to kidnap and imprison her with the hopes that she'll discover who he truly is, you know, on the inside. But what he is is nothing more than a guy who collects things, with no more connection to those things than that they fulfill some mental checklist. His is a life reduced to reification where an emotional bond is seen as two stamps being placed together in a book.

In Blind Beast, the kidnapper, Aki, is a blind sculptor who poses as a masseur in order to get tactile inspiration for his art, surrealistic walls of female body parts. Being a sadist, Aki finds his perfect model, Michio, a woman who begins as his victim, but with the transgressive sexualization of pain (or, perhaps, the Stockholm Syndrome) is transformed into a willing masochist. As Luis Buñuel explained his attraction to surrealism:

For the first time in my life, I'd come into contact with a coherent moral system that, as far as I could tell, had no flaws. It was an aggressive morality based on the complete rejection of all existing values. We had other criteria: we exalted passion, mystification, black humor, the insult, and the call of the abyss. Inside this new territory, all our thoughts and actions seemed justifiable; there was simply no room for doubt. Everything made sense. Our morality may have been more demanding and more dangerous than the prevailing order, but it was also stronger, richer, more coherent. -- quoted here

Whereas The Collector's Frederick never sees his captive as more than an object, thereby reinforcing his own alienation, Michio's abduction is cause for an aesthetic release from objectifying social restrictions. In a spiraling dialectic of slicing and dicing, she and Aki achieve an intersubjective bond through sensuousness (more painful than I'd prefer, but you get the picture).

There are three good variations on Jack Finney's The Body Snatchers, but the best is Don Siegel's from 1956, due in no small part to Kevin McCarthy as Miles Bennell, the doctor who discovers something's amiss with the neighbors. With a Cold War sweat constantly pouring out of him, he's the panicking embodiment of middle America's fear of atomic bombs and communist infiltration. His rapid sideways glances keep the viewer feeling anxious for the film's duration. The alien collectivist consciousness that each stolen body is mentally linked to and controlled by suggests an extreme version of Orwellian totalitarianism (the goal of the ideologically pure language Newspeak was, if you'll recall, to rid the individual of the ability to think outside the mandated system). So, on the one hand, the film is, as oft-noted, a critique of communism. But, on the other, there's the auto-critique implicit in the way the possessed Americans are difficult to distinguish from their unpossessed counterparts. In other words, the real horror is that there might be no difference between what most do with their supposed freedom and living in a totally administered society.

When there's nothing left of moral behavior but habit, the perversity of surrealism and Blind Beast becomes paradoxically a moral act in defiance of the totalizing will. From 1984, consider Winston's reaction to Julia's admission that she'd slept with so many Party members:

His heart lept. Scores of times she had done it; he wished it had been hundreds -- thousands. Anything that hinted at corruption always filled him with a wild hope. Who knew? Perhaps the Party was rotten under the surface, its cult of strenuousness and self-denial simply a sham concealing iniquity. If he could have infected the whole lot of them with leprosy or syphilis, how gladly he would have done so! Anything to rot, to weaken, to undermine! -- p. 127-8

As two dead perverts, Aki and Mishio are libidinal martyrs for Miles and Winston's cause.

Blind Beast is available on a fine DVD from Fantoma. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) is available on a serviceable DVD. Philip Kaufman's 1978 version featuring a man's head on a dog that gave me nightmares as a kid is now out on blu-ray. And Abel Ferrara's Body Snatchers (1993) is out of print, but should be fairly cheap used.

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Youth Is Revoltin': The Valley of the Bees (1968) & Logan's Run (1976)

Posted by Charles Reece, January 17, 2010 06:36pm | Post a Comment

Ondřej begins Frantisek Vlácil and Vladimír Körner's The Valley of the Bees as a teenager jealous of his ogrish father, Lord of Vlkov (Zdeněk Kryzánek), who's just married Lenora. She's Ondřej's age, and he clearly has a crush on her, expressing his anger by giving his stepmother a basket of flowers with a bunch of crippled bats at the bottom. She freaks out, to which the father responds by picking up his son and throwing him against a stone wall. Fearing that his son might die, and to assuage his guilt, the Lord promises his son to God if the Almighty will spare Ondřej. He survives, and is sent to the North to become a warrior monk under the tutelage of Armin (Czech heartthrob Jan Kačer) in the Order of St. Mary of Jerusalem, the local equivalent of the Knights Templar. 

The Order functions for Armin like contemporary Gospel music does for its male performers, as a repressive sublimation of homosexual inclinations. He's a true believer who warns Ondřej (now played by Petr Čepek) to not give in to the materialist temptations of the Pagan world, telling him what became of some of their brothers not properly committed: "Some knights were mercenaries, and did not seek salvation. Instead they sought beautiful women and riches, only to drink their own urine in the desert, cursing God and their mothers." That is, "suffering is the way to God." Or, in a sort of Pascalian wager -- this being the Middle Ages -- you're going to suffer, so it might as well be for a higher purpose. The only joy allowed here is jouissance, taking pleasure in the pain of monastic denial. Ondřej has his doubt, feeling only his balls getting cold in the water in which he lies with Armin.

Ondřej's real crisis begins when he sees how the Order deals with an errant knight. Rotgier explains that he's had enough of the monastery and wants to return to his land where he can live as a civilian. Having been forced into this life, Ondřej understands and is willing to let him go. Instead, the Order recaptures Rotgier, breaks his sword and makes him walk out of a window to a canine death. Fearing ideological contamination, Ondřej is put into solitary to fast and ruminate. Too late, he goes on the lam, with Armin tailing him. The Soviets saw too much of a parallel with their own bureaucratic order in the film and banned it after taking over Czechoslovakia later in 1968. Vlácil doesn't leave much doubt where his sympathy lies and which side Ondřej's on:

An order of warriors who are as ruthless and unforgiving to their own brotherhood as they are to anyone else defying God's Law sounds a lot like Michael Anderson and David Goodman's Logan's Run, but with a central computer, Lifeclock, filling in for the deity. The 23rd century is a perverse mirror of Vlácil's medievalism, where "paganism" has won, but nothing much has changed in the operations of ideological power. After some major catastrophe that's reduced most of the former cities and landscapes to the proverbial middle ages, citizens live in vast metropolitan domes, fucking like rabbits and seeking nothing but pleasure (of the non-painful kind). "Do what thou wilt" is almost the whole of the Law, with one catch: they've gotta expire at age 30. The little lifeclocks on the palms of their hands go black to tell them when it's time. The hedonic ratiocination here is that any long-term moral repercussions to a society devoted purely to pleasure are taken care of by giving a time limit to the life of leisure. Should a citizen try to avoid the one commandment, Lifeclock sends its "Sandmen" to enforce the big sleep.

Coincidentally, The Valley of the Bees was released in May of 1968, the month of revolution, with its bellwether taking place in France. The youthful members of the New Left saw it as a time for a potential overthrow of totalizing ideologies of all stripes, including Stalinism, not just capitalism. It was not to be, however, with the majority of Western baby-boomers settling into their role as consumerist citizens. As Christopher Hitchens concluded two years ago:

At the time, I thought 1968 was the beginning of something. Later, I understood that I had instead been part of the end of something: the last gasp of red-flag socialism (which actually persisted until the murder of Salvador Allende in 1973 and the overthrow of Portuguese fascism in 1974). But the antitotalitarian ethos embraced by the best soixante-huitards [the "sixty-eighters"] remains an option, and I believe that it will have further opportunities to declare itself—in Cuba, to take one vivid and imminent example—long after the pseudo-revolutionary silliness has been forgotten.

Ondřej is more in the spirit of the youthful Hitchens, rejecting a totalitarian order, his Brotherhood, to live life as he sees fit, including returning home where he finally reunites with his stepmom, Lenora, who is now a widow. Vlkov is something of a ghost town, where its remaining inhabitants continue to act as if their repressive Lord were still alive. He cursed Lenora, so she spends her days flagellating the impurities from her soul. Ondřej's renunciation of the church begins to free her and the town of this spectral hold the former Lord has over them. At least, until Armin shows up on the couple's wedding day and violently restores the old order.

As one might expect of a futuristic hedonist society, the only people who seem to work are (not unlike Hollywood) in the service industry: cops, hookers and plastic surgeons. Logan 5 (Michael York) is the future's parallel to Ondřej, a Sandman who has a crisis in faith after being sent on an undercover mission by Lifeclock to infiltrate a rebellious group known according to their ideal destination, "Sanctuary." The group's pagan symbol is the ankh, standing for eternal life. The idea of Sanctuary is the reactionary inverse of Ondřej's rejection of his Brotherhood: ultimately, it stands against the continual youthful revolution, and for the reestablishment of a forgotten dead society. It wouldn't take long for the hedonist to figure out that dying at 30 isn't much fun, so faith is necessary (just as it's necessary to give Armin a reason to live his life in denial and suffering). What Lifeclock promises is much the same as Christianity: the potential for renewal, but in this world, not the next. It warns the people that they'll die anyway, but running guarantees a swifter and more permanent annihilation. Thus, the citizens follow the rules and show up for "Carousel" where they're obliterated with the hope of reincarnation.

Logan 5 sees the same ankh symbol on Jessica 6 (Jenny Agutter), an employee of the Circuit (which is the 23rd century's brothel), that he and his partner, Francis 7 (Richard Jordan), recovered from a runner earlier in the picture. Unlike Ondřej, who was never completely sold on the Order to begin with, Logan 5 doesn't begin to question the system until being placed among the heretics. Once on the outside of the city, he discovers an inhabitable nature, the remnants of an ancient democracy (the U.S.), and an elderly man (Peter Ustinov) with a knowledge of historical tradition -- all of which puts the big lie to the Lifeclock's ageist suicide doctrine and myth-spinning. And he finds old-fashioned "true love," rather than the transitory "hooking up" with Jessica 6. More concretely, Logan 5's palm lifeclock goes clear -- he's "renewed" as Francis 7 puts it -- on the outside, while beginning to sympathize with the rebellion. 

Leisure instead of suffering, sex-on-demand instead of asceticism, torture for beauty instead of bodily abjection, mandated suicide instead of a mandated lasting as long as God sees fit, and a worship of the pagan material world instead of the Christian's afterworld -- yet faith in ideology functions the same in the future as it does in the past: living for the Other, rather than taking responsibility for oneself. Both The Valley of Bees and Logan's Run seem to be getting at Jean-Paul Sartre's libertarian ethic: "you can always make something out of what you've been made into." (It's been too long since I've read any Sartre, so I took a crash course.) We're free, because as consciousness ("being for-itself") we can negate/transcend the mere facticity of our bodies ("being in-itself") and the internal constraints placed upon us through the interaction with ideology, society, etc. ("being for-others"). Whether we go with the ontological flow or resist it, we are ultimately responsible for that individual choice. (Both films make for a good contrast with the very anti-Sartrean Knowing.)


spoilers ahead!

With that in mind, both Francis 7 and Armin make for psychologically interesting cases of the faithful, or in Sartre's term, bad faith. During a fight to the death where he comes up losing, Francis 7 goes out believing that Logan 5's clear lifeclock got that way because that's what Sandmen are promised, renewal for their service. All that he experiences on his path (similar to Logan 5 and Jessica 6's) doesn't make him waver in his service to the Lifeclock. As such, he abdicates any responsibility for his choices, simply assuming the course that's been programmed. Armin, on the other hand, is a man searching for questions to fit his answers. He resists the way he is -- i.e., homosexual -- by suppressing life around him that doesn't conform to the ideology that keeps his latent desires in check. His only bodily contact with another that he initiates is the aforementioned arm-locking with Ondřej in erection-defying, icy cold water. When a blind Bohemian girl he meets asks to touch him in order to "see" his face, he threatens to cut off her arm. This has nothing to do with his being potentially tempted, but rather a disgust for femininity signifying the pagan contamination of his friend (and repressed love object). That he wants Ondřej to share in his repression (as close to sex as Armin will allow himself) is made clear when his solution to his friend's wedding is to slit the bride's throat. Since Ondřej won't conform to his worldview, Armin remakes his friend's world so that he'll have no choice ... or, at least, feel as if he has no choice.

Armin is thrown to the dogs for the murder, but accomplishes his mission: Ondřej is seen returning to the flock in the end, giving into the inauthentic existence he had attempted to escape, while making Armin a martyr to the cause. The antitotalitarian ethos to which Hitchens refers is crushed. Bringing the old man along as evidence, Logan 5 returns to his brotherhood, too, but with the intention to destroy the ideology he no longer believes in. When the Lifeclock scans his mind, it discovers that there never was any physical place called Sanctuary and self-destructs, blowing holes in the city's dome, and releasing the citizens. Whether or not they're freed is another matter. 

As a priest says at Ondřej's wedding banquet: "Bees are like people. They fear and sense disaster. You can destroy their homes, but they begin building a new one right away." As pure ideology or belief, the Lifeclock can't compute Sanctuary as an opposing ideational construct, so it terminates itself. Logan 5 has caused the revolution, but what the citizenry does with it is up to each individual. The ending is made to seem triumphant, but is it? Such freedom requires responsibility. It seems more likely that an irresponsible people, accustomed to living for the Other won't find freedom any more computable than Lifeclock did Sanctuary. That is, much like Ondřej's returning to the Order, they'll opt for another totalizing ideology "right away" to fill in the hole, perhaps that of the old man's tradition.

Free To Do What I Want: Joss Whedon's Dr. Horrible

Posted by Charles Reece, July 19, 2008 08:01pm | Post a Comment

Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog
is a 3-act webcast musical created by Joss Whedon with his brother Zack and half-brother Jed (the latter of whom also does the score). Hurry up and watch it, as you'll have to pay iTunes for the privilege after July 20th. Or buy the dvd. Or watch the degraded YouTube version:

This is Whedon in top form. Anyone who's watched Buffy or Angel or read his run on Astonishing X-Men knows that he does great set-ups, but never gives himself (or his co-writers) enough time to follow through with a fitting ending. This time around, he finally creates an effective resolution, and it's exceedingly morose, given that the rest of the story is a much lighter shade of dark comedy. (Don't worry, I'm not going to give it away.) 

This is the tale of Doogie Howser all grown up in a world that doesn't appreciate his eccentric genius.   Unlike in Doogie, Dr. Horrible (Neil Patrick Harris) doesn't get a preternaturally chesty girlfriend who loves him for being an outsider with a weird, greasy friend. He still has a despicable sidekick, Moist (Simon Helberg), but the best Dr. Horrible can manage is to daydream in song while staring across the laundromat at Penny (Felicia Day), the whey-faced nerd girl on whom he's fixated. Otherwise, feeling like Klebold and Harris, he plots the destruction of the normalizing cultural institutions that have marginalized him out of existence. With each nefarious deed, he gets one step closer to being allowed membership into The Evil League of Evil, run by his hero, Bad Horse. But every time he tries something, he gets pulverized by the fists of the status quo, Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillion). Things go from bad to worse when the cloddish attempts of Captain Hammer to stop a heist of Horrible's puts Penny at risk. Even though the bad Doctor is the one who saves her, it's the Captain who gets the credit and a date. When the beefcake good guy learns that Penny's the only thing his downtrodden nemesis cares about, he begins to torment him (in song, of course) saying stuff like, "normally I don't sleep with girls more than once, but I hear that the second time's when they start doing the weird stuff." Cue the chorus of Hammer groupies. That's more than the put-upon villain can take, so he plots the death of the hero. 

Some of The Evil League of Evil: Bad Horse, Fake Thomas Jefferson, Dead Bowie, Professor Normal and Fury Leika

There's nothing particularly novel about this story. In fact, it's real similar to The Villain (1979), itself a comedy Western spin on the Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner cartoons. In that movie, Arnold Schwarzenegger is a dipstick do-gooder protecting Ann-Margaret from the villainous Kirk Douglas. Douglas' character is wittier, more charming and all-around more creative than the dullwitted hero, but the forces of order are constantly working against him, just like poor Wile E. Coyote, super-genius. The Coyote is a fundamentally repressed part of the modern psyche, which has been stripped down and mass produced by the homogeneous order. We want to side with the villain against the stifling forces of control and celebrate true individualism, until we realize that cute bird would be eaten. The Coyote cartoons maintain the agony of the paradox (between desire and morality), whereas The Villain cheats and lets Douglas get the girl.

What the Brothers Whedon add is that line between sadness and funny one-liners that Joss and his writers regularly managed to walk on his TV shows. Unlike The Villain, they don't let you off the hook for wishing for chaotic freedom. Dr. Horrible, therefore, sides with Wile E. Coyote and our own moral reality.  And it's nice to hear dialog from his company that doesn't sound like the Buffyverse argot, which I was beginning to think was the only dialect they could write in (the diminutive form gets old really fast). The music is similar to the Buffy musical, Once More With Feeling. It still has that Rent-burnished pop sound to it, but the lyrics are funny and the music generically catchy enough to get you through. I'd say the music and singing are, at least, an improvement over the Buffy episode. If you hate Joss Whedon, none of this will change your mind, but if you appreciate his pop virtues, this is good stuff.

There's also an online comic featuring Dr. Horrible's arch-nemesis Captain Hammer available for free. It's written by Zack Whedon and drawn by Eric Canete. It's sort of the flipside to the musical, focusing on what we always stand to lose with moral order (à la Big Brother):

And here's an interview with Whedon on NPR with some commentary about how this is the first "TV" show for the Web. I'm pretty sure there was a soap opera a couple of years back, but this is the first thing I've wanted to watch that was created solely for the Web.

A Great American Next-Door Neighbor: Mr. Conservative, Goldwater on Goldwater (2006)

Posted by Charles Reece, January 16, 2008 02:57pm | Post a Comment
Now, I'm liberal, but to a degree
I want ev'rybody to be free
But if you think that I'll let Barry Goldwater
Move in next door and marry my daughter
You must think I'm crazy!
I wouldn't let him do it for all the farms in Cuba.
-- Bob Dylan, I Shall Be Free, No. 10
Back when I was living in Detroit, I had a philosopher friend who was as smart as they come, but as bugfuck crazy a right-winger as they come (well, the right-wing can get pretty goddamn insane, so maybe I exaggerate a bit for rhetorical effect, but he was a good deal nutty, regardless).  He was an atheist with a militant libertarian streak whose silver tongue could convince you of the rational basis for just about any right-wing position if you didn't have every 't' crossed and 'i' dotted in your own arguments.  Over drinks, we'd see who could one-up each other in our beliefs of how many freedoms a person should be permited.  I'll save our conclusions for the faint/pc of heart, but suffice it to say that his ideas for what should be socially permissible (at least, by law) might make the most ardent ACLU attorney blush.  On social issues, having his view in ascendancy in the political world would only make for what I would consider a much better society.  But, then again, he'd also proclaim his admiration for dipshits like Jesse Helms. 

To this day, I find it odd that such libertarians tend to side with right-wing extremists while holding civil views much more in line with my own.  I suppose it comes down to some radical belief in states' rights -- as if a state is any less bureaucratically unfair to its citizens than the federal government -- and seeing businesses as individuals possessing the same rights as, well, actual individuals.  That last belief tends to ignore the long history of businesses being prime real estate where those in power freely piss on the rights of those not in power.  The former tends to tie the more radicalized libertarians, at least, with certain egregious unreconstructed Southern apolegetics regarding the Civil War (as the recent brouhaha over Republican candidate, Ron Paul, demonstrates [1]).

My friend would always get a chuckle at my suggestion that I was, in fact, more libertarian than he, since I believe in using government for maximizing the freedom of individuals when the states or businesses don't see fit to grant individuals their inalienable rights.  Why, I wonder, isn't there a libertarian branch of the Democrats?  If libertarians can swallow all the anti-personal freedoms of the influential Christian Right in the Republican Party, why can't some swallow the anti-laissez faire tendencies of what is by now only a minority in the Democratic Party?  It's a telling sign of just what's ultimately the most important to the majority of socalled libertarians who, instead of "throwing their vote away" on the Libertarian candidates or having no such candidate to vote for, choose, like the rest of us, the lesser of two evils.  Only they tend to choose the more evil.  Unless, that is, we're talking about Barry "Mr. Conservative" Goldwater.

In her celebratory and loving, without being hagiographic, documentary of her grandpa, Barry, Julie Anderson provides multiple reasons why I wouldn't mind living next to the man or having him for a son-in-law:
  • If the Rockefeller-favoring press were expecting some mealy-mouthed acceptance speech from Goldwater at the '64 Republican convention, he didn't oblige.  Instead, he delivered his famous lines: "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.  Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!"  Granted, the devil is in the details, but them's words to live by, providing a worthy complement to Kris Kristofferson's "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."
  • In '86, Robert MacNeil went to interview the retiring Senator for one of those nostalgic puff pieces the media tend to do with politicians.  After concluding the interview and shutting down the camera, Goldwater asks MacNeil if he's going to ask him about the recent reports of the Reagan administration selling weapons to Iran.  MacNeil asks him what he has to say.  He replies, "it's the goddamnedest stupid foreign policy blunder this country has ever made."  With the camera turned back on, Goldwater is a bit more diplomatic, saying for the record, "it was a dreadful mistake; perhaps one of the major mistakes the United States has ever made in foreign policy."  This then turned into a question for a very surprised Reagan at a subsequent press conference by MacNeil's partner, Jim Lehrer, making him one of the first reporters to put the president on the spot for what turned out to be the Iran-Contra Affair.
  • With that thin tie, well-fitting dark suit and industrial iron jaw line underneath his slicked back hair and thick-framed glasses, Goldwater presented a visage which deserved to be on those beautiful Soviet propaganda posters.  Who wouldn't want to leave for work in an Oldsmobile with a face like Barry's watering his perfectly geometrical lawn and waving at you?  Just look at that dvd cover above; that's a suburb worth dying for, alright.

  • Being deeply troubled by Watergate, legal counsel John Dean arranged a meeting with Goldwater over just what he should do in his testimony before the Senate, feeling some loyalty to President Nixon, while morally not wanting to lie for his boss.  Goldwater advised, "that SOB was always a liar, so go nail him."  The rest is history.
  • Although the supposedly Goldwater conservative, Ronald Reagan, was willing to applaud a theocrat like Rev. James Robison at a 1980 Evangelical conference as he went on about the perverts, liberals, leftists and communists "coming out of the closet" and how it's time for "God's people" to "come out the closet and change America," Goldwater himself wouldn't have any of it. He knew that it was nothing more than another attempt by some group using moralism as a facade for bureaucratic administration of our freedoms.  In reference to Jerry Falwell and his moral majority play for power, Goldwater said, "all good Christians should kick him in the ass."  With the examples of Ted Haggard and Cardinal Roger Mahony "coming out of the closet" by mixing religion with political power, any good Christian shouldn't have to look very far in his or her heart to know Barry was right.
  • After retiring from the Senate, Goldwater came to regret his past belief that homosexuals shouldn't be allowed in the military, realizing that such a position was a hypocritical contradiction of his conservative beliefs.  He wrote an op-ed piece entitled The Gay Ban: Just Plain Un-American, wherein he used quite familiar conservative rhetoric: "Government governs best when it governs least - and stays out of the impossible task of legislating morality. But legislating someone's version of morality is exactly what we do by perpetuating discrimination against gays."  Can you imagine our current Democratic frontrunners being that consistent in their philosophy, much less the Republicans?
  • Finally, he supported his daughter getting an abortion back in the 50s and continued supporting a woman's right to choose all the way up till his death.  This became most notable in his stalwart defense of Sandra Day O'Connor's nomination for the Supreme Court against all the conservative Christian backlash in the early 80s.  His view was that their horseshit should have no role in politics.
Besides his honesty, what's so admirable about him was the way he made a distinction between open ideological discourse and ideological politics.  He wanted to fly around the country with JFK in 1964 debating issues for the people to make up their mind on whom to vote for.  On the other hand, he recognized the rise of the socalled moral majority as an attempt to seize control over public discourse where one contingent wants to set into law how others have to act.  It's never enough for the right-wing Christians and like-minded ideologues to behave according to their own beliefs, you have to, as well.  That's not discourse, but a power grab.  It's what Goldwater opposed in communism and it's what he opposed here at home.  Our cultural property value went up when he moved in.

[1] James Kirchick, "Angry White Man" in The New Republic.  Since they don't seem to allow hyperlinks, here's the link for you to copy and paste:

It's a good article.
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