“Boring damned people. All over the earth. Propagating more boring damned people. What a horror show. The earth swarmed with them.”

– Charles Bukowski, Pulp (1994)

The excellent book “Anti-Intellectualism in American Life” by Richard Hofstadter contains the following quote: “…the national distaste for intellect appeared to be not just a disgrace but a hazard to survival.” A simple glance into a slice of modern American life will not leave you scrambling for evidence – the Republican nominees stand as an entity onto themselves, combined with the dirge of reality-tv trash, celebrity culture filth, and the seemingly accepted prerogative to be as outrageously rude as possible, for it will only be rewarded. The thing about Hofstadter’s book is that it received the Pulitzer Prize – in 1964. Nearly 50 years into the future, and Hofstadter’s manifesto for the thinking American has come to encapsulate an entire zeitgeist of acceptable apathy, celebrated stupidity, and dismissal of dissenters.

Imagine my delight then, when God Bless America arrives – crackling, hysterical, and astutely critical – no, murderous – at the state of simple-minded, lowbrow American mass culture. It is delightfully unapologetic, channeling all the simmering frustrations and rumbling grievances accumulated over a lifetime of watching crudeness applauded and uncouthness extolled into a reactionary explosion of ENOUGH. Joel Murray’s Frank is the everyman of a new sort, the genuinely decent man who is at the end of his tether after having to tolerate the “soul-crushing cacophony of stupidity” (possibly the most apt description of anything I have heard in my life) that has surrounded him for far too long. His ally and equal is teenager Roxy (in a sparkling and memorable turn by Tara Lynn Barr), and fuelled through their platonic bond of misanthropic intolerance, proceed on a bloody killing spree, picking off the idiots like daisies in the grass.

Poetic justice? Absolutely. Their union draws comparisons to Bonnie & Clyde and Mathilda & Léon, but their partnership is more than a literal one: it is a symbolic gesture of the unadulterated rage which many of us feel; the rage at gross spectacles like televised defecation and nation-endorsed humiliation of weaker beings. God Bless America is a seething satirical look at the new (or perhaps not so new) American culture, and the rational being’s response to it – with shotguns. It keeps its momentum the entire way through, with brilliant dialogue that stops just shy of being overly meta-analytical, delivering scathing indictments of an uncritical and self-centred mass. However, the real beauty of the film is that you can take it any way you like – bloody, good fun; or a tragic social commentary. One could argue that it emphasizes the latter, but it is only true with help from the former.

It is difficult to prophesize the future of Hofstadter’s bleak examination of American society, what with things like teaching creationism in schools and Jersey Shore. God Bless America provides a much needed relief from the constant influx of idiocies, not only as entertainment, but as a reassuring thought that there is at least someone else who looks at this society and shakes their head despairingly just as you do (and then proceeds to whip out a shotgun, but that is neither here nor there).

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