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January 27, 2012


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Heh. God forbid a young up-n-coming Village Voice Media employee question authority in a day and age when dues-paying lifers are put out to pasture. Tangentially (sort of), I really dislike the use of the word "even" in example no. 1 above.

Glenn Kenny

Yes, for me as well the "even" is really sort of the coup de grace, and not in a "good" way. I try not to take these things all personal, honest, but I happen to have a close relative who's both a college graduate AND the manager of a Dave & Buster's, so...

David Ehrenstein

White America is "Coming Aprt"? That's great news. Especially with an avowed racist like Murray (remember "The Bell Curve"?) announcing it.


Murray is Murray is Murray is Murray, and that he suffered only the censure of the larger society, but never full expulsion from it, is apt commentary on the crazy-ass relativism of the Permanent Commentariat. MILLI VANILLI got ten times the shaming this guy did.

As for Longworth - you know, her heart may be in the right place, but a fast-food joint, like a brokerage or, as Jeff so aptly pointed out, the staff of an alt-weekly, is filled with all types - high and low, strivers and losers, old and young (including the management.) EVERYONE'S running at least a little scared; the minority of those who aren't are lucky and the rest are whistling past the graveyard - or, more likely, texting.

No matter - in the end I prefer not to take lessons on age and class from someone who preferred THE HUMAN effing CENTIPEDE to the keenest, saddest film about those subjects that I've ever seen.

John M

I'd be interested to see how your close relative might attempt to explain the actions (based entirely on true events) of the fast food manager in COMPLIANCE, Glenn. Would his insights stray too far from Longworth's?

Michael Sicinski

Regardless of the rampant generalization-unto-stupidity of Comment #1, I have to "thank" you in scarequotes for alerting me to the existence of Murray's book and its disgusting quizlet. Of course, the whole premise of the questions, and the book, are fucked up, because Murray and his ilk believe that this alleged majority of "true" Americans (and the self-appointed, magically prestige-deflecting elites who represent them) are right with God and Country, and everyone else should be grateful we aren't being marched into Toby Keith's Bar-B-Q Auschwitz.

I mean, it's so easy to turn these questions around, if (unlike Murray) we assume the stakes are value-free. ("Do you have any openly homosexual friends?" "How many times last year did you eat ethnic food that wasn't Italian or Mexican?" "How many non-bestselling books did you read in the past year?" "Do you know any non-evangelical Christians?")

Naturally, there is a real connection between economics, education, and culture. But one has to be genuinely intellectually curious, not a racist ideologue, to study it properly. I truly wish the ghost of Pierre Bourdieu would come back to earth and kick Charles Murray's ass square up between his should blades.

Michael Sicinski

(That should read "shoulderblades." Autocorrect...)


Longworth still has a job? Amazing.


Its sad that a man of Glenn's stature would even quote a Nazi racist fascist like Charles Murray. The man should be run out of society for even suggesting that IQ even exists. I never read the "Bell Curve" but I heard from Bill Maher it was pretty racist.

And that's good enough for me.


I knew when Karina wrote this that people would be up in arms that it's classist, and what's a hipster chick like this doing mocking the good people stocking the Horsey Sauce at Arby's, and so on. Not to place myself as an overall champion of the unfortunate-Ghost-World-cat-glasses-wearing Longworth, but she is literally correct. If you think embryonic Rhodes Scholars are slinging your curly fries, you got another thing coming.

Glenn Kenny

Putting aside the question of whether or not she's literally correct (and I've never been a fan of those kinds of sweeping generalizations anyway, but that's just me), it's the blithe, dismissive casualness of the statement, combined with the confident causality of the presumption that "not well educated" equals "dumb" equals "will commit sexual assault on a colleague based on the say so of an authority-impersonating prankster" that really sells it in the almost-grotesquely-hateful category for me.

Which I guess brings me back to John M wanting to put me and my kin on the spot about "explaining" how the real-life events that inspired "Compliance" could have really happened. There seems to be a pretty large amount of journalism published on some of the most appalling cases, and the stuff makes interesting reading. No one's lack of a college degree is mentioned.


This thread has become pretty amazing. The Jeff Wells School of Liberalism is really catching on.


Just a note to Schwabinsurance: Not fast food specifically, but I've known (and, more to the point, respected) plenty of blue collar workers who are well-educated, well-read, et cetera. Some do what they do by necessity, some because they reached a point where they realized they didn't need huge sums of money and the approval of sneering would-be intellectuals to feel their lives were valid. Also, almost any random teenager working at Mickey D's has more common sense than Karina Longworth--that is, they'd realize Human Centipede is a piece of shit.

That Fuzzy Bastard

But Longworth's point, above, is precisely that the events in COMPLIANCE didn't happen because the people at the fast-food joint were "unlikely to be educated", but because they were all too low on the food chain to risk questioning authority. There's no sneering about their intelligence---that's coming entirely from commenters here---just an assertion that their class position predisposed them to obeying an anonymous voice. Which is a much more interesting suggestion, and more compassionate explanation, for why these appalling true events happened.

Also this: http://www.theonion.com/articles/developmentally-disabled-burger-king-employee-only,462/

Glenn Kenny

"There's no sneering about their lack of intelligence."

In the words of John McEnroe: You. Cannot. Be serious.

There's nothing BUT contempt there. Maybe not in an overt "sneering" way, but in a resigned, privileged, oh-these-poor-dumbfucks-and-their-neediness-and-ignorance way. That EXACTLY corresponds to the "Big Hollywood" caricature—OR IS IT?—of left-leaning left coasters.

It's true that I don't like Longworth, as a writer or as a person, but this feint that she's some kind of Friend Of The Working Man is just utterly laughable.

That Fuzzy Bastard

Well, I have no particular dog in this fight, having not much opinion re: Longworth in either regard, least of all her Woody Guthrie bona fides, but as regards the piece she wrote... " Compliance coldly assesses how easily humanity, compassion and community can slip away when everyone's trying to hold on to what's theirs... everyone from the top to the bottom likely needs their job too much to risk questioning authority... Compliance is not an exploitation film, exactly; it's more of a procedural, an anatomy of how systemic everyday exploitation is the perfect breeding ground for extraordinary exploitation." The write-up pretty much exclusively focuses on how the characters' relative poverty, rather than their education, intelligence, ignorance, or genes creates their "gullibility". She does mention that the real-life psycho this piece is based on "targeted poor, rural areas," but nu, if you object to that, take it up with reality. I mean, I get that you have kind of a long-standing grudge, but geez, if you find yourself agreeing with Charles Murray, who's just Jonah Goldberg with a Ph.D and some race-hate, it's time to take a step back, man!

Glenn Kenny

Oh man. I agree with Charles Murray on NOTHING. Check out the ali post I link to. I'm with Edroso all the way. I guess the irony I found in t he juxtaposition was/is overly hermetic, or something. For the record, I'm repelled by any lament on behalf of "White America."

Glenn Kenny

Sorry, that link goes to the blog entire. This post is the pertinent one:


Actually, Fuzzy, when you're that low on the foodchain, it's a whole lot easier to say no. When you've got nothing, you've got nothing to lose, and all that. The McMansions of suburbia are full of people who all think alike--well-educated, incomes in the mid-six figures, identical design sense and an absolute inability to think of anything outside their world. OK, I'm generalizing--but the argument you and Longworth present is no less ridiculous. Everybody in a certain economic bracket behaves in exactly the same way? And you know this how?

That Fuzzy Bastard

Pinback: I obviously wouldn't say everyone in a certain economic bracket behaves a similar way, but I can say with a fair amount of certainty based on experience that people without degrees working in areas with lousy employment statistics are a helluva lot more likely to do what management asks then people with lots of employment alternatives and networks that can support them. "When you ain't got nuthin', you got nuthin' to lose" is a fun lyric to sing, but actually kind of stupid as an observation about human behavior, since ain't nobody got *nuthin'* to lose.

That Fuzzy Bastard

I mean, Pinback, have you seen THE BICYCLE THIEVES? People with nothing have much more to lose! I'm actually curious to see COMPLIANCE, which sounds like an American Dardenne film, both in its class consciousness and in its circumscribed location.

Glenn Kenny

And I can contend with reasonable certainty that the parallel senses of entitlement displayed by both writers under consideration is a direct result of not only never having to worry about where their next meal is coming from, but from an ability to choose just how much exposure to the lower classes they will tolerate, for WHATEVER purposes.


But that's just it, Fuzzy--when you have a shitty, low-paying job, it's actually easier to dump it for a different low-paying job, since you know there's always another one available. Let me try a different lyric: Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose. (That one was written by A Rhodes Scholar, so you know it's profound.)


I'm trying to get this straight, but here's what I've figured out so far, from years of this kind of conversation: poor people are crass and stupid, rich people are evil, and middle class people are dull and conformist. I hope I'm not missing anyone.


You forgot: People rendered poor via Marxist/Leninist ethos are noble.


bill: I live in Iowa, where until recently we were knee-deep in Republican candidates and their various media enablers. As the ink-stained wretches of the press kept asking the usual questions, citizens at various meet-and greets continued bringing up real, relevant points, often openly expressing dismay when these points were met with pre-scripted responses from the candidates. The people asking the questions were farmers, lawyers, coffee-slingers, artists, what have you. It was beautiful to see people from all across the class divide united in a quest for an honest answer. Unfortunately, the end result of all this was Rick Santorum's brief surge, but still, it was a nice reminder that, ultimately, we're all in this together.

Glenn Kenny

I just don't have much use for film critics playing at sociology; and if they can't be bothered to even put up a non-patronizing front, so much the worse. Murray's a bit more complicated but just as deplorable, as condescending as Thomas Frank and rather more sinister/insiduous.

That Fuzzy Bastard

Pinback: It sounds to me like you're saying poor people, especially those without college degrees, are less likely to accept degrading or dangerous work, because they see themselves as having plenty of opportunities to make the same wage elsewhere. But that's so obviously false, I must be misunderstanding you, right?

As regards film critics, though: I think so long as directors care about class, critics can. I mean, if one is going to talk about Bicycle Thieves, The Son, Lilya 4Ever, Compliance, Do The Right Thing etc., one kind of has to have at least a glancing awareness of class and what it does to its victims. Or is this like our long-ago discussion of Raging Bull, where it was finally grudgingly admitted that a character's ethnicity might be maybe possibly relevant but it was hateful to notice?


I am an unapologetic fan of the "riblets" served at Applebees. Whenever I'm visiting my ranch in Walla Walla, Wa, I always manage to stop in.

Once, I asked our waitress (a smoking early 20's blonde) exactly what cut of pork does a "riblet" come from. (as they resemble nothing else)

She responded quite earnestly that she understood that Applebee's had "special pigs" somewhere.

So there you have it.

Jerry Langford

To steer this in a slightly different direction...I have to say that Longworth annoyed me like mad when she made the leap from bloggerina to L.A. Weekly chick. She staked out some pretty eye-rolly positions, like naming TRASH HUMPERS best movie of the year to punch a stamp on her "I'm a twentysomething, with an aesthetic all my own!" bonafides. But in recent years she has calmed down and her writing is largely thoughtful, perceptive, and generally not miles off the mark; can I be blasphemous and say that I don't think she's any worse than Ella Taylor?

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