Sunday, November 25, 2018

The wackadoo libertarianism of Demolition Man

On ‘Demolition Man,’ Libertarian Action, and the 3 Seashells - Abraham Riesman, Vulture:

October 9, 2018 - "I’m a lover of dystopias, but I’ve always found Brave New World irksome.... But there’s a movie that makes me wonder whether my real problem with Brave New World was simply that it didn’t have enough car chases and zingy one-liners. That film is Marco Brambilla’s 1993 epic Demolition Man, which  ... presents a bizarrely compelling philosophical argument, ultimately becoming a libertarian screed that’s as wackadoo as it is persuasive.

"In it, Sylvester Stallone portrays the titular gent, ... the phallically named LAPD hero John Spartan, whom we meet in the then-future of 1996, patrolling a hellish Los Angeles [in] battle with a crime lord who has an even better name: Simon Phoenix, played by Wesley Snipes.... Phoenix ... prompts Spartan to blow up the building they’re in [and] Spartan and Phoenix are both sentenced to a curious form of imprisonment: cryogenic freezing....

"We’re transported to the year 2032, where everything is … pretty great, actually. Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and San Diego have merged into a cheery megalopolis called San Angeles, where everyone and everything is chill as heck.... Phoenix is woken up for parole and mysteriously able to break free, killing a warden and a few guards in ... the first murders committed in decades. Baffled and unqualified for dealing with a killer, the cops ... retrieve the legendary Spartan.... Obviously, Spartan will catch Phoenix.... The real magic of the movie lies in its world-building and its message. This is, believe it or not, less a movie of plot or spectacle than it is a movie of ideas.

"The elaboration of San Angeles is a wonder to behold, veering back and forth smoothly between satire and sheer invention.... There are also completely bizarre ideas.... Spartan uses the bathroom at the precinct and informs the cops that they’re out of toilet paper. Everyone giggles and he’s told that no one uses TP anymore — instead, they use 'the three seashells'.... At no point, however, is there any explanation of how one can use three seashells to take care of one’s fecal matter....

"But ultimately, the non sequiturs are overpowered by the commentary. It becomes clear as things progress that Demolition Man is intended to be a libertarian manifesto. Nowhere is that clearer than in the words of the leader of the utopia-rejecting underground, Edgar Friendly [who] delivers a stunning monologue....
See, according to Cocteau’s plan, I’m the enemy. ‘Cause I like to think, I like to read. I’m into freedom of speech and freedom of choice. I’m the kind if guy who wants to sit in a greasy spoon and think, Gee, should I have the T-bone steak or the jumbo rack of barbecued ribs with the side order of gravy fries? I want high cholesterol. I want to eat bacon, butter, and buckets of cheese, okay? I want to smoke a Cuban cigar the size of Cincinnati in a non-smoking section. I wanna run through the streets naked with green Jello all over my body reading Playboy magazine.... You wanna live on top, you gotta live Cocteau’s way: what he wants, when he wants, how he wants. Your other choice: come down here, maybe starve to death.
"Has there ever been a rawer, more perfect argument against the nanny state in mainstream cinema?"

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