Saturday, June 30, 2012

Magic Mike & the Three Faces Of Capitalism

The team effort of Channing Tatum and Steven Soderbergh has given us Magic Mike  a strong critique of capitalism that illustrates for us three strands of capitalism in America today: the debauched (Dallas and Adam), the boring and unfulfilling (Brooke) and the American Dream (Mike). I would like to think it's just a critique of the system and of those who caused the global financial crisis which has hampered the ability of others to live their dreams. The symbols are strong and well-constructed, invoking images we have seen in other films but taking a more careful approach and not being so quick to throw away the system it sees as being totally bankrupt.
"Work all day. Work it all night." The film's tagline goes from Mike (Channing Tatum) working during the day on roofs to him working all night as a male stripper and in both jobs he has to negotiate his wages. There is a definite "exchange" taking place between his skill set as a stripper (the capitalistic theory of supply) and the demand of the women who want him and what he can do because of how he makes them feel. Mike claims that he strips so he can earn and save enough money for his slice of the American Dream, to build custom furniture for people. The problem is, while he has saved $13,000 for his equity, his credit score is bad (we don't find out why) and he can't get a loan.  
What are the capitalist symbols utilized?
Please recall that Steven Soderbergh was the director of another film recently utilizing a pig, Contagion, and someone eating what the pig had eaten also made them sick (please see Contagion: Bats & Pigs for my review; in Magic Mike, the Kid (Alex Pettyfur) is taking ecstasy and passed out on the floor and Herman the Pig comes and eats the tablets). In this film, I think we have to take Herman the Pig to be a symbol of capitalism because pigs symbolize the appetites. So what are the appetites being "exposed" in the film?
Women's appetites for sex. 
Pornocrates, 1896, Felicien Rops (this image is not in the film). This painting aptly symbolizes a culture (the woman) being led by its appetites (the pig) while blindfolded, in other words, we necessarily become blindfolded when we are led by our appetites because our mind would tell us that we should not do what we are doing, so, in order to keep doing it, we blind ourselves to the consequences of where our bad decisions are going to lead us. The little "statues" beneath the walk symbolizes the arts (music, painting, literature) and the role which they should play in cleansing culture of its animal passions to elevate people's minds above their material cravings. This is a "living" painting in Magic Mike and aims to "reveal" what we have done to ourselves; the question is, is this human nature, or is it just what capitalism does to people?
The werewolf, as we have discussed before, is traditionally a symbol of out-of-control male sexuality but it is starting to be associated with women as well: Dana in The Cabin In the Woods (she's bitten by a werewolf), the little girl from Underworld: Awakening and Carolyn Stoddard in Dark Shadows. These references are not consequences, rather, repeating/trending symbols of encoding a national cultural phenomena: women have become masculine in their sexuality and voracious in their appetite for sex and while Magic Mike doesn't specifically site werewolves, Brooke does get compared to a dog (because all the other women pant after him like a dog, Mike thinks she will, too) and Brooke mentions the "vampires" and the normal people who don't live in the dark; these are specific to the "monsters" women's sexual appetites are making them become:
Do you hear those women?
Granted, this is a film and they are being directed how to act, but the point is, we believe they are acting this way because we have seen in other sources or actually know women like this, so this can be taken as a mirror of reality. The song It's Raining Men is also a mirror of reality: for the first time in history, it's raining men; Dallas (Matthew McConaughey, named after the tycoons of the TV series Dallas) talks about the cleansing and purifying rain coming down upon the ladies as the men are getting ready to perform the number with the umbrellas (and trust me, the umbrellas are meant to be a phallic symbol). Whereas rain is a sign of a character being cleansed and even "re-born," Dallas tells Adam (Alex Pettyfer) that the strippers are the husbands the women never had, the one night-stands and the fulfilled fantasy that allows them to go home to their husbands without having cheated on them (which is false), but now the rebirth the rain symbolizes is sexual appetites being created and fulfilled and it's because women want that and think it's a part of the "new femininity" that they "buy into it" (literally by throwing money and shoving money at the strippers).
Please note how Dallas' sunglasses "reflect" but he's not "reflecting" on himself. He's drinking deeply from the silver goblet, but it's the goblet of "worldly delight," not the cup of wisdom. Dallas wears a rattlesnake belt and because he incorporates that into his stripping routine, we can juxtapose his character to the snake (because of the way he treats Mike in the Miami deal). Dallas, his playing of the stock market and business demeanor, represents that far extreme of capitalism, the debauchers, because he's taking everything he can get and wants money for the sake of money, compared to Mike who "has a dream," a calling from the talent in his heart that individualizes Mike and robs Dallas of his identity because Dallas doesn't give himself (truly) to anything, he only takes. Adam is following Dallas on this road and Mike has to choose if he's going to as well. By wanting to build custom furniture for people, Mike expresses (artistically) his understanding of the uniqueness of each person and his own uniqueness as a person that his furniture will express for them and himself, but he has to make that the platform of his dream that he really believes in before the rest of it can come together. Brooke having the "knock-off" furniture reflects her lack of individuation (in the film) but also--and perhaps more importantly, Mike's own inability to not be able to discern. When he first goes into Brooke's apartment, he thinks her dining table and chairs is a high quality set but it's not; when he's at the bank, he tells the agent helping him what a nice necklace she has and she mutters that she got it at Target (granted, it's very likely that this last example was Mike trying to "kiss up to her" to help his chances of getting a loan, but if he were doing that, wouldn't he probably say something more personal, like mention her hair, or smile, or...birthing hips? Ha ha, just joking...) in other words, Mike seems to impart quality to something that doesn't really have quality, like the life of a stripper.
Because men like Mike, Adam and Dallas are willing to do this, there is a vicious cycle being created of men in abundance who offer themselves to women so that women can enjoy casual, sexual, dehumanizing experiences (please visit this link to see Dallas training Adam on what women want from him when he's on the stage because the video wouldn't let me download it, but it's informative about what they aim to do, but it's also heavily edited). But linking sex to water in It's Raining Men--which is a traditional inversion of water as a sacrament of baptism cleansing one of their sins--is Brooke (Cody Horn) because her name also invokes water (a brook is like a stream) but she's the exact opposite of the women seen in the film (more on her below; Joanna [Olivia Munn] is another example of the masculine/feminine; her name, "Jo" and "Anna" combines the masculine and feminine and just so we don't miss this, the film makes sure to let us know that she's bisexual) linking the sexual experience to water creates the false illusion that this kind of experience is "life giving" when it's actually deadly (and we can say that because of various images in the film).
Earlier that day, Adam was doing impersonations (regrettably, I don't know who he was impersonating, if you do, please drop me a note) but the point is, impersonations is what Adam does best, and that includes "impersonating" Mike and what a stripper does. This is the reason why Adam gets into so much trouble, he doesn't know anything on his own and so he can't make good decisions and because of that, we can take him to be one of the irresponsible faces of capitalism which rightly deserves to be eradicated from the country: those who do anything to fill the needs of their ever-growing appetites.
But if women are becoming more masculine in their sexual appetites, then men are becoming more feminized. For one, there are tons of "products" the male strippers use which we see as a growing trend among men discussed in the trailer for the documentary film Mansome (scroll down the page to find). Additionally, on the Fourth of July, Mike shows up at Brooke's house dressed as Marilyn Monroe in her iconic image from The Seven Year Itch about the problems of monogamy. Mike wearing Ms. Monroe's iconic white dress and platinum blond hair (wig) is a clear indication that he's losing his masculinity even as it appears he's living the dream life of every man (we can contrast this image with Jason Statham's Luke Wright in Safe, for example; please see Safe & Counter-Culture Masculinity for examples).
Adam, left, and Mike, right, are in a sex store buying outfits for Adam's performance and talking about the different outfits and what they "channel." On Adam's right arm, his tattoo says, "What goes around, comes around," and that proves prophetic in the film, but not for him (that we see). It's not just the destabilization of sexual identities which the film explores, but the animalism. When Adam gets his new truck, he and Mike want Brooke to go with them to celebrate and Mike calls to Brooke "like she's a dog," and that's because he's trying to appeal to her animal appetites. Further, in the scene pictured just above, Adam picks up underwear that looks like an elephant and the man's penis goes into the elephant's "trunk" area, thereby dehumanizing the man and the sexual act by putting it on the level of an animal. Why is this important? It contributes to a view on capitalism--justifiably so, I think--that capitalism won't and can't succeed if all it's doing is fueling our base appetites and desires, there has to be a higher order to capitalism, the fulfillment of our true talents and dreams (Mike's desire to make custom furniture). 
It's not just an exercise in drag for Tatum, or a competition with Dustin Hoffman's Tootsie, rather, since The Seven Year Itch is about relationships, and it's the Fourth of July when he does this, Mike's showing up as Marilyn Monroe's iconic character draws our attention to the "relationship" America has had with capitalism on the anniversary of American independence and bringing it into question (I have not seen The Seven Year Itch in a really long time so I can't say anything else about it; if you would like to add something to this discussion, it would be most appreciated). Lastly, just as Marilyn Monroe is held up as a cultural standard of feminine beauty, so Mr. Tatum's very male physique is a "standard" of masculinity (as the Spartan soldiers were a few years ago in 300) but the combining of Marilyn and Channing is not a successful one, and it's not supposed to be, because men shouldn't be women and women shouldn't be men. To demonstrate that, here is another clip:
Why is this important to establish?
Because of "false" supply and demand it creates in the markets (this is an obvious Christian point for me to make, but I am going to focus on this economic one because it's unique how the film does it) and what it does to individuality. Let's watch this scene with Brooke and Mike: Mike very much reminds me of the artist William Morris who, in revolt against the Industrial Revolution devoted himself to making high-quality, original items the way things used to be made so the item would retain some of the person who made it (like a cobbler making shoes).
In this way, Mike represents the American Dream, doing what it is that you are good at and being able to make your living at it, because that is living because that is living, when your talent is being put to good use and it's supporting you because we are our talents and we are our dreams. In the opening of the film, when we first see Mike, he's with Joanna (Olivia Munn) and a third girl. Mike is leaving his house and asks Joanna to lock up and she is surprised that he would leave the two of them there; he doesn't think they will steal any of his stuff but Joanna tells him that stealing stuff is what strangers do. In truth, everything has all ready been stolen from Mike: his dignity (because he has to get drunk before he strips, meaning he can't "bear" to be fully conscious during the act) and the financial crisis caused by people like Dallas and Adam which wrecked the markets in 2008 and now mean that people like Mike can't get legitimate help because banks can't take a risk and the ones who did that, like Lehmann Brothers, stole from America and from the American Dream.
Mike had Joanna come over for an evening of casual sex and now they are chatting about Joanna finishing her psychology degree and in six weeks she will finally "get paid for it" instead of just studying and offering free advice to people. In some ways, I think we have to see Joanna as a fulfillment of the American Dream because she's getting what she originally went after whereas Mike Lane is still "chasing his dream down the lane" because the times are distressed. When Mike later sees Joanna with her fiancee that he didn't know about, he's shocked, but that symbolizes this very thing, that Joanna has "wedded" herself to a path/lane in life and Mike realizes how he hasn't been able to.
What about Brooke?
Brooke is a nurse's assistant, so she types all the nurses' paperwork for them...; now, we all have to have a job and means of supporting ourselves, so please do not take this in the wrong way, especially for those who are nurses' assistants but that would be an example of a boring, non-individuating job that is the American nightmare, the kind of job like, as Mike says, you do in order to raise money so you can do what you want to do.
Brooke has come to the club to see if Adam is really stripping. Watching her brother strip in front of sex-crazed women, she's obviously disturbed by what she sees, and she should be: remember Michael Fassbender's character in Shame? This is the same situation. What Fassbender's character does to the women in the film, he also does to his sister, because whatever any man does to a woman, he does to his sister because men are meant to respect and protect women because if they don't, they don't respect and protect themselves (like Adam in Magic Mike). Likewise, the women screaming for Adam to take off his clothes might as well be screaming for their own brother to take off his clothes because it's the same thing. We must start genuinely loving and caring for each other, or the animal appetites and passions will continue to dominate us; the consequences: Animals don't love or respect themselves and that's exactly where we, as a culture, are headed.
Before we close, there is one last character I would like to invoke in the film: David. Just as we see "Adam" in both Magic Mike and Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, in both films that character symbolizes Adam Smith who wrote the capitalist textbook The Wealth Of Nations; also in both films is Adam Smith's more important, morality work The Theory of Moral Sentiments  not invoked but necessary to making capitalism a healthy and truly productive system for societal economic sustainability (please see Radical Socialism: Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter & the Question Of American History). In the club where Mike dances, there is a statue of Michelangelo's David in gold, looking on the scene just as there is a David in Prometheus (Michael Fassbender who plays the android David to this statue David in Magic Mike). I couldn't find a photo of the statue, but here's a clip and the statue is in the background:
Why include that?
First, it reminds me of the 1960 Frederico Fellini film La Dolce Vita when Sylvia is seductively dancing (like the men's strip tease in Magic Mike) with that actor who has gotten the crazy hair cut (making him look like the pagan god Pan) while a giant statue of Constantine's head sits on the ground behind them, watching.  Creating the link with the Fellini classic correlates Magic Mike's lifestyle to that of Marcello Rubini (Marcello Mastroianni) and the exhaustion of that lifestyle. But throughout some scenes in Magic Mike, they have placed a golden fig leaf over David's groin. Why? To undermine the "man after God's own heart," which David was and to make a point of David's holiness so the unholiness of the sexual lifestyle being bought and sold in the club will stand out against the gold of the statue like the black sin it is (for a more thorough analysis of David, please see 3 Davids, 3 Theologies: Donatello, Michelangelo & Bernini).
Adam lost about $10,000 worth of drugs that Mike pays for so Adam won't get killed by drug dealers and while Adam says thank you and promises to pay it back to him, but then launches into about what a great time he's having getting all the drugs and sex and money he wants while Mike listens to him and hears the reason why he's had to give up his capital (like those who lost so much in the Wall Street bail out) to save this guy who has no remorse about what he's done and doesn't seem to have learned a lesson. This brings us to a good place to discuss Adam's two tattoos: the phrase, "What goes around comes around" and the cross over his right pectoral muscle. By the end of the film, Adam hasn't gotten what is going around to come back and get him, but we know it will. Then there is the cross he has on him, meaning that Adam knows just as Adam in the Garden of Eden (and David) were types of Christ, he's meant to be a type of Christ himself and he's not doing that!
While Magic Mike was very explicit, what they did they did very well; what Magic Mike does differently from other films currently is to offer a serious and constructive critique of capitalism and how we as a society have been implementing the principles perversely and for the wrong reasons, which is the reason why we are in the mess we are in, not because of capitalism, rather, because we have been bad capitalists. Unless we change our ways--in more ways than one--that breakfast food place is never going to open, there's just going to be the ongoing night that never ends. Right now, however, there is that hope of the dark night of the trial ending and the new dawn when we finally get to "break our fast" from being so frugal and get back to comfortable levels of capitalism.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner
So why do they dress as firemen, soldiers, cops, and then strip? Because the men in those professions are the types of men that the strippers should be but aren't. As pictured above, the men who sacrifice for this country by giving their lives to defend their country, and then these guys are just out for money, women and a good time; who do you think respects themselves, the soldiers or the strippers? This is a much needed critique of masculinity falling in line with films such as Shame, Wrath Of the Titans, Safe, This Means War and The Cabin In the Woods (among many others). Regardless of the demand for strippers (male or female) and regardless of the supply of strippers, no one should do this to themselves or some one else.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Trailers: Dredd, Taken 2, Hotel Transylvania, Anna Karenina

So, is Magic Mike, opening this weekend, really about male strippers and the entrepenurial spirit in America? I think it's stripping American institutions and undermining traditional values; great director Steven Soderbergh is taking this topic on for a reason and I expect he's doing it to "expose" something he doesn't like. While I am female, I am not looking forward to this, although I respect Channing Tatum who I believe to be a fine actor that takes his craft seriously and wants nothing but to improve and make films that matter, I am confident we are on opposite sides of the spectrum in every issue.
So many reader comments!
Thank you so much for asking your questions & sharing your observations! It does, however, take me a bit longer to respond than for you to leave your comments, so please be patient, I am trying to get to everyone as quickly as possible! I have plans to see Brave and Seeking A Friend For the End of the World but we know what happens when I say I am going to do something: it doesn't happen. BUT... if you are on Pinterest, or have thought of doing so, I have added 100 new boards to The Fine Art Diner so please check them out by clicking on the Pinterest button on the right-hand column; if you don't have a Pinterest account, I would be happy to send you an invitation!
I finally get to see Wes Anderson's newest film, Moonrise Kingdom, so between Magic Mike and this and People Like Us, I don't know if I will be getting to see Ted this weekend; that's not to say it isn't important, there is only so much time and things always come up. If I don't get to it this weekend, I will next week!
Lots of new films out on DVD/Blu-Ray this week, including The Artist, which won best picture (my review BANG! The Artist & the New Agenda In Film) Mirror, Mirror (The Peacock vs the Swan: Mirror, Mirror) Wrath Of the Titans (Wrath Of the Titans: Transcending Political Chaos) 21 Jump Street (21 Jump Street: Covalent Bonding)  and A Thousand Words. I did see A Thousand Words with Eddie Murphy and I thought it was a much better film than the critics did, but I didn't have time to get a review up for it. It's well done but, as you can imagine, there is prolific profanity; while no nudity, there is a sexual scene but it would be worth a Redbox rental if you are even vaguely interested. By the way, we won't have to wait as long as I thought: Jeremy Renner's newest film, The Bourne Legacy, opens August 10 (I thought it was originally opening in September, but they moved it up, then moved it back so Dark Knight Rises can have an extra week of no competition viewing). 
To the newest trailers being released, Dredd, starring Karl Urban (Lord Of the Rings) and Lena Headey (300) opens September 21:
A reader and I got into a bit of an argument about The Raid: Redemption, which takes place in the Philippines and I interpreted it as a Muslim-jihad film; the reader said that if the film was remade in the US, it would be a pro-Christian film with the Christians taking over the world and I said, no, it would be a class against class film. Well, I might be wrong, but Dredd is that remake of The Raid: a group of law enforcers going into a building controleled by a drug dealer and they have to fight their way to justice. Right now, this film looks like an anti-Washington film to me, that our government has led us into a post-apocalyptic world and the government has been selling a drug to make people see reality differently than what it is, but tailers can be mis-leading. Opening in October is Liam Neeson's Taken 2: in the first one (which I didn't see) he had to save his daughter; I don't think it's an accident that it takes place in Istanbul.
Another film about someone "taking a daughter away," is Adam Sandler's Hotel Translyvania (opening in September) which has a new trailer: the Count operates a high "stakes" resort for monsters only to protect his teenage daughter; when a human shows up and falls for his daughter, he tries to keep them apart (this almost sounds like the opposite of Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter). What's important is that children symbolize the future, so Dracula, being an investor-type, is probably going to be a mockery of Republicans who don't want to wed the future to an "alien" (the human). It's important that the girl mentions she's 118 years old; what happened 118 years ago that "gave birth" to a little ghoul? Well, in 1894 a lot of things were going on, and that will be the basis for a historical interpretation of the film:
In a similar "vein," (I don't know why I am attempting so many puns today), is Alex Cross, due out in October (just before elections)  that  I see to be the exact opposite of Taken 2 (above): the wife asks how her husband how he is going to get her "to leave Detroit," and since President Obama is taking credit for "keeping Detroit alive," we might interpret Alex Cross to be Obama with the crazy white guy serial killer being Republicans crazed to get Obama out of office and "torturing and mutilating" what Obama has done (or, hasn't done, to some of us):
Likewise, Russia might be the new metaphor for capitalistic America: Anna Karenina might be a romantic tragedy about a young America "falling in love" with socialism and wanting to "break free" of the loveless capitalism America married when we were such a young country (but who knows with trailers):
That's the newest trailers for now, but I am trying to get back to the theater to see both Brave and Seeking A Friend For the End Of the World and will get those posts up ASAP!
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Monday, June 25, 2012

Radical Socialism: Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter & the Question Of American History

Much to my great disappointment, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter is a thoroughly socialist film, even more so than the book was. Harnessing any anti-capitalist resentment, the film seeks to make the audience identify with slaves and identify our employers with vampires. What the film does and does not do are very important in this election year, so let's carefully examine the basis of the socialist vocabulary and how they are re-writing American history to make their point. First, how do we know this is a socialist/anti-capitalist film?
This post builds on an earlier post reviewing the book upon which the film is based, What Is 'Freedom?': Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter and I see the film as being even more socialist than the book. I am so deeply disappointed, there was so much hope that this could have been a great film that my heart is really broken. If I lapse into angry observations, please forgive me, but this is a particularly emotional review for me to have to do and I hope I never have to do a similar one. As stated in the book review, I am completely willing to suspend my disbelief about vampires--they are an important artistic tool and I have given great attention to them on this blog, beginning with an interpretation of Bram Stoker's novel, For the Dead Travel Fast: Dracula and how very important they have been to expressing social ills.
To begin with, the very first vampire we see (and we know he is because it's decades before the Civil War and this man wears dark sunglasses so they are out of place for the time period) is beating a young black slave Will (Anthony Mackie) who will become Abraham Lincoln's (Benjamin Walker) main assistant in bringing down vampires and we are to see President Obama in Will Johnson's person. The first vampire is a slave holder and it's this relationship of  "oppression" and "freedom" which the entire film depends and basis its interpretation of history upon.
Lincoln at the tombstone of his mother, Nancy Hanks who died in 1818; her marker reads, "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God" and this is an attempt to make Christians believe that capitalists cannot be Christians because Judas selling Christ for 30 pieces of silver was a capitalist transaction.... Socialists, however, can only see things in material terms, not spiritual ones, so I could write an entire post just on this one point, but it's a way of confusing people about who will give them freedom of religion, the capitalists who let you worship freely, or the socialists who will "free" you from religion. While Lincoln's mother did die in 1818, did anything else happen then? Karl Marx, the "father" of socialism was born and Lincoln being "born" into vampire hunting and the "culture" of vampires is deliberately meant to tie the two of them together. The opening quote from Genesis 17:5 is God calling Abraham the Patriarch to be the father of a multitude, and Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter is saying that Abraham Lincoln is the father of socialism in America and we are his descendants just like in the George Clooney film, The Descendants. Barts is owed money by Abraham's father and when he refuses to pay Barts what he owes him, Barts says, "There are other ways to collect a debt." The linking of a debt to vampires and capitalism is interesting since it's Obama who has run up the debt so much in America and this suggests that Obama should, like Abraham's father, default on the debt because it's a purely capitalistic, hence, corrupt institution. Mrs. Lincoln dies because Barts drains her of her blood and the film suggests that its paying the debt that is killing America, not the money spent that is killing the economy.
Secondly, there is no one who is poor that is also a vampire, the poor are always the victims of the vampires, especially the slaves, whom the film makers want the audience to identify with (if some of the poor were also vampires, we could take "vampirism" to be a social malaise, or corrupt politicians, or any thing else, but because it's only the rich and powerful who are vampires, it specifically targets the "rich and powerful" in America which Obama himself does).
I believe this is the banker vampire that Henry (Dominic Cooper) has Abraham kill. Please note the mouth; it seems ridiculous to ask you to notice the mouth of a vampire, because we generally know a vampire by two things, their eyes (blackened or red, something "unnatural" showing that the soul has been thoroughly corrupted) and then their mouths, which have the extended teeth for puncturing the skin of victims and opening the veins to get to the blood. In this context, however, the mouth symbolizes the appetites for luxury goods and wealth; this is juxtaposed to the glamorous world of Mary Todd  (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) that Lincoln is too poor to enter into and the wealth of the vampire slaveholders (more on her and her standing on the that below).
Thirdly, Lincoln, after he has killed many vampires, writes in his journal, "Pharmacists, innkeepers, parsons and blacksmiths, it's more than one man can bear," referring to the occupations in which the vampires were employed when Lincoln killed them. Anyone, including Joshua Speed (Jimmi Simpson) who employs even one person, is a vampire, not just the "1%" that Occupy Wall Street movements claimed they were targeting, the billionaires. That's how the film is even more radical than anything we have seen heretofore, because that's more like the Bolshevik October Revolution that transformed Russia into the Soviet Union, rather than the French Revolution which did away with the upper class. 
Lincoln and Henry in a bar. Why can't a vampire kill another vampire? The film makes it out to be God's joke, that only the living can kill the dead, meaning that only those who believe in socialism are alive and can kill capitalists, because capitalists stick together, like we saw in Madagascar 3 when Vitaly the tiger calls abandoning Alex the lion "Bolshevik," because two capitalists trying to destroy each other would burn through their money to do it, hence, not being capitalists anymore but the poor.... I didn't make the movie.
But the smallest business people are being targeted as vampires, people who might not even think of themselves as "being in business," but in another field, such as a pharmacist, who would probably consider himself in the medical field; because of Obamacare, however, the pharmacist is not a pharmacist, the pharmacist is a vampire capitalist feeding off of people instead of helping to make them better. Similarly, the parson, a church leader, because of the infamous phrase of "religion being the opium of the masses," is "selling" opium to the people and making a vampiric living off his congregation because socialism is the only "truth" and there is no God in socialism, only the state.
This shot depicts the moment when Adam kills Henry's wife and then turns Henry into a vampire. Please note the road behind him and the carriage on the side of the road as these are the important symbols to understanding the "socialist interpretation" of American history. This is an important scene because Adam tells Henry what it means to be a vampire and specifically thet silver destroys a vampire because Judas received 30 pieces of silver for betraying Jesus to the Jews. Christians have a very definite theology in understanding that "transaction," specifically going back to the Old Testament and Joseph being sold by his brothers for 20 pieces of silver. But more importantly--and validating the referece to Adam as Adam Smith--is the reference to another economic theory being "fed" to the audience in this scene: The Judas Economy: The Triumph Of Capital & the Betrayal of Work by William Wolman and Anne Colamosca. Wolman is the chief economist for Business Week.
The fourth and last reason I am going to discuss about identifying the film as anti-capitalist and pro-socialist is Adam (Rufus Sewell), the vampire from whom all the others were made. No, he doesn't refer to that Adam of the Garden of Eden, although the film attempts to lay a Christian foundation we will discuss more below, rather, Adam the vampire is really, . . .  Adam Smith author of The Wealth Of Nations, the classic economics textbook which lays out the foundations of successful free markets and capitalism and makes the case that these two elements are more beneficial for societies and individuals. "Adam, from whom all others come," as Henry says, is Adam Smith who created all other capitalists, specifically in America.
Adam with the blood of both Henry and his wife upon his face. The pale skin, the bursting veins and bloodshot, glassy eyes (not particularly evident in this shot, but they are in the film) are all traits of capitalism. Pale skin because it resembles a corpse because capitalism is a "dead" economic theory that has to be kept alive artificially (the blood of others). The veins are bursting because it's being swollen with the new blood and that is also an artificial state of being, our natural veins never pop like that. The eyes being glassy and bloodshot is symbolic of how capitalists see things: everything is dead to capitalists (like slaves who "aren't real people but slaves") but the blood that keeps vampires going is what they "look for" (see with the eye of opportunity).
Adam is an imperative character in the film because he's the figure, more so than Abraham Lincoln, that begs for an interpretation and understanding. When Henry describes how he himself was turned into a vampire, he was on the road with his wife and their carriage stops and she says that just because the carriage has stopped doesn't mean that they need to, but Henry wants to kiss her so they stop just as Henry sees a group riding up on the road towards them (he probably doesn't realize they are vampires at this time) and Henry tells his wife to take a gun and the carriage and get out of there, he is going to stay to fight off the potential attackers. As Henry becomes overwhelmed by the vampires, however, his wife has turned back to help Henry and Adam drains her of blood after turning Henry into a vampire. What does it all mean?
This is the abandoned Atlanta plantation in which Adam and his sister Vadoma. First, they are at the bottom of the staircase, and a staircase always symbolizes an ability to "rise to a higher level" and that is meant in terms of spiritual contemplation and self-reflection. That Adam and Vadoma sit at the bottom of the stairs shows they are intent at remaining "at the bottom," that is, the region of the appetites, not the region of greater thought and virtue. What Vadoma symbolizes will be discussed below, but what her name means is very interesting and a real slap to capitalists. Vadoma refers to a tribe in Zimbabwe in Africa, and they have a particular defect in their gene pool resulting in "claw feet" because of deformity of the toes. Interestingly, this makes it easier for those with the clawed feet to climb trees; how does this fit in? The climbing of the social ladder that capitalism symbolizes and makes desirable.
The road Henry and his wife were on is the road of destiny, the "path of life." Henry symbolizes early Americans and his wife symbolizes early America (just as immigrants came to America to a new life, a woman's body gives "new life" because she can give birth). The carriage "stopping" is the engine of the economy and the vehicle of what makes the country "run" (as in work and produce). She says that just because the carriage has stopped doesn't mean that we have to, and that is a reference to us today, that the economy has stopped but she wants to continue on with capitalism (please remember a similar instance in the socialist film The Descendants when Elizabeth is in a coma because she "stopped" so the country has to switch from a capitalist system to a socialist one, because capitalism doesn't work anymore; the film reasons, although it's not reason to me). The vampires coming are capitalists, and turning Henry into a capitalist (i.e., a vampire) is turning the population of America into capitalists.
This is just after the "ball" Adam throws to get Lincoln to come and save Will, being held by bounty hunters in the background, Adam wants to see how good Abraham is at vampire hunting to turn Abraham against Henry and have Abraham kill Henry instead of Adam. What saves Abraham and Will in this scene is Joshua driving a carriage through the window so they can escape, symbolically, the window is "reflection" and the carriage is the economy so the economic crash of today (2008) is the reflection that we the viewers need of save the father of socialism in America from the capitalists.
After draining Henry's wife, Adam tells him that she was pure, but Henry isn't. America was a pure land, in other words, a land that didn't have an economic system all ready in place, but Henry's impurity, his own capitalist tendencies (wanting to stop with his wife and kiss her is being linked to "taking advantage" of the abundance of America for Henry's own gain and greed) is what makes Henry a blood-sucking vampire regardless of whether Adam turned him into one or not. The irony is, Henry tells Abraham that he is not the only one who has "lost everything to vampires"; the emphasis is on what Americans have lost, not on what we have gained from being capitalists.
Vadoma using her cape as a weapon because she's going to try and "blind" Abraham with luxury and wealthy living as she will later kill Abraham's son with the bite of living in the White House.
Let's take a minute to examine Vadoma. As the beautiful sister of Adam, she symbolizes glamor because she is a dead woman that cannot give life (like Henry's wife or Mary Todd). In the scene pictured just above, she is using a cloak or cape with which to "blind" Abraham so he can't see her and she can defeat him; according to socialists, and I agree with this to a degree, the glamor of material wealth is deadly, it can kill people and that's why Vadoma is the one who kills Abraham's son, little Willie: Willie, even at his tender young age, according to the film, has been "bitten" by the luxury of life in the White House and so he's all ready dead. In the scene taking place above, Vadoma uses her skills to try and blind Abraham but he won't be blinded by wealth and fancy living. Vadoma wears purple, the color traditionally associated with a harlot or whore because purple was the most expensive dye for clothing to produce and only the very, very rich could afford it, suggesting that they had prostituted themselves to worldly living to have luxury goods.
Vadoma has won the fight and has pinned Abraham to the floor, giving him the choice of killing Henry or Adam will turn Abraham into a vampire and spoon feed the blood of Will to him for his first meal. What does this mean? Voters today are being "pinned" by the Republicans to kill the rich-socialists (like producer Tim Burton, writer Seth Grahame-Smith and director Timur, Obama backers Oprah Winfrey and other rich contributors) because if they don't the capitalists will destroy Obama (Will Johnson) and feed his blood to the voters... okay. It is a scenario for voters to overthrow the president and his "group" and willingly enter into "capitalist slavery" and, like the vampires, live off the blood of others.
What about Mary Todd? The film makes it clear that she is from the upper-class by the way she dresses and her family's means; when we see her in the White House, however, she is wearing a far, simpler, less ornate dress than when she was younger; why? Other critics have complained about a scene that doesn't make sense to them, but it makes perfect sense to me, in as far as socialist logic can be logic. Mary wants to kiss Abraham but he's too tall so she removes his top hat and stands upon it, lifting her up to kiss him. The hat symbolizes his thoughts (because it's apart of the head, the governing part of the body) and Mary uses his ideals to "lift herself up" to be worthy of him, meaning, she abandons her class and social standing to be a socialist.
The moment of the Gettysburg address is really turned upside-down to become a socialist platform. As I stated in the beginning, the film wants the viewers to identify with the slaves because anyone who works for an employer is "enslaved" to them just as the blacks were enslaved to the Southern plantation owners. Again, anyone employing even one person is a vampire, whether that be a babysitter, the person who mows the lawn or a 100 people to run your own company, you are a vampire living off their blood which symbolizes their labor. In the film, the Gettysburg address isn't about those who died on the battlefield, but about Americans today who have left the work to do in over throwing the economy and turning America into a socialist society instead of a capitalist one.
There are two balls held, one by Mary and the other Adam. Abraham complains about going in a rented shop keeper's suit to Mary's ball, and talks about the two of them bettering themselves, her by a marriage to a successful husband, and Abraham by studying the law (it's clear in the Todd ball that Abraham is uncomfortable there) then Abraham goes to Adam's ball where there are slaves dancing with vampires who then suddenly transform and feed on the slaves. The balls are intentionally meant to mirror each other that everyone at the Todd ball is feeding off the less affluent like Abraham; his "rented suit" symbolizes that he doesn't believe in the identity of capitalism (being a shopkeeper) but he has to. This brings us to the shopkeeper, Joshua Speed.
Why do Abraham and Will escape death by the hands of a vampire, but Joshua does not? He's a shopkeeper and hence, like Henry, isn't pure. When Will returns north and comes to see Abraham at the shop, Abraham is leaving to help Will get papers he needs since he is an escaped slave and Joshua makes the comment that the store won't run itself; this is the reason why Joshua gets bitten by Adam, because Joshua is "all ready bitten" by running a business and turning a profit. The great irony is, Adam Smith's other work was The Theory of Moral Sentiments, tells us that we have to be interested in the welfare of others or our self-interests won't prosper. In other words, if Joshua was really a good capitalist, instead of a lazy, mediocre one, he would be interested in Will's predicament and that would actually benefit Joshua just as letting Abraham room with him is to Joshua's benefit. If we were better capitalists, in still other words, then socialists, like vampires, wouldn't be able to show their face in the light of day because there would be no one to listen to their complaints; it's because we have been such bad capitalists that we are now at risk for becoming socialists and the answer to our problems, ironically, is to more fully embrace capitalism the way it was meant to be practiced (as is evidenced by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) in The Avengers
The bridge burning scene where Henry uses his body to save Abraham and Will, in other words, the burning bridge between capitalism and socialism will have to be paved with the bodies of the rich and vampires in order for the poor and virtuous to make it to safety.
There are important questions being asked of voters this November: what is "freedom," "oppression," and the very history of the United States? The film states, on the one hand, that it was vampires who came to the New World and through conquest and disease, destroyed the natives who lived here; then, when Lincoln talks, he brings up issues "upon which this country was founded" which includes the very principles that he is trying to eradicate (capitalism). Either the country was founded to be a socialist state, or it was founded to be a capitalist one, and there is simply no evidence, either in history or provided by the film, that America was intended to be a socialist country, but it still wants you to believe that. Never has America been so ignorant of its past and never has it matter so much.
We have to ask ourselves this question: did our ancestors come to this country to establish a socialist state? They could have. They easily could have, by determining local laws and their customs, they could have made us a socialist state superior to any other model. So why didn't they? Because they never had any intentions of doing so! You hear about the Whiskey Rebellion, but you don't hear about entitlement rebellions, do you? Where are those early socialists the Left wants you to believe existed? The Left, once again, just like in The Hunger Games, is taking cheap shots at capitalism but it can't show audiences a viable, pleasing socialist state because it doesn't exist; they have to take capitalist and Republican heroes like Abraham Lincoln and turn him into one of theirs because who else are they going to show to Americans as a socialist hero, Fidel Castro? Mao? Lenin? Hitler? Mussolini? Stalin? Kim Jong-II? Pol Pot?
The film encapsulates all the problems of socialism itself and primarily by mis-using words and re-writing American history in a way that it simply didn't happen. The political debates are getting nowhere, mainly because Republicans haven't understood the crazy use of Democrat language: what a Democrat means by freedom isn't what a Republican means by freedom, but understanding films such as this one helps us to see illustrated the agenda and the purpose of the socialists so we can better our aim in those debates and expose the rhetoric for what it really is: a October styled revolution. The "vampire hunt" the socialists are on today for capitalists is a total reversal of the "witch hunt" of the McCarthy era looking for socialists; have we learned anything from history? Eat Your Art Out, The Fine Art Diner

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Pop Quiz: Delta Rae 'Bottom Of the River' & Internal Contradictions

(This is an old post; the complete and thorough interpretation of the song is here at Witch Hunts & Sacraments: Delta Rae' s Bottom Of the River so please visit this link for a complete exploration of the symbols!).
I am about to go into cardiac arrest writing the review for Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, I am so angry about it. I hate it when you take the time to visit the site and I don't have anything new up, so here is a pop quiz to test your skills of analysis (if we don't do this once in a while, you won't realize how good you are becoming on your own!). Please remember, there are no right or wrong answers. Please watch this once, and don't worry about "noting anything," your first impressions are going to be really important; then, watch it again to start analyzing. I have listed questions below to help you and the lyrics are below that! This is Delta Rae's, Bottom Of the River:
I would LOVE for you to post your comments and questions in the comment forum at the bottom of the post, and maybe a brave soul will go first and start off the discussion with their own observations, but here are some questions to get you started: 1). Is there anything the song/video reminds you of in general? Are there specific things  in the song/video that remind you of something? (Please remember, art does this to form connections with "other art" that it knows it's audience is familiar with to increase the level of engagement we can have with it). Is there anything specifically being invoked by the song/video? What is it and why?
Analyze the costumes, because clothing is the person in a work of art, so the more you can understand about the costume, the more you can understand the character.
2). What time period is this taking place in? Why is this in the location where it is instead of New York or Ohio or the mountains? What is it that signals us to understand where this is taking place? How do costumes contribute to this? Are there contradictions, things that don't seem to belong together? Why would they do this, how can this have significance? How does the location--if at all--contribute to the feeling and mood of the song and, hence, our interpretation of it? 3). What are the weird, out of place, unusual aspects of the song/video? How can those be tied in with answers to the questions above?
What elements are being introduced at the very end of the video that we haven't seen before, and how does this contribute to our understanding of the song and, if at all, alter what we thought was going to happen at the beginning of the video?
4). Do you notice any symbols/acts we have discussed in other posts (okay, here's a hint: what is she doing when we first see the lead singer? She's sitting in front of a mirror, but not really looking into it, so she's "not reflecting" even though the opportunity is right there before her; is that good or bad? She's brushing her hair; what does hair symbolize? Thoughts [I am giving you way more than I should, but this is the first pop quiz, so it's okay] and the combing of the hair suggests a "disciplining" of the thoughts; is that what she's doing or not, and why do you say that?)
The band's album, Carry the Fire.
5). What is missing from the song/video? Okay, two more hints, first: instruments. It sounds like a capella, and where have we just seen this? The trailer for Pitch Perfect so why was a conscious choice made in Bottom Of the River to not use instruments and does that, in a larger cultural context, have any significance when being compared to the trailer for Pitch Perfect which is at this link (the first trailer)? What is something else missing? Light. The video is taking place at night, how--if at all--you think that is significant? What are the sources of light and what meaning does that have? PLEASE, HAVE FUN WITH THIS, THAT'S WHAT IT'S MEANT FOR! (Again, this is an old post; the complete and thorough interpretation of the song I did after posting this "pop quiz" is here at Witch Hunts & Sacraments: Delta Rae' s Bottom Of the River so please visit this link for a complete exploration of the symbols!).
Delta Rae; you can get a free copy of the song by visiting their website! If you click on the title section of the video above, it will take you to the YouTube site where I downloaded it and all their other addresses are there as well as discussion from other video viewers!
Bottom of the River Hold my handOoh, baby, it’s a long way down to the bottom of the riverHold my hand,Ooh, baby, it’s a long way down, a long way downIf you get sleep or if you get noneThe cock’s gonna call in the morning, babyCheck the cupboard for your daddy’s gunRed sun rises like an early warningThe Lord’s gonna come for your first born sonHis hair’s on fire and his heart is burningGo to the river where the water runsWash him deep where the tides are turningAnd if you fallHold my handOoh, baby, it’s a long way down to the bottom of the riverHold my hand,Ooh, baby, it’s a long way down, a long way downThe wolves will chase you by the pale moonlightDrunk and driven by a devil’s hungerDrive your son like a railroad spikeInto the water, let it pull him underDon’t you lift him, let him drown aliveThe good Lord speaks like a rolling thunderLet that fever make the water riseAnd let the river run dryAnd I saidHold my handOoh, baby, it’s a long way down to the bottom of the riverHold my hand,Ooh, baby, it’s a long way down, a long way down

Friday, June 22, 2012

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter: Pure Socialism

Dear readers,
Many of you will remember that when the first trailers were released, I thought it a new low in film making (like Frankenstein Meets the Werewolf, or Predator vs Alien); then I hoped it would be great, and I completely got behind it, thinking of the legacy of Republican president Abraham Lincoln, and how he started out from nothing, rose up in true fashion of the American Dream, then defended those who didn't have the same freedom to rise up that he did, and he would fight the "blood sucking politicians" that would be symbolized in the vampires and it would be a call for Americans to rise up, take our government back and remember our real roots and heritage, rallying around a great American hero and defender of what has always been the definition of "Freedom" in this country...
Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter is 100% pure socialism. I want it to be a great capitalist film desperately, but it is completely socialist propaganda. I ask you, fellow capitalists, not to go see this film and feed the socialist machine, don't give them the wealth they criticize us for seeking. I am working on the post, it might be shorter than usual so I can get it up quicker...
What a lousy anniversary present...

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!

Dear Readers,
On this day a year ago, I decided to stick with this blog and it's because of so many wonderful, kind and generous readers sharing posts and making the labor of love so worthwhile. I hope, in some small way, that I have been able to help you in your love of film, art, books, music, even the occasional commercial that aspires to be something greater than mere advertising. I can honestly say that I have learned a great deal, not only from sitting down and making myself articulate thoughts which would otherwise remain in darkness, but from your questions and your interpretations! With all my heart, thank you so very much for your continued support of this blog, especially when life intervenes and I haven't been able to get a post up. Today, I am going to see both Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Brave; I will be putting up a quick post on both to let you know my initial reactions!
Again, with all my heart, thank you for making this a wonderful year!
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Tongues: Rock Of Ages

Why did Rock Of Ages fail this weekend at the box office?
I think there are two reasons: one, the moral is so "on the fence," that no one buys it (again, like Wrath Of the Titans, if Rock Of Ages had been released two years ago, it would be more relevant but no one buys the message now). Secondly, the generation for whom it was made didn't like musicals, the very nature of the Rock 'n Roll they listened to growing up and so fondly remember created within them a sarcasm and cynicism towards the kind of  "expression" the film utilizes as its vehicle.
"So start drinking,... now," says Dennis (Alec Baldwin) and then, looking at his watch, Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) tells the interviewer, "...Now..." Why? Rock Of Ages takes place in 1987, a very specific year, and the specificity of the historical moment is being invoked because of the context of 1987 making everything from the moment one starts drinking to the exact beginning of an interview somehow epic, because in its own way, 1987 was epic.
Everyone tends to think that the greatest music ever made--or at least their favorite music--was the music popular at the time they were a teenager: that's the time in our lives when we need expression for our emotions, fears, hopes, dreams and pain, and the music we embrace when we are going through those toughest years is usually music to which we stay loyal. Most of the songs in Rock Of Ages were out just before I got into high school (I was a teenager when Alternative was mainstream) so the generation this film wants to reach is the late thirties to late forties.
Dennis (Alec Baldwin) and Lonnie (Russell Brand) run the Bourbon Room together and we discover towards the end of the film that they are gay and in love with each other (when they themselves discover it). The film takes place in 1987; that was the first year that a drug had been approved for the treatment of the plague of the 1980's, AIDS; this was the year that a second gay pride march took place on Washington. It's no longer trendy to have a same-sex kiss in a film, but apparently a necessity. This feeds into the blurring of gender realities (discussed more thoroughly below) which is such a liberal political platform today.
Why? 
Perhaps it's because they are the ones most likely to be leaning in the liberal-independent political camp: we can say the film is liberal because of the lifestyle (specifically gay and sexually promiscuous) of the characters but it's also a capitalist film because even while it shows the hardships of working and failing within a capitalist society, it also shows the rewards for the individuals and the fruits for society. Why would this be important in this election year? Liberals/democrats all seem to think they have to be pro-socialist in order to have their entitlements and lifestyles gain political acceptability; Rock Of Ages, however, puts forth that you can still be a "liberal" without being a socialist and that is an important political message which has obviously gone unnoticed (it doesn't contain some of the messages I was hoping for but it wasn't as cruel to religion as it could have been).
 
Jeans were really important in the 1980's: how many holes you had and where those holes were contributed to your ultimate fashion statement. Please note Lonnie's jeans and how they appear to be disintegrating on his legs. Legs symbolize our "standing" in society, our social class, our psychological identities and cultural projection of who and what we want others to understand about our existence. Given this, the tears in Lonnie's jeans when we first meet him, could refer simultaneously to two things: one, his heterosexual mask is wearing off (the disintegrating jeans) or two, his identity with Rock 'n Roll because rock is fading in importance and, so, too are his jeans.
The expressions of Rock 'n Roll, as I mentioned, is what I would like to suggest undermines that generation from being able to accept a "musical" from being capable of giving expression; why? A musical is even more encoded than a regular film. For example, a film is a story, so it relies upon symbols and structure in order to communicate an embedded meaning; when you add a song, then the song brings with it its own set of embedded messages and when it's a musical, there are embedded messages within embedded messages within embedded messages. What's the point?
Dennis, owner of the Bourbon Room, hasn't paid taxes in a year and he can't make money from performers in the Bourbon Room; why? Agents like Paul Gil (Paul Giamatti) squeeze every cent out of their stars' performances, but things get turned around by the end of the film, a typical and necessary critique of capitalism that always needs to happen.
There was a dehumanization which was still taking place from the 1950s--the Cold War still wasn't quite over yet, but almost, nearly over--so we can say that the reason why that generation "loved Rock 'n Roll" was because it released hatred for the Soviet Union constantly posing a threat to their existence; then, when Alternative came out (mainstream), the Cold War was over and, not having an external enemy any longer, we turned our hatred and fear inwards, to the inner war of our existence (I don't have space allotted to elaborate upon this now, but you might want to check out Under the Bridge: the Red Hot Chili Peppers & Film Noir, since the song came out in 1992 and Rock Of Ages takes place in 1987, they are close enough but Under the Bridge provides a soundboard for what had changed in those years) .
The two main characters, Sherri Christian and Drew Boley, when they first meet. Sherri has just gotten off the bus from Tulsa, Oklahoma and her suitcase with all her rock records was stolen; Drew ran to help her but was too late. Behind them are the protesters against the Bourbon Room and Drew has offered to help Sherri get a job in there where he himself works.
Rock n' Roll was a rebellious movement, a movement against something else, exterior to the listeners (this changes after the fall of Communism and the embracing of Alternative by the mainstream). What rock rebelled against, the angst and turmoil of life generally caused by the Cold War (and I know this is arguable but I can back this up!) is, in Rock Of Ages, being used against some pitiful church ladies now, and that's a sign rock has lost it's power. Please note that the name of Stacee Jaxx's band is named Arsenal, i.e., weapons, and rock was the weapon against (cultural) Communism just as the military was a weapon against (militant) Communism.
Where's a suitable foe now?
What the film does do successfully is both critique and defend capitalism. Sherri broke up with Drew and quit her job at the Bourbon Room; unable to find a job somewhere else, she became a waitress in a strip bar. Tired of the little money and being groped by the men, Justice (Mary J. Blige) tells her that if she wants respect she has to "take that state, because when you're up there, you're untouchable," but that stage isn't the rock stage, it's the stage for strippers. Again, this is a fair critique of capitalism, because we've all had to do things we didn't want to do en route to making our dreams come true; the point Rock Of Ages makes is that capitalism, with all of its faults, provides the chances for our dreams to come true, and it's not just the big-money agents running the show but, ultimately, it's the consumers, us.
This is part of the failure of the film, to provide a worthy adversary, it doesn't make Republicans out to be the enemy (Mayor and Patty Whitmore are political but it doesn't say to which party they belong) and Democrats/Obama is not made out to be an enemy; so where is the rebellion in "rebel" Rock 'n Roll? There is none, it's just a watered-down status quo. Again, like Wrath Of the Titans that was a good film (just came out too late) Rock Of Ages doesn't make enough of a stand to be important, to inspire that solidarity today that rock did then when there was a common, real and worthy enemy: Communism. Now that we have gotten that out of the way, on to what I really want to discuss: tongues.
When we first see a picture of Stacee Jaxx in the film, it's a poster and he's wearing a silver cock piece of a satanic head with a very long, red tongue sticking out of its mouth, and Stacee's own tongue sticking out as well. In the video excerpt below when Patty (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is rallying some Catholic church women to her political cause, a poster of Stacee Jaxx has been placed over the altar as the anti-Christ; at about 0:26 into the video, there is a shot of the famous poster:
Then, Lonnie is relating to Dennis how Stacee failed to show up for a concert because he was at a seance trying to get the devil to sew up a woman's vagina (which, Lonnie points out, doesn't make sense, why would the devil want to sew up a vagina? and I have to agree with him) but we also see Stacee talking about the voices he hears. Later in the film, when Constance Sack (Malin Ackerman) from The Rolling Stone is interviewing Stacee, she grills him for being immature and letting go of his art, then they end up making out and she sticks her tongue in his ear. Later than that, Stacee calls Rolling Stone wanting to talk to "Cinderella" because "she stuck her tongue in my ear," and when he sees her at the Bourbon Room, he tells her to open her mouth really wide and he sticks his tongue into her mouth. This all makes perfect sense!
Please note that Constance wears glasses, so she can "see" what is going on with Stacee (namely, that Paul the agent is ruining Stacee's life and art) and her hair is down because hair symbolizes thoughts and she's not afraid to say what she's thinking (or to write what she sees going on). Stacee, on the other hand, wears the blue bandanna around his head, blue either being the color of wisdom or depression (the idea of being blue). As long time readers know, because the path of wisdom is so hard, wisdom and depression are often artistically associated as being synonymous; the bandanna is a sign of labor (farmers usually wear them to wipe off sweat while working in the fields), and Stacee's art has certainly been a labor for him, so his wisdom that has come to him through depression and the lifestyle that he has led as an artist has made him guarded in interviews with reporters such as Constance. If you look behind Constance, there is an animal print blanket on the back of the couch: the animal "passions" and appetites are "in the background" of the interview and when Stacee (pictured above) tempts Constance with a kiss and she "goes for the bait," we can see that she wants him just like all the other girls do. One last thing, however, because this plays into the traditional feminine-masculine roles: Constance wears white (probably symbolic of light and truth in this circumstance) and Stacee wears black (symbolizing his descent into inner darkness. Constance, however, is "yoked" to a bit of inner darkness herself (the black objects around her neck; because the neck is how we are led--as when a collar is put around an animal--we can see that Constance isn't entirely pure, which is probably her liberal sexual attitude she displays).
Constance lashes out at Stacee for failing in his art and becoming an impossible recluse; her tongue symbolizes her words (because she could not have said them without her tongue) and her sticking her tongue into Stacee's ear means that Stacee not only heard her words--in a genuine, reflective sense--but her words overtook the "voice" Stacee was hearing earlier in the film (symbolized by the satanic cock piece with the tongue sticking out he was wearing in the poster, that satanic voice driving him on towards sexual indulgence that was making it impossible for him to work and tearing him away from reality). That's why, when he sees on Constance at the Bourbon Room, he first kisses that anonymous girl that just walks up to him.... and kisses her... and kisses her... and kisses her... because nothing is coming from that, it's a last attempt by Satan to lure Stacee back into darkness and away form the light which Constance symbolizes; the anonymous girl fainting is literal: she has fainted from being in contact with him whereas Constance was,... "constant."
Here we have Constance "reflecting," and because she can reflect herself she is able to help Stacee reflect. What is she reflecting about? Probably the cost to herself that it will take to bring Stacee Jaxx back from the dead. The song he sings, Bon Jovi's Wanted, talks about being "I'm wanted, dead or alive," and in the film genre of Westerns and in history, we know that refers to killing someone and bringing them into justice if that is what it takes; in Wanted and Rock Of Ages, it's that capitalist critique that the artist is wanted by the consumers either alive and aware of what is happening and enjoying the "fruits" of his labor, or dead and spiritually nullified into the oblivion which fame has buried him. The line, "On a steel horse I ride," contrasts with  a natural horse (like the white horse we see carrying Snow White (Kirsten Stewart) away to fulfill her destiny in Snow White and the Huntsman).  We could say that Sherri and Drew are riding the "natural horse" in that they are riding their dream and trying to get to the place they need to be in order to fulfill it; Stacee got there and his horse died, turning into a Frankenstein monster of loneliness and alcohol. At the end, when Stacee gives a concert and we see Constance off stage, pregnant, we know that Stacee, through Constance has regained his own life so that he can now beget new life, not just in the form of new art and songs, but genuine human life as well.
What about Stacee's second performance we see at the Bourbon Room when he rides up on a motorcycle and sees Patty and he remembers her? Patty sticks her tongue out, obviously not able to control herself, and Stacee leaves her to go into the Bourbon Room. We know that Patty has an alternative agenda in wanting the Bourbon Room--and Stacee Jaxx in particular--to be shut down: when she was young, she had spent a night with him and apparently never forgave herself or him for it, so this is personal revenge. That's why her words are fake, because her self-righteous agenda is also fake and that's why, by this time, Stacee doesn't kiss Patty, because Patty's words, i.e., her tongue, are as poisonous as the tongue of the Satan face on Stacee's cock piece from earlier in the film and Stacee doesn't want that anymore, he's there for Constance.
Before Stacee goes to the Bourbon Room for the second time, he calls the office of Rolling Stone magazine from a pay phone to talk to "Cinderella" (because he can't remember Constance's name). Why does this happen? Stacee Jaxx is a multi-millionaire (and in the 1980's that still meant something), so why call from a pay phone? Those who read my post on Night Of the Living Dead (last October) might remember the artistic importance of a ringing phone, making a call, answering a call: it symbolizes our destiny. Stacee is "calling out" to Constance and the pay phone lets the audience know the price that Stacee is willing to pay to get back with her--what price? The self-destructive fame trap which everyone seems to crave, but everyone seems to die in.
Stacee in Paul's office. Stacee has just read Constance's article on her "interview" with him and discovered that Paul charged the Bourbon Room every single dollar that Stacee brought into the house that night, leaving Dennis with nothing. This "unfair business practice" is what Stacee illustrates when he takes the priceless bottle of alcohol Paul has just given him in an act of reparation and while pouring the alcohol into his mouth, Stacee urinates onto Paul, then tells Paul that he's fired. The priceless drink is Stacee's art that Paul's greed consumed and then Paul used it to piss on everyone; in other words, Stacee takes a moment to do to Paul what Paul did to the Bourbon Room. Stacee makes this up by sending cash over to Dennis to keep him in business. When Dennis sees the money he says, "Stacee Jaxx gives until it hurts," but the opposite is true: giving helps Stacee to not hurt, it makes Stacee feel good to give Dennis that money and that's a sign of Stacee's conversion in the film.
Why does he call Constance "Cinderella?"
It just so happens there was a glam-rock band called Cinderella and in 1987 they released a song Somebody Save Me (lyrics here).  When Stacee is reaching out to find Constance again, he's asking her to save him. Earlier, Paul tells Stacee that Rolling Stone is there to see him and Stacee looks around and says, "Where's Mick (Jagger)?" the double-play on the magazine and the band makes it possible for a double-play on the fairy tale and the band Cinderella (if you know a better song they might want to draw our attention to, please let me know!).
Last thing: the role of animals.
In the picture below, Dennis wears an animal print shirt, Stacee wears a heavy fur coat and his baboon, "Hey Man," wears a black leather outfit (and his name is a noun for a human). Like the role reversal of genders (when the bartender is selling to guys drinks and Dennis thinks they are girls who should drink free, and then Stacee's own name, traditionally a female name) animals and humans have been reversed in the film as well.
Why?
The 1980s were a time of the appetites (for more on this, please see my post on the 1986 cult classic Abe Froman the Sausage King Of Chicago and pork barrel politics in Washington as discussed in Ferris Bueller's Day Off) but the rock world was particularly out of control with its appetites to the point that anything was acceptable and because of that, everyone was engaging in anything, turning us into animals rather than humans. Well, animals can't make art, and Stacee's descent into his animal appetites has caused his lack of creativity and Dennis' inability to make the Bourbon Room turn a profit. 
Why is Sherri's hair so high in this shot? She's just arrived in LA and, in spite of being robbed, she still has "high hopes" of how things are going to go for her. Remember, hair symbolizes the thoughts, and the hairspray she uses--is that Aqua Net?--is "setting" her hopes high on her dreams and desires. Put into tangible terms (her too tall hair) it seems ridiculous, yet that's what we all have to do, and the "big hair" of the 1980s was really a homage to capitalism, that we could have big dreams and high hopes because that's they way the system was meant to work, and that's what made America a better country than the Soviet Union.
In conclusion, rock was initially a rebel movement that, in its decadence, celebrated the American freedom to be decadent and wrong, which one couldn't do under Soviet Communism. Rock Of Ages, while having many strong points, the film fails to offer the audience a worthy adversary that was the very nature of Rock 'n Roll's drive and purpose, the reason it meant everything to the fans who sought out the songs and bands best articulating the emotions they were feeling but couldn't express themselves. I hate to say it, but while Rock Of Ages is an okay film--with very solid performances from its A-list actors--in most respects, it fails to live up to the glory of the songs it incorporates. Most of the nudity has been edited out, so if you want to see it, please do, but it's not a great film, it's just like its moral base: mediocre.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art DinerP.S.--Just for fun, here are videos of some of the original songs from the film: