The Hasslein Curveball and Screwball Capitalist Asians

Friends! Things have been a little slow around here because I’ve been working quite a bit away from the computer. That’s a blessing – to have work and to be able to finally afford a place to live (yes, I got a place to live!) – but it’s also keeping me from my real love, which is yammering on and on about movies and stuff.

I have some stuff in the oven for the main site, but I have recently published two long pieces over at Patreon for subscribers at the $10 level. They’re quite different but I hope each is interesting in its own way.

The first is called “Screwball Capitalist Asians,” and it’s a look at how Crazy Rich Asians retools the screwball comedy for the 21st century, applying the class struggle aspects of those Depression-era films to an increasingly capitalism-averse 2018. Here’s an excerpt:

But the most defining features of the screwball comedies are visible in Crazy Rich Asians. The film, like the best of the Depression-era movies, is about class conflict. In this case it’s Constance Wu’s Rachel who is crossing all sorts of class lines – she’s not only American Chinese, she doesn’t come from a dynastically wealthy family. It’s not as extreme a class divide as the one in My Man Godfrey (a bum gets hired to be a butler and a rich woman falls in love with him), and it’s gender swapped from the usual heiress-falls-for-a-lower-class-rascal template (perfected in It Happened One Night), but the basics are the same.

In true screwball fashion, Rachel discovers that despite all their money the socialites and hyper rich of Singapore can’t make their lives work, and she eventually teaches the upper crust a lesson. That’s a vital part of many Depression-era screwball comedies, where the idle rich get some sort of comeuppance from the lower class person invading their space. The Depression audience liked seeing the rich put in their place (they especially liked stories where the rich could not function without the trappings of their wealth, but where the poor could sneak into high society), but they also wanted to live vicariously through the cinematically wealthy. Yes, all the money and houses and dresses won’t make you good/smart/happy… but they’re awesome to ogle in the meantime.

That’s a lot of what Crazy Rich Asians is doing for modern audiences. Much like Rachel we are both put off and seduced by the debaucherously rich world of the Youngs. They’re all but royalty, and we Americans continue to have a complicated relationship with royalty. We don’t want to kneel to them, but we do want to BE them. We are fascinated by their lives and dramas, and we swoon at their ostentatious displays of wealth and we sneer at their peccadillos and dramas. We’re tempering our envy with our disdain. Or we’re using our disdain to hide our envy.

This, I think, is a key factor in the huge success of Crazy Rich Asians. The underserved demographic aspect cannot be overlooked – from anecdotal evidence I can tell you that this film was playing to huge Asian crowds weeks into its run – but that isn’t enough to have propelled the film to this level of success. It should, in the next week or so, pass Sex and the City to rest just under the top five romantic comedies of all time, box office-wise. The Asian community coming out in force made a difference, but, as with Black Panther, the film needed more diverse audiences to get where it is.

The other piece I published this week looks at Escape From The Planet of the Apes‘ villain, Dr. Hasslein, and explains why he – like Killmonger in Black Panther – was totally correct.

This makes Hasslein dislike the apes, but what really drives him over the edge is the revelation that Zira is pregnant. All of a sudden he’s faced with a predestination paradox – could the future where mankind is experimented on by talking apes be caused by this baby being born? He can’t be sure, and he is driven to stop the birth of the child.

The President isn’t so certain. After all, the future from which Zira and Cornelius arrived is a thousand years off. None of my voters, he reasons, will be around to be mad about it.This isn’t his concern. Someone else can deal with it later.

Hasslein has a little meltdown about this, and he delivers a rant that I love. I love it because he’s absolutely, 100% right.

“That’s what I’m worried about. Later. Later, we’ll do something about pollution. Later, we’ll do something about the population explosion. Later, we’ll do something about the nuclear war! We think we’ve got all the time in the world!! How much time has the world got?!! Somebody has to begin to care!”

Forty five years after Escape from the Planet of the Apes we can see what happens when no one begins to care, or not enough people care. We live in a world where climate change is not a threat but an omnipresent reality. We live in a world – predicted as far back as in the days of Escape from the Planet of the Apes – in which monster storms are routine, where drought and extreme temperatures are annual events, and where the city of Miami has already begun to disappear under the sea. And even with all of this… we think we’ve got all the time in the world.

You can really feel where Hasslein is coming from. Yeah, the ape domination is a thousand years off, but isn’t part of being a grown up doing a little long term planning? If the human race is grown up, it needs to start thinking in terms of the big picture, not just how the stock market is doing this week. All of our problems stems from a species-wide inability to look past the immediate moment and make plans, or to put things into perspective. Everybody I know is very concerned about climate change. Very few people I know actually carpool.

There’s more to it, and just because Hasslein was right doesn’t mean what he does is correct – and therein, I think, lies the intriguing moral nuance.

If these pique your interest, please consider becoming a patron at Patreon. I hope that the content alone is worth your subscription, but if it makes any difference you should also know that the Patreon has become a major source of support for me. I am working three jobs besides this blog (I consider this blog a job as well, so I have four jobs!), but the Patreon is the key that allows me to know I will not starve month to month and that I will be able to keep a roof over my head. As the Patreon grows I hope to be able to shed one or two of these jobs and focus more energy here.

Besides these longer pieces I also publish weekly recommendations at the Patreon page, some of which actually run fairly long as well. But even if you can’t support on Patreon at the higher levels, just a dollar a month is very meaningful and a way of saying that you appreciate the writing that I’m sharing.

Thanks again for all your support thus far. I’m moving at the end of the month and like I said, I have three other jobs at the moment, but I’m dedicated to carving out the time to focus more energy here in the coming weeks. Your patience is appreciated.