Wednesday, February 23, 2011

bears for life.

"the bad news bears"  stars walter matthau as a drunken coach who leads a little league team of misfits to an unlikely victory. the film includes foxy tatum o'neal, music inspired by "carmen"  (because opera is timeless, people), and lots of cussing. even though the language is colorful, in 1976 the bears was considered a feel good film for the whole family.

behold tanner boyle in this classic movie moment, and consider how he truly embodies a crucial part of the jaded gen x gestalt.

"the bad news bears" is an accurate portrayal of life for many kids in the 1970s, an era i lovingly refer to as "macrame, chardonnay, & divorce." this movie documents the early synthesis of multiculturalism and gender inclusion-- groundbreaking stuff in the 70s. of course, there is going to be a tanner character--white, male, normative-- loudly resistant to this agenda, but powerless to change its course none the less.

the blonde haired child delivering a litany of jaded pejoratives makes us uncomfortable, because perceptions of white entitlement make us uncomfortable. tanner represents a truth, and sometimes the truth hurts.* tanner is pissed off that white entitlement is just a social construct, and he is having an existential crisis, but he's not going to let his delusions die quietly. his use of poopy language is permissable because he is so adorable and toe-headed. the little white sun cap is a nice touch too.

tanner's character could be considered a friendly nod to archie bunker. but unlike archie bunker, tanner displays fierce loyalty to his team despite the bears' multi-culti flavor, and this is a vast improvement over the archie bunker archetype.** even though tanner knows it's a losing fight, he later defends that booger eating moron against a couple of bullies. and even though he knows it's a losing team, tanner stays in the game until it's over. tanner's innate nobility is given multiple opportunities to express itself and by the end of the film, tanner's humanity expands. we learn that victory comes in many guises.

today, the tanner character is nearly 50 years old. he could be a part of that loud, angry contingent of white male-tea-bagging-birther who "wants his country back" but i doubt it. i think tanner confronted the loss of his perceived entitlement as a boy in little league deep in the san fernando valley, and reluctantly took his place among the bad news bears.

bears for life.

*the truth hurts enough, so there's so need for name calling. but we shouldn't shy away from language that is impolite. these words tells us a great deal about who we were, who we are, and who we'd like to become. thusly, mark twain's works should not be revised with sanitized words like slave.


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