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January 2 2009

<Saalon> There's a really fair argument to make against more shit like Revolutionary Road. Too bad Siegel decided to divert into bashing every anti-suburb piece on the planet instead of keeping focused on his point. 'Cause he makes it at the very end, and it's a good one.

"...the suburbs are not just a determining environment, but an unpredictable one of unfolding circumstances -- like every other place on earth."

Is there really any novelty to saying "Sometimes, beneath the genteel surface, unhappiness and tragedy lurk - ESPECIALLY IN THE SUBURBS" in yet another film? Jesus, I mean Mendes has made, what, like 4 movies? And two of them are about the preordained spiritual death of the American Suburban Family. Really?

It's like this endless artistic retread of Death of a Fucking Salesman and The Glass Menagerie, making the same banal point that THE PRICE OF MIDDLE CLASS HAPPINESS WILL BE YOUR SOUL in film after fucking film.

It's not that tearing apart the suburbs isn't worth the time, it's just it's the same fucking bullshit we always see. I've fed up with one-note critiques that suburban life must equal passionless tragedy. Compare it to, I dunno, maybe Stephen King. Something like It, where the suburbs are just what they are. A place where people of all kinds live. And if the outcasts end up being the heroes more often than the people in charge, well, how is that different from any society humanity has created?

Deconstructions of the Nuclear Family have crossed the line into dishonest silliness, methinks. They're also way out of date.

I'm on board with Siegel for his main point: I'm sick of the default artistic position to be to shit on people for not living appropriately passionate lives. It's the lack of fucking sympathy for how life can turn to suck that pisses me off in this kind of stuff. Like someone selling their own happiness in a perhaps misguided bid to care for their family is the ultimate sin.

There was no need for him to take a dump on Howl, though. That was just unnecessary.

<Brennen> I also kind of resent the potshot at Paul Goodman, who has been dead for something like 37 years at this writing (and then there's Plath, but I guess that one doesn't bother me because I never liked her writing and associate it with a painful strain of self-willed Darkness in smart teenage girls, which yes is both a cliche and possibly the kind of thing I'm going to hell for saying out loud).

But, ok, yeah. This piece annoyed the shit out of me for various reasons, but you're right. I can't begin to express how much I hated, and still hate, ''Death of a Salesman'' and every tired reiteration of that basic theme. And it's not in any way clear that most of the people making this kind of fiction have a grasp on what "the suburbs" actually ''are'' at this point. I know I don't.

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last edited January 8, 2009