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Saturday, 21 April 2012

The Muddy Funsters*

There have been several key changes during my descent into mid-lifeness and fatherhood. The first is that I boo all the time. Seriously, the littlest thing sets me off. I hear the strains of classical music over the scene of a kid and his dad and the tears spurt out. I can’t even think of that scene in the Lion King where Simba lifts his dad’s paw and it flops to the dust all limp. Don’t even mention Finding Nemo, I can’t even see the screen to type now. I mean, WTF? I wade knee deep in daily gore in my job and deal with grimness +10 every day on Intensive Care, but anything that reminds me of Dads and kids and poignancy gets me going.

Anyhow, the blog isn’t about that. It’s not about existential dread that life is ebbing away. It’s not about inability to drink alcohol in anything beyond a thimble or be convinced my brain is oozing from my nose in anger. It’s about how I can’t stand gangster films anymore.

Seriously, I used to be massively into them. If it had Scorcese, De Palma or Coppolla on it I’d lap it up. I’d crave the twitchy De Niro face or Joe Pesci freaking out or Al Pacino gurning. As students we used to love ‘em. Throw in a few about South-central LA and gangsta-stylie drive-bys for variety, just to dilute the crotch-grabbing, you’re a good kid, forget about it lead-ins to stiletto/vice/baseball bat/head shot scenes.

Then it changed. I can’t quite remember what film it was... perhaps it was that one with Leonardo and Jack Nicolson. I sat and watched it and then everyone gets popped at the end in a totally pointless fashion and I thought... I just don’t like this anymore. It’s like I see enough blood and stuff at work without needing a fix at home. But then it can’t be quite that, because I enjoy the gratuitous Game of Thrones...

I think it’s the gangster thing, the crime thing. There came a moment when I ceased to find them of interest, of value. There’s a genuine glamorisation of crime within film and, perhaps less so, literature. The writers and the directors seem to have an admiration for criminals, feeling that if they show some kind of compassionate side (camaraderie, loyalty, GSOH) then it makes the nasty shit they do seem a little more acceptable or understandable. The characters are usually bullies, slinging their weight around to get what they want, feeling that it’s all about ‘respect’ and so forth. Yet they’re the sort of kids who at school used to kick crap out of smaller kids. It’s that romantic notion that if you fight for what you believe (even if that belief is flawed) then it’s acceptable. It’s bollocks, really.

So what altered in me? I think the love of the gangster film and the fascination with crime boils back to the intrigue of the anti-hero (which I blogged about on Alison De Luca’s blog here.). Part of growing up is that challenge of the status quo, testing the boundaries of what we’ve been raised to believe is just and right. We are teased by the Dark Side, with glimpses of the uglier aspects of human nature. The gangster in these films is the anti-hero. He’s the one who does what we wouldn’t, who doesn’t give a shit and fights/shoots/kills to get what he wants. And clearly there’s some anti-heroes that I find acceptable and enjoy and others that I don’t, and I wonder if that’s a touch hypocritical of me? I like reading about the loveable rogue—say like Locke Lamora in Scott Lynch’s books. He’s a con-man, like a Hustler in a fantasy world. We all love Robin Hood, especially if he gives to the poor. Tyrion in Game of Thrones is great... because he’s naughty, but not downright evil. But there’s a tipping point when I can’t enjoy it, when I can’t drag up even a morbid interest in the character. And I think that threshold alters more and more with age.

So am I just a miserable old sod now? Well, yes, I am. To be fair, I do find some crime films/books entertaining—specifically I quite like the gangster-comedy ones like Lock, Stock and Snatch, mainly because I find the southern accents funny. Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction is one of my favourites, perhaps because of the dialogue and its slapstick nature. On my book blog, The Roaring Mouse, I’m featuring a comedy-crime book about a contract assassin getting married that I would describe as Grosse Point Blank crosses with Meet the Parents. Perhaps that says more about me that I can stomach the gangster-violence-glamorisation when it derides itself. And I suppose that opens up a whole host of new questions...

* The Muddy Funster title refers to an old Harry Enfield sketch where he satirised the BBC and its dubbing over bad language in films. He played a Robert De Niro character in ‘Badfellas’ whose badly dubbed character asked, “Did you fun my wife, you muddy funster?” Watch it... its superb!

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