For as long as there have been politicians, there have been shenanigans. And for as long as there have been political shenanigans, satirists have been drawn to them like kids to candy stores. Will Rogers famously observed, “The best thing about any group of candidates is that only one of them can win.”
Another, anonymous, wit put it more pithily. “Politicians, like diapers, need to be changed frequently — and for the same reasons.” When, in the depths of the depression, Herbert Hoover was running for re-election, an ahead-of-her-time feminist made what then seemed a radical proposal. “I think,” she said, “that we should start voting for presidential candidates with breasts. We’ve voted for boobs often enough.”
The more vivid the shenanigans it seems, the more stinging the wit of the chattering class.
The 1990s were a particularly rich period in the production of cinematic variations on the theme of politics. “Bob Roberts” in 1992, “Dave” in 1993, “Wag the Dog” in 1997, “Primary Colors” in 1998, “Election” in 1999 and, also in 1998, “Bulworth,” the movie that will be shown at 7 p.m. March 1 in the Gill Patterson Community Room downstairs at the library.
We’d meant to show it in late October, but foul weather (or foul play — if you’re a conspiracy theorist) forced cancellation. Still, given the spectacle of our current campaign season, it seemed opportune to remind our movie-going constituents that politics were ever thus — with “Bulworth” having some especially eerie parallels to today’s carrying-ons.
The movie stars Warren Beatty, who also directed. He plays Senator Jay Billington Bulworth. He faces a tough primary season in his quest for re-election and he is so bored by the platitudes he routinely delivers on the stump — “We stand at the doorstep of a new millennium….” — that he starts saying what he truly believes. To the outrage of his staff and backers. And the cheers of voters.
Janet Maslin of the New York Times wrote, Warren Beatty “has directed this political satire with jubilant wit and energy…. ‘Bulworth’ works, with both urbanity and chutzpah, by viewing political puppeteering with an all-purpose jaundiced eye.”
Roger Ebert chimed in with his own praise. “‘Bulworth’ plays like a cry of frustrated comic rage. It’s about an archetypal character who increasingly seems to stand for our national mood: the guy who’s fed up and isn’t going to take it anymore.”
Please join us at the library on Tuesday, March 1 for this free-wheeling cinematic satire. You may wince, but you’ll probably also laugh. And laughing well may be our best (and possibly only) revenge.