I like to say that my favourite position is on my back on the couch in front of the TV. I have others, I guess, but on a Friday night, this one is the undisputed champion. I have just witnessed the blossoming of yet another ugly duckling on Style by Jury (my personal version of Shabbat) and am engaging with e-tv’s Friday Action Night: Predator vs. Alien.
It has been a helluva week. I socialised like a teenager, going out no less than twice in the middle of the week. The District 9 premier on Wednesday night was probably the biggest social event I have been to since my (only ever) trip to the Loeries in 1995. (Shut up.) I loved the film without reservation, because I believe it has no pretence. It is a wonderfully constructed, wickedly witty and utterly irreverent. (I am tossing any resolutions I may have had about cutting down on the adjectives in the last few months and I am letting rip, just for tonight.) The Admiral (celebrity film critic of whom we are not worthy) was not impressed. He did not like the ending (for reasons which I thought were bullshit; for me the ending was faultless) and objected to the fact there were no good black role models in the film. I pointed out that there were no good white role models either, but he disagreed, suggesting that the hero was a “cool guy”.
I don’t think the Admiral really understands that to Afrikaners who feel that they that have not only survived their historical baggage but overcame it, a thick-moustache’d, thick-accented, racist white Afrikaner male, in charge of what amounts to the forced removal of another race to a location out of sight of the status quo, is not a cool guy. Sorry Admiral, but Wikus (played by Sharito Copely) the worst example of what J Krishnamurti calls a “dull” person. The fact that he hooks up with someone he persecuted does not redeem him and it does not save him, and it certainly does not make him cool. He pays. The irony of his waiting is as thick as peanut butter.
In theory, Wikus is at least as offensive to us (see above) as Kenneth Nkosi saying “Ja baas” to his white military commander is to, well, Carlo Matabane. Carlo was so incensed that he told everybody at the after party at the Rosebank Hotel that he can also do clichés and that he was going to make a film about black men raping white women.
In my mind’s eye I saw the headline “HOLLYWOOD BOX OFFICE HIT BOMBS WITH SA BLACKS”. And not only, actually. Old white lefties, left and right, all were upset and quite damning. There were accusations of it being “obvious” to which Ken Kaplan responded, well, Shakespeare is also quite obvious. To say that the film was riddled with clichés would be an understatement, but I think they were its modus operandi, and when it comes to suspension of disbelief, they are not per se offensive. There was the beginning of a parody-vs.-satire discussion at the bar, but I found it a waste of time for one in the morning. (In spite of the time and the consumption, I feel that I really nailed the definition of each when asked to.)
What part should have been written for the good black role model? I asked Mandy at an earlier stage between drinks. There were no good guys in the film, really. She thought the lead could have been black. Why? I asked. Why make the lead a black guy for the sake of being politically correct? Are we so guilty that nothing can be OK, or funny, or allowed to be original, without it having been PC’d?
There was much more, of course. The Apartheid parallels: the forced removals, the isolation in townships, the absurd discrimination based on fear and ignorance, the violence of people stripped of humanity and dignity… the images stopped short of people being covered in car tyres, doused with petrol and set alight. And then, the most chilling line of the film… “one prawn, one bullet”. One should perhaps not be surprised that it hit a nerve. Even so, the cliché was edgy and raw and I think it held up the mirror to everybody.
And let’s face it: is it not at the end of the day, in a country full of arseholes of all colours, the white man that is still short of redemption?
I don’t know. It is really possible to simply watch the film, be completely taken in by its utter South African-ness, the accents, the familiarity of the Johannesburg skyline, and be amazed that Americans bought it, lock, stock, and smoking AK47’s.
Anyway. Predator kicked alien ass, and the news proclaims that taxi drivers disrupting the BRT service on September 1 will be arrested and have their taxis confiscated. And the subject of Caster Semenya’s gender ambiguity will most certainly ruin her chances of retiring a running legend in ten-odd years’ time. Have you heard her telling her doubters to “go to hell” on the radio? She sounds like a guy. She looks like a guy. But tonight there are reports that racism might be the cause of the suspicion that she might be male. Caster’s teacher went on record on SABC3 to say, “White people don’t like it when black people win.” Only in this country would you actually see such a gross generalisation presented as legitimate opinion on the news. It is a little embarrassing, and does depress one a little.
I suppose history teaches us that we will never get over the race thing. So we can live with it or move to Spain. I bet Friday night on the couch will be at least as much fun over there.