Monday, March 28, 2011

Rejected: Political Satire

Many years ago I was introduced to perhaps the first Internet meme I had ever encountered: Don Herzfeldt's "Rejected"; a series of commercials he had produced for products that were "never aired", as the film tells us with the only written 'raised eyebrow' tone I have ever encountered as if to say, "isn't that interesting..." while further affixing its tinfoil hat. It has taken me almost a lifetime to unpack the heavy political implications of this piece, nearly driving me mad in the process, but now, for your perusal and approval, I submit: "Rejected: Political Satire".

The darkened introduction, somber tone, and grandiose music should have tipped us off to the ground-breaking work we were about to witness, but we had merely giggled in complacent ignorance. The first scene displays the homunculus of the common citizen plaintively outlining his struggle, as a small bowl of food lies at his feet, that "[his] spoon is too big". The discrepancy of resource to available transmission source is clearly evident by the exaggerated utensil and diminutive dish. One of the problems pervasive in current politics is finding the best way to deliver products and services to the masses, and this is clearly demonstrated in the man's situation. He repeats this exhortation, helpless in his plight, as the typical citizen is in situations of such structural disorder, until he is joined on the scene by a gigantic banana, who declares, "I am a banana", representing the typical citizens' groups who have taken NIMBY (not in my backyard) too far, and now use BANANA (build absolutely nothing anywhere near anyone). This scene mocks the conventional political groups' impotance to alleviate the average citizen's distress by their stubborn adherence to protocol.

The next scene shows two average people discussing daily schedules. One reminds another that "Tuesday" is coming, and inquires if he has brought his coat, which can be read to mean an election is forthcoming (Tuesdays are popular election days), and the man wishes to know if his compatriot will vote - to which he replies that he lives "in a giant bucket", symbolically asking the man why voting would matter in such a desolate situation. At this moment a hideous growth forms from the voter's head, spouting meaningless invective, symbolizing the dominant party's incomprehensible rhetoric and near strangle-hold on the typical voter's thought process. The non-voter cusses in response, which is the average non-partisan response to the typical garbage spouted by thoughtless party supporters, and a pig flies by, meaning the day the average citizen becomes cognizant of their greater obligations and powerlessness in the face of political parties will be a day the impossible happens.

Mr. Hertzfeldt continues his relentless criticism of political parties in the next scene, where a group of bored-looking individuals stand around doing nothing, while wearing ridiculous and extravagant hats underneath a sign that commands "Silly hats only", representing the arbitrary and preposterous rules assigned to party affiliation and the length of tomfoolery to which the average politicians will go simply to gain a vote. An average man, represented by his mundane head-wear, wanders onto the scene, to the astonishment of the present people.It appears, initially, that all is well, the man has penetrated the sacred hall of politicians, until we uncover the product logo to show the man being horrible beaten by the special-hat-wearing crowd; thus is the fate of uninitiated interlopers in the conventional political system.

The next scene begins when Mr. Hertzfeldt addresses us directly, telling us that we are watching the [PRODUCT REDACTED] Channel, and now "angry ticks fire out of [his] nipples", whereupon we observe a group of typical children being harassed by a large cloud of angry ticks that have flown out of the chest of a larger man. Again, even new, unsuspecting voters, are tyrannized by the passionately political majority, to their detriment and subsequent removal from the voting scene.

Political debates are examined in the next scene, which shows two average men discussing ordinary things, even though their voices clearly do not match their mouth movements; the real arguments and political struggles are hidden from the average viewer in favor of ridiculous discussion that are mentally accessible to the average person. The two then begin to scream horrifically at each other, and are drenched in one party's blood, suggesting that Don feels any obvious 'victor' in political debates must have been predetermined and a set-up to placate the masses while appealling to man's savage nature.

A common feature of political fear-mongering is the fear of 'foreigners' or 'strange ideas' which are represented by a literal alien in the next scene, who comes down simply to steal the eyeballs of an average man standing on the scene.  The average man then walks into the most mundane of objects, a yield sign, displaying the obvious ridiculousness in politician's suggestion we would become insensible to even the most normal of situations should we admit foreign people in. The rampant crime and murder that is often suggested as a side effect of immigration is displayed in the next scene as a man rips the stomach out of another and beats him to death with it, then declares he is the "Queen of France". Mr. Hertzfeldt seems to suggest we should confront these absurd beliefs about crime, immigration and political policy. Furthering his assessment of political policy (skip this one if you are sensitive to child endangerment) he displays the extent to which we are beholden to building regulations (and more generally, frivilous bylaws) that are insensitive to the average person's situation, and may even destroy precious moments, such as a child's first step, by showing a baby tumbling down a never-ending set of stairs.

Unfortunately the next scene is in some unfathomable language, showing a man speaking to his child and representing the incomprehensible system by which political power or ability is passed from parent to child, never allowing in other people, and the rampant nepotism present in our society.

The strain of this political environment is clearly too much, according to Mr. Hertzfeldt, as he shows the world beginning to descend into anarchy and chaos, with massive structures crumbling and the whole system dissolving into madness, which is obviously the fate of the man who gazed too plainly into the truths of the political reality facing us in modern times, as he himself, represented as a small rabbit-eared man, gazes sky-ward in horror, while the scene crumbles into nothing around him. We should pay tribute to the strength of a man who sought to bring us face to face with the horrible nature of the political system as it relates to our powerlessness. Bitter films, indeed.


Anonymous said...

I watched this, and didn't get nearly this much depth out of it. Truly, one of the great political minds of our time.
(glad I didn't bite my tongue saying that; it was really far into my cheek.)


Miss Ernst said...

I can't lie: I had so much fun writing this post that I chortled. As I posted it, regardless of the hapless students around me, I hollered: "I'm Brilliant!" 8 D