God Bless America: I’m Not Like Everybody Else
When I first saw the trailer for Bobcat Goldthwait’s God Bless America, I was excited. The auteur behind Shakes the Clown had turned his acerbic eye to America’s glutinous excesses … and, yes, there would be blood. Lots of blood. As America becomes increasingly fractured and polarized over bullshit issues (while the rich get richer), clearly the time is right for a movie where people who deserve to die are systematically killed.
It doesn’t take a genius to see that we are in the last throes of Empire. Bloated and entitled, we are distracted from the world’s real problems by reality shows and fart jokes. When our hero Frank finds out that he has a brain tumor, in lieu of committing suicide he decides he’ll take a spoiled reality star with him. A young teenage girl witnesses the carnage and is filled with glee. She encourages Frank not to waste this opportunity and kill more deserving individuals.
Here is where the film goes wrong. As a muse, the bloodthirsty young girl is largely apolitical and encourages the obliteration of low-hanging fruit. For her the people who deserve to die include the Kardashians, those who give high-fives and “women who call their tits the girls.” While one could make a decent argument for Kardashian eradication, these targets, while odious, are not the people who got us where we are.
God Bless America could have challenged Natural Born Killers as the Citizen Kane of serial killer spree films, but it is merely an amusing sketch padded out into the length a feature. The uneven storytelling is almost a worse crime than any of the infractions of Frank’s victims. The film is repetitive and didactic and as a result it takes quite awhile for the action to get rolling. (The first act break is around 38 minutes in, when it could have been accomplished in about half the time). That said, it is true that there was a certain catharsis in seeing the slaughter of a rude movie audience. Sure, the assassination of a spoiled reality star brat was somewhat satisfying and the mass killing of a crowd of anti-gay crusaders provided a modicum of delight … but these people are merely symptoms of a dying culture, the true culprits are let off the hook.
When I think of the people that “deserve” to die, the “victims” in God Bless America simply are not it. While I would certainly not advocate murder except in fiction, perhaps if his killing duo had taken out some hedge fund managers, corporate polluters, political charlatans and fascist activist judges, Bobcat Goldthwait might have created an entertaining spectacle that truly confronted the real problems facing America today.
Watch the trailer and you will have seen all the best that the film has to offer.
The movie is also notable for featuring The Kinks’ “I’m Not Like Everybody Else.” Of course, that is America’s big lie. We all think we’re pioneering individuals. We are all special snowflakes. Everyone deserves a trophy. It is an important lie for a society based on consumption and excess. Because we are so special, we deserve all the comforts our hearts desire. In fact, we are entitled to them.
But really we’re not so different. When it comes down to it, we’re all easily slotted into a demographic: fish in a barrel waiting to be marketed to. And that’s the problem with God Bless America. It shoots fish in a barrel when it should be targeting the barrel makers.