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June 1994


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"P. Feng" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
P. Feng
Thu, 2 Jun 1994 12:41:26 -0500
text/plain (34 lines)
Errol Vieth wrote:
> A couple of people mentioned this film yesterday.  Co-incidental that I
> watched it last night.  It's very recent but has been, it seems, scorned by
> reviewers and audiences.  Why?  I suspect it's too close to home for many
> people.
Maybe because it displaces racism and domestic violence onto the vagaries
of economic competition.  When D-FENS destroys a grocery store owned by a
Korean (played by a Chinese American actor, for what it's worth) it's
supposedly because his prices are unfair -- this, even after he has
insulted the storekeeper's accent.  That's just one example.
While I agree with Gayle F. Wald that FALLING DOWN is more than a simple
"allegory of middle-clas white male homocidal tendencies," I would
suggest that it is the film's "subtlety" which confirms its anxiety.  The
lengths it goes to to explain why Michael Douglas is not just a
disgruntled white man with a bad haircut (for example, the scene where he
asserts that he is not sick like the neo-Nazi pawn shop owner) indicate
that that is precisely what he is.  Look at the Robert Duvall character
-- the sympathetic white male, mirror image of Michael Douglas, who
audiences can sympathize with if/when they become alienated from
Douglas.  He's racist too, but his Japanese American and Latino
colleagues forgive him for it.  He's an underdog too -- he's got the
asshole boss to prove it.  Most important, the invective and resentment
that he expresses towards his wife is deployed not to humanize him, but
precisely to align audience sympathies with this "hen-pecked" man.
Perhaps FALLING DOWN is complex: but that complexity is in the service of
masking the uglier aspects of its ideological project, rather than
exposing the multivocality of its discourses.
Peter Feng