Monday, December 31, 2012

"Look at Me!" The Trope that Chooses Not to Speak its Name

My friend David  identifies a cinematic trope that seems to have eluded formal identification.  We resort to ostensive definition.  Three examples:
--Max Bialystock (aka Zero Mostel)  the producer in The Producers, surveying his hopes, dreams, lusts, aspirations and concluding "Look at me!  I'm wearing a cardboard belt!"

--Lefty Ruggiero (aka Al Pacino) in Donnie Brasco making his mob nut by smashing parking meters with a sledgehammer.

--Satan (aka Peter Cook) in (the original) Bedazzled annoying perfect strangers by scratching LP records and tearing the last page out of Agatha Christie novels.
And the common thread would be?  Well, there's black humor, of course, but there is plenty of that everywhere.  The more precise point has something to do with the dignity of big dreams and honest labor, and the stark reality that the  most exalted employment boils down to a lot of grunge.  Broadway producer?  Mr. Mafia toughguy?  Satan himself?  Don't you guys have minions?  Or minions with minions?  Hah, no: in the end you have to deal with all the crap on your own. 

There must be a name for this stuff somewhere (for lack of a better, we could call it the "Look at me!" maneuver).   And a dissertation, or a wall full of dissertations.  If not, I suppose there will be soon (although not by me).

Footnote:  David points to another common thread: these are three of my favorite movies.

Video Extra:  I haven't been able to track down footage of any of my three examples. The following is not quite on point but it might be the best "dignity of work" story since Mark Twain (in Life on the Mississippi) told how Mr. Bixby took the riverboat over the sandbar.


marcel said...

After pretending to complain to my sister-in-law about a Xmas dinner of sushi ("This would have been much better if it were Chinese food, last night" -- I'm a Jew, so much of the humor when we get together with my goyishe in-laws for Xmas is about my distaste for the holiday), I paused and added, "But it's good!" Only then did my s-in-law take exception!

Anonymous said...

KFAT! KFAT! The Moose Turd Pie song was a favorite back in the days of the previous century. Does anyone remember.