AOC’s “Radical” Gown

W.J. Astore

AOC got a lot of attention wearing a gown to the Met Gala that read, “tax the rich.” Here’s a fetching image:

Of course, this is hardly a radical message. Firstly, the rich are already taxed. Secondly, something like 70% of Americans, and perhaps more, agree that the richest Americans should pay more taxes. Thirdly, attendees of the Met Gala are, though rich, generally supportive of liberal causes, if not of true leftist agendas, so her message was hardly offensive to most of the people there.

Many people have pointed out AOC’s hypocrisy, such as her lack of action on issues like health care for all or a $15 minimum wage. Her gown was basically an exercise in performative theater. It garnered “hits” and “likes” as well as fury, but in the end it signified nothing.

Actions speak louder than words, even on gowns, but I can imagine more powerful words for her to have worn, if she’d really wanted to send a subversive message. Examples that occur to me:

EAT THE RICH. Much more amusing and to the point.

END THE WARS. Why not focus on America’s forever wars that have (or will) cost us $8 trillion?

HELP THE POOR. Why not remind the rich at the gala that there is such a thing as poor people in America?

GREED IS BAD. The anti-Gordon Gekko message.

CLASS WAR: Why not go all Marxian on them?

NO MORE NUKES: Why not remind Americans that the Pentagon plans to spend as much as $1.7 trillion on new ICBMs, bombers, and nuclear submarines, when the “old” ones we have are already capable of ending most life on Earth?

OK: Wearing what amounts to a bumper sticker on a gown isn’t going to change the world. It’s a stunt to grab attention, with an element of narcissism to it. But if you’re going to pull a stunt like this, why not go big? Why not be radical?

One more thought: If you watched the Met Gala and all the celebrities showing off their gowns and outfits, and you’ve also read “The Hunger Games” or saw the movies, you couldn’t help but recall the scenes of the decadent few in The Capitol, thoroughly enjoying life as all the proles in the Districts suffer to serve their prodigal and hedonistic lifestyle.

Something tells me AOC is very much a Capitol creature. She’s no Katniss Everdeen, no matter what she puts on her gown.

Readers: What message would you dare to wear on your gown or suit to show your “betters” you mean business? Have some fun in the comments section, but let’s keep it rated “R,” not “X.” And short!

The Bernie Meme

Bernie with Ulysses S. Grant

W.J. Astore

The Bernie Sanders meme has been good fun over the last few days. At an inauguration ceremony where everyone was dressed to the nines, like the rulers of the Capitol in “Hunger Games,” Bernie looked like one of the downtrodden from the districts. He looked like one of us. A no-frills man of the people. And so the photo of him with his practical coat and handmade mittens has caught on exactly because it was real. As Caitlin Johnstone put it,

“This is why something as simple as Bernie Sanders turning up in mittens captured everyone’s hearts and imaginations. It was such a glitch in the whole phony performance and such a nice break from being lied to all the fucking time. We need to give people that experience way more.”

Special Guest Star: Mitten Man

Bernie has already been pushing and pressuring the Biden administration to be more aggressive in helping people suffering in the districts, to use “Hunger Games” terminology. (We’d say “flyover country.”) Meanwhile, back in the Capitol, people were gushing over Michelle Obama’s fashion sense, or Lady Gaga’s inaugural outfit, with its huge golden bird that truly echoed the privileged getups of Capitol denizens (credit to Ron Placone for the Gaga/Hunger Games reference).

CNN was gushing over the splendor of Michelle Obama’s outfit
A full-throated Lady Gaga. If only that golden bird had been a mockingjay.

As Bernie wrote in his recent op-ed:

“In this moment of unprecedented crises, Congress and the Biden administration must respond through unprecedented action. No more business as usual. No more same old, same old.

Democrats, who will now control the White House, the Senate and the House, must summon the courage to demonstrate to the American people that government can effectively and rapidly respond to their pain and anxiety. As the incoming chairman of the Senate budget committee that is exactly what I intend to do.”

Good luck, Mitten Man. We need you now more than ever.

Quick Thoughts on the Oscars

Sally Field in Norma Rae
Sally Field in Norma Rae

W.J. Astore

I love movies but I can’t say that I love Hollywood.  My wife and I sat through the interminable Academy Awards last night; we should have received an Oscar for patience.  What amazes me is the lack of thanks the winners express to movie-goers.  You know: the little people who shell out $12 or more a ticket to see roughly two hours of often mediocre entertainment.  Instead of thanking the fans, most Oscar winners celebrate themselves (with perhaps a nod toward their fellow nominees) while thanking their publicists, their agents, various power-brokers in the industry, and so on.

Want the Academy Awards to move faster?  Have the winners take the stage, accept the Oscar, thank the Academy and the fans, and sit down.  And shut up.

Hollywood has a certain contempt for the working classes — you know, the people who keep them in their “Capitol” lifestyle (which is why “The Hunger Games” trilogy truly captures the zeitgeist of the American moment).  I was disgusted in watching the Oscar preview to see ordinary Americans caricatured as crumb-infested, couch-ridden, half-naked, clinically obese morons.  Yes, I’m not immune to humor, but to depict the fans who ultimately pay your salaries and keep you living the high life in such a luridly abusive way shows a contempt that is far too common among our “elites,” Hollywood included.

I enjoy Ellen Degeneres.  She has a light touch, good comic timing, and she knows how to zing the audience.  But her “Who wants pizza” skit was unfunny and ungenerous — no pun intended.  Once again, part of the joke involved whether the assembled Capitol beauties were going to stiff the pizza delivery man.  Ha ha.  Let’s pass the hat and take up a collection to pay for the pizza we ordered.  I’m not surprised many of the assembled elect couldn’t find a dime to kick in — they’re so accustomed to their Oscar freebies.

Hollywood has always catered to narcissists.  Nothing new there.  But there was a time when Hollywood celebrities knew how to accept awards (and their glamorous lifestyle) with a certain amount of class, while thanking, even respecting, the fans who make it all possible.  Last night was not of that time.

I suppose the ultimate measure of Hollywood’s contempt for its paying audience is the poor quality of its movies.  Want to make better movies, Hollywood?  Start by treating the working classes with a measure of common courtesy — along with some empathy based on respect for their challenges and sacrifices.

A last comment: It was nice to see, however briefly, a scene from Norma Rae (1979), featuring the great Sally Field as a factory worker trying to unionize her place of work, a gutsy dynamo fighting for fair wages and safe working conditions.  Where is that movie today, Hollywood?  When was the last time you made a sensitive, sympathetic, and generous movie about the tough struggles of American workers?  There must be a few, but none that stick in my head.  Help me out in the comments section, dear reader, if I’m missing some obvious recent examples.