Friday, June 17, 2005

More on Raunchy Sports Movies

I left something out of my mini-rant on Charles Taylor's Slate piece on The Bad News Bears. Taylor blamed the demise of raunchy sports movies like Bears, M*A*S*H, and The Longest Yard on Ronald Reagan. He argued that these disreputable sports movies were replaced by schmaltzy, inspirational movies like Field of Dreams and Seabiscuit because of America's turn towards conservativism. I thought this argument was pretty silly, mainly because (1) the most popular sports movies are goofy parodies like The Waterboy and (2) the Reagan-Bush era gave us two of the smartest, most cynical, and best sports movies of all time--Bull Durham (1988) and White Men Can't Jump (1992). What I forgot to bring up was that when it comes to the death of the raunchy sports film, there's a much better culprit than Ronald Reagan and conservatives: namely, the political correctness movement.

I know that the charge against Howard Stern has been led by right-wing Christian family-values-boosters, but it was left-wingers who attacked Larry Summers for comments that were far less sexist than some of the stuff in M*A*S*H, where, by the movie's climatic football scene, Sally Kellerman's hard-as-nails, ultra-competent nurse is reduced to being a blithering, ditzy-blonde cheerleader, who can't even tell when her own team is scoring.

And I doubt that some of the lines in The Bad News Bears--especially the one Taylor quotes in his essay--would fly today even on a die-hard politically incorrect show like South Park.

I should also point out that you don't have to be a Reaganite or a conservative to find these kinds of movies crude and offensive, which was the gist of Pauline Kael's pan of The Longest Yard.

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