[DEBATE] : Fwd: 'Miami Vice': The Class Analysis
tintinyana at gmail.com
Tue Aug 15 14:07:01 BST 2006
> 'Miami Vice': The Class Analysis
> By Barbara Ehrenreich, AlterNet.
> Posted August 11, 2006.
> The film's bleak vision of a world divided between
> shanty-towns and trailer parks at one end, and
> unimaginable luxury at the other, is not far off the
> Everyone knows that the new big-screen "Miami Vice" is
> "darker" than the old one, meaning that the light-
> hearted, wise-cracking Don Johnson and Philip Michael
> Thomas have been replaced by the brooding, inarticulate
> Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx, who favor dingy blues and
> grays over their predecessors' lavender and turquoise
> outfits. But the real darkness of the movie has gone
> unnoted by the critics: In his latest "Vice," Michael
> Mann offers up an economically globalized world
> populated only by the grimly poor and the
> breathtakingly ultra-rich, all of whom are bigtime
> Here, the poor serve largely as scenery, reminding us
> that we are now in Port-au-Prince (black faces), Ciudad
> del Este (brown), or a trailer park in the industrial
> wastelands of Miami (white and often tattooed). A few
> of them seem to be employed as lookouts or, a little
> higher up the career ladder, "shooters," for the drug
> gangs. Otherwise, they might as well be signposts.
> As for a middle or working class: In crime fiction,
> this is the historical role of the cops or private
> eyes. In "Miami Vice," though, the good guys have not a
> shred of material existence to betray their social
> class. Crockett and Tubbs don't live anywhere, and
> touch down only in unfurnished apartments provided by
> their employer, where they use the showers for sex.
> They never sleep or eat, so we cannot know whether they
> prefer, for example, burgers to blackened sea bass.
> Only bad guys eat and then not much. The one who did
> appear to be chewing may have been just gnawing on his
> meth mouth.
> In general, it's a starkly stripped-down world our
> heroes now inhabit. What is all the shooting about?
> Drugs, of course, but these are rarely mentioned by
> name, nor do the good guys ever hint at any moral
> impulse for the war. Are the drugs destructive? Could
> they possibly be more destructive than the shootouts,
> bombings, and torturings occasioned by their illegal
> status? No one seems to care. Drugs are just the
> "product," and the only issue is their delivery --
> successful or intercepted in a hail of automatic weapon
> In Mann's hyper-abstract version of global capitalism,
> the "product" could be anything, so long as its price
> is high enough. To make sure we get the point, the
> coldhearted drug queen played by Gong Li suits up in
> high-corporate minimalism and refers to herself as a
> It's the ultra-rich -- Gong Li and her colleagues --
> who hold our eyes in "Miami Vice." They live too large
> for movies; they need IMAX. I gasped when the camera
> swept over Brazil's Iguassu Falls, which are surely the
> very suburbs of heaven, and settled on the evil ones'
> mountaintop mansion, where the drug lord and his lady
> were cuddling and scheming, attended by a small army of
> servants. They may not have much fun -- Gong Li's
> thoughts are elsewhere -- but whatever they have, they
> have it fast. Want to dash over to Geneva to make a
> deposit? The personal jet awaits.
> There's an instructive scene when things begin to heat
> up between Colin Farrell and Gong Li. (They're on
> opposite sides of the drug war, but in the same zone of
> hotness.) He offers her a drink. She favors mojitos and
> tells him the best ones are in Havana. They're in Miami
> when this exchange takes place, but -- no problem -- a
> high-speed power boat whisks them off to the mojito
> source. If she'd asked for a Stoli on million-year-old
> ice, no doubt they would have hightailed right down to
> All right, it's just a silly summer movie, lacking
> either comprehensible dialogue or plot. But Mann's
> bleak vision of a world divided between shanty-towns
> and trailer parks at one end, and unimaginable luxury
> at the other, is not far off the mark. Take the crucial
> matter of travel: While the poor creep around in buses
> and the affluent creep a little faster in taxis,
> there's a class of people who take helicopters to the
> airport, where they then embark on private planes.
> According the Aug. 6 New York Times, private aviation
> has gone "mainstream," with even the "merely rich," who
> can't afford their own planes, buying up 25 hours of
> air travel for $299,000.
> No pretzels on their menu. As the Times reports, one
> private fleet met a passenger's requirement for "Grey
> Goose vodka frozen two hours before flight, ice cubes
> made with Fiji water, filet mignon of precise cut and
> dimension, and Froot Loops ... for the kids."
> Meanwhile, according to globalissues.com, nearly half
> the world's people -- 3 billion -- live on less than $2
> a day. Their lives are too cramped and squalid to make
> for good summer viewing. But they do serve a function
> as local color -- and by catching the occasional bullet
> or bomb.
> Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of 13 books, most
> recently "Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the
> American Dream." This piece originally appeared on
> Barbara's blog.
I've never felt myself to belong to any establishment of any kind, any
mainstream. I'm interested in mainstreams, I'm jealous of them, I
sometimes, occasionally, envy people who belong to them -- because
certainly I don't -- but on the whole I think they're the enemy. I
feel that authorities, canons, dogmas, orthodoxies, establishments, are
really what we're up against. At least what I'm up against, most of
the time. They deaden thought.
-- Edward Said, 1994
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