Tuesday, June 16, 2020

who cares if it worked or not?

What the hell else was America going to become other than a corporate-run, dehumanizing state that promotes violence against its citizens, incarcerates its citizens to an inordinate degree, and disenfranchises those citizens after so that their voices matter even less than before? The problem with RoboCop version of the "future" is that is assumes we need robotic muscle to put down unrest, to put down violent criminals, to put down regular citizens who dare to have darker skin. We never needed robots to police this country because we've got plenty of fodder willing and able to be police officers, to commit to thuggery and domination in the name of law and order.

Body armor. Tanks. Big guns and bigger guns. And, reactionary policies that only get worse over time.


After the news reports that begin the film, it's important to note that the first thing that happens is lawyers (or maybe a lawyer and a very hands-on bail bondsman) are forcibly pushed out of the police station. The messaging in the film is being obvious in its satire--this is a world in which police are violent, lawyers are scum, and criminals deserve to die. The film leans a little too much in support of its own supposedly-satirical message as it goes, though. And, like Verhoeven's later Starship Troopers would be very misunderstood, this film is misunderstood, and maybe moreso because it can't help but side against itself in the long run because this is the tail end of Reagan's America and might makes right is such a simple cinematic trope. From John Rambo to John Matrix to John McClane to Martin (gotta be his middle name) Riggs. James Braddock. Paul Kersey. Marion Cobretti. Roger Murtaugh. Henry Jones. Joe Armstrong. Doug McMasters. Nico Toscani. Matt Hunter. Alex Murphy.

It's still shoot first, ask questions later. Police are overfunded, crime is unfairly prosecuted, prisons are for profit, and we've still got so many men (and women) eager to be police. Eager to come down on criminals. Eager to point their weapons. Eager to shoot. To hit. To choke. To hold down. To treat as subhuman. And, for what? Does crime magically go away because the police use more force? No. Do their taser guns and does their tear gas mean criminals just don't exist? That no one stands up? No. But, who cares about men of color gunned down? Who cares about police beating protestors, shooting bean bags and rubber bullets at reporters? As long as we can pretend the cops are the good guys, their methods just don't fucking matter because this country was raised on putting some people above others, on building its economy on the backs of slaves and workers alike, and westerns produced American myth perpetuated by action films, and lately by superhero films (which dress it up better, and even comment on the problems, but are still all about the violent climax and beating down the bad guy more often than they are not), and all that matters to far too many of us is that we can separate ourselves from the victim so that we can pretend that nothing is wrong, nothing to see here, America is still America and if they got beaten, if they got shot, they clearly deserved it.

I mean, it's easy. Black men populate our prisons more than white men, so they must be bad people. Cops shoot black men, oh well, probably deserved it. What's on television tonight? What did Trump just tweet? What celebrity just voiced an opinion I don't even have to listen to because they are paid to dance, monkey, dance?

And, once it's easy, it's worth expanding. If it's worth expanding, it's worth throwing money at. So, insert corporations into correctional facilities. Contract out incarcerated citizens as slave labor, profit off the backs of criminals, and who cares as long as I can do what I want when I want to? But, then this is all rhetoric, anger writ flippant, sarcastic, smart-assed, and if it bothers you, you're probably not even reading anymore, and why don't I talk about how cool RoboCop is? I mean, he's got his gun inside his leg for God's sake! He can target multiple people and then start shooting and hit his targets. He can take a punch and a whole lot of gunfire and come out of it dented by alive and eager to uphold the law a little more, one violent death at a time.

And, yeah, RoboCop was cool and is supposed to be cool, but it' supposed to be aimed at the idea that cool is not what we need. The problem is the script goes off its own rails by just turning its aim against corporations in the end and not against policing. There is absolutely no sense in the film that the war between the police and the criminals in Old Detroit was not already a thing before OCP took over the police and will not remain a thing after Dick Jones is fired and killed. In fact, the very inclusion of the Delta City improvements imply an unfair--economically, socially, and presumably racially (though the film makes no comment on this)--system becoming more unfair. The rich get richer, get bigger buildings, higher buildings, and look down on the lowly poor from even farther away, and they'll be nothing but ants living down there, going about their business, fighting amongst themselves, and if they dare get anywhere near their betters, we've got robots to squash them down... Except, the robots, again, are the problem. Corporations need imprisonment, not execution. Follow the money and it does not lead to criminals being put do death in the streets. We need cheap labor. We need the illusion of larger systemic forces protecting us from the unwashed, criminal masses. We want symbols like RoboCop, sure, but we don't want actual RoboCops. We want men we know out there on the streets protecting us so we can hashtag blue lives and act like we've done our part, too.

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