Zack Snyder's "Orgasm Death Gimmick"


Zack Snyder differs from Burroughs, Noe and Passolini in so far as his depictions of the transgressive, the anti-social and the fetishistic are presented in an entirely sympathetic light. Not only does Snyder fail to condemn Leonidas or Rorschach, he actually builds films around them that make them look like deeply moral and heroic men. Snyder’s orgasm death gimmick is not deployed as a form of social criticism, it is deployed in order to pander to audiences with seemingly no higher artistic desire than to entertain and amuse. Zack Snyder makes films that make us feel good about the absolute worst in us.

I've never given this much thought to Zack Snyder or his films, but maybe I should? [Adds "Zack Snyder Marathon" to calendar]

"Sharing in the riches of its benefits"

On the recommendation of a friend, I'm reading For Discrimination: Race, Affirmative Action, and the Law, the latest book from legal scholar Randall Kennedy. As a defense of affirmative action, it's more than adequate. But it stands stronger as a call for clear-eyed thinking, and specifically, a call for affirmative action supporters to acknowledge the costs, weaknesses, and failures of the policy, even as they defend it.

I'll have more to say when I finish. For now, I wanted to highlight a passage that should sound familiar if you read The Case for Reparations from Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic:

It is not unfair to enlist, to some extent, all Americans in that large, complex, and costly effort, including those who have had no hand in perpetrating racial wrongs. Membership in a polity entails contributing to the alleviation of its woes, just as it means sharing in the riches of its benefits. Americans who had nothing to do with the terrible injustice the United States government imposed on people of Japanese ancestry during World War II were required nonetheless, and rightly so, to contribute toward paying reparations to rectify the wrong done by the society in which they enjoy membership.

And here's the related passage from Coates:

The last slaveholder has been dead for a very long time. The last soldier to endure Valley Forge has been dead much longer. To proudly claim the veteran and disown the slaveholder is patriotism à la carte. A nation outlives its generations. We were not there when Washington crossed the Delaware, but Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze’s rendering has meaning to us. We were not there when Woodrow Wilson took us into World War I, but we are still paying out the pensions. If Thomas Jefferson’s genius matters, then so does his taking of Sally Hemings’s body. If George Washington crossing the Delaware matters, so must his ruthless pursuit of the runagate Oney Judge.

They both point to the same idea: Citizenship isn't free, and the benefits of living in a (largely) peaceful, prosperous nation like the United States aren't without their costs and sacrifices. To demand the psychic and material benefits of American citizenship while disavowing its costs and obligations isn't just untenable—a recipe for disaster, sooner or later—it's dishonest.

"Where are you really from?"

Without fail, once a week, someone asks me where I'm from.

"Hey, where are you from?"


"No, I mean, where are you really from?"

Sometimes they'll clarify with a "from Africa," and every time I'll say, "My family has been here for a long time, no one is from Africa." It's never not annoying, and sometimes—when there's an undertone of "you don't belong here"—it's racist. But most of the time, it's just annoying.

John Roberts' Traps

Jeffrey Toobin kind of goes H.A.M on the Roberts Court's use of "narrow" decisions to set the stage for right-wing revolutions:

The template here is the court’s voting-rights jurisprudence. In the 2009 case of Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Holder, the court upheld a challenge to an application of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Chief Justice Roberts’s decision was “narrow,” and it even drew the votes of the court’s more liberal members. Four years later, though, Roberts used the Northwest Austin precedent as a wedge to destroy both Section 4 and Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, as well as much of its effectiveness, in the case of Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder. The liberals who signed on to the Northwest Austin decision howled that they’d been betrayed. But it was too late.

Did Barack Obama fail Black America?

I'm not sure I agree with the premise, but Randall Kennedy gives a good explanation of Obama's popularity with African Americans:

First, Obama has delivered on what most blacks most craved: a serious, competent, dignified male politician who identifies as black, is married to a black woman, is free of any associations understood as anti-black and is simultaneously attractive to enough whites and others to prevail electorally. It is difficult to exaggerate African-Americans’ frustration with the stereotype of black male irresponsibility or their yearning for a dramatic counter-image. Obama is the antithesis of The Black Man as Failure. That alone buys him a lot of gratitude.

American Priests

Jacob Bacharach is absolutely right about the role/status/position of the Supreme Court in American life:

[H]as ever any cryptomasonic gaggle of semi-intellectuals in the history of human society ever labored so conspicuously to cloak their inevitable arrival at their own obvious a priori conclusions in an evidentiary process? Again, you wanna talk religion? How about the belief that nine concurrent lifetime Popes operating under a principle of practical infallibility that makes the claims of the actual Vatican seem positively modest by comparison are going to utilize some marvelous hybrid of inductive and deductive reasoning to protect the holy principles of democracy, whatever those are. Of course this was going to be the outcome.

Hillary Clinton Doesn't Need Liberals

My latest column at Slate is on the source of Hillary Clinton's astounding strength as a potential presidential candidate:

Which brings us back to the present. Yes, Hillary Clinton benefits from her new popularity with liberals, but her strength comes from her position with black voters, who seem committed to a Clinton candidacy. And as long as that’s true, Hillary Clinton can’t lose the 2016 Democratic primary, period.

Libertarian's Racial Blindspot

My friend Jonathan Blanks speaks truth:

Too often, libertarians have asked me in private conversation about what's best described as "respectability politics." That is, because of the dress or language or behavior of young black men particularly that the ire of police is directed their way and therefore results in the myriad criminal justice disparities. But here you have a black female college professor refusing to show ID--as any good libertarian would--and getting thrown to the ground and arrested. How many times does this sort of thing happen to black people before libertarians recognize that maybe her race may have played a role? It's journalism--you're supposed to stick to the facts and keep speculation down, I know. But the fact is black people have a long history in this country of being singled out and abused by people in power, and to my knowledge, there's been no magical moment when that has stopped being true.