Armed Prophet so far has received more email about my posted reaction to The Onion's dreadfully inadequate lampoon of Christopher Hitchens. One of my emailers is off to Coachella, another is currently deployed with the US Army (almost deployed to Iraq, but thankfully, not) so it'll be days before I find out if they object to my posting their comments. So read fast! Let's get started:
You have to admit that the piece was more clever (cleverer) than the typical Onion fare, if only because it merited a reading and subsequent posting. Most of the time I just skim headlines and move on to the infographic, statshot and AV Club.
True enough on that last point. Armed Prophet can't remember the last time I read every story, but I'm guessing 1998. Will I admit that it was clever enough to read and comment upon? No. The only reason I bothered to mention it is because of Hitch. Let's say it was P.J. O'Rourke
or Pauly Shore
. Would I care? Doubt it. It wasn't the story itself; just its subject. Here's more:
If you're going to criticize The Onion for selling-out, then you might go back and rework your previous Simpsons' praise. The Simpsons jumped the shark when Maude died. Critics are fond are saying that even a bad episode of the Simpsons is better than anything else on the networks. (I don't necessarily agree, but...)
I don't think I've discussed The Simpsons and its recent season on this blog in any great depth, but it's true that I've said something akin to "bad Simpsons is like bad pizza or bad sex -- still pretty good." I suppose he's got me here -- I still tune in at 8PM every Sunday night. Likewise, I still have The Onion
in my bookmarks and still click on it at least once a week. Indeed, I allowed in the previous post that it can still be pretty funny, but the hit-to-miss ratio is much lower than it was a year or two ago. (Same with The Simpsons.) And these days, a bad episode of The Sopranos is better than a good episode of The Simpsons.
And now, my second correspondent, remarking upon Hitchens' public fallings-out with Alex "I'm Still a Stalinist?" Cockburn and Studs "I'm Still Alive?" Terkel, among others:
I suspect the writer of that Onion article, rather than failing to appreciate this theater, was referencing it directly. Of course it's silly to think of Hitch in a trailer park; it's incongruous with what we understand about him, which is part of why it's funny. But these public disputes have a sort of what-the-fuck quality which, just maybe, was highlighted by an article that asked, "hey... isn't this high-minded Brit acting toward his former colleagues just a little the way some trailer-park dude acts toward his long-term 'old lady', airing the whole thing out in the press in the way that a trailer-park dude might air his domestic greivances in the local police reports?" And I suspect they mentioned the alcohol aspect for the same reason: it's something that Terkel and others have harped upon in the actual exchanges that have been made public. Unjustifiably harped upon, in my opinion, but I guess they took whatever shots they could.
Ah, but they didn't
take what shots they could. That's what gets me (with this piece, anyway). Although I may be a Hitchens partisan (especially, obviously, in his arguments with the aforementioned has-beens), my beef with the Onion
piece is not at all that they treated him unfairly or zinged him too harshly -- it's that they didn't really treat him
at all, and entirely failed (indeed, didn't even seem to try) at lobbying zings in his direction.
Unless: There may a good point in this -- what if this was the author's attempt to parody Hitchens' war of words with these prime specimens of leftage by putting him in a bitch-fight with a common trailer ho? Might that be a clever way of reducing the erudite, international Hitchens to a provincial half-wit battling with another? Well, it's possible. But Armed Prophet thinks that would be giving the author too much credit. After all, if it was supposed to be a lampoon of Hitchens' public squabbles, then why didn't his "common-law wife" represent any of Hitch's enemies? The Onion calls her Noreen Bodell, his
common-law wife of 14 years
but otherwise, she is a cipher:
Little is known about Bodell, a heavy-set blonde who has been known to use several different surnames.
Obviously, the supposed wife is incidental. (I wonder what Hitchens' real-life wife, Carol Blue
, has to say about this.)
If the author did want to make light of their differences, then it might have been useful to at least mention, Hitchens' evolving politics. Instead, The Onion merely calls him a "leftist intellectual" -- but Hitchens wouldn't call himself a leftist. What Hitchens is today still remains to be seen. How he will judge the aftermath of the war in Iraq is something Hitchens alone can determine. Whether he does indeed vote for George W. Bush in 2004 as he's indicated that he might remains to be seen.
I guess it remains allowable, though not likely, that the author intended this to be a clever commentary upon Hitchens as of late. But if so, then the author just isn't familiar with Hitchens as of late -- if, indeed, he or she ever was very familiar with him.
The last point I have to make is one I should have mentioned at the very beginning: To explicate a joke is to kill it. To examine why it is funny is to render it un-funny. Now, what does this do to an already-unfunny joke? Armed Prophet finds it interesting to explicate, but that might just be me. If you, reading this now, did think it was funny, then I've surely ruined the whole thing for you, if you've bothered to read it to this point. Many jokes are just there to make one laugh; examined further they are revealed to be less than the sum of their parts. Perhaps that is the case here. But if that is the case, then Armed Prophet still found not just the whole, but also the parts, to be very disappointing. I say this as a Hitchens fan, who would have liked to see a good send-up of the "modern day Orwell." In the end, I guess I would still like to see that.