Sunday, January 6, 2013

Becky's Unsolicited Movie Reviews: Argo (Spoiler Free, and I Know - I Can't Believe It's Still in Theaters, Either!)

In eleventh grade, I took Advanced Placement U.S. History, and there was a point, roughly mid-year, when our class was temporarily taken over by a student teacher.  I don't remember his name.  I do remember that he wore glasses and, perhaps in an attempt to appear "hip" in front of a sea of seventeen-year-olds, he left the top couple of buttons undone on his shirt every day, revealing what was universally regarded as an indecent amount of chest hair.

He was also the first person I ever remember hearing praise Ronald Reagan.

I went to a public school.  In Tennessee.  Politics had run rampant in my science classrooms for as far back as I could recall, but it had remained strangely absent from history and social studies classes.  Then again, politics was a slightly different game in the pre-internet world.  As late as 1992, when I was in fifth grade, we hadn't yet decided which of our parties was the "blue" one and which was "red."  (I remember this vividly because my homework the night that Bill Clinton was first elected was to color in an electoral map; I messed mine up when the news station we were watching and our local paper utilized opposing color schemes to represent the parties.)

My political viewpoint, then, prior to eleventh grade, had come from three sources:  my parents, NBC Nightly News (which we watched religiously as a family), and Newsweek (which I started flipping through as soon as I was old enough to read).  None of these sources had given me any reason to suspect that Ronald Reagan, president for the first six years of my life, was anything other than an average Republican who had done a bunch of stuff my parents didn't agree with.  I was ignorant of the fact that there even was another viewpoint until, in an unapologetically biased way, our student teacher decided to spend half of his alloted time with our class talking about how "great" he was.

But even more shocking to me than his hard-on for Reagan was his (gasp) utter disdain for President Jimmy Carter.  I didn't know much about Jimmy Carter's time in office (which was before I was born), but I did know that he was a good man who built houses for people and who sent us a Christmas card every year.  Chest Hair up there wasn't showing him the proper level of respect.

Taking aside for a moment the complete inappropriateness of a public school (student!) teacher imposing his political views on his students (not to mention the absurdity of our regular teacher, who sat through every class he taught, apparently not caring enough to say anything to him about it), Chest Hair proved to be a harbinger for future mentions of Jimmy Carter that I found myself privy to.  That damn Iranian Hostage cost Carter reelection in 1980 and it made him a target for every generation of Republican that came after him. 

Illustration stolen from The New Yorker.
Let's just say that when it comes to movies set in the Carter administration, even the famously liberal Hollywood hadn't come up with much to spin the era in Jimmy's favor.

Enter Ben Affleck.

Argo is not a propaganda piece.  It's not even all that political.  What it is is a damn entertaining film about a mostly forgotten chapter in a much screamed about era in American politics.

Does it rewrite the late '70s in Carter's favor?  No.  What it does do is offer a more accessible (and undoubtedly more accurate) account of history than I got in high school.

It's a good movie, regardless of your politics.  But just the same, I hope Chest Hair, wherever he is now, took the time to see it.


  1. This may seem ironic given that I'm still not entirely convinced I know the name of our junior-year algebra teacher, but Chest Hair was Mr. Scheer. I only remember this because Dot called him Mr. Sneetch. And I was thoroughly grossed out by him.

    I don't remember him getting political, but I remember Coach Hawkins declaring his love for "Senator McCain from Arizona" on a routine basis. And the fact that he used the modifier "several many," making him to date the only person I have heard use that construction.

    1. Scheer! WOW, even hearing his name now, I don't remember it all. Oddly enough, though, I *do* (now) remember you telling me that Dot called him Mr. Sneetch! HA! So there you go. That's what is triggered in my memory about high school history. Well done, education system. :)

      I seem to have forgotten pretty much everything Coach Hawkins ever said to us, too, which is sad, because I recall he was actually a pretty good teacher. (Although not the best grammarian, apparently.) The sad thing is, John McCain was kind of okay back in those days, before describing him as a "maverick" became a parody.

      God. We're old...