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“The Framers Were Not Even Men. Or Virginians.”

[ 92 ] January 28, 2013 |

I don’t have the patience to to deal with David Mamet’s latest hackwork in any detail; I’m glad I’ll be screening The Verdict in law & society class today to help me forget his unfortunate side career as an eighteenth-rate political pundit.  So I’ll mostly outsource to Tomasky.  I really can’t resist this line, though:

The Founding Fathers, far from being ideologues, were not even politicians.

I…wow. My question: does Mamet really think that being selected as a delegates to the convention was the first political experience for Madison and Hamilton? Given their subsequent careers, isn’t that something you might want to at least look up?

…see also. And this.


Comments (92)

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  1. Brandon says:

    Of course it was in Newsweek. How did I not see that coming.

  2. Ken Houghton says:

    I’m glad I’ll be screening The Verdict in law & society class today

    Pay especial attention to Paul Newman belting Charlotte Rampling.

    • John F says:

      I’m glad I’ll be screening The Verdict in law & society class today

      The actual legal stuff, including courtroom scenes are so fantastically unrealistic that I find them unwatchable, when the Judge strikes the key witness’s testimony for no reason (Actually there is a “reason” given in the judge’s dialogue, but it’s such a non sequitar that it hardly counts- basically the writer/director felt that the plot required such testimony be struck)

      • Scott Lemieux says:

        Because of the many themes in the film that dovetail with a law & society class: the relationship between client and lawyer, the advantages of repeat players, the role of race and class in structuring “expert” testimony, the legality of jury nullification.

        • John F says:

          but the movie got all of that WRONG

          • Scott Lemieux says:

            I’m afraid you’re going to have to do better than that.

            • John F says:

              Not enough time, but

              1: Jury Nullification- only works in criminal cases- essentially a jury can refuse to convict the guilty- in a civil case jury nullification can be readily overturned by the trial judge and/or appeals court – though to be fair to the movie the possibility that the jury verdict would not stand on appeal was discussed

              2: Atty client relations -refusing to relay a settlement offer to his clients and refusing to obey their instructions regarding settlement is patently improper.

              • Scott Lemieux says:

                1: Jury Nullification- only works in criminal cases- essentially a jury can refuse to convict the guilty- in a civil case jury nullification can be readily overturned by the trial judge and/or appeals court – though to be fair to the movie the possibility that the jury verdict would not stand on appeal was discussed

                Not the point. The law clearly pointed in one direction, and the jury had to decide if they would choose the just outcome the law seemed to forbid. We will be reading other stuff on torts that makes clear that jury verdicts can be overturned, but this doesn’t make the movie “wrong.”

                2: Atty client relations -refusing to relay a settlement offer to his clients and refusing to obey their instructions regarding settlement is patently improper.

                Indeed! And the movie makes this point very well. (Galvin is not a heroic figure; I’m not sure how you missed that.)

  3. c u n d gulag says:

    I suspect that Mamet was alway contradictory.

    I was an actor, and I taught acting and theatre courses as an Adjunct Professor at a college. I came across his short little book on acting right after I left, or I’d have used it. It was great – he sounded like he wanted acting to be so naturalistic, it was almost like reading Stanislavsky.

    And then, everytime I watched a movie he’s directed, I asked myself, “If he wrote that book on finding a naturalistic way to act, why are his actors acting in ways that I can only describe as either ‘programmed,’ or ‘tortured.'”

    Mamet is like a lot of the Neo-cons. A person who was once fairly Liberal, but has now twisted himself into some sort of uber-Conservative.
    IMO – it’s self-hate, for his earlier self.
    And why?
    I don’t know. He wrote some pretty great plays early on, before his misogyny started to show.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      I dunno, it’s not that his early work was less misogynist. It’s that it was better. And while I generally prefer his screenplays directed by other people, House of Games and to a lesser extent The Spanish Prisoner work pretty well.

      • Richard says:

        I love House of Games. One of my favorite movies of all time. Spanish Prisoner I like much less although its not bad. But the later movies he directed – like that awful MMA one – are terrible.

      • c u n d gulag says:

        I’m not saying they weren’t good movies.
        Or, that the acting wasn’t good.

        My point was, as an actor who studied Stanilsavsky’s system of acting in NYC, that in both of those movies, the last thing I’d call the acting style, was “naturalistic.”
        Stilted, maybe.
        Effective, yeah.
        But not “naturalistic.”

        • Kurzleg says:

          Which is interesting because Mamet’s style supposedly mimics the way people actually speak. Now, it could be that some actors who are accustomed to what’s become conventional dialogue in film have a tough time handling Mamet’s style. Alan Arkin said he found GGGR dialogue very challenging, and he’s no slouch.

          • c u n d gulag says:

            It could be, but it wasn’t for me. I did GGGR in Upstate NY in the late 90’s, playing Levene – which was quite challenging for a younger actor.
            We got terrific reviews for our production.

            Oh, and our group had sent off for the rights to “American Buffalo,” and had started to rehearse it, knowing we’d get approval shortly.

            Only that approval never came.

            At the same time we were asking for approval, a group of women decided to do “American Buffalo” either on Broadway, or Off-Braodway.
            Mamet had a hissy-fit, that his play would be done by women, so, he pulled everyone’s rights to it.
            What an @$$hole!
            I’d have loved to have seen that production with women playing the parts.

            So, instead, I did “Waiting for Godot,” and actually performed in it Off-Off-Broadway.
            We got offers to tour our production in Europe, Australia, and SE Asia, but I got a job offer in NC, took it, and, the rest, as they say, is history…

            Mamet’s an @$$hole.

          • People use contractions when they speak. I dunno when the last time I heard “cannot” spoken except perhaps when I last talked about Mamet.

            Not that it stops me from liking the Mamet things I like.

        • Richard says:

          I fully agree. The acting in House of Games, especially that of Lindsay Krause, was as far from naturalistic as things get.

        • David says:

          I had always thought that Mamet’s views on acting were counterposed to Stanislavski and the Method folks, which he derided. I feel like I read True or False in the mid 90s when I was doing lots of theater but I feel like the gist of it was screw the method, just read the words. It seemed all about subordinating the actor to the writer.

      • Chester Allman says:

        I may be virtually alone in this, but I thought The Spanish Prisoner was awful. I remember leaving the film actually angry about how bad it was. I did love GGGR, though.

      • Warren Terra says:

        House Of Games is good, and interesting, and it’s an early work of his with a noticeable female character (unlike say Glengarry Glen Ross; I don’t know a lot of his work). But, yeah, it’d not be hard to find misogyny in the work. Misanthropy, too, and general dyspepsia, but there’s plenty to substantiate misogyny.

        • Richard says:

          Well House of Games was about a bunch of con men who try to con a woman. The see her vulnerability and try to take advantage of it. But they dont prevail in the end. I’m not so sure you can accurately call it misogynist. I like it because its incredibly suspenseful and the con men – Mantegna, Jay, etc – are incredibly good and believable.

          • Ed says:

            Well House of Games was about a bunch of con men who try to con a woman. The see her vulnerability and try to take advantage of it. But they dont prevail in the end. I’m not so sure you can accurately call it misogynist.

            Only if you’re not looking very hard. The Lindsay Crouse character is considerably more ambiguous than that. As Joe Mantegna explains to her patiently, he’s a con man. That’s his job, it’s what he does. To absolutely no one’s surprise but the good doctor’s, he then cons her, and in return she pumps him full of holes and goes back to her privileged life renewed and sporting pretty printed frocks. He’s a thief, but he’s no killer. She is.

    • matt says:

      You’re the only actor or acting teacher I’ve ever heard of who actually liked True and False. As a professional actor and, now, college theatre professor, I hate it. What good ideas are in the book are completely overshadowed by Mamet’s sense of self-regard and his overwhelming contempt for actors and the process of acting. To me, it marks the turning point of his career and his slide into hackdom.

      The linked article didn’t make me angry or upset at all. It’s just bog-standard right wing talking points about Obama Sux and the like. What I felt was sadness. This is David Mamet for God’s sake. He wrote American Buffalo, which is one of the great works of the American theatre. How has he descended into such awfulness?

      • Kurzleg says:

        Who’s to say he didn’t identify with Baldwin’s character all along?

        • Ian says:

          Well, not “all along,” because Baldwin’s character isn’t in the play version of GGGR. But more broadly, sure. Perhaps Mamet used to be an actual liberal, but there’s little evidence of it in any of his plays, even the ones that are legitimate masterpieces. GGGR can be read as an excoriating attack on capitalism and the hypocrisies of the American Dream, but it’s not proposing anything else in its place–it’s a straightforward slash-and-burn. Say what you like about Blake’s rant, at least it’s an ethos.

          • Kurzleg says:

            Mamet has certainly seemed to look admiringly upon those who scammed their way into money, so…

            • Richard says:

              He likes con men and thieves. That affinity to them is what makes so many of his early plays and movies so good. As a political commentator these days, he’s an idiot and I haven’t seen his most recent plays (the two women show on Broadway about a 60s radical got savaged by the critics and closed in a week’s time) but the early plays and movies hold up.

              • Kurzleg says:

                Indeed he does, but based on his recent embrace of wingnutism I suspect that the admiration isn’t strictly a dramatic one. Based on his recent writings I get the impression that to him they represent a sort of anti-establishment/government attitude, a person who doesn’t play by the rules that he believes liberals have laid out for the country. Maybe I’m reading too much into this affinity (if it can be called that), but my characterization dovetails nicely with Mamet’s recently-expressed views.

      • c u n d gulag says:

        I’ll have to reread it, if I can find it.

        I remember NOT liking parts of it – but, overall, I recall that I liked it.
        Maybe it’s because I’d read so many absolutely sh*tty books on acting since I took it up in my early 20’s.

        And, hey, it was by David Mamet, right? One of the best American playwrights of the latter part of the 20th Century.

        Sadly, it won’t be the first time that I saw what I wanted to see in a work.

    • burritoboy says:

      Why do we think that Mamet ever was actually a liberal?

      His biography is that of an archetypal classic neoconservative – even the sneaking fondness for a certain type of macho con artists and criminals is common (Podhoretz actually shares this, if you read him carefully).

      Further, a lot (perhaps even most)of tough-guy American male authors precisely started being Lefties in their youth (even CP members), and ended up as rabid right-wingers as they aged – Dos Passos, O’Hara, and many others come to mind. It’s not just random, it’s somehow a significant temptation for tough-guy American male authors.

  4. TT says:

    The Founding Fathers, far from being ideologues, were not even politicians.

    A person capable of actually writing that sentence is either a shameless liar or possesses an IQ with a decimal point in front of it.

    Maybe it’s just all of a piece with conservatives’ concept of themselves and their ideology as inherently nonpolitical and non-ideological. The Constitution as written reflected the natural nonpolitical and non-ideological order of things, which cannot ever change. But then the liberals soon came along and ever since have been trying to undermine The Founding Fathers’ divine nonpolitical and non-ideological intent.

  5. rea says:

    The group, as a whole, had extensive political experience. At the time of the convention, four-fifths, or 41 individuals, were or had been members of the Continental Congress. Mifflin and Gorham had served as president of the body. The only ones who lacked congressional experience were Bassett, Blair, Brearly, Broom, Davie, Dayton, Alexander Martin, Luther Martin, Mason, McClurg, Paterson, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, Strong, and Yates. Eight men (Clymer, Franklin, Gerry, Robert Morris, Read, Sherman, Wilson, and Wythe) had signed the Declaration of Independence. Six (Carroll, Dickinson, Gerry, Gouverneur Morris, Robert Morris, and Sherman) had affixed their signatures to the Articles of Confederation. But only two, Sherman and Robert Morris, underwrote all three of the nation’s basic documents. Practically all of the 55 delegates had experience in colonial and state government. Dickinson, Franklin, Langdon, Livingston, Alexander Martin, Randolph, Read, and Rutledge had been governors, and the majority had held county and local offices.

    • Hogan says:

      Benjamin Harrison V arrived at the Continental Congress of 1774 as a member of the Virginia Assembly, in which Benjamin Harrison I had sat–and Benjamin Harrison II, and Benjamin Harrison III, and Benjamin Harrison IV. These were men with a century of governing behind them. America was already old before she got a chance to be “born” from an idea . . .

      –Garry Wills

      • NonyNony says:

        Feh. You guys are talking about empirical reality.

        What matters here is myth. And everyone knows that Thomas Jefferson was just a gentleman farmer with no knowledge about how a government was supposed to work when he single-handedly formed our democratic government out of nothing, because nobody had ever done anything like it before in the History Of The World. And it’s great men like that that made America Exceptional.

        That’s what happened. If you believe otherwise, you’re a dupe of the liberal conspiracy.

    • herr doktor bimler says:

      None of this is relevant. Mamet has defined “politician” as “a huckster, mounting a soapbox and inflaming our passions”, and since the people in questions were not that Badthing, they cannot have been politicians.

      Rather, they were people who made careers from engaging in politics.

  6. Leeds man says:

    I got as far as this:

    Who elected him [Obama] to speak for another citizen?

  7. mark f says:

    I’m pretty sure Ricky Jay conned him into writing all that.

  8. Eli Rabett says:

    So Eli was on a tour of some old Virginian’s house (Gunston Hall home of George Mason) and the guide was telling everyone that he was this and that in the Va government, and of course important in drafting the Constitution, etc, and then dropped the clanger, “but of course he was not a politician”.

    Eli remarked, wait a sec, he was he was this and that in the Va government, and of course important in drafting the Constitution, etc, and he wasn’t a politician? Oh no, he wasn’t a politician. What do you think politicians do Eli remarked. We went several rounds with the audience opinion split. It ended when Ms. Rabett stuck the sharp point of her elbow into Eli’s ribs. It was good fun while it lasted, but very scary.

  9. HP says:

    I’m always reminded of the classic scene in The Toxic Avenger (admittedly, an uneven film), where the evil banker is foreclosing on a poor, elderly woman:

    Banker: ‘Neither a borrower nor a lender be’ — William Shakespeare

    Old Lady: ‘Fuck you’ — David Mamet

    Except that the old woman they cast is an amateur actor, and her reading sounds more like “Fuck you, David Mamet.”

    • Anonymous says:

      A banker is advising someone to be neither a borrower nor a lender? The writers really didn’t think that one out, did they?

    • Warren Terra says:

      It turns out, she got it right, she was just ahead of her time. If Mamet were to write Glengarry Glen Ross today, it would be about the travails of Baldwin’s character, the heroic striver from Central Office perpetually let down by Takers pretending to be Makers, people undeserving even of steak knives.

  10. Bitter Scribe says:

    Fuck Mamet. I always considered him an overrated jerk who thought he was about five times more clever than he actually is. Now with his neocon stuff he’s revealing his true nature. An online-only Newsweek is the perfect vehicle for him.

  11. Sundown says:

    Does anyone know if Zosia Mamet (his daughter) also shares his fringe views? I always like seeing her in Girls and in (her once-in-a-blue-moon appearances on) Mad Men, and I really don’t want to have every appearance of her be ruined in my head.

    • The solution to this problem is to go back in time and never post what you posted.

    • witless chum says:

      As someone who greatly enjoys the guitar playing on Fred Bear, I really, really don’t share this concern.

      The only ones whose real life image bothers me at this point to where I have trouble watching is Tom Cruise (creeps me out cause Xenu and he’s weird) or Charlie Sheen (on-screen persona is lame, but reminds me of his real life exploits as a domestic abuser).

      Methinks that if one can’t enjoy Adam Baldwin on Firefly, despite his shitty politics, one is doing it wrong.

  12. DrDick says:

    Just a passing thought, but who the fuck even thinks that playwrights, actors, musicians, or other artists (or athletes) have any expertise on this sort of thing? Certainly some of them are intelligent and informed and make interesting observations on occasion, but they are not experts and their opinions carry no more weight, nor deserve any more credibility, than that of the average person on the street.

    • Reilly says:

      Just a passing thought, but who the fuck even thinks that playwrights, actors, musicians, or other artists (or athletes) have any expertise on this sort of thing?

      Arianna Huffington.

    • Rob says:

      Yes because limiting it to the Tom Freidmans and George Wills of the world is a better idea.

      • DrDick says:

        I am not sure why anyone pays attention to them either. Far too many of our Commentariat really have no particular qualifications and demonstrably know very little about their subjects.

        • Vance Maverick says:

          On the other hand, I’d hate to insist on formal credentials. When Krugman was pointing out the lies in the Bush approach to war, was he unqualified? His economic credentials add to his credibility on matters economic, though they don’t insulate him from criticism; his lack of political science credentials didn’t insulate him from criticism either, but didn’t disqualify him from commenting. (Zeugma!)

          • DrDick says:

            I did not phrase that as well as I could have. My actual point was not about credentialling, but rather demonstrated knowledge and credibility on the topic. While I love Krugman, there are many things where I would not necessarily seek out his advice. It is a question of whether someone has any credibility on the topic and I cannot think of anything outside of theater and film where Mamet has any credibility at all.

    • Ken says:

      You’d at least expect that playwrights, actors, and musicians would have seen 1776 at least once. The only way to come away from that play without thinking the drafters of the Declaration weren’t politicians is to sleep through it.

      Molasses, to Rum, to Slaves…

    • Dana in NYC says:

      Do you need expertise in anything specific in order to think, speak and write coherently? No. You can be the broadest generalist and still be able to communicate your ideas effectively. Mr. Mamet was manifestly unable to do this in his gun control screed. I submit it is because his ideas on the topic are half baked and Newsweek gave him a premature platform that out of town tryouts and investors would have denied him. He was incoherent in both thought and word. Which can work on the stage but not on the page.

  13. commie atheist says:

    This infuriated me:

    As rules by the Government are one-size-fits-all, any governmental determination of an individual’s abilities must be based on a bureaucratic assessment of the lowest possible denominator. The government, for example, has determined that black people (somehow) have fewer abilities than white people, and, so, must be given certain preferences. Anyone acquainted with both black and white people knows this assessment is not only absurd but monstrous. And yet it is the law.

    No, fuckface, black people have been given “certain preferences” because the were systematically excluded from the educational, social and employment opportunities that white men have always enjoyed, since the time THEY WERE FUCKING BROUGHT TO THIS COUNTRY AS SLAVES, YOU FUCKING PATHETIC ASSHOLE. And because aforesaid white men continue to receive preferential treatment in higher education and employment, through legacy scholarships, old boys networks, and the like. It’s as though Mamet never even heard of Jim Fucking Crow, or Selma, or really anything that doesn’t fit into his precise ideological construct of reality.

    “And yet it is the law.” But not for long, if your fellow morons have their way.

    Christ. What a an asshole.

    • Kurzleg says:

      I normally don’t get out of the boat, and I had no idea how willfully ignorant/misleading/disingenuous (take your pick, mix and match) Mamet was being in this piece. It’s hard to believe that he doesn’t know better than this.

  14. Sallust says:

    He also said “Marx never worked a day in his life,” as though to say writing is not work; as though to say David Mamet owes his fame to having not worked; as though to say David Mamet is just like Karl Marx (in the categorical regard); as though to say: I, David Mamet, know not of what I speak as my whole argument is based on a house of cards, seeing as it relies on my readings of an escalating stack of inutile hacks (Friedman, Hayek, Smith, et al.), that is, on parasites whose notability is almost exclusively derived from and dependent on comportments that, by their very nature, should be universally reviled for being quintessentially negative in value, seeing as any claim to the inherent worthlessness of the alluded to acts is so grotesquely obvious, self-evident, and self-explanatory as to require not the slightest defense, elaboration, or explanation—such perversely injurious acts against our commonweal, Judeo-Christianity, and indeed any anti-decadent code of ethics, as any well-informed true conservative must know, are in our society politely and politically-correctly, non-judgmentally and euphemistically assigned the name of “writing.”

  15. Mike Schilling says:

    They were businessmen. Why do you think Jefferson spent so much time in the House of Purchases? (Yes, I did read The Eduction of H*y*m*a*n K*a*p*l*a*n. Why do you ask?)

  16. Oliver says:

    It takes a special category of idiot who, on the strength of directing 2 or 3 middlingly well-received films, starts issuing pronouncements that directors shouldn’t use the Steadicam.

    I’d rather have the Steadicam “doing injury to American movies” than Mamet and the extremism he champions doing harm to American society.

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