There are certain things that you don’t do lightly, my friends. Certain activities and actions that you do not undertake without either the proper mindset or every tool you have at your disposal. You do not, for instance, go up to Scott WalkerÂ a United StatesÂ governor and kick him in the head unless you’re willing to face the consequences…or have some damn good connections to get you out of the country. It is for this reason that I do not believe that I am not, in any way shape or form, qualified to review the Terry Gilliam filmÂ Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Perhaps earlier I could have done just that; written my piece and gone onto the next thing or next thinly veiled “I WANT”post. But I think I know better now. To review Fear and Loathing wouldn’t just require a watching the film or review purposes. Reading the book by Hunter S. Thompson Â for comparison wouldn’t be good enough either (though I have done that, too). To properly review Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas would in fact require a not only those, but a look at Thompson himself, the man’s other works, Oscar Zeta Acosta, the collapse of the 60’s counterculture, the drug culture of the 70’s, and other factors that a quick Google search isn’t sufficient enough to cover. By all means, I recommend the book and the movie, but that is all I can do right now. I have neither the knowledge, the tools or the insight at my disposal for anything deeper or meaningful. As it stands I only know of three people who are qualified: Lindsay Ellis, Kyle Kallgren,Â Chuck SonnenburgÂ and David DeMoss. So please, go to those people and demandÂ ask them to do that.
Especially you, Dave. You should be on that like a pack of starving piranha on a cow.
So as I sat down, realizing I had finally gotten to a point where I’ve started to become ever-slightly so embarrassed at my early works and pondering again whether or not to start fresh with a new blog, I still felt like writing something,anything, related to Fear and Loathing. My mind pondered and puzzled and contemplated what I should do. Eventually my mind trailed off, as it is often wont to do, like reflect on the character of James McGill of the excellent television series Better Call Saul. This is when the idea came to me Â The wheels of my brain went round and round and round and round until sort of fictional character apophenia began to take hold. I saw three men, yes! three men; Superman, Raoul Duke and James McGill, all connected by one goal. I saw it as clearly as a flock of geese flying in a clear midday sky. There it was, standing over their heads in bright, mile-high neon letters: The American Dream.
Pictured: Id, Ego andÂ Superego, if you’ll forgive the pun
(Hey, it was this or talk about how much Son of BatmanÂ sucks.)
Now, let us not dwell upon the differences of each of the fictional men. They’re obvious and they’re various personalities a well documented elsewhere. So let’s look at how these men relate to each other:
For starters, each man is putting up a false front in some way. Raoul Duke says he’s not Hunter S. Thompson and lies about his profession at the National Association of District Attorneys Conference both for laughs and to make sure a maid doesn’t report him to the authorities. James McGill’s trying his damnedest to go straight, wearing Matlock suits and presenting himself as trustworthy friend while constantly at war with his “Slippin’ Jimmy” past and his honed senses for being a con man. And Superman is the greatest false front of all: someone who presents himself as the paragon of good and virtue despite the fact that he is Clark Kent, a human man, with all the faults and wants of such a creature.
Both James McGill and Clark Kent are both sons of the Midwest and, if Jimmy’s brother Chuck is anything to go by, had the virtues of hard work, honesty and doing the right thing taught to them in their developmental years. While Clark internalized those teachings, Jimmy mostly brushed them off (save for hard work).
Hunter S. Thompson and Clark Kent, the men behind the character, both took up the trade of being a reporter. They’re reporters of different stripes, of course, but they are (or were in Thompson’s case; being dead kind of hinders your ability to report on anything other than the afterlife) reporters none the less.
Both Jimmy and Duke are essentially ne’er do well normal human beings. While I’m sure legal acumen and the ability spin a tale as well as Thompson can are all attributes we’d all love to possess, they’re not superhuman abilities. Well, as far as I know, they’re not superhuman abilities. I could be incredibly wrong.
Both Jimmy and Clack have an obvious affection for a co-worker (or former co-worker, anyway): Lois Lane and Kim Wexler.
Lastly, all three have a distinctive look to them (Jimmy’s Matlock suit, Duke’s shades, panama shirt and hat, Superman’s costume).
But above all those, my friends, lies their true binding journey: the hunt for the American Dream. Duke’s the only one of them to say it out loud, but they’re all hunting for it in some way. That could be said of every man, woman and child both blessed and cursed to find themselves within the borders of these United States. We’re not focusing on the entire country, though. Bastard’s too damn big for me to get a handle on. So we’ll give out attention to the wholesome journalist/superhero, the conman lawyer and a hippie burnout reporter.
First, let us ask ourselves one question before we move on: what is the American Dream? Is it really the apple pie Norman Rockwell fantasy that’s been sold to us by the Republican Party? Perhaps, in theirÂ hazy and narrow-viewed salad days, that was the American Dream. Now, though, it is an anachronism. And old hope that’s been gently parodied, bitterly mocked and viciously deconstructed over the decades. It’s no longer a viable goal in this mad twenty first century of ours, with its iPhones, terrorist cells and twenty four hour news coverage. It is, for lack of any better term, the Old American Dream.
So what is the American Dream? We cannot move on from this point without a clear definition of our terms. Let us ask ourselves another question then: if we were to break it down to its most basic elements, what would we find in the Old American Dream? Well, wealth is certainly a part of it,or at the very least financial stability. How can you get that new car and house in the suburbs without a halfway decent account balance? Marriage and children are also a part of the Old American Dream, but then we’d be discounting the amount of couples happily together without kids and those various homosexual couples that find themselves in states that will not allow them to marry. There is also a desire for success at your chosen profession within it. Let us not forget the desire for safety for yourself, your loved ones and your property the Old American Dream. All of these things have the purpose of leading to one thing: happiness, whose pursuit the U.S.of A. is guaranteed for all people y the preamble of the Â Declaration of Independence, along life and liberty.
So, with all these factors laid out in front of us, we can build a definition for the purposes of this piece. As such:
The American Dream
noun: Â A desire for wealth, success, security, companionship and happiness had by those who are born in and/or reside within the borders of the United States of America
[Author’s Note: this definition of the American Dream is purely made for the purposes of this piece and only this piece. If it conflicts with your personal definition of the American Dream, please make a polite complaint in the comments and do not declare to wreak vengeance upon me.]
Now, here comes the big question that needs to be asked: who the hell am I to be commenting on the American Dream? Well, I’m nobody, really. I’m just some loser with a blog that thought it would be a good idea to write about the thin connection between three different fictional characters. If that puts you off, y all means, leave now and never think of this website again. Everybody else, thank you for powering though the last thirteen hundred plus words and lets get to the the meat of this thing.Raoul Duke will be our first up to bat. Duke’s quest in Fear and Loathing is simply to find the American Dream. He does not desire to acquire it for himself at all; he simply wants to see it for himself. He may be on assignment to report on the dust bowl that is the Mint 400 or attend a conference on drugs so inept Reefer Madness would laugh at it, but as he told his Okie hitchhiker, it’s the American Dream is what he’s truly after. He’s sure he’ll find in Vegas, and comes close when he’s in the Circus Circus, sitting with his friend (Dr. Gonzo in the film, Bruce Innes in the book) trying to buy an ape. It’s the tale of the owner, the boy who wanted to run away to the circus and grew up to own a circus/casino. Duke had found the success and wealth portions of our American Dream definition, but since we do not find out much else about this nameless Owner, we can’t tell anything about his personal life or happiness.Let’s move onto the once and future Saul Goodman, James Morgan McGill, Esquire. Jimmy’s search for the American Dream is a bit more common among American fiction: he wants his piece of the American Dream. His tale is still somewhere in the rags section of the rags-to-riches tale. Though the example of his brother Chuck (the honest and brilliant class action lawyer turned shut in) that one can get ahead in life through hard work and determination. But the world seems hell bent on keeping said dream away from the former Slippin’ Jimmy. For every good thing he does he seems to suffer for it, like with giving the Kettlemans back the bribe they gave him. And men like Howard Hamlin, smug jerk that he is, keep throwing their success in his face by merely existing. Never mind that he can’t even get headway with Kim, a woman he has obvious history and chemistry with, since their life plans don’t seem to mesh with each other. Now, since Jimmy’s tale is a prequel, we know he will one day become the titular Saul inÂ Better Call Saul, the slick criminal with a law degree, but now we know why he will: the American Dream of wealth, success and even companionship are dangling in front of his eyes, but the straight and narrow path is just too treacherous for him.Finally, we come to the Man of Steel. To many, Superman is the classic “immigrant done good” tale our society loves when it’s not blaming foreigners for all our problems. He came to this country with little more than his security blanket and with the help of wholesome adoptive parents, he becomes not only a productive member of society but the savior of the human race… let’s make a conservative estimate and say a hundred million times over. He works a j that he love and has the love of a beautiful woman (Lois in most media, Wonder Woman in the 2011 reboot). He is, in a way, the American Dream made manifest: a man of power and influence over not only his country but the world at large. He is a man who seemingly has everything. He has so much he goes forth to try and give others pieces of the American Dream, namely security from the various meteors, evil aliens, mad scientists and giant apes that threaten humanity on a daily basis in his universe. He does not have the perfect life (mostly thanks to DC Comics’ bizarre policy against heroes feeling joy for too long), but Clark Kent is, for all intents and purposes, is a living embodiment of the American Dream.
Of course I may in fact be completely wrong. Maybe these connections I see are thinner than Christian Bale in The Machinist.Â But the fact remains, I see the three men, characters from wildly different sources, connected by that grand notion of the American Dream, whether it be a search for the thing itself, a pursuit of it or just being the embodiment of it. Thank you for reading.