God Bless America
(2011)
105 minutes
Rated R

Amerikan culture is a product of the decadence of imperialism, shallow and vapid. Hate radio, reality TV, gossip websites and superficial social media filter through the social consciousness.  They in turn are reflected by the character of Amerikans themselves, known around the world as ignorant and arrogant. For those few that have an awareness of society and culture, resistance seems futile.

God Bless America, directed by shock comedian Bobcat Goldthwait, is a dark comedy where the characters go on a violent killing spree directed against people representing that wasteland of Amerikan culture. The plot revolves around Frank, a man depressed and angst-ridden about the vapidness of this culture and the shallowness and bigotry it produces among the people around him. He is constantly upset by his loud neighbors to the point of having murderous fantasies of killing them. He is fired from his middle class office job when an act of kindness to a co-worker is misperceived as sexual harassment. Then he finds out he has a terminal illness and will die soon. Adding to this he is estranged from his family, which includes his divorced wife and his daughter who is growing up bratty and spoiled. Contemplating suicide, he is saved from taking his own life by his ire at an MTV style reality show involving a spoiled brat millionaire teenage girl. He decides to take her life instead of his own.  After successfully murdering said girl at her high school, he encounters a different teenage girl, Roxy, who shares his anger at Amerikan culture, and convinces him to continue what he has started. Together they team up and go on a targeted killing spree across the country taking out people who represent everything wrong about modern Amerikan society.

This movie is noteworthy in its targeting of the reactionary aspects of Amerikan popular culture, particularly in the violent way it is portrayed. Produced one year before the massacres in Aurora and Sandy Hook in 2012, one wonders how it would have been accepted if made after these events. One note about violence in Amerikan in contrast to other parts of the world is that incidents like those mentioned are often committed by unstable individuals with no strong political or social agendas, the randomness seemingly making it more terrifying. God Bless America at least has clear targets for its violence, and the audience can identify with the protagonists in their ire.

While it is better than most movies in looking at Amerikan pop culture critically, the politics of the protagonists often are as shallow as their targets. Along with targeting representatives like Tea Party bigots, right wing Fox News commentators, the Westboro Baptist Church, an American Idol type TV show and other annoying reality TV stars, they also inflict collateral damage on others, such as those taking up two parking spaces and people who talk on phones in movies. Roxy suggests targets include other phony people like pretend New Agers and punks, and once suggests taking out those who give high fives. Frank’s main complaint that makes him take up his actions is about the rudeness and meanness that has affected Amerikan society. Of course liberals have always suggested better ways to make imperialism kinder and gentler. There are many jerks and assholes that Amerikan society has produced, and as much as one can get satisfaction in imagining them annihilated, it will only succeed by looking at the root cause of what it produced.

Capitalism, and more broadly capitalist-imperialism, involve many areas of domination. The area of culture, or the superstructure, is one important area of this domination, while also being an area of struggle. Anti-imperialists need to look at the whole of the parts in their overall strategies of resistance. A broader look at other areas of imperialism, particularly its economic areas, would save this film from its overall liberalism. God Bless America is a good revenge fantasy for those fed up with decadent Amerikan culture. In order to end it and create a more meaningful and humane culture we must fight the imperialist system that sustains that decadence.

-Antonio Moreno

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Reviews, US/Canada

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