Friday, August 12, 2005

G.K. & Brews in the News

Christopher Orr wrote August 9th at the New Republic Online about the Thin Man movies of the 1930s and 1940s. The six mystery films starred William Powell and Myrna Loy as the detectives Nick and Nora Charles. Orr has some insightful comments about Hollywood, social life, and drinking:

[T]hese days what is perhaps most striking about Nick and Nora is not their easy blend of comedy and drama or their balanced sexual dynamic, but rather their carefree booziness. In modern American movies, the consumption of alcohol is limited largely to fraternity pledges, lost souls, and the occasional Billy Bob Thornton character. The idea that discerning, well-adjusted adults would on occasion choose to have a few drinks in the company of like-minded friends is almost heretical unless it is accompanied by suitably catastrophic consequences — a fist-fight, adulterous affair, or car accident.

Some would argue, no doubt, that any onscreen hint that drinking can be fun must be avoided for the sake of the children — though how this problem is solved by limiting portrayals of the activity to plastered high-schoolers and collegians is not quite clear. Sadly, I suspect Hollywood's dim view of sociable drinking has just as much to do with its dim view of sociability. The activity that accompanies alcohol consumption most frequently, after all, is not wife-swapping or vehicular homicide but rather conversation, and conversation of a particular kind: banter, chitchat, idle musing, or witty repartee. With relatively few exceptions, American movies today have little use for talk that has no purpose beyond itself, that doesn't move the plot forward or reveal some hidden character trait but rather consists merely of two or more people taking pleasure in one another's company and inviting us to do the same, as the Charleses do with such genial ease. G. K. Chesterton once wrote that "Americans do not need drink to inspire them to do anything, though they do sometimes, I think, need a little for the deeper and more delicate purpose of teaching them how to do nothing." Were he alive today, I suspect he would find this observation more true than ever.


Anonymous said...

Hi Joe,
Do love those old movies- and always liked "Hart to Hart" too- I would say to my husband- look, a show about us :) Of course, we're not rich, and I couldn't walk if I drank that much, literally.
Okay, I'm going to argue with you a LITTLE bit... Hollywood is make believe, thru & thru. Smoking was glamourized also- I smoked for years- I think I decided when I was a little kid that when I grew up I wanted to smoke, because most (not all, not my mother) of the adults that I knew and loved did smoke. But I managed to hold off until I was seventeen- smoked for ten years- quit for ten- had a series of unfortunate incidents that was I so inclined I WOULD have started drinking- but instead started smoking again for five years. Quit again cold turkey, probably five years ago. I really have to stay away this time- as gross as they can be, every once in a while, I get a craving. They're not worth it. Have a friend who died at forty-three... they are just not worth it. And I remember what Thomas Aquinas said- about making decisions to do the things we know we should do, while we still have the abilities to make such decisions.
As far as drinking goes, I went through a period when I was younger where I abused the privilege. Was doing shots of whiskey and blackberry brandy when I had a car accident on my nineteenth birthday- the other car hit me from behind and left my VW engine in the back seat, but I was drinking and driving, so technically I shouldn't have been there. Will say, my friends and I worked the night shift, and partied from midnight to almost dawn every week. So the fact that there was usually no one on the roads when we were out made us careless. However, not an excuse.
Outgrew that before I became a permanent case, thank God.
So, social drinking as an adult? I am all for it. Again, I know many adults, however, that are what I call functioning alcoholics. God forgive me, I am not being judgemental. These are people that can drink bottles of anything and still walk a straight line. How they do it, I don't know. Have some of them suffered physical illnesses because of it? Yes, most. Some, not yet. One who drank herself into an early grave before she was forty. So, while we are on this earth and prone to such things that can debilitate us if we are not careful, I say, drink socially, just take care.


Joe said...

Faith: Thanks for you comments on this. I won't argue with you at all. There is no sense in creating needs for ourselves; temperance is an important part of Christian interior life -- temperance as a virtue, I mean, not the puritanical "temperance". But a cigar and a beer, or worse, a cigarette and a bourbon on the rocks, is often used to set the tone for evil. It doesn't have to be that way. If only smoke and drink would make most people think about the Inklings...

Anonymous said...