Monday, April 10, 2006

An apt word for these days: "heffalump"

Oh, you're gonna love this one that I fills, I think, a sore need in today's play-it-safe-and-get-the-votes world. Here's the pitch:

'Brokeback Mountain' author angry about best-picture loss
Associated Press/Article Launched: 03/14/2006 5:39 PM PST

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Annie Proulx, whose 1997 short story inspired the film "Brokeback Mountain," has penned a scattershot blast in a British newspaper unleashing her anger over the film's best-picture Oscar loss.

Proulx criticizes Oscar voters and the Academy Awards ceremony in the 1,094-word rant, which appeared in Saturday's issue of The Guardian, a liberal paper boasting 1.2 million readers daily.

The best-picture Oscar went to "Crash," which focuses on race relations in Los Angeles.

Academy members who vote for the year's best film are "out of touch not only with the shifting larger culture and the yeasty ferment that is America these days, but also out of touch with their own segregated city," Proulx writes.

The 70-year-old Pulitzer Prize-winning author points out that "Brokeback," which was nominated for eight Academy Awards, was named best picture at the Independent Spirit Awards one day before the March 5 Oscars.

"If you are looking for smart judging based on merit, skip the Academy Awards next year and pay attention to the Independent Spirit choices," Proulx advises.

She even lashes out at Lionsgate, the distribution company behind "Crash."

"Rumour has it that Lionsgate inundated the academy voters with DVD copies of Trash -- excuse me -- Crash a few weeks before the ballot deadline," Proulx writes.

She decries the "atmosphere of insufferable self-importance" inside the Kodak Theatre, the Oscars site, and describes the audience as a "somewhat dim LA crowd." The show, she writes, was "reminiscent of a small-town talent-show night."

"Clapping wildly for bad stuff enhances this," Proulx writes.

She notes that "Brokeback's" three Oscar wins, for original score, adapted screenplay and direction for Ang Lee put it "on equal footing with King Kong."

When Jack Nicholson announced "Crash" as the best-picture winner, "there was a gasp of shock," Proulx writes.
"It was a safe pick of `controversial film' for the heffalumps," she writes, using the elephant-like "Winnie the Pooh" character to describe academy voters.

"For those who call this little piece a Sour Grapes Rant," Proulx concludes, "play it as it lays."

Calls by The Associated Press to Proulx's Wyoming home and her literary agent, Elizabeth Darhansoff, were not immediately returned Tuesday.

So there you have it, folks....HEFFALUMP is the new word of the day!!!

Closely related to its more-famous political lookalike the mugwump (a political candidate or figure who paranoidly avoids taking any firm public stance that might jeopardize his chances of election/reelection), the heffalump also has discernable homophonic ties to the word "philistine" and "halfway" and the slang euphemism "effin'", reflecting the author's anger as an artist at the Academy voters who played it safe by choosing a film that mostly reiterated and illustrated what most civilized people know as basic concepts of human/social decency rather than actually challenging their attitudes and boundaries of acceptance, making them think too hard about something they'd often rather sweep under the carpet.

I'm not saying myself that Crash is a bad movie, mind you, but I have heard a lot of criticism of its relative simplicity/exaggeration/'preaching to the choir' on matters of racial tension. In the arts as well as in politics, actually being perceived as promoting acceptance (and the avoidance of tragedy...) of "the love that dare not speak its name" is sometimes just too big of a liability in comparison to "can't we all just get along?". One could clearly see the sociopolitical calculation in the distribution of awards, however it started and however many voters contributed to it. It was there. It is not a misperception.

And now we have a word -- a fun and fulsomely scathing word! -- to summarize in shorthand those who want to be seen as socially enlightened but won't take risks of alienating the supposedly-moral mainstream...such as every politician who says he/she supports gay rights but reserves "marriage" as a term too sacred, or demurs on the custody and raising of children as a responsibility that shouldn't be entrusted save as a last resort...everyone who believes in "separate but equal" social restrictions and freedoms; the acceptance of "private" activity so long as it's silent and invisible as any sort of real relationship or active community/part of society; the U.S. military's famous compromise of "don't ask, don't tell"; the half-hearted prosecution of crimes, allowing defenses of violence and murder as having been 'understandably' provoked by transgender deception or gay sexual solicitation/innuendo....and even the spreading trend of decriminalization/protection of "gender expression" that STILL leaves unchallenged the multiple obstacles of social sex-coding, medical probations and legal-documentation hoops and hurdles in the way of legal gender recognition....

And in religion too -- the political pandering to what's established/respected by precedent; the cliquery of even liberal monotheists as if they were all the religion that ever mattered in society; the mostly-unquestioned tenet of popular faith that social preference, if not 'official national religion' status, belongs to Christianity over-and-excluding all other faiths from serious concurrent consideration...oh, unless of course they have a well-known habit of fighting, boycotting and/or killing for the respect they want. Funny how the most uncivil religions....enh, need I continue that one...?

Yeah. Heffalumps. Unable to put their full and visible weight behind what needs to be seen, needs to be changed. Thank you, Annie Proulx -- you've made a much-needed contribution to contemporary social rhetoric, and I'll be doing my part to spread it where it needs to go.

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