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Meet Me in Princess Land

This was one of the first films in her career that gave her the opportunity to be the attractive leading lady. Vincente Minnelli was assigned to direct, and he requested that make-up artist Dorothy Ponedel be assigned to Garland. Ponedel refined her appearance in several ways, including extending and reshaping her eyebrows, changing her hairline, modifying her lip line and removing her nose discs and dental caps. She appreciated the results so much that Ponedel was written into her contract for all her remaining pictures at MGM.  From Wiki

I recently watched “Judy”, the “biopic”, starring Renee Zellweger as the very, very tragic Judy Garland, and fully expected to dislike it.  All the annoying elements of the celebrity biopic are there: the sudden fame, the heights of achievement, the stardom, the celebrity pitfalls, the addictions, the disasters, the recovery.  These films invariably excuse the subject’s poor judgments and weak character as the results of abuse or exploitation.  They invariably feature a triumphant comeback moment or two.  They invariably lie to you.  They invariably invite you to admire the very thing that ruined them: the manipulation of the audience by the entertainment industry which sells you a contrived image, a fake personality, an escape fantasy that no one can possibly live up to.  Judy Garland was both a product and a consequence of that manipulation.

One could very easily have imagined Zellweger turning to the camera at one point and asking the implicated audience, “are you enjoying this?”

Mickey Rooney insists that MGM never forced diet pills, amphetamines, barbiturates or any other substances on Judy, and that her downfall was entirely the result of her weak character, or her own choices, so there is a grain of salt to be absorbed in this story.  (But then again, I’m not sure Rooney is a reliable source.)  “Judy” correctly zeros in on the mom, who could have put a stop to it at anytime but, well, one must fulfill one’s dreams.  A telling scene– which surprised me a little (because it was there, not because it happened) was Mayer putting it to Garland: don’t you want to be famous?  The implication is that Garland was at least partly complicit in her own predicament.  And that’s why Zellweger’s portrayal of Garland is more reserved and less self-pitying than the usual biopic (see “Rocket Man” for a pityful example).

Ignore the blather about her beauty: she never was beautiful, in the way the Lana Turner and Elizabeth Taylor– actresses her age– were beautiful.  “Judy” wants you to believe she really was beautiful, but had no confidence in her beauty.  Or is “Judy” just dramatizing how the people around her tried to persuade her to work: you look beautiful, you’re going to be great.

“Judy” takes a light touch to Garland’s own claims that Mayer touched her “inappropriately”: there is one sequence in which he touches her “heart” while telling her that that is where she sings from, and he leans in close in some scenes, but it is clear that director Goold didn’t want to go there.

She was fired from MGM in 1949 because she simply failed to show up for filming.  Some websites perpetuate the myth: poor Judy!  She had lots of good reasons to not show up.  She was addicted to barbiturates, for one thing.  She was in the middle of a divorce.  She was depressed.  But it is precisely the traditional Hollywood indulgence of excesses by celebrity stars that prevents actors like Judy Garland from taking responsibilities for their issues and addressing them.

Like Elvis, Garland died sitting on the toilet.  Like Elvis, we didn’t hear about that detail until years later when someone close to the celebrity finally offered that one final eloquent and telling detail.



Capitalist Socialism

A company produces a product that causes permanent damage to the environment.  In a free enterprise-capitalist economy, that should be no problem: the shareholders of this company, who stand to profit from the sales of the product, obviously have to pay the cost of manufacturing the product as well.   If the product cannot be produced in a profitable manner after these costs are included, in our free enterprise-capitalist economy, the investor money goes elsewhere.

Because it would be utterly contrary to the principles of Free Enterprise to assign to taxpayers and citizens the costs of environmental damage caused by the process of manufacturing ring a product that produces profits for private individuals who have invested in a corporation.  That is a subsidy.  That is the government putting its finger on the scale.  That is socialistic.

That is what we are sold: free enterprise.  But what we are sold is far from the truth.  As innocently described here as something almost reasonable, corporations that wish to make a profit by eliminating the cost of cleaning up the mess they produce while taking our money want taxpayers to cover part of the cost of production.  Don’t forget that tax cuts to high-income earners is almost always part of the package of governance advocated by the politicians who support this scam.  “Tax breaks” are invariably camouflage for “government subsidy”.  If you are buying a car for $40,000 and the dealership gives you a “price break” of $10,000 so that you only pay $30,000, it is exactly the same as if he had given you $10,000 cash and you paid him $40,000.  They are both “hand-outs”.

But it’s clever.  In the same sense, most Americans probably really have no clue what a “marginal” tax rate is.  They assume that once you cross a certain threshold, like $100,000 of income, the higher tax rate applies to the entire $100,000.  Can’t have that.  Vote Trump.  (The marginal tax rate only applies to the income above the threshold.)

Working class individuals subsidize the investment returns of the rich investors and fund managers.  Cleverly camouflaged as “tax breaks”, your politicians– your congressmen and senators and presidents– are diligently working to transfer your money to rich people, one way or another.   Since 1980, the trend has been perfectly obvious: the investor class has received fabulous returns on their investments; the worker class has been trapped in ever decreasing buying power and discretionary income.

And Thomas Friedman of the New York Times wants you to be very alarmed because Bernie Sanders would actually do what Obama and Clinton promised but never even dared to consider: stop the government from exclusively serving the interests of the rich.

The sense of panic in the Democratic Party establishment is palpable.

And no surprise that in the face of overwhelming evidence that the New York Times really, fundamentally, supports the established capitalist order, Trump supporters will continue to regard it as a bastion of unfettered progressive socialism.

Because it was never about the politics; it was about you people think you’re smarter than me, don’t you?  You look down on me.  You think I don’t get it.

You don’t.