Saturday Night Fever

Saturday, 28 November, Year 7 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu

This thingi is negligble as a film, but important as a cultural artefact for the remarkable happenstance that the sum total of ideal productions of all English-speaking feminists of reproductive age today is best defined as "Saturday Night Fever fanonii". A fanon with a whole lot of Epileptic Treesiii in it, it's true, but nevertheless nothing more, and nothing else than belated commentary, shipping and minutious obsessing over this one minor, long forgotten film from the 70s. Thanks to the well entrenched habit of that venal culture to neglect primary sources in favour of secondary, which with each generation become ever-more secondary, this bizarre game of broken telephone can carry on long after the original causative agent has fallen off the map.

The point can not be underscored enough : thousands upon thousands of "social sciences" programmes at so-called universitiesiv, literally millions of individuals putting billions of hours into ruining trillions of sentences both orally and in written form have not yet managed to produce anything outside of this very simple definition. A half-century's worth of wear and tear later, all they have to show for it is SNF-Fanon! Imagine that!

The amusing part being, as you no doubt expect, that the film in question had no such ambitions whatsoever. It merely follows, predictably almost to the degree of tedium, the field of choices it has available at all points, making no heroic effort at any juncture, intending nothing in particular other than to reach the finish line without having broken too many windows, conventions and expectations. That such an exercise in druge managed to take over most of the intellectual juice of a whole continent for two complete generations is either incredible or a sad comment on the quality of the genetic material involved, depending on which side of the glass you aim to observe.

Let's get into detail. The hero of this story is one Tony Manero, living in Brooklyn in a rather typical (for the time) Italian community. You've seen the place before, The Lord's Of Flatbush is going on across the street, and every character in Saturday Night Fever has at least two cousins in common with every character in Mean Streets. The setting is stolidly authentic and perfectly credible.

The hero is the guy whom Zappa sung :

I don't know much about dancin', that's why I got this song
One of my legs is shorter than the other 'n both my feet's too long.
'Course now right along with 'em I got no natural rhythm
But I go dancin' every night hopin' one day I might get it right

I'm a dancin' fool (Dancin' fool)
I'm a dancin' fool I'm a dancin' fool (Dancin' fool)
I'm a dancin' fool
I hear that beat; I jump outa my seat
But I can't compete, 'cause I'm a
Dancin' fool (Dancin' fool)
I'm a dancin' fool

The disco folks all dressed up like they's fit to kill
I walk on in 'n see 'em there gonna give them all a thrill
When they see me comin' they all steps aside
They has a fit while I commit my social suicide,

I'm a dancin' fool (Dancin' fool)
I'm a dancin' fool I'm a dancin' fool (Dancin' fool)
I'm a dancin' fool
The beat goes on and I'm so wrong
The beat goes on and I'm so wrong
The beat goes on and I'm so wrong
The beat goes on 'n I'm so wrong
The beat goes on 'n I'm so wrong
The beat goes on 'n I'm so wrong
The beat goes on 'n I'm so wrong
I may be totally wrong, but I'm a
Dancin' fool,
I may be totally wrong, but I'm a
Dancin' fool
Yowsa, yowsa, yowsa

I got it all together now with my very own disco clothes, hey!v
My shirt's half open, t'show you my chain 'n the spoon for up my nose
I am really somethin' that's what you'd probably say
So smoke your little smoke drink your little drink
While I dance the night away,
I'm a dancin' fool, I'm a dancin' fool, I'm a
Dancin' fool, I'm a dancin' fool,

Hey darlin' . . . can I buy ya a coupla drinks?
(Ki-ni-shinai!)
Lookin' for Mister Goodbar? Here he is . . .
Wait a minute . . . I've got it . . . you're an Italian!
(Ki-ni-shinai!)
Hah?
Yer Jewish?
Oh, love your nails . . .
(Ki-ni-shinai!)
You must be a Libra . . . your place or mine?

That's him, that's what he is, that's what he does. Excusable for a low information voter from an ethnic enclave, you might say ? Excusable for a youth of blue collar extraction, you wish to propose ? Perhaps. So what if it's excusable or even excused ? It still is what it is, excused or not.

This kid with each leg shorter than the other and both feet too longvi moves between two women in reality, and two women in his mind. The women in his mind are "a nice girl" and "a cunt". He insists this formalism be followed, strictly and "from an early age", in response to the stated aspiration of a real woman to be a real woman instead. Can't have that.

Which takes us to the women in reality : one's a local girl that wants him, and ends up "making it" with everyone else, unpleasantly, howlingly, in the back of a car. The other's been aptly described by Anthony Hopkins :

You know what you look like to me, with your good bag and your cheap shoes? You look like a rube. A well scrubbed, hustling rube with a little taste. Good nutrition's given you some length of bone, but you're not more than one generation from poor white trash, are you, Agent Starling? And that accent you've tried so desperately to shed: pure West Virginia. What is your father, dear? Is he a coal miner? Does he stink of the lamp? You know how quickly the boys found you... all those tedious sticky fumblings in the back seats of cars... while you could only dream of getting out... getting anywhere... getting all the way to the FBI.

That's the other girl, or to quote her sickening ilk working dat fanon,

During their off-relationships times, Diane dates men who fit her upper-class ideals, such as Frasier Crane.

That's the whole drama here : a blind man (blinded by the nonsensical duality of Madonna-whore) fumbling between an unambitious woman and an ambitious woman. Both dumb. Go ahead and choose, once you're done with that you'll be in a prime position to vote in every presidential election until ISIS finally disembarks and puts the whole sad circus out of its misery.

So the guy turns down the dumb woman that wants him and agrees to be "just friends" with the dumb woman that doesn't want him, in a scene that doubtlessly introduced the "just friends" thing to the whole ESLvii population. Were you ever curious to know the etymology of the "just friends" trope ? Here it is, that's how it got started, with this shitty movie.

Anyway, the choices made for the characters within this movie do not flow from any other considerations than economy of literary means and auctorial complaisance, a fact that's directly obvious to even casual inspection of the artefact in question. It was just easier to write this way, that's all.

That's all, and yet - like a billion gallons of water captive behind a levy two inches taller, you're still working the narrow grounds of that story, almost fifty years later. In all my days as an anthropologist, historian of human idiocy and urinator on assorted graves I have never ever unearthed anything that puts a whole culture in such unflattering light. Not even close.

Saturday Night Fever is not in any sense monumental and yet nevertheless a monument. I will remember it as such.

———
  1. Saturday Night Fever, 1977, by John Badham, with John Travolta []
  2. There are three parts to any work of fiction. One's reality. The second's the interpretation of reality through the eyes of the author. The result of this interpretation is not merely the work of fiction itself, but the totality of ideal objects it either presupposes, implies or requires.

    This total, more than the mere work as written, is the canon. For instance, while Homer makes no mention of whence the intreprid Ulysses found beeswax to dress a whole ship's worth of ears with, the fact remains that somehow, somewhere, they got that wax. This fact is not explicitly mentioned or even alluded to in the work ; it is nevertheless part of canon.

    That they somehow got the wax is part of canon ; how they did it is however not part of canon. Pointedly not, and according to many for good reason. Nevertheless, inquiring minds wish to know, unless knowing is too hard in which case they simply wish to hallucinate something they can agree upon. This shared cumbiscuit is then the third part, the miserable, disgusting, unwelcome and undesired part of any work of fiction. To quote Bette Davis from back when she was an accomplished theatre actress in the intellectual sense of that term,

    Fiends, they're not people. Those are little beasts that run around in packs like coyotes...They're nobody's fans. They're juvenile delinquents, they're mental defectives, and nobody's audience. They never see a play or a movie even. They're never indoors long enough.

    []

  3. The "Epileptic Trees" are a major trope of fanon, named after someone's explanation as to the shaking and rustling of trees depicted in Lost (a TV series) : the trees supposedly had epileptic fits.

    This conveniently denotes a whole category of pseudo-intellectual activity very typical of both the contemporaneous ESL speaker as well as of the US citizen : a mindless restructuring of standardized, pre-given items into "innovative" forms, such as particularly intellectually lazy children of pubescent age may do for a literary criticism exam, or mentally retarded children that for some reason fixated on a lego set. It's a thinkless, subhuman, purely combinatorial behaviour directly evocative of the monkeys with typewriters in that someone else has already prepared the buttons, sorted them out in a keyboard arrangement, decided what they do - the monkeys just push the given buttons, lacking both the drive and the capacity to examine the end product for identity with their creative intent, and further lacking any resource to in any way meaningfully alter the process to eliminate or at least reduce any disparity. In point of fact it is rather dubious that any agent willing to participate in any such activity for any length of time even has the capacity for creative intent. []

  4. For some god forsaken reason the US has collectively decided to baptise a string of daycenters for socially challenged adults "universities". []
  5. Layaway blue shirt! 4 dollar raise! Shit! []
  6. It's true, too. Travolta can't dance for shit. []
  7. English as a Single Language. UStards, in other words. []
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