Jan 16, 2014

Razer’s class warfare: it’s the economy, stupid (or why Scorsese is a girl’s blouse)

When did we decide that economics and a real class struggle were too hard and we could just get by with our feely feely feelings?

Helen Razer — Writer and broadcaster

Helen Razer

Writer and broadcaster

The global financial crisis had some curious effects. And not just debt, a commodities crash and the Bush administration's bailout (the United States government's most sincere act of socialism since it gave away the polio vaccine). The GFC produced a remarkable Australian treasurer in Wayne Swan. This guy breathed life into the near-dead idea of the nation state. But Rudd-Gillard-Swan were pretty much on their own in thinking that economies don't just manage themselves. Everyone else, including the liberal-Left, seemed content to leave serious economic discussion to investors. Money was probably evil but no more evil, say, than online bullying or sexist television advertisements or alcohol that tastes like soda pop. Few talked critically about capital, save for Occupy, and even that didn't last long. Born and briefly raised in the forcing house of the GFC, the 99% veal was slaughtered and eaten before it had a chance to moo. After such a graphic illustration of the influence of capital, it seemed odd that we should turn away from it. It seemed odd that there were, and remain, so few popular critiques of cash. I had secret hopes when Oliver Stone revisited Wall Street in 2010 of seeing a finessed morality play that would move a new generation into an era of productive cynicism. Instead, what I got was the sensation that the real-life credo of Goldman Sachs now made Gordon Gekko's "greed is good" read like a greeting card. But, hope, unlike material resources, is renewable, and I was optimistic again this year with Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street, in cinemas this week and freshly injected with the endorsement of both a Golden Globe and a fake controversy. Perhaps it would be good? I am over 40 and out of patience with younger reformists who don't seem to care about capital. And so in an era where Church Lady scrutiny of books, T-shirts and video games for vice saps the middle class of its activism, I was happy for a balls-out, whore-heavy "troubling document of the present" (A.O. Scott, New York Times). If this film is a troubling document of anything, it is Scorsese’s lost flair. To save yourself $20, just stay at home watching RedTube for three-and-a-half hours, pausing occasionally to masturbate, throw some baking soda on a lady’s bottom and then look at pictures of people wearing (and then removing) Gianni Versace’s worst work on luxury yachts.

As a critique of capital and the superstructure of masculine conceit, the Will Ferrell toilet humour buddy movie Step Brothers surpasses Wolf by a Marxist mile. What a pile of shit, Scorsese. It is not so much the naked whores and the naked whores on yachts and the rape of naked whores on yachts and in planes and in penny stock lairs that is disturbing, although that's pretty disturbing. After the first, say, 20 acts of abasement, one gets the idea that Women are Just Objects to These Immoral People, and the last 500 acts of Sodom lack any salt. It's not the rape, which is defended by the movie's star as prescriptive-not-descriptive.  It’s the fact that one of the best filmmakers in US history made a film about money that says nothing about money. Other than it buys you a lot of naked whores. At great personal risk of being sworn at mildly by seven angry ladies on social media, I disclose the hope that Scorsese, a Left-leaning Democrat, would have used his masculine stylings here to better effect. How do I explain this faith in the power of the masculine without coming across as an admirer of naked whores on yachts/Camille Paglia? I'll give it a go. The Right has long supposed that economies should just manage themselves. Now the liberal-left does, too. Cultural, rather than material, management is widely seen as core business by Leftists who would prefer to tackle, say, the question of homophobia by supporting same-sex marriage. People whose intelligence I respect argue with no trace of doubt that this will "stop youth suicide". Of course, the most direct cause of suicide in kids who do not identify as having a normative sexuality is that their lives are made unbearable by parents who will toss them out of home. But homeless rent boys don't make great Upworthy videos. Nice couples loving each other warmly do. And so, the unpleasant topic of youth homelessness and suicide is not addressed with the provision of  homes and mental health support. One can argue that "we can do both at once". And some people are fighting for both things at once. But there are three of them. And they are all distracted by the marriage debate. (Stay with me now. I’m getting to the bit where I make a point and you can really hate me.) Such tactics for reform are due in large part to the feminisation of the Left. Or rather, to the view that the feminine is the Left. (OK. Start tweeting. Here is one I prepared for your immediate use. "Again, Razer proves herself a misogynist. Cancelled my subscription @crikey_news #Misogyny".)

One of the few great things about communication this century is that so many women are writing and broadly read. (Granted, we’re getting paid a lot less than male writers. But, hey, capitalism loves to maintain a social class.) One of the truly terrible things about communication this century is that the emotional is valued far above the rational, the cultural far above the economic. Traditionally feminine practice has eclipsed traditionally masculine practice in the expression of ideas.

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30 thoughts on “Razer’s class warfare: it’s the economy, stupid (or why Scorsese is a girl’s blouse)

  1. susan winstanley

    Slashing stuff, always worth a read. Love it.
    Just don’t get any more defensive, Razer
    Give them both barrels always
    Or you’ll just be another big girl’s blouse

  2. Will

    Razer, once again, has served up a largely unintelligible stream of verbal diarrhoea with no discernible argument on offer. As usual, she bandies about monolithic labels such as “The Left” and “Feminists” with no definitions provided to anchor her airy declarations to some semblance of reality, and certainty no real people are engaged (beyond Scorsese). Seriously, Helen Razer must be literally the worst commentator at Crikey – she manages to combine the air-headed ersatz of Maureen Dowd, with your senile uncle’s curmudgeonly attitude and a not-so clever variety of Marxist deconstruction in one package of pithy irrelevance. Spare us please!

    The problem of the film, which has been noted loudly and repeatedly by every liberal leftist on the internet if Razer had any clue where to look, is that it averts its gaze from the blue chip world of high finance and focuses on criminal hucksters doing things are obviously illegal. Feminism, whether expressed in terms of conventional academia or butchered by Razer’s uniquely obtuse prose, has absolutely nothing to do with it.

  3. klewso

    “Caring (for votes)” – as Ronnie Fringe-Dweller may have put it “I say I care, therefore I do?”

  4. B Hick

    Great read, although the baiting contrarian schtick is getting a little bit old. Razer seems determined to fight ceaseless, petty whinging on Twitter by ceaselessly and pettily whinging about it on Twitter. I’m not sure what that achieves accept for a more “meta” level of smugness. It’s odd that such a voracious critic of outrage culture seems to be in a near-permanent state of outrage.

  5. dirtysnowball

    I think I’m just too stupid to understand Helen’s articles.

  6. Peter_PPVH

    Yes that is the point Will, – no real people are engaged.
    Lets us forever be entertained and distracted from vigorous or critical thought.

  7. Matt Hardin

    Best thing of yours I have ever read Helen. I get where you are coming from finally. Brava!

  8. Phillip J.

    Despite some unconjoined arguments, I enjoyed the loose cannon attack on current weak-kneed, relenting moralism.

  9. SusieQ

    I gave up halfway through – is this a film review, a critique of right wing journos, the economy or feminism? (or all of that??). Perhaps I’ll go ask my CareBear.

  10. Will

    I don’t have a problem with Razer’s thesis that the present generation of liberals and feminists are so fixated on identity politics that they fail to grapple with pressing concerns of justice rooted in class solidarity and material inequality. It’s a real argument and it’s certainly worth engaging with.
    What I do have a problem with Razer’s recurrent intellectual crutch of writing about such matters in grand declarative statements against disembodied capitalised enemies: “The Left”, “The Right” and “Feminists.” We are apparently meant to simply accept these Platonic forms at face value because she certainly never condescends to locate any of them in some kind of representative body – such as a real living and breathing human being – who might or might not bear some resemblance to the caricature provided by Razer.

    Now, some might be prepared to forgive such a lazy rhetorical gimmick if the substantive analysis and humour was commensurately impressive. But alas, it never is. Mostly there’s a kernel of an insight that is so overburdened in ranty snitty self-referential nonsense that it collapses under the weight of sheer sophistry. And Razer repeats this gimmick at every outing like the lowest species of pundit resorts to “some people have said” to introduce whatever inane generalisation they want.

    It is truly tiresome. Razer has a class-analysis hammer and every problem she sees is a nail of identity politics.

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