I'm a flea, a tick, a parasite. You are, too. Well, at least Mitt Romney thinks so.
A couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of judging a "film pitch" competition at a prominent film festival. In essence, writers, potential screen writers, and current screen writers were given a few minutes to pitch a film. This is a nearly impossible task, as most film pitches to studios and production companies take about twenty to forty minutes to pitch and I've pitched a lot: television episodes, pilots, (I've sold many, some I've not), films, some of which were purchased and made (Wedding Crashers, We're the Millers currently in production), some were purchased and have yet to be made. Maybe they won't be made. Who knows?
I saw -- "judged" -- a fairly narrow segment of the populace. About sixty people, predominantly between 18-30 years old. There were some college grads, some younger military veterans, some writers older than thirty, etc. Anyway, most were predominantly younger than thirty years of age.
They pitched horror films.
Now by that, I don't mean they all pitched horror films. I nonetheless calculated about 86 percent of the good, well-intentioned writers who pitched their films to me, EIGHTY-SIX percent of them pitched horror films (keep in mind my calculations were unscientific, as I wasn't writing my Sociology Ph.D dissertation, however 86 percent is about right). And they pitched truly gruesome horror films. A few weren't bad, a couple were good, and two of them coincidentally took place at drive-in theaters in the 1950s and involved psychopaths who engaged in some sort of psychopathic, knife-wielding "slashing."
After the competition (the winner pitched a comedy -- well, a type of comedy -- that morphed into psychopathic knife-wielding horror film), I asked the participants who weren't too downtrodden that they didn't win or place a simple question: Why? Why pitch a horror film? A slim, very slim minority had a business angle: "Cheap horror films sell." Being a writer in this business for some years, I know that to be a sort of canard, one I've been hearing for years, that business angle-horror film paradigm doesn't really pan out -- and on a personal note runs contrary to the advice I give when I'm asked by aspiring writers to what genre they should focus. I always say "write what you know, what you want to know and what you're passionate about." I can only hope that the film pitchers that film festival day, the ones that weren't just interested in making a buck, neither knew, nor were passionate about slashing psychopathic killers. That being said, the predominate answer I received from the contestants was: "I don't know. It seemed right."
Let's board the train and visit "Art imitates life" land... just for the sake of argument. Lives are in chaos, we're going through some bad times which are slowly getting better. People, specifically people who want to write films, often sublimate their own horror until it percolates up into a dystopia they believe would make a good film. I understand that and begrudge no one for the effort. In addition, I was at a film festival, there was fun to be had, I'd put it together later. A couple of days ago, after two incongruous events, I was reminded of that Pitch Competition.
I was under the weather for a couple of weeks, and didn't properly attend to my dogs. I own a few chiweenies (that's half-Chihuahua, half-Daschund) who became, owing to the recent Los Angeles heat wave, flea-ridden. Yes, I'm a grown man who owns Chiweenies. It's a long story. I'm the guy who adopts Chiweenies at Dog Adoption Fairs. That being said, when I was up on my feet again, I purchased the necessary shampoos, sprays, gel and such and bathed the little guys. Fleas, those parasitic tiny creatures who feed off the blood of the innocent Chiweenie, were in abundance. I found two ticks, as well, which can be equally pernicious and operate much the same way. They're parasites. Anyway, in my own Chiweenie-laden horror film, I eradicated the fleas and ticks.
After the flea and tick decimation, I tuned into the news and to not-so-surprised chagrin, watched and listened to Mitt Romney write off about half the country in a speech at a high-end fundraiser, the type of which usually features foods that are puffed and drizzled with honey and such.
And then I thought about my own family, those here, those no longer with me.
My grandparents were immigrants who came here seeking freedom, asking for nothing except a bit of opportunity. Both sides of my family received a helping hand during the Great Depression: My grandfathers worked and worked hard under FDR's W.P.A. program. My maternal grandfather, a tailor by trade, dug ditches twelve hours a day. After the Depression, after the WPA helped him feed his family in exchange for ditch-digging, the market dictated a need for tailors and a tailor he was once more. In fact, he lived to the age of 99 and was a proud dues paying member of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, the ILGWU (and from what I understand, one of the longest continuous members of said union). My grandfather was many things -- however, through the Romney lens he was a tick. A flea. A parasite.
My dad, who passed six years ago, served in the United States Army, was honorably discharged, sought to better his life by way of a college education. Like millions of returning vets, he received help paying his tuition by way of the GI Bill. He graduated, he paid his taxes, he didn't exactly live the American Dream, but nonetheless he lived an American life. Look through Romney's glasses. My dad? A flea, a tick, a parasite.
My mother receives social security, money she's paid into a system that is now returning some of it to her. Flea, tick, parasite.
Myself, well, I graduated from UCLA. That's the University of California which receives funding, in part, from the state of California, by way of taxation. Or as Governor Romney might put it: an evil redistribution of wealth. Perhaps I should have gone to Cayman Islands State, majored in Wealth Creation and spent my life circling crowds who eat puffed and drizzled foods, crowds where such redistribution is frowned upon. However, I did not. I went to UCLA, I worked (bartender), I studied and I took out (gasp) student loans. I paid them back and went on my way.
Sadly, ironically, it is that very same institution, UCLA, where my severely disabled daughter is treated continuously at their wonderful Department of Neurology. Again, partly funded by taxes. Perhaps more ironic, UCLA treated me when I was diagnosed with cancer eleven years ago. I've been cancer-free for ten years owing to UCLA, that freight train, that receptor of wealth redistribution. My daughter and I are part of that group of Americans that Mitt Romney pays no heed, that group about whom he could care less. While attempting to pursue the American Dream, one in which we are supposed to teach our children is attainable and moreover worth obtaining, she and I have become... fleas, ticks, parasites. Or the "47 percent of the people that will never support [Governor Romney]." The ones he and his supporters "have to forget about."
Why in the hell is this man running for President of the United States? The UNITED States. All of us. The ones who work hard, pay taxes, get sick, attend state institutions, occasionally need a helping hand, and on the whole, are completely well-intended. Mitt Romney certainly has the right to run for the presidency, he certainly has the money to do so. However, in his ice-cold calculation of how to "win," he's left out a basic element: the human beings who actually live and work in the United States.
If you can relate to even a fraction of my narrative, you are, in Mitt Romney's pet-grooming comb, just another flea, a tick, a parasite. Don't think for a second that that the speech Mr. Romney made was a one-off. That screw-the-forty-seven-percent-who-don't-support-me line is the former governor's narrative. It always has been, as it will always continue to be. He's told you he doesn't care about you, now it's on tape, it's easy to understand. And it's frightening if only because it's so real. So possible. You see, he is the protagonist in a hellish story wherein slashes to programs that help veterans, students, the elderly, severe cuts to medical research facilities, like the one that treats my daughter and saved my life, are made manifest in some unspoken, worn-out economic theory that has never worked and will never work.
In fact, while watching and listening to Governor Romney's remarks, I thought to myself, "Wow, this would make a great horror film." For the sake of at least half the country -- scratch that, all the country -- I do hope on election day we vote united in deciding that film ought never be made.