New Foreword to the Revised, Expanded, and Updated version of this blog post:
Well now the Coen Brothers have gone and done it. Not content to simply make the most problematic movies in all of filmdom, they have stuck a finger in the eye of the #OscarsSoWhite crowd. While giving interviews for their new film, Hail, Caesar! (reviewed here), they said that questions about diversity in their movies are, more or less, idiotic.
This is, obviously, deeply problematic.
So much so that I’ve decided to update and re-run this column in order to highlight the problematic nature of Hail, Caesar! and place it within the context of the rest of their horrifyingly troubling work. If you cannot even with this I don’t blame you. But stay strong! We’ll get through this together!
End of new foreword.
In his cute, brief poem, The Persian Version, written between 1938 and 1945, Robert Graves speculatively lampooned how he imagined Achaemenid elites must have rationalized their defeat at the hands of some quarrelsome, backwards Greeks located at the very western extreme of their magnificent empire. You can get the sense from the first two lines: “Truth-loving Persians do not dwell upon / The trivial skirmish fought near Marathon…”
The 21st century has not been kind to public institutions of higher education—or to their graduates. While the number of total American undergraduates increased by 34 percent from 2000 to 2013, many of them going to state-run schools, public universities saw their funding cut by 26 percent in the five years following the Great Recession. As enrollment increased and funding was slashed, the job market, which graduates meet upon leaving the nest of the university, significantly diminished due to 2008 financial crisis and its tedious aftermath. More students may be going to college but it’s not clear that they are better prepared for life afterward as a result.
Clyde Prestowitz’s rousing Japan Restored documents the contemporary phenomenon of students, businesspeople, and indeed entire nations “passing over” Japan in favor of supposedly more dynamic and vibrant societies elsewhere in Asia. Like many Japan watchers, Prestowitz finds this to be a curious habit. The thought of passing over a country with a population the size of Britain and France combined, the most technologically advanced military in East Asia, and one of the world’s largest economies seems nothing short of bizarre.