As a nation basks in the afterglow of a day full of food, sun, alcohol, sugar, fireworks, more food and more alcohol, now is the time to really take stock of what American Independence really means. Not to you or I as individuals, but to the United States as a whole. Essentially we gave ourselves the right to do or say anything we please, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else, and if it does that we have a reason for it — any reason at all that can be justified within our overly complex legal system. It’s pretty great.
Our pop culture has always tried to celebrate and showcase our unique brand of “freedom,” and even when our artists are actively criticizing governmental policies and corporate greed, the fact that that is even possible is kind of the whole point. The artists who seem to deeply understand this mutually beneficial dichotomy, as crazy as it would have sounded two decades ago, are the creators of a filthy and controversial cartoon. Trey Parker and Matt Stone have long skewered everything about this mostly tolerable country, from Jesus Christ being an actual televangelist to our collective insanity after 9/11, but Team America: World Police is where they really let their cynically patriotic flag fly.
If you need a refresher, here’s the trailer:
The movie was cathartic in 2004 and, unsurprisingly, it’s just as resonant today. In fact, Team America is Probably the Best Patriotic, but Not Jingoistic, Movie Ever Made. Here are 26 reasons why:
The “World Police” of the title is Teddy Roosevelt times a hundred.
All the regions of the continental U.S. are ticked off by the Team’s origins — Gary is from the East Coast (Broadway), Sarah is from the West Coast (Berkeley), Joe is from the West (Nebraska U), Chris is from the Midwest (Detroit), and Lisa is presumably from the South (Big Hair=Texas?).
The fact that they’re all white is more a comment on Hollywood action movies, I think.
We’re notoriously bad at geography!
Which is illustrated perfectly by the movie’s opening “Paris” with landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and the Arch de Triumph being much too close together, and later when “Cairo” is in the middle of the Egyptian desert along with the Great Pyramid.
But, really,that’s mostly because we also don’t care!
And, hey, we’re woeful about our own geography, too!
As illustrated in the moment when Gary and Spottswoode get from the Statue of Liberty (in New York) to Mount Rushmore (in South Dakato) in a matter of moments.
But, really, we also don’t care about our landmarks, either!
Except, of course, when we use our REAL U.S. landmarks, and not cardboard stand-ins.
How can a date (even September 11th) be multiplied by anything? Clearly, math is also a national sore spot.
Speaking sore sports, for Generation Xers (and early Gen Yers), which Parker and Stone are a part, AIDS was their greatest fear growing into maturity. Sound familiar?
Our general concept of the “Intelligence Community” is accurately represented with the team’s supercomputer I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E. (even after the NSA).
They also distilled our conception of the “costs” of freedom (taxes, public service, etc.). It costs a buck-oh-five… right?
Early in the story, with a single line describing Gary Johnston, actor-turned-spy, as a “Maverick Renegade,” the movie predicted John McCain and Sarah Palin four years early.
No story of American Exceptionalism would be complete without abundant racism!
Not to worry, our history of race-bending and blackface-type mimicry are on fully display, too. When our white hero is turned into Arab Terrorist (distinct from “an arab terrorist”).
Our view of non-allied foreign leaders, especially those we declare to be in an “axis of evil,” as essentially Bond villains (and Eric Cartman?) is well represented.
Of course, if the movie’s depiction of Hans Blix is any indication, then our perception of the United Nations isn’t much better.
(Click here for an unembeddable clip.)
And how do see ourselves?
After all, isn’t the American Dream to own a fleet of flying, weaponized vehicles?
But it isn’t just our high national self-esteem that gets punctured, our biggest import — Hollywood — also gets deservingly needled. The montage is merely the beginning…
There’s also obligatory and gratuitous sex and nudity…
And pointless gross out comedy!
We’re also a people that (ashamedly) love to (deservedly) hate Michael Bay movies.
As well as celebrities who share their political opinions, usually liberal to obnoxiously liberal, that nobody asked for.
But, hey, comparatively conservative leaders sexual;y harass their subordinates all the time, so there’s definitely a balance.
Which just shows that Parker and Stone really do have the best Understanding of U.S. American politics and culture ever, and is something they’ve been exploring since “South Park” proved we were a little bit country and a little bit rock ‘n’ roll.
But, seriously, the movie celebrates our absolute worst qualities on an international or humane level, which puts Team America on the same plane as great patriotic works like Common Sense or The Gilded Age. From Thomas Paine to Mark Twain to Michael Moore to Sarah Palin, this is what we do.
Rob Payne also writes the comic The Unstoppable Force, tweets on the Twitter, tumbls on the Tumblr, and his wares can be purchased here. He considers this fan-made trailer for Captain America: The First Avenger to be the second most patriotic movie.