Friday, March 18, 2016

What were we talking about?

I find some things I need to resist in this review of the newest Pee-wee Herman movie.
Mostly, though, we’ve become a little more leery of the regressive politics that will be involved, implicitly and otherwise, when grown men act like boys. We’ve lost some of the patience we once had for people who can’t seem to figure out how to grow up. It’s a good thing Pee-wee Herman, the “comic fictional character,” is not fully human. Because really: Imagine if he were.
 Now, this is not, on my part, a roaring defense of Pee-wee's Big Holiday. I haven't seen it. I do support Paul Reubens's right to return to the character - always ageless so not really less appropriate for a 63 year-old man than a 30-odd year old - as he sees fit. On the other hand, that's in the context of him doing other things. Being Pee-wee all the time would be a horrible mistake.

As to previous projects, Pee-wee's Big Adventure was a true achievement, and there's a reason why it made first-time director Tim Burton. Big Top Pee-wee was less special. There's probably a downward arc in the Pee-wee's Playhouse TV series as well. I don't know where this newest movie fits in on the scale. It seems to be a Netflix exclusive, and I'm not rushing to sign up with a streaming service to find out.

No, it's the assumptions that bother me. "We do this" and "we've learned that" statements frequently have me asking "who's we?" If you're going to speak for society, or for America, you need to consult with a pretty broad and diverse group of people, and most of us don't. See, I just did it, but I feel pretty confident in that one.

Plus, while I don't know how successful he is in the attempt, my guess is that Reubens still wants to sell the character to children and half-ironic teens. None of whom were around during the big Pee-wee push of the 1980s. Generational solipsism is as aggravating in Xers as it is in boomers.


semiconscious said...

here to report that, having just watched the last episode of 'pee wee's playhouse', i can reconfirm my memory of the fact that the series experienced no downward arc whatsoever, which i'm thinking is mostly owing to the fact that season 3 consisted of only 2 episodes (due to a writers strike), resulting in a situation where the show never really existed long enough to begin to get stale! (the 'extras' stuff that comes with the collection is fun & interesting (featuring everyone from mark mothersbaugh to lawrence fishburn). the first year of the series was filmed in a cold, grotty loft space in n.y.c., & sounds like it was something of a hellish experience for all involved. the series then relocated to l.a., &, well, the rest is history :) ...

while i'm in complete agreement with you regarding reuben aiming the character at the same audience he'd always been targeting (as opposed to those of us who've 'become a little more leery of the regressive politics that will be involved, implicitly and otherwise, when grown men act like boys' (whatever the fuck that means), i'm thinking he's also simply aiming at a payday, which's fine. i won't be watching, but begrudging pee wee a few additional bucks?! i don't think so...

&, yes, miss yvonne was, is, & always will be the most beautiful woman in puppet land.because some thing will never change, damn it!...

Ben said...

Huh. Well I stand corrected on the first point, and happily so.:) I'm sure it sucked to have a writer's strike swallow up the largest part of the season. The upside is that there's just a few places for your creative energy to go. Helps you concentrate if you don't panic.

The music on the show was always fun. And I have great memories of Fishburne as Cowboy Curtis. He didn't show any sign of thinking this kiddie dress-up business was beneath him.

Reubens, I'm sure, is interested in getting paid. He does other stuff, so the Pee-wee well isn't as dry as it could be. The idea that being a man-child with pasted down hair is socially unacceptable in 2016 but totally fine in 198-whatever is fairly inane.

Lynne Marie Stewart, aka Miss Yvonne, is definitely a silver fox, or the high-haired Southern equivalent.