Friday, January 09, 2009

Soren Kierkegaard & Jim Carrey

The December issue of Atlantic magazine has an article by James Parker on Jim Carrey called "The Existential Clown."

"Jim Carrey will loom large in our shattered posterity, I believe, because his filmography amounts to a uniquely sustained engagement with the problem of the self." When it comes to clown-actors like Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler, and Ben Stiller, Carrey is "the go-to guy for high-concept metaphysics, for Hollywood’s sci-fi of the self."

Parker writes well. For example:

"Movie after movie finds Carrey either confronting God (“Smite me, O mighty Smiter!” he roars in Bruce Almighty) or enacting, violently and outrageously, some version of the dilemma identified by the Spanish existentialist José Ortega y Gasset—that man, as he exists in the world, is “equivalent to an actor bidden to represent the personage which is his real I.” One wonders what the French make of him. Here in America, we’ve been content to regard him as a blockbustering goofball, but in France, beautiful France, where philosophy is king and Jerry Lewis is awarded the Légion d’Honneur, might not they be readying garlands for Jim Carrey?"

A few weeks ago I watched the Conan repeat when Jim Carrey got radically politically incorrect and wished everybody "a christy, christy Christmas." That was for everyone who wants to take "Christ" out of "Christmas." I wondered - Gee, Jim Carrey sure seems interested in the existence or non-existence of God.

"Here, buzzing in his shoulder sockets, is the struggle for authenticity; there, warping his tongue, is the torment of becoming. At his most Carrey-esque, he is always trapped mid-metamorphosis, wrestling visibly with the sort of transformative inner pressure that in another context would produce a superhero—or a man-size cockroach."

Today, to a group of 20 of our ministry school students, I confessed that I thought "Dumb and Dumber" was brilliant. (Note: This summer I read some books by Jaques Derrida, who was brilliant too.)
Jim Carrey IS funny. Did you ever see Carrey (on Leno or Letterman - I forget) imitate CSI's David Caruso? The result for me is that I can no longer watch the gore of CSI Miami without feeling like I want to bust out laughing. "Then there’s earnest Carrey, low-voltage Carrey, Carrey the Oscar chaser, dutifully dialing it down for The Majestic and muting himself in The Truman Show. This Carrey excites a peculiar anxiety: you sit there with your scalp prickling, waiting for him to go off." That's it - perfect.

Stand in awe of Parker's Carrey-analysis. "Carrey’s dream sequence of movies is a prophecy, a warning that this clanking ego-apparatus in which each of us walks around, this fissured, monumental self, half Job and half Bertie Wooster, cannot be sustained. Out of his own seemingly bottomless disquiet, Carrey writhes and reaches into the bottomless disquiet of his audience. An oracular bum holds up a handwritten cardboard sign in Bruce Almighty: LIFE IS JUST. We know we’re frauds; we fear a reckoning is due."

This is a nice essay. I think it's on target - really I do. Read it and see "Jim Carrey" alongside Kierkegaard, Samuel Beckett, Kafka, Martin Buber, and Jose Ortega y Gasset. Fun stuff! Great writing. Man's continual search for meaning.