Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Dear Mr. De Niro: How do you expect to convey meaning, when your words are meaningless?

Everyone's probably seen or heard about Robert De Niro's emphatic F'bomb at the Tony Awards, even those, like me, who didn't watch it. Is there something we can learn from that? Well, not from his 'words', such as they were, but perhaps there is something to be learned from the meaning they lacked.

But first, a couple housecleaning points:

  1. Robert DiNero is a fine actor. To call him washed up, or a hasbeen, is not only an ad hominem, it is a silly one without much more merit than his own statement at the Tony's.
  2. Will I continue to watch his movies? To the extent I did until now, yes. Why? Because he's a good actor, and as an actor he doesn't portray himself, but brings other characters to life in a movie. If he ever takes to portraying himself in movies that are all about what he thinks... those I won't bother with. But until then? Yeah, if a movie seems interesting, his being in it won't phase me one bit.
  3. Being an actor doesn't disqualify him from expressing an opinion. If you'd like to argue the point, I suggest you take that up with James Woods.
Ok, so on to what Robert De Niro didn't have to say, in the meaningless words he emoted for us on the little screen.

It's not all that complicated to see what I mean by that, take a look yourself (note: F'bombs aren't edited out of the video):
"F* Trump. It's no longer 'Down with Trump!', it's F* Trump!"
Can you tell me what that means by that? And I don't mean 'What emotions did he stir up in you?', I mean: What meaning did his words convey to you? What ideas, or gems of political philosophy did they clarify for you? What course of action did they help you to understand that you should take, and which you will now follow through on? Will those ideas and actions contribute more to our public discourse than slapping a pink pussy hat on your head?

No?

No... I'm pretty sure that the words he so deliberately spoke, meant nothing at all to himself or to anyone else, other than an emotionally meaningless statement without any connection to meaningful ideas to be thought upon, or of effective actions to be taken (and no, yelling 'Down with Trump!' doesn't qualify on any count there), just one shock statement, followed by one meaningless cliche, followed again by the same meaninglessly shocking statement (well... it was shocking at one point a decade or two ago, now it's about as shocking as a raised eyebrow), spoken by an old man in a tuxedo.

So?

He carefully and deliberately stated that he wanted to say something to the audience, and the nation, and then spoke words which had no real meaning. That, to me, is far more shocking than the shock value he intended. This much revered and distinguished looking old man in a tuxedo, went out of his way to say something to the world... but what he spoke did nothing more than demonstrate that he had strong feelings which he was apparently unable to put into words (or possibly felt that more meaningful words would be beyond the ability of his audience to grasp?).

Either way, that's sad.

His statement, the emotion of which resonated through the heads of his audience who were equally attuned to the meaninglessness of his words, contained even less meaning, than did the little boy in 'Kindergarten Cop', when he makes the shocking statement (from a little child, to 1990's audiences)that
'Boys have a penis and girls have a vagina'
It's worth noting how the body language of the little boy, closely matches that of Robert De Niro (watch the little boy shaking both arms in fists above his head after saying it), as does the nervously enthusiastic laughter of the other boys and girls in the kindergarten class.

Both of them had nothing to say, beyond delightedly shocking their audience. The difference, of course, is that one group was a group of six year olds, and the other a group of adults, but what they had in common is that they both seemed to be faced with an inability to contain uncomfortable feelings that they can't really put into words and ideas, except to shock each other with.

One group it is forgiveably amusing and maybe even endearing. The other... not so much.

How do people like De Niro and the other entertainers in his audience, expect to convey meaning, or even to live meaningful lives, when the words and phrases they prefer to use, are so meaningless? Perhaps it's just as well that other people write the words that they act out on the silver screen.

But I can't help wondering if there is any connection between the high profile suicides that seem to plague Mr. De Niro's audience, and the likelihood that they too are so filled with angst, without the ability to put those emotions into meaningful words, themselves.

Sad.

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