Regarding the romantic relationship between a fifteen-year-old boy and a twenty-five-year-old woman, the routine sexual harassment, and the Caucasian gentleman speaking in a fake Japanese accent to his string of Japanese wives: yes, these scenes don’t jibe with today’s sensibilities, but writer/director/pale male Paul Thomas Anderson, born in 1970, could have offered an accurate—as in a more unjibeful—representation of mores from 1973, the period the movie depicts. Avoiding cinematic even-worseness: a low bar, true, but mainstream flicker shows distributed by international entertainment media corporations tend to eschew anything too realistic (including, of course, content that supports worker rights or questions the capitalist system) to avoid bumming out and/or angering audience members. Born five years before PTA, I remember (probably a little better than he does) that era’s pervasive traditional thinking, shall we say.* Perhaps the white and (from the looks of it) well-off Encino-ites in this movie had learned to hide their Nixon-era beliefs, unlike a large portion of my more honest economic stratum. (Note: as Harvey Weinstein, Rupert Murdoch, Donald Trump, and Tricky Dick himself show, having money and belonging to a particular race do not automatically make one more considerate of other humans.) (The Dickster appears in that movie in news footage.)
*Example: Mike the Barber, the guy who cut my hair, would inveigh against the criminal “[N-words]” who had moved into the neighborhood and caused its condition to deteriorate. His waiting area featured copies of the white-supremacist rag The Spotlight, one of whose articles called The Diary of Anne Frank a fraud written in ballpoint pen by Jewish hoaxsters years after World War Two; that mention of the specific writing implement may have helped me remember that piece. Eventually, my father quit taking me to him, partly because my father had at long last taken offense to the views expounded in that shop, and partly because Mike kept hacking up my head.
© 2022 by David V. Matthews
January 10, 2022 (revised January 11, 2022) (and also January 28, 2022)