AMERICA 2028 MOVIE REVIEWS, PART 2
Also posted at Medium.
There are times when light, poppy tunes and careful choreography just hit the spot. And folks, the new musical, Demerit Dance Party, hits the spot. By the blonde hair and fat bankroll of Trickle-Down Jesus, it hits the spot.
If South Pacific provided a soundtrack to World War II and Rent eulogized a gentrifying New York City in the 1990s, Demerit Dance Party encapsulates 2028.
Beneath the fluffiness, however, the message comes through loud and clear: America’s migration from a monetary standard to its current 2028 system of demerit-based economics for the bottom 90% of white Americans is a good thing… probably the best thing that ever happened. Ever. Charming lyrics and cutesy score aside, I got the sense that disagreeing with this migration would be detrimental to my health. After seeing this movie, I would never think of criticizing the investor class’ efforts to reduce their tax bills by pandering to working-class, white Americans’ sense of supremacy via the creation of a race-driven reward system that held no monetary value whatsoever. No way would I say anything negative about the top 10% fooling rubes into thinking that handing out demerits to people of color, gays, non-Christian religions, and educated, sexually-active women brought a sense of worth.
Notes and beats paint a picture of the world after Donald J. Trump took the presidency and the GOP used his chaos to mask their profiteering, spiking the rates of income inequality. Though the show didn’t once mention the Supreme Court, or anything related to Merrick Garland, Brett Kavanaugh, or even its newest Associate Judge, the gruff voiceover talent from the “Law Tigers” commercials, the whole “demerit” metaphor/concept seemed to speak volumes of wisdom about our nation’s Judicial Branch exercising power over a diversifying population. And while not a single character dialed 9-1-1 during the entire viewing experience, I sat on the edge of my seat the whole time because I kept thinking one of them would pick up their phones and summon the police as they galavanted across the set and serenaded one other.
From the opening number, “How Many Demerits Am I A-Handin’ Out Today?” to its finale, “Makin’ Wall Street Proud!”, the late-stage capitalism of America in 2028 melds with its modern mutation of white supremacy—it all comes to life for viewing audiences, delivering ninety minutes of unadulterated escape. Demerit Dance Party will take your mind off of 2028’s trials and trepidations like nothing else. Even the Category Seven hurricanes. If you’re experiencing one of those right now, find a functional movie theater and let Hollywood take you away.
Like the last movie I reviewed, Full Metal Jacket 2: the Legend of Dickie, this song-filled extravaganza disarmed me with the brash sense of dishonesty-masking-itself-as-honesty that popularized itself during the Donald Trump presidency. But, after I remembered that this was the year 2028, it all made sense.
The opening number, fittingly, begins with the ringing of alarm clocks. This allows us to meet the main characters—Filbert, Wilhemina, Racist Ron, and KKKerri—at the start of a brand new day. Singing upbeat lyrics, each character rises out of bed and dresses themselves while asking their reflections in the mirror how many demerits they’re going to hand out by the time they go to bed that night. Right away, I knew that these four love putting black people, brown people, South Asians, East Asians, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, gays, transgendered, and sexually-active, educated women in their places. These characters wholeheartedly believe that every demerit they issue pleases the rich people who paid to manufacture the fancy-papered demerit books with the shiny covers. The viewer truly fathoms their faith in the new system that doesn’t provide them with any sort of financial security, just imagined pats on their heads and “attaboys” and “attagirls”.
The second song, “Will I Die Before I Issue Enough Demerits To Win A Commemorative Keychain?”, allows the character Racist Ron to bare his soul. Racist Ron dreams of earning enough points to win prizes that are, monetarily, worth little, yet priceless to him. He doesn’t care that he can’t pay for his diabetes medication—Racist Ron got demerits to hand out! As he sings about blaming Mexicans after billionaires automated his job, you feel Racist Ron’s desire to shift blame for the spiraling levels of income inequality. When Ron belts out lyrics about looking the other way while billionaires grab his wife by the pussy, you fathom how hard Ron is hanging on to that remaining thread of self-worth. He’s clinging to that strand with everything he’s got.
Ron isn’t the only one. When the cast comes together for “Demerits Rhymes with Peas and Carrots!” and sings lines like, “The browns? Demerits! The blacks? Demerits! The reds? Demerits! The gays? Demerits—demerits, demerits, demerits—give ‘em a big, ol’, giant, heapin’ helpin’ o’ demerits… demerits… everywhere!” while dancing in a chorus line down the city street, you sense the desperation. It’s like these people, deep down, possess an inkling of realization that they are paying a disproportionate amount of the nation’s tax bill while rich people buy new yachts and hire more expensive divorce lawyers.
The fact that not a single non-white character has a speaking line, instead only standing there and taking the demerits that get handed to them, fairly expressionlessly—interesting creative decision. It was like the makers of this viewing experience didn’t want a story cluttered with added character insight. Whitefolk got demerits to hand out!
Though, I have to admit: I did expect the creators of DDP to at least acknowledge the moment, a few years back, when whites felt momentary kinship with other working-class folks. True, the billionaires responded like champs. On the fly, they informed whites that if they abandoned all aspirations of helping to create an equal and just America, the rich folks would print up glossy demerit books that only whites can have. This off-the-cuff shrewdness torpedoed working-class unity so effectively, I expected at least one lyrical line to reference this moment, but no. The creators, it seems, are future-focused.
I can’t finish this review without acknowledging the CGI graphics that breathed life into the demerit flip-book/notepads as well as the pens used to write out the citations. Those giant, animated flames looked bitchin’. I watched those scenes and thought, “I wish my demerit book and pen shot out cool, giant, animated flames like that. That would be soooo bitchin’.”
About a day after seeing Demerit Dance Party, I realized that this entire musical possessed the tone and feel of the finale in the movie Cabaret. That closing scene where the emcee is singing to an audience of Nazis, the beaten look in his eyes, it was like the creators of Demerit Dance Party wrote an entire musical centering around the same downtrodden spirit. Unlike Cabaret, this story spared us all of that contextual build-up to the final scene. (Whitefolk got demerits to hand out!) The Kit Kat Klub emcee’s sense of defeat as World War II became more and more inevitable—Demerit Dance Party just assumes that we viewers have given up ruminating about our modern existence, allowing ourselves to believe that trickle-down economics brings financial security and the fact that the overwhelming majority of billionaires are white males only proves white males’ genetic superiority.
When one watches the working-class white characters in DDP dancing and swinging from the fire escapes, leaping off the car roofs, dry-humping signposts, male dancers throwing the female dancers in the air, one feels these characters’ lack of self-belief.
Demerit Dance Party. The perfect musical for 2028 America. I recommend.
I close with the chorus line of the show’s signature power-ballad, “Whitefolk Got Demerits to Hand Out!” Tap your toes and snap your fingers with me:
“Squeeze those buns… shake them all about,
Whitefolks got demerits to hand out!”
Oh: and one final thing, we are getting near the election. Please vote. We can’t have another four years of President Eric Trump.
Also posted at Medium.