>>> Casual Misanthropy
By staff writer JD Rebello
December 5, 2004
Since I work nights, and my VCR is a crackhead and refuses to tape Scrubs, and my roommates wouldn't agree to act out that night's South Park, and SportsCenter is only on 47 times a day, my favorite new show is on VH1. It's Insomnia Music Theater nightly at 3:30 a.m. You've probably seen it sometime since VH1 decided to go the MTV route and kick videos to the curb in favor of menial entertainment shows like a Partridge reality show. By the way, this is the second fucking reality show based on an old sitcom, the other is that “Real Gilligan's Island” garbage. I was stunned FOX didn't make a run at that, but I guess they couldn't work in the Satanic make-you-want-to-stick-a-Timberland-up-your-dog's-buttocks flavor that only FOX shows possess.
Anyway, I'm watching the Insomniac Music Theater. That Switchfoot song “Dare You To Move” was playing. It's a good song and an even more confusing video—not as complex as that Hoobastank video which the jewel heist and the hot chick getting meleed by the car, but still a conundrum at 3:42 in the morning. Once Switchfoot is done, they bring in John Cougar Mellencamp's new video “Walk Tall.” I remember where I was during certain critical events of my lifetime. Buckner. Desert Storm. Lewinsky. Columbine. Vinatieri. Sox win. Now you can add Mellencamp's new video to this pantheon of “Things That I'll Never Forget,” which devotes an entire wing to Katie Holmes' shocking nude scene in “The Gift.”
“If you're making a video about bigotry, why not make it about blacks or Jews? That's something we could theoretically care about. (Not me, but normal people.)”
“Walk Tall,” simply put, is extraordinary—a mind-blowing amalgamation of unintentional comedy and bleeding subtlety. It's remarkable. I have a dog that farts steam in the cold and laughs at how cool it was, and I thought that was remarkable. “Walk Tall” kicks my dog's ass all week long and twice on Tuesday.
The video takes place in a Southern town where the entire populace is bigoted against midgets. Yes. Midgets. Little short people.
The town's attitude toward midgets is basically the same as you would expect toward blacks in the 1950's. Segregation. Racial tensions. Kind of like “Remember the Titans” but without football.
The midgets are referred to as Tinys. The regular folks are referred to as Talls. The video makes it a point to note that both white and black people are hateful of the midget minority. (A black mother grabs her equally black daughter from a water fountain when a midget uses an adjacent fountain—yes, midgets must use separate water fountains.)
The midget, a milkman, makes a delivery to a girl's house. The midget sees her behind a shrub, notices she is of eye level, and soon discovers that she is in a wheelchair. They fall madly in love with another.
The wheelchair chick's dad, who looks like Paul Walker's dad in “Varsity Blues” (imagine being typecast as a nasty Southern asshole in every role) gets wise of this cripple-midget fling, beats the shit out of his daughter, then leads a group of troublemakers to the midget's trailer, and sets it on fire.
The girl in the wheelchair is crying, and in theory the audience is crying because we assume the midget is dead. But nope, he shows up on his bike, picks the girl up out of her wheelchair, puts her in the sidecar and drives off happily ever after.
Oh, and this is all taken completely seriously. Now, let's break this video down piece by piece, shall we?
1. Midgets. Midgets are funny. You can't make a movie about them in a sympathetic light. Imagine if Will Ferrell took a role as a Vietnam vet dying of cancer. Could you take it seriously? Ferrell's a good actor, but I'd keep thinking: “Maybe after chemo, I'll go to Bed, Bath, and Beyond. I dunno. I dunno if we'll have enough TIME!” So the whole time Mellencamp is trying to make me feel bad for a midget. And it's just not happening. Midgets are funny and cute, and have access to rainbows and pots of gold. I can't feel bad for them.
2. The Cripple. The cripple chick is wayyyyy to hot to want to bang a midget milkman. I, for one, would love to go for a long walk—err, roll—along the beach with her. I like cripples. I've got a cripple fetish. Go ahead, persecute me. Cripple women are way better than walking women. Think about it. Cripple women can't walk out on you. (Well, they can't.) Cripple women's standards are low already because, I mean, they are crippled. You'd never get stuck going dancing. You'd never have to pull her seat out for her. And isn't it more fun doing someone that's pretty much stuck there? (Wow, I'm so going to hell.)
3. The Message. Yes, it's a message video, but if you're going to make a video about bigotry, why not make it about blacks or Jews or Asians? That's something we could theoretically care about and emote for. (Not me, but normal people.)
With that said, is Mellencamp really the guy to make a video about bigotry? Isn't his target audience basically a bunch of bigots? Should he really be making videos depicting his prime audience as a bunch of inbred jackoffs with nothing better to do than light a midget's trailer on fire for bangin' their cripple daughters? Isn't this a little like R. Kelly making a video and being all “Boo to banging 14-year-old girls. Bad.”
4. The Song. It's not a bad song. It's certainly AIM profile-level in the way that girls hear it, assume it's about a breakup, and throw it in their profile to make everyone feel sorry for them. Mellencamp has always been a poor man's Bruce, but this isn't horrible. I'm not saying you should listen to it when a new U2 and a new Green Day album are out, but at 3:30 a.m., you could do a lot worse.
But here's my point. The song is called “Walk Tall” and the main character in the video is a midget. Isn't that a little presumptuous? For four minutes I watched this video waiting for Weird Al to show up. It's like watching AC/DC perform “Back in Black” in a cotton field circa 1860.
5. The Message, Again. If you're gonna make a serious statement video, a midget mackin' it with a cripple isn't a very good start. How can you possibly take that seriously? In this day and age? I mean, hasn't Blink 182 cornered the market on midget exploitation in videos?
I know some moron is going to get all uppity for all the midget-bashing I'm doing in this column, but come on. Midgets are funny, and midget abuse is even funnier. What are you going to do? There are no midget leaders. There's no Midget Malcolm X saying:
“We didn't land on the rollercoaster, the height requirement to get on the rollercoaster landed on US!”
You can't organize a Million Midget March. Are there even a million midgets? Where do they come from? My guess is Japan. That's where all the cool shit comes from.
6. The Director. The director, Todd Milk, somehow never saw (throughout the entire filming of this video) that midgets and cripples in a pseudo-racist world shackin' up cannot possibly be taken seriously. Maybe, given that his last name is Milk and that's in close proximity to easy boob jokes, Todd-boy lost all grasp on comedy and became outrageously serious. I can picture him on the set saying things like: “Okay, you're going to start bawling because this midget is on fire. This is the saddest day of your life. You are in sheer agony thinking of the burning midget in the trailer.” Can you imagine anyone taking that stage direction with a straight face? Is it just me?
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get some sleep.