Friday, September 09, 2005

Reduce The Surplus Population

By now, I’m certain everyone who has stumbled across this blog has seen the Cheney video.

“Go F#$k yourself Mister Cheney.” As people have pointed out, he is genuinely amused by the episode. He smiles and immediately turns it to his advantage by referencing John Kerry.

It reminded me of George C. Scott’s brilliant portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge. Over the years, the Alistair Sim Scrooge has been celebrated as the standard by which all others are judged, but I do not share that opinion. I think Scott’s Scrooge is by far the best, because he is gleefully mean. He is his own audience, and he is greatly amused by his miserliness and his callous indifference to suffering.

The classic scene is when he is approached by businessmen for a contribution to charity. He welcomes this opportunity to express his disdain for the poor. He appears to live for moments such as these. When he first encounters them, they say something like, “Mr. Scrooge, I don’t believe you’ve made our acquaintance” and he mutters with a wry grin, “Nor do I wish to.” They then go on to explain to him about the suffering children, the whole exchange about “Are there no prisons? No work farms?” The defining moment though, is when they tell him that conditions are so bad that some would rather die, and he says, (paraphrased from memory) “Well, if they’d rather die then let them die. It will reduce the surplus (laughing!) population.” There is the difference. Alistair Sim delivers those lines in anger, but Scott delivers them with glee, reveling in the fact that he is so clever in his meanness. He is proud of being such a scoundrel. He loves being a miser.

That is precisely the way I see Dick Cheney.

By the way, I still haven't figured out exactly why, but I find it wildly enteraining that the off-camera protagonist chose to call him "Mister" Cheney.


This morning, I had a coffee mishap at my house, so I had no go-cup coffee for the drive to the office. The easiest remedy was to stop by the local Starbucks, and that is exactly what I did. I'm not proud of it. I needed my fix. As I parked, I notice a Ford Explorer with its lights on in the parking lot. As I got out of my car, I realized that it had been left running, at $3.00 per gallon. When I went inside I noted that the driver was a spoiled 30 something woman, totally without any clues. I have no clever punchline to this story, nothing to add that will make any point. Just thought I would share...


Blogger XTCfan said...

I think the heckler showed great restraint in calling him "Mr. Cheney." I don't think I would have been able to resist the temptation to call him "Dick." It just works on so many levels, you know?

Your point about George C. Scott's portrayal of Scrooge is a good one. I always loved the Alistair Sim version because of its B&W bleakness ... it seemed scarier to me as a kid. But I'll rent the GCS version this December.

That reminds me ... I haven't watched Dr. Strangelove in a while...

And ... "a coffee mishap"? Good thing you're not a drummer, Al ... you might have been killed. As for the clueless woman, you could have simply driven her car a couple of blocks away and left it, and then come back to get your coffee, watching with a wry smile as she freaked out.

9:31 AM  
Blogger Neil Shakespeare said...

Thanx for your post on 'Dick Scrooge'. I think he did a fine performance. My favorite performance in that role is 'Scrooge McDuck', and 'Duck' Cheney is mindful of that in the way he is rotund, waddles and spits.

10:10 AM  
Blogger Kevin Wolf said...

I agree that Scott's portrayal is one of the best of all the Scrooges. Not to turn this into A Christmas Carol forum, but I had the pleasure of seeing Patrick Stewart's one man show of this in New York and it was excellent.

Do you remember: There was an official in the Reagan administration (can't remember who) that said Cratchit was very well paid per the wages of Dicken's day. Talk about missing the point...

11:29 AM  
Blogger The Viscount LaCarte said...

Talk about SCROOGE! John Stossel is a disgrace:

11:38 AM  
Blogger cali said...

Veering away from Scrooge, is it just me or does Stossel have a Hitler thing going?

12:37 PM  
Blogger The Viscount LaCarte said...


>Veering away from Scrooge, is it just me or does Stossel have a Hitler thing going? <

It isn't just you.

12:51 PM  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

The coffee mishap could be your Giant Rat of Sumatra (that presumes you remember your Holmes). ;)

1:58 AM  
Blogger The Viscount LaCarte said...


You reminded me how much I enjoyed reading those stories so many years ago. As soon as I finish "The DaVinci Code" (probably some time in 06 at this rate!) I'm going to go back an read them again.

But I had no rat to blame this time. I poured my go-cup and as I reached for the lid, I knocked it over! Of course if Mr. Cheney was there he would have quipped that I was the rat, and them offered me a cup laced with arsenic.

7:34 AM  
Blogger Lance Mannion said...

Excellent catch!

I think Scott and Sim are about equally great. Scott, as you say, is the better (that is meaner) comedian, though I've also always thought that he was more perverse than just plain mean---his jokes seem designed to force everybody, including himself, to keep their distance, but at the same time he uses them as a way to invite company and approval---he expects people to laugh at his witticisms. When he tells his nephew, "Keep Christmas in your way and let me keep it in mine," Fred says in astonishment at the idea of Scrooge celebrating Christmas in any way, "But you don't keep it," setting Scrooge up to reply, "Let me leave it alone, then," Scott implies that what he most hates about Christmas is that it reminds him that he is a lonely and unhappy man. But at the same time he wants Fred to laugh at his wit. He's the same with the two portly gentlemen collecting for the poor, looking for them to share in the joke that appalls them.

To be left alone is Scrooge's fondest wish and his curse, and Scott stamps his Scrooge with that contradiction.

Sim, though, plays Scrooge's reclamation more completely. He is so full of renewed joy that he can't even contain it to play his little joke on Cratchitt. His mirth keeps bubbling out of him as he tries and fails to imitate the man he used to be and can no longer be.

The line, by the way, is "If they would rather die, then had better do it, and decrease the surplus population."

(Cheap boast. That's from memory. So's the exchange between Fred and Scrooge.)

5:28 PM  
Blogger The Viscount LaCarte said...

Lance - great comments and insight. Thanks for sharing them here.

>(Cheap boast. That's from memory. So's the exchange between Fred and Scrooge.) <

Boast away! I love classic movies and Television. We would have a ball watching "Star Trek" TOS and keeping score of who got what line right.

5:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent observation!

Scott's Scrooge is subdued but gleeful. It's a fantastic and highly underrated performance that puts a spotlight on Dicken's real message. Scott's Scrooge LIVES to be nasty and heartless while maintaining and hiding behind that respectable, upper class, facade. He is perfectly free to do what he wants and there is nothing we can do about it.

That describes Cheney perfectly! He even kind of looks and sounds like Scott's Scrooge. Cheney is clearly having the time of his life launching wars, bold-face lying to people, emptying the treasury and being in a position where people are forced to respect him. He doesn't even care if they win or lose the war and go bankrupt in the process. We're all just pawns in his game and he's loving every minute of it.

I predict he will die within a year or two after leaving office because this literally is the only thing keeping him alive.

11:58 AM  
Blogger The Viscount LaCarte said...

Hi Anon,

Thanks for your comments and for reading my blog.

- The Viscount

1:17 PM  

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