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David Mamet's Gone Right-Wing, Taking On Affirmative Action In Next Screenplay

by Oliver Lyttelton
May 19, 2011 4:57 AM
16 Comments
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Day two of Von Triergate, and... oh, sorry, it's become almost automatic at this point. But enough of directors who haven't actually suddenly displayed right-wing tendencies, how about a director who actually has! David Mamet's always been a controversial figure, since at least his troublesome sexual harassment play "Oleanna." But a shift has started to be seen in his recent work, one explained in full by a lengthy article in the Weekly Standard.

The piece, uncovered by Vulture, explains that that the writer-director, like most old people, has now disavowed his status as what he calls a "Brain Dead Liberal," swung to the right, and is increasingly reflecting that in his work, from a new book "The Secret Knowledge: On The Dismantling Of American Culture," to a play set to debut in London at the end of the year about a 60s radical clashing with a reactionary prison warden. And it looks like he wants to take on a major bête noire of the right in filmic form.

The end of the piece involves Mamet mentioning a new screenplay he's working on that tackles the always-thorny issue of affirmative action, an issue loathed by those who can't grasp how shitty most public schools are, and who don't understand the meaning of the word 'potential'. The plot will involve a young rich girl turned down by Harvard, who reapplies as an Aztec in order to qualify for affirmative action. An Aztec! Hilarious. We have to commend Mamet on his decision not to make her pretend to be an Eskimo.

We thought that Mamet's last directorial effort, "Redbelt" was somewhat underrated, but this sounds fairly miserable in premise -- we're sure that someone could make a biting close to the bone satire about affirmative action if they really wanted to, but we're not convinced that Mamet, who seems to be edging closer and closer to becoming a Fox News pundit, is the guy to do it. The film doesn't seem to have funding yet, or any actors attached, but we may see both materialize soon. And if they don't, it will of course because the liberal elite buried it.

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16 Comments

  • dan | May 20, 2011 4:19 AMReply

    @StephenM: " Doesn’t mean that a white kid shouldn’t get in to a college when he has better grades than a black kid, just because there are more poor black kids in America."

    Yes that happens but only when affirmative action is not used as directed which is exactly what I was pointing out. If used correctly, as written, a white kid with better grades than an african american will get into that college. As for your quota system, that is also acknowledged by lawmakers. It's not exactly a quota but a percentage that must be met that is determined in the area in which your business/firm operates. Say you are in an area populated by nothing but white people (100% whites). Your business doesn't need to go out of their way to hire a black person, it can hire nothing but a group of white people. Say you are in an area split, (50% white, 50% black) it is determined then that you should be able to match that mixture found in your community. However, you can NOT match that percentage if you show that the applicants of the protected group that applied do not have the job specifications needed for said work.

    There are still inherent problems, as you've shown people have a fundamental misunderstanding of affirmative action and therefore use it incorrectly. If a situation which you described has occurred (a white person was denied acceptance into a college based solely on that college trying to meet a quota) that person could file a lawsuit. Cases like that are out there, and people have won those cases. (Actually they deal with the very issue you have brought up, college acceptance)

  • MDL | May 20, 2011 1:28 AMReply

    Will Mamet consider making a film about the kind of affirmative action that favors rich white people whose fathers give donations to Universities?

    Yeah, probably not.

  • Christopher Bell | May 19, 2011 9:09 AMReply

    It's a very complex issue, and there's definitely a wrong way to go about it, being too favorable to one side of the issue. Which is sounds like Mamet is doing here. I'm down for picking out the problems of Affirmative Action, but if all he's saying is "PEEPLE TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT" well, yeah, no shit, that's all you got? Let's start a real discussion here.

  • StephenM | May 19, 2011 7:44 AMReply

    @dan; 'when two people are equal in skill/ability you simply choose the protected group." Why? Why do some groups get to be protected while others don't? Shouldn't employers/admissions people/etc. be able to make choices like this on their own?

    And anyway, affirmative action is not just when two people are exactly equal in skill/ability, it involves things like racial quotas imposed to attempt to force the world to look the way certain people think it should look. Public schools are very often shitty. Setting up special scholarships for inner-city black kids, promoting private and charter schools, etc, are all things that ought to be done to change that. Doesn't mean that a white kid shouldn't get in to a college when he has better grades than a black kid, just because there are more poor black kids in America.

    I hope Mamet makes a good satire, not a stupid one, but if you're determined to hate the idea from the beginning there's not much I can do.

  • tom | May 19, 2011 7:32 AMReply

    What kind of skew were these Drive tweets leaning?

  • KT | May 19, 2011 7:24 AMReply

    Actually, I didn't see any tweets 'cause I don't follow twitter but -

    DAMN, Davis, OKAY!

  • Edward Davis | May 19, 2011 7:19 AMReply

    KT, i think you're an [redacted], because you JUST posted here because you JUST saw the first DRIVE tweets coming out (as we all did). The movie JUST finished. Chill.

  • KT | May 19, 2011 7:17 AMReply

    Fuck this.

    Where's the Cannes review for "Drive"?

  • dan | May 19, 2011 7:16 AMReply

    I hope that he doesn't misinterpret what affirmative action actually calls for. That when two people are equal in skill/ability you simply choose the protected group. Personally I believe in affirmative action when used correctly and as intended. however, despite what people may think, there are some arguments out there against affirmative action that aren't necessarily unreasonable. And these are arguments original propagated by african american scholars saying that affirmative action creates the glass ceiling or at least doesn't fix it. If I could remember the dude's name I would name him.

  • Ryan | May 19, 2011 6:57 AMReply

    Didn't they already make this movie in the 80s with C. Thomas Howell? Soul Man.

  • Jeff | May 19, 2011 6:47 AMReply

    Of course the hipsters running this website are going to suddenly hate on Mamet because he disagrees with their politics. Big surprise.

  • actionman | May 19, 2011 6:30 AMReply

    SPARTAN IS PERFECT

  • daniel | May 19, 2011 5:34 AMReply

    Sad to see such a talented writer disappear into his own sense of self-satisfaction. Claiming that he was leftist and then saw the light simply isn't true; his politics haven't changed since Sexual Perversity in Chicago; only the way that we perceive them has changed. And this is due entirely to his increasing sloppiness, not due to his so-called 'swing to the right.'

    When I first saw this and Oleanna, I assumed it was irony that drove the drama, when actually this is simply what he believes -- which is of course fine; he is free to say what he thinks, just as I'm free to take it however I want. We are all -- including the author of the play -- the audience; and we are free to take home what we take home from it. I still love these plays, though I don't see them the way I believe Mamet himself sees them.

    But as he's gotten older, he has lost more and more respect for his audience, I believe, and feels the need to make sure they understand his point; so, by necessity, his 'statements' become just that -- uninterpretable, shallow, and incrementally less-clever conceits that undermine his natural skills. Compare the setup and execution of his excellent, haunting and ambiguous film 'Homicide,' to the by-the-numbers didacticism of his later 'Spartan.' Homicide is a challenging moral nightmare, whereas Spartan is a well fashioned episode of '24.'

    So, only knowing the logline of his new project, I'm sad to say that I expect the same slippage. If any artist needs to go through Von Trier's Five Obstructions process, it's Mamet; trying to practice art without challenging your own views is just chewing cud.

  • Axel | May 19, 2011 5:24 AMReply

    Mamet has always been right wing. Always.

  • Randroids | May 19, 2011 5:19 AMReply

    Hot damn! When they canceled "Atlas Shrugged" we didn't think we'd ever find an excuse to comment here again! Anyway, um, okay, something about how affirmative action is exactly like slavery because SHUT UP THAT'S WHY. Also, the Federal Reserve, for some reason.

  • ben | May 19, 2011 5:07 AMReply

    Can't really say I'm surprised by this. If you've watched him the last few times he was on Charlie Rose, he refuses to talk directly about his political stance but he does got after celebrities talking out on social and political issues and attacks certain democrats. So, its not much of a shock.

    Still a fantastic writer and I have loved a number of his films (House of Games, Spanish Prisoner, Homicide, and as mentioned above, the underrated Redbelt). So hopefully he can get back to doing what he does best.

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