Blog 2013

Learning Good Things From Bad Guys

Note: Links are not offered in the following blog because is currently experiencing technically difficulties involving malware issues.

I’m a big fan of  Love it.  Read it daily.  I especially like the After Hours video segments and most of the work by John Cheese and Daniel O’Brien.  David Wong is also a wonderful contributor, but I’ve recently had some issue with his article ‘6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You A Better Person’.

Now, I take a lot of issue with the mistaken belief that brutal honesty is somehow a good thing.  It isn’t.  Being blunt isn’t an admirable trait.  I won’t deny that there’s a time and a place for it, but it’s far more rare than most people think, especially those who extol the virtues of being blunt.  Being blunt or harsh is like punching someone in the mouth; if you find you absolutely must do it more than five times in your life, you really need to reconsider some of your life choices.

I’ll expound on that topic at another time.  I want to return to the issue of this article, ‘6 Harsh Truths’.  The article fixates primarily on a segment from a play-turned-movie called ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’, a famous segment in which Alec Baldwin plays a motivational speaker who essentially shames the cast of real estate salesmen into productivity.  If you even Google Gleangarry Glen Ross, this speech comes up at the top of the list.  If you want to watch it, feel free but I won’t link to it because I think it’s deplorable.

It’s a brilliant speech, make no mistake.  It is easily Alec Baldwin’s finest performance and – his Capital One commercials not withstanding – that’s saying something.  And it’s written by a masterful playwright, David Mamet.  And it is very motivating, in a negative you’re-worthless-unless-you-get-off-your-ass sort of way.  But what I take issue with is that few people seem to realize that Alec Baldwin’s character is, essentially, the bad guy.

Glengarry Glen Ross isn’t a happy play (or movie).  It isn’t uplifting and no one comes out of it unscathed.  In many ways, it’s a terribly ugly film in which even the characters who come out best are the ones who quit and leave the real estate business entirely.  The whole script is one big warning against being like these people.  And the chief among ‘these people’, the very essence of ‘these people’ distilled, is Alec Baldwin’s character.

People point to the character’s tirade as an amazing motivational speech, not seeming to realize that’s like idolizing Gordon Gekko from Wall Street, or Gunnery Sergeant Hartman from Full Metal Jacket, or even Tony Montana from Scarface.  They may be compelling, they may be interesting and even entertaining, they may even have some good and admirable traits.  But none of that diminishes the fact that the primary point of these assorted films is to NOT be like them!  It blows my mind when people talk about Baldwin’s speech like it’s a good thing.  That’s akin to saying taking cocaine is a great way to be more productive.

I’m not suggesting people shouldn’t occasionally take an objective look at their lives and themselves.  I’m not saying we all don’t occasionally need a good kick in the pants to get us moving in the right direction.  And I’m definitely not saying this scene/speech isn’t one of the finest performances in cinema history.  What I am saying is that to look at this speech and say ‘He’s right’ is to severely miss the point the entire movie is trying to make.

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