Much has been written in recent years on the apparent death of the American Dream. Corporate profits are at all time highs, wages have either remained stagnant or fallen behind, and unemployment per capita continues to rise. More people have been leaving the workforce than are obtaining jobs, and the work that is available is increasingly part-time employment with no health insurance, stability, paid time off, or any other benefits. In light of all of this, how likely is it that most Americans will be able to attain the dream of controlling their own destiny? How can one obtain independence when they are not guaranteed a living wage on any type of long-term basis? How likely is it that the upcoming “Millenial” generation will be able to pay for all of the foreign wars and for Social Security/Medicare when we mostly work part-time at Starbucks in spite of our degrees? And, with all the recent sabre rattling about unilaterally bombing Syria, is Barack Obama the only black man in history to have a small penis?
These questions are all irrelevant, as the American Dream never dies. It just transforms and mutates into different forms across the decades. But to answer the last question: no, he is not. The other one is found in Michael Bay’s new classic, Pain and Gain.
You know your life has reached either a new high or a new low when you watch a film that includes a scene where a man takes an injection to the dick in order to obtain an erection, and you keep watching it. You don’t turn it off and do something better with your life. In my case, that may be because watching movies like this is my life, but whatever. I could have fired up Roadhouse instead, but I did not. I persevered, and was richly rewarded for my efforts. For Michael Bay has finally done it: he has made something other than a Transformers movie. While he did not top Bad Boys 2, he delivered a film that can stand as his second best movie. Welcome back, Michael. Now go make Transformers 4 and disappoint me all over again.
Pain and Gain tells the story of three douchebag personal trainers who channel the forces of pandering self-help philosophies, sociopathic tendencies, and All-American bullshit in an effort to get rich or die trying. Mark Wahlberg plays the lead douchebag, who schemes to kidnap a small business owner and force him to sign over his property and business by repeatedly beating him. Anthony Mackie plays Douchebag #2, who goes along for the ride with Wahlberg’s character so he can impress his overweight white girlfriend. Incidentally, he met his girlfriend while visiting a clinic for erectile issues. A classic love story if there ever was one. Finally, The Rock plays Douchebag #3, who is not really a douchebag, to be honest. He is a guy with pre-existing mental issues, a substance abuse problem, and possible latent gay feelings. He is the only sympathetic character of the three, and also the only one who avoids the death penalty. (spoiler)
Rounding out the cast are Tony Shalhoub as the small business owner, Ed Harris as a retired private detective, and Bar Paly as an exotic dancer who hangs out with the douchebags in exchange for money and/or drugs. Bar Paly’s character may be the most honest person in the movie. At one point, she is fucked from behind by Douchebag #1 outside a club while bent over the back of a parked car, and she engages in these sexual relations without care or judgment. Nietzsche would be proud. By the way, the movie includes an educational bit where Wahlberg’s vigorous thrusting causes the parked car to roll forward and hit the back of the car in front of it. Always remember to set your e-brake, folks!
In fact, I learned many things from watching this movie. It is a harrowing descent into the dudebro mindset that left me both enlightened and revolted. Apparently, the reason I haven’t been that successful in life is because I’m a “pussy”. Or, as was once stated by a fellow Internet denizen, I’m a “thin-wristed manlet”. Anyway, I need to stop being a “pussy” and start being a “man”, bro. I realize now the error of my ways. Life is too short to live like this.
That’s why last night, after watching Pain and Gain, I did what I should have done six months ago: I erased Windows 8 from my laptop and installed Linux Mint. Pain and Gain gave me the strength (or at least the initiative) to realize that I didn’t have to live in constant irritation and disappointment anymore. A new day has dawned, my friends. This is how you do it. You see the goal, you take the initiative, you obtain the goal, you self-actualize, you become one with America. I am in control of my destiny. Steve Ballmer can go fuck himself.
Sure, my quest was almost thwarted by bullshit UEFI booting and semi-confusing startup keys that required a separate key to manually boot the Live USB stick in non-UEFI mode for a proper Legacy install, as there was no such manual boot option in the BIOS menu itself. I had to reinstall because the initial install (which came off a UEFI boot) would not boot up. But you know, I was undeterred, even if I was mildly depressed after my initial attempt. And, in the end, I handled it. I got shit done. Pain and gain, bro. Pain and gain.
Now I find myself asking the following question: are the douchebags from Pain and Gain worse than Windows 8? I think it’s obvious that The Rock’s character is definitely better than Windows 8. As the credits state, the person that he is based on is now out of prison “and trying to apologize”. Sure, The Rock’s character barbecues severed human hands in an effort to burn off their fingerprints, but in his defense, he is coked out of his mind for the entirety of the second half of the movie. Plus, in addition to the roids, the coke and the narcissism coursing through their veins, these guys must have used muscle building supplements. At bottom, he just wants to get back to AA and out of the nightmare he finds himself in. He may be trash, but he recognizes his problems and he attempts to do better in life. Windows 8 comes with a fullscreen start menu, provides no built-in option for a normal start menu, and Windows 8.1 will not be adding it back in. What the fuck, Microsoft? Classic Shell is fine, but the fact that it is a necessity should be an embarrassment to all of you. But apparently, Microsoft sees no need to improve. Shameful.
So I guess it comes down to Douchebag #1 and Douchebag #2 versus Windows 8. Wahlberg’s character is a sociopath who commits kidnapping, murder, racketeering, and whatever else. Mackie’s character is pathetic, lame, and accidentally murders a woman by injecting her with too much horse tranquilizer. Both face considerable difficulty in using power tools for non-standard corpse-dismemberment purposes. In typical fashion, Wahlberg’s character blames the fact that the chainsaw was manufactured in China rather than his own incompetence. It’s never your fault, even when it is your fault. Modern America in a nutshell.
On the other hand, Windows 8 has separate “Metro” applications that require different Alt-Tab style keystrokes/cursor movements to switch between. They are separate from the Desktop applications, and the Desktop itself is treated as a “Metro” application. What this means is that if you want to play Solitaire, it is a fullscreen version of Solitaire that cannot be resized and takes 10 seconds to load. The same is true for the default PDF and image viewers, as well as music/video players. Sure, you can get Desktop versions of all of these and ignore “Metro” as much as possible, but why should you even have to deal with it?
But all of this is quite minor compared to its biggest offense: Windows 8 would not play Starcraft 1 / Brood War properly. I could start the game, but I could not enter the single player campaign, and while the skirmish mode would start, there would be no music. Do you have any idea how depressing it is to watch your drones mining for minerals with no accompanying music track? Oh my God, it was just awful. And yes, I tried all the different compatibility settings to no avail. Seriously, fuck Windows 8.
Anyway, what were we talking about? Oh yeah, the guys from Pain and Gain. Well, I guess they weren’t that bad. I mean, it’s not like they double murdered me personally or anything. The world is a better place without them, but at least they didn’t have a “Charms” bar.
In the end, Bar Paly’s stripper character lives to fuck another day. Basically, she’s Linux, and the three douchebags are Windows, UEFI, and Secure Boot. Two of them fuck her repeatedly and all of them treat her like garbage, but in the end she overcomes them and prevails. She is the true embodiment of the American Dream. In fact, maybe she’s the middle class, and the douchebags are Corporate America, Wall Street, and the Federal Reserve. The same metaphor applies. This is a very nuanced and subtle film that can be interpreted on many levels. Michael Bay really outdid himself here. We should be proud.
Overall, I learned quite a bit from this film. You don’t need to murder or steal from people to assert yourself; you just need to install an operating system that isn’t total garbage. Beyond all the strip club scenes, the steroid injections, the beatings, the murders, the lies, the dildos, the cocaine, the body parts, the running from the cops, and the mispronunciations of the word “vagina”, there emerges one truth: America is whatever we want it to be. The American Dream is not in some abstract idealistic realm alongside Plato’s Forms, but here with us now. We are the American Dream. Some of us just have difficulty not being total douchebags about it. If only the guys on Wall Street could understand this message.
Anyway, when’s Bad Boys 3 coming out? It’s time, Michael. It was time years ago, but we need it now more than ever. Shit has not officially gotten real for far too long. I know you’re probably going to go make Transformers 4, Transformers 5, and Transformers 6 before you give us another movie like Pain and Gain, much less a Bad Boys 3. But I must ask you to please trade off between Transformers films this time. I don’t think I can survive another onslaught like the 2007-2011 Transformers 1-3 era of your career. You’re better than that, Michael. You need to be the change you want to see. You need to be the American Dream. You need to be America.
But then again, so do we all.