Comfortable and Furious


The line between dream and delusion can be
measured in angstroms, particularly in a place like Hollywood. Nobody
cares who you are or what dreams you cling to, and the only marketable
trait you have is your willingness to endure humiliation until someone
mistakes your desperation for talent. Yet people continue to flock
there hoping for their name on a marquee, despite odds similar to
jackpot slots that take advantage of people’s ignorance of statistics.
Fame and fortune, the balls that drive the throbbing member that is the
American dream. Nobody tells the ambitious youth who hitch rides to Los
Angeles that, more likely than not, you will get the anus. The intense
pressure of eking by in a constant state of failure compresses those
dreams into delusion, and your perceptions of greatness become your new
reality. It takes courage to admit failure, and move on to something
lying within your limitations. For all of the bubbleheaded puff pieces
available on E! wherein you learn how a smile and a dream catapulted
one person to stardom, Confessions of a Superhero provides a resonant
story for thousands more.

This brings us to our superheroes, dressing up in costume to ‘work’
Hollywood Boulevard every day, posing with tourists for tips. They all
say they provide a public service, and it does seem to pay the
exorbitant rent, but these people make very poor liars indeed. For
them, it is a way to cling to the edge of the glitterati, with the
impossible hope that they will be noticed by the producer with the
cigar, and given their big break. Until then, one can pretend to
already be a star – and what better way to do that than as an iconic

Superman has been shaking down tourists for tips for eleven years.
He has been doing it so long that the locals refer to him as the
‘original’ Superman. He has a code of ethics (“No smoking in uniform”),
helps train the new failures on the block, and has an astonishing
collection of memorabilia for someone living in poverty. Spending just
a little time with him, though, and you quickly pick up on the musty
scent of obsession. He always seems to stop just short of claiming to
be Superman. He already claims to be the son of Sandy Dennis, who never
had children. It doesn’t help that he bears a striking resemblance to
Christopher Reeve, if Reeve were two years into a crippling meth
addiction. At a look-alike contest, when he does not win, he appears to
be visibly ill. Somehow, it just never occurred to him that the
audience may not think he is Superman, and he is shaken to the very

Wonder Woman seems the most well adjusted of the bunch. Coming from
rural Tennessee, and having been raised by a Baptist preacher,
panhandling on Hollywood Boulevard is a step up of several orders of
magnitude. She is not consumed by her ‘role’, at least not yet. After
an impulsive courtship with a random stranger, a dull marriage, and
separation, followed by what will be years of failed auditions, a
straightjacket may be in the cards. She does have an awesome rack,
though. You never know what will be the deciding factor at an audition.

The Hulk seems least concerned with his street work, actually
calling himself a “loser, begging for change”. Hailing from rural North
Carolina, he has been well-prepared for a grim living, homeless on the
streets of Los Angeles. I really must tip my hat in deference to this
guy, who seems to take daily hunger and sweating out 100 degree days in
a green rubber suit in stride. He actually gets a movie role as a 70s
pimp in a kung fu flick, and I can’t help but cheer for him.

Batman, on the other hand, has become his character completely, if
the superhero were an aggressive, retarded hustler. This piece of work
says no less than ten times (on camera, anyway) that he is a George
Clooney look-alike. So much so, in fact, that he is rejected time and
again for his stunning likeness. You need to see the movie to
understand why this is funny. He constantly provides a passive
aggressive resume about his past ties with the mob (“We wouldn’t bust
any kneecaps, but we would make you believe we would. Sometimes we
would, though.”), that he killed a person, or several people, and is a
black belt in karate even though he shows the coordination of a drunk
with muscular dystrophy. He discussed the “substantial body count” to
his credit while talking to his psychiatrist. While wearing the Batman
suit, I might add. His hurried speech does all the talking for him,
pouring out the unjustified optimism that he will achieve some sort of
fame or notoriety before either he or the rest of Hollywood realizes he
is a fraud. On Hollywood Boulevard he is Batman, angrily demanding
change from anyone in reach. That anyone would conceive of paying these
pillocks for a photo is inconceivable. It is shocking their eye sockets
have not been scorched from repeated doses of tear gas.

Superman and Batman are both consumed by the roles they so wish to
play. They even view their identity the same way the superheroes did.
Superman was born with great powers, and the fanatical, but polite,
gentleman does not question the gifts bestowed upon him by Krypton.
Batman, on the other hand, is a normal person who has chosen to become
a superhero, and so this guy dives into his role with such aplomb that
he appears ready at any moment to chew the furniture. Wonder Woman and
the Hulk do not appear quite so insane, though I suspect this is only a
matter of time and the inexorable pressure of poverty.

Even though the titular superheroes are easy targets for vitriol,
one could level the same accusation of delusion at any of the tourists
posing with these nobodies. Everyone shares in an obsession with
stardom and the fallacy that we aren’t disposable parts of an
indifferent machine. If one cannot attain la dolce vita, then I suppose
a dim shadow of it will do.
It all sounds so sad, and it is sad without a doubt. And yet this
was one of the most delightful films I have seen in some time.
Something about watching the pointless pursuit of even a menial sort of
success brings me tears of joy. This was an immersive experience into
slow decay, and the realization that the American dream is not theirs
for the taking. The people keep saying they just want to make a living,
but the fanatical glint in their eyes betrays their deeper desires. In
a way, I am almost envious of their ability to put on a literal and
figurative superhero identity. If I lost all that I owned, and lived on
the streets of an unforgiving city, would I have the courage to shed
all dignity and chase nickels? These poor bastards are flying high over
a canyon with no safety net whatsoever – I suppose a superhero identity
makes all the sense in the world if you fear the precipitous drop. To
simply become someone else entirely certainly beats confronting the
hopeless grind of day to day living, and realizing that your
insignificant life will soon be snuffed out and nobody will mark the
passing. This is what happens when our ambitions turn out to be well
beyond our grasp. We invent another perception of reality where we are
not so much trash in a gutter, and that one will do just fine.

That is the dark side of the American dream. After all, success is
right there in front of you, all you need to do is work, or something
involving bootstraps, and the treasure is for the taking. So if you
failed, it couldn’t be because you simply don’t have any talent for
entertainment, and you don’t have the educational background, the
benefit of nepotism, or you are just too fucking ugly. Failure must
come from a lack of determination, nothing more. Small wonder these
people are going insane. Dealing with a steady state of failure without
any hope tends to require a lack of real perspective to survive. It is
anathema in this country to suggest that coming to terms with failure
is a good idea. Nonetheless, this can not only preserve one’s sanity,
but also enable real progress.