"There are only two ways of telling the complete truth—anonymously and posthumously."Thomas Sowell

Thursday, December 30, 2004


I agree that Napoleon Dynamite is a fun film and rather thoughtful. It has an interesting point of view, moreover, which becomes evident in the resolution. As Hunter notes, everybody in Napoleon's fictional Idaho hometown is approximately two decades behind the times, and Napoleon is held back by the community's dreary conservatism, a symptom of the people's low expectations of what they think they can hope to get out of life. Napoleon's uncle is a fine example of this acceptance of shabbiness: even though the man is willing to work, he has no direction and less imagination.

Napoleon's exasperation at just about everything around him is a symptom of his frustration at being held back by a social order that does not allow itself to benefit from creative, eccentric persons such as himself. The exaggerated languor of most of the characters, epitomized in Napoleon's brother, who does not even show the occasional bursts of energy Napoleon can sum up, is an inevitable outcome of this culture.

It is only when an Eastern, urban, ethnic element is introduced into the society, through the Internet girlfriend of Napoleon's older brother, that Napoleon and his brother can thrive. And it creates a couple of scenes that are both very funny and rather inspiring: Napoleon's dance routine and his entrance to his brother's wedding.

One could see the film as having a racial-culture angle, given that the person who introduces change to the society is African-American, but I don't think that that is at all the relevant point. The film does a wonderful job of showing how conservatism works to create social order but ultimately can suppress the creative urges that are the lifeblood of any society and any economy. For a society to function well and create a truly rich environment, there must always be a balance between conservative forces and those for reform. The title of this film aptly evokes that idea. See it.


Hunter Baker said...

Didn't see it that way, S.T. I thought this film was almost completely lacking in message and was designed to evoke an aesthetic more than anything else. Napoleon's ability to resolve everything with a superior dance performance was part of the 80's tribute.

S. T. Karnick said...

No need to apologize, Hunter. I'm here to help.—STK

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Hunter, I'm with S.T. on this. LaFawnduh saw the possibility in those people and she gave each one what they needed (that's why the cassette).
Pedro was the first to get a glimmer, and that's because he is the first outsider.
Also, the 1982 theme had to do with Uncle Rico's missed opportunity to play the fourth quarter of the state championship game, be a hero, go pro, and move on out. That's why they need a time machine - which turns out to be impossible.
It's only when they understand that it's 2004 or die that Napoleon can help Pedro win. He also gets Deb, the only one in town thinking about college and doing something entrepreneurial to get there.

Yours, Jay in Miami

Evanston said...

My top notch internet research reveals that Napoleon bought a dance videotape on his own before meeting LaFawnduh. She gave him an audiotape but I'm not sure if she ever saw him dance. Overall, I'm sorta with Hunter that the film evokes a throwback aesthetic, the 1980s are shown but the key is we are thrown back to clueless youth...anyone ever been there? I have! The cultural focus was junior/senior high school -- not just for the kids (Napoleon, Pedro, "in" kids etc.) but Uncle Rico and Napoleon's brother were definitely stuck in that same immature mentality. Hence not only wanting a time machine (who doesn't?) but convincing themselves that it would work. It's mainly a movie about immature losers that we can all relate to...note that none of the characters is a hero at the end of the film (not even Napoleon), but what they do gain/ re-gain are friendships. Not a moral movie in all respects, but somehow genuine. Peace out!