Regular readers of this blog may recall a cartoon I drew several months ago, likening Mitt Romney to the Wall Street investor/serial killer Patrick Bateman of American Psycho. It really wasn’t much of a stretch – as I observed, Bateman and his murder spree were more or less metaphors for the cannibal capitalism on which Romney built his vast personal fortune throughout the ’80s and ’90s.
This relationship was on my mind again, though as a result of recent media focus on a bullying incident during Romney’s high-school years, as opposed to increased pressure by the Obama campaign over Romney’s record of corporate raiding and dismemberment. Much like the “dog-on-roof” anecdote, Romney’s people have attempted to counter this story with clumsy “I know you are but what am I” comparisons to the President, failing to grasp how telling it is that they have to reach into Obama’s childhood to find actions barely comparable to Romney’s as a young adult in high school, or a full-grown adult with a family!
Even more revealing is Romney’s seeming indifference and forced laughter about his “pranks and hijinks,” which you might think involved wearing a suit made out of someone else’s skin, if you were to hear him speak about it in a vacuum – he certainly doesn’t seem to remember enough specifics to tell you otherwise!
When I first made the connection between Romney and Bateman, it was mainly by way of his creepy, feral grin in this widely-circulated photo from the early days of Bain. I just can’t get over it: Romney and his fellow pirates, flush with booty, pose for this, are presumably told to “smile,” and that’s the face the future candidate naturally settles into!
That’s not a face that just says, “I’m RICH, biatch!!” That’s a face that says, “I’ll demolish the house in La Jolla before anyone thinks to look for the bodies.”
It’s a face film scholars will likely recognize from the collected works of Stanley Kubrick, whose frequent use led to it being dubbed by many the “Kubrick Stare,” even though he wasn’t the first film auteur to realize its potential for symbolizing madness and rage.
The Stare appears at the center of the very first shot in A Clockwork Orange, tracking out from a close-up of the main character to a long shot of the interior of the Milk Plus bar, where the film’s miscreants go to consume substance-laced milk before engaging in acts of “ultraviolence.” It’s seen again when they steal a car, recklessly driving it to a random couple’s “Home” before talking their way through the front door, savagely beating the man of the house, and raping his wife to death while performing an a-cappella version of “Singin’ in the Rain.”
Kubrick directed The Shining seven years later, which again explores themes of madness, isolation, and social derangement. While Jack Nicholson’s “Here’s Johnny!” ad-lib is by far the movie’s most iconic image, the Kubrick Stare appears at several key moments throughout, as well. Jack glares menacingly at his wife and son while they play in the snow, for instance, just before nightmares and ghosts who may or may not be hallucinations drive him into going on a rampage with an axe, and the last shot is a reverse of A Clockwork Orange‘s opening, slowly zooming in on a photograph in which Jack leers back at the viewer:
Jack Nicholoson, who’s had a reputation for looking crazy ever since he portrayed a prisoner of a lunatic asylum in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, actually looks slightly less-threatening here, in his role as an axe-murderer, than Romney does in the otherwise very similar Bain picture. O_o
The next time we see the Kubrick Stare in its namesake’s oeuvre is the first segment of Full Metal Jacket, which examines the role of social conditioning and “otherization” employed by the military to turn ordinary young men, barely out of high-school, into mindless, inhuman killers who gleefully gun down women and children during Vietnam.
Oh, hey, “social conditioning and otherization”? Why, that’s the Republican Party and Fox News’ M.O. right there!
The Kubrick Stare continues to appear in movies and other elements of popular culture with visuals intended to make viewers uncomfortable. Electronic musician Richard D. James has practically co-opted it as part of his Aphex Twin persona, using it in music videos that criticize the effects technology, media, wealth, and power have on the human condition.
But, it’s when you see it in real life that the Stare is most disturbing, especially when coupled with some of the anecdotes we’ve heard about Mr. Romney, and his uncertain, shape-shifting memory of hilarious real-life accounts involving physical assault, misogyny, and cruelty to animals:
Obviously, I’m not saying Romney is literally a serial-killer, an axe-murderer, or a homicidal clown, just that he does seem to share a bit too many personality traits with the above-mentioned portrayals of such to be within breathing distance of the Presidency.
It’s hardly surprising that a guy who’s spent his entire life cushioned from the consequences of his actions by a gigantic pile of money would turn into (at least) a sociopath, with no frame of reference for the suffering of others besides what he thinks might benefit him, personally, to be seen expressing. In a way, he’s like a character I made up for a comic strip I unsuccessfully pitched around in 2007:
But the President does need to either be personally familiar with some of the hardships suffered by ordinary people, or at least have compassion for them. A President who can’t manage either one, as Romney can’t even fake convincingly, isn’t just out-of-touch; he’s dangerous, and just because he doesn’t spend his nights attempting to feed kittens to ATMs or dropping chainsaws on hookers doesn’t make him any less so.
In the spirit of spreading the message that Mitt Romney Might Be A Psychopath (as well as turning my creative efforts into something maybe resembling an income), I’m putting together some faux-campaign merchandise riffing on the Bain Capital photo. Please buy some, or if you have an idea of other or similar slogans you’d like to see on it, email me (nothing too long, remember).
Disclaimer: Copyrighted material, owned by people other than me, used here for satirical and academic purposes. All such images above are owned by Warner Brothers, except the cover image from the Richard D. James album, which belongs to Warp/Elektra Records, and the Bain Capital photo, whose ownership I don’t particularly care about but will credit if asked to do so.