Latino Violence is Sexy


I was intrigued by the idea of writing a review of the race war-cum-slasher flick Machete, which I attended this past Labor Day weekend. (Don’t worry: Lest my money went to the men who made the film, I bought a ticket for the most wholesome, least culturally destructive movie I find, which in this case was Nanny McPhee Returns starring Emma Thompson. The sleepy-eyed man taking tickets didn’t notice or care when I instead walked into the theater showing a movie that averages three gruesome deaths per minute.)

By the end of Machete, I felt like I could have reviewed the film without actually having to subject myself to it. Machete the movie amounts to little more than a 105-minute version of its notorious trailer -- now viewed by tens of millions on YouTube -- in which a Mexican day-laborer gets hired to make a hit on a senator, is double-crossed, exacts revenge from his tormentors, and inspires a sort violent Latino uprising in the process.

Director Robert Rodriguez originally made the trailer as a spoof in 2006; it ginned up enough interest online for him get the funding to reverse-engineer an entire film. In May of this year, he recast the project as “a special message -- TO ARIZONA!” a reference to the recent passage of SB 1070.

Most translated Machete’s “special message” as Kill Whitey! Kill Whitey! Kill Whitey!

Whereas Quinten Tarantinto’s blood-n-guts drama Inglourious Basterds (2009)lent itself to interpretation -- almost like a Freudian slip, the film seemed to be saying quite the opposite of what it was supposed to be saying -- there’s really nothing much to Machete besides a catalogue of depraved and predictably left-wing outrages. (And it doesn’t bother me to reveal what these are because I don’t want any of my readers to actually go see the film.)

Machete is centered, of course, around the title character, a former Mexican “Federale” who preferred to carry a Samurai Sword-like brush-clearing implement in lieu of a gun and was the last cop in the country not to be corrupted by the drug lords. After a particularly nasty one named “Torrez” (Steven Segal) kills Machete’s wife and child, he, like 12-20 million others, is forced into the dreary, wandering life of a day laborer.

Machete is portrayed by the fantastically ugly Danny Trejo, who’s a charming throwback to the great character actors of the ‘50s. In the world Rodriguez creates, such a man is a prized object d'amour: White women and Latinas alike can barely put a lid on their desire to go to bed with the short, heavily pockmarked, mustached leading man. It’s a bit like casting Wilford Brimely as James Bond.

But the real interest in the movie is the supporting cast of villainous gringos. Each is thoroughly corrupt and hypocritical … yet uncompromising when it comes to White Nationalism and their commitment to expelling all Mexican from the U.S. and terrorizing those who remain. (Not exactly an accurate portrait of America’s political establishment.)

First, there’s Senator McLaughlin (Robert DeNiro’s), a traitor to Ellis Island who’s running for reelection in Texas on an anti-immigrant platform. The senator amuses himself by going to the Mexican border at night and hunting illegals with a spotlight and deer rifle. He captures it all on tape and sends the snuff films to his Big Money supporters.

Then there’s Vaughn (Don Johnson), the leader of the vigilante “Freedom Force,” a stand-in for the Minutemen, who in the world of Machete are a kind of mass-murdering Aryan cult. In one scene, Vaughn shoots a pregnant Mexican woman in the stomach while cackling “Welcome to America!”

Jeff Fahey plays Sen. McLaughlin’s aid Booth -- note the name -- who is perhaps the most vicious Whitey of them all. He’s so obsessed with protecting his drug-trafficking profits that he tortures, gleefully, his own Catholic priest (Cheech Marin), crucifying him above the church’s alter.

One wonders whom Rodriguez is parodying with these characters.

“Conservative” Texas politicians like senators John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchinson are hardly immigration hawks. Former Texas governor George W. Bush was a devoted supporter of mass amnesty and openly criticized the Minutemen -- even though it harmed his popularity with his voting base. The Minutemen, in turn -- an organization that has degenerated into a direct-mail cash cow for the hucksters in charge -- once featured a prominent Black Republican as its leaders and claimed only to be peacefully observing illegal border-crossing. And finally, the current “right-wing extremist” in Austin, Gov. Rick Perry, actually had a hand in financingMachete through the Texas Film Commission, which operates out of his office.

Not letting reality get in the way, Rodriguez “films the legend.”

And people like Booth, McLaughlin, and Vaughn are but particularly vile manifestations of a type. White people in Machete are universally depraved -- either racist boobs or outright murderous sociopaths. (The single exception is a hillbilly dishwasher who develops class conscious and joins the side of Latinos in the film’s climatic race war.)

Booth’s daughter, April, played by former Mouseketeer Lindsay Lohan, is a sometime meth user and full-time Internet amateur nudie star. At one point, she coaxes her own mother into going skinny-dipping with her in the family’s McMansion and turns on the webcam. Machete promptly stops by, and both women get giggly about the “new gardener,” with whom they subsequently engage in a semi-incestuous ménage à trois.

To make the destruction of the White family complete, we are treated to flashback scenes of Booth in Catholic confession revealing his lust for his daughter and his shame at never being a “real man.”

For some reason, Rodriguez chooses not to depict any Latino family as godless and obscene. And one can be sure in which demographic the “real men” can be found.

Latinos in starring roles are Romantic leftists and wholesome Americans all wrapped up into one. “Luz” (Michelle Rodriguez), for example, is a sassy taco-truck chef by day, and by night, “Shé” (pronounced “Ché,” get it?), who boasts of a Latin American revolutionary past and now heads a network that helps non-citizens get jobs throughout the South West.

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Now, one could accuse me of being a prude and taking Machete too seriously. I should just enjoy the film as a grotesque ballet and laugh when Machete severs off arms and legs or, in one memorable scene, eviscerates a man and then swings through a glass window on his small intestine. This is certainly how the obnoxious fanboys seated behind me took the film, a pair who loudly discussed their favorite Tarantino films throughout the showing. (A side note: In the early ‘90s, Tarantino pleased his hardcore fan base of film geeks by referencing ‘70s exploitation films; Rodriguez, on the other hand, seems to reference not Cleopatra Jones (1973) but Reservoir Dogs (1992), Pulp Fiction (1994), and Kill Bill (2002-03). Machete is a simulacrum of a simulacrum.)

The New York Timestells everyone not to worry:

For all its political button pushing, “Machete” is too preposterous to qualify as satire. The only viewers it is likely to upset are the same kind of people who once claimed that the purple Tinky Winky in “Teletubbies” promoted a gay agenda. A pop culture conspiracy is usually in the paranoid eye of the beholder.

This statement might carry some weight if Rodriguez hadn’t connected Machete quite directly with Arizona’s SB 1070, or if the film’s poster didn’t describe the title character as such: “Yesterday he was a decent man living a decent life. Now he is a brutal savage who must slaughter to stay alive.

And make no mistake about it, the film’s finale is a race war. The Latinos arm themselves with gardening equipment, storm the Minutemen’s -- er, Freedom Force’s -- stronghold, and slaughter all blue-eyed devils in sight. “Shé” appears clad in black leather and wielding a sawed-off shotgun, much like a figure out of The Road Warrior. The massacre closes with the triumphant Latinos holding their bloody machetes aloft before their leader in a stiff-arm salute.

The libertarian Alex Jones has warned that Machete will be used by the ruling elite to “divide us,” and thus conquer us -- a statement that seems to presume that absent Hollywood race baiting, White, Brown, and Black would be contently cohabiting.

Though Jones is certainly onto something, the problem with this view is that Hollywood propaganda on race has been quite the opposite of Machete over the decades. Instead of “brutal savages” we’ve been treated to Guess Who’s Coming to DinnerErkel, a preponderance of Black brain surgeons and federal judges in television dramas, every third person in advertisements being colored, and ultimately, Barack Obama.

America has existed in two parallel universes: there’s the reality of decaying inner cities, Black and Brown violence, White flight to the suburbs, and intractable income and achievement gaps; and there’s the fantasy of smart, smiling people of all races working, living, and dating one another, as seen on TV and in the movies.

Thinking about Machete as propaganda, my guess is that it’s not so much meant to inspire Latino-on-White violence -- though it certainly might -- as it is to put an ideological, propagandistic gloss on the incidents that are already occurring.

Are you worried about Hispanic immigrants committing crime? Don’t be. It’s likely done by decent “Machetes,” who are taking their revenge on cruel and perverted Whites who, no doubt, deserve it. Moreover, who would want to deport Mexican migrants when they are led by sexy, black-leather-clad revolutionaries?

Machete is more glitz than gore.