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Sunday, May 13, 2018

Hollywood’s War on Ethnic Catholics

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A Remnant 70s Retro Special...

Michael Novak, the grandfather of the Catholic neocons, is best known for his 1982 tome The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, with which the son of Slovak peasants was able to craft a lucrative career as a salesman of free market economics to American Catholics. However, prior to The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, Novak was largely known in American culture as the feisty working class Catholic Democrat who authored The Rise of the Unmeltable Ethnics: The New Political Force of the 1970s.

This work, written ten years before The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, more than an argument for ethnic Catholic political power, was an attack on the WASP establishment that had ruled America since the 17th century, which Novak lampooned as a boorish, desiccated, and arrogant ruling class that was at the end of its tether.

At the same time, Novak’s work, created with support from the American Jewish Committee, was in many ways, an interreligious effort and an apologia for a new multi ethnic coalition of Catholics, Jews, and black Protestants against the English, Scots, and Scots Irish whose cultures had largely defined what it had meant to be an American since the Jamestown Colony.

In some ways, Novak’s wish did come true: the WASPS did lose a tremendous amount of power. Two years after publication of The Unmeltable Ethnics, Richard Nixon, who, despite his humble Quaker origins in Yorba Linda, California, represented the granite face of WASP rule, and was brought down by the journalistic efforts of Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward (himself a WASP).

The fall of Nixon was, in many ways, emblematic of the collapse of Anglo-Saxon Protestant America. The 1970s and 80s would see the rising political and cultural effects of the influx of immigrants from developing nations into America and the changing of the guard from Protestant American culture to international Hollywood culture as spiritually corrosive movies, music, and cable television eroded the traditions of America by dissolving the minds of her people.

However, while some Catholics such as the Irish Brown family of California governors, the Italian Cuomo family of New York, as well as the infamous Kennedys of Massachusetts, were able to retain tremendous political and culture power, the rank and file ethnic Catholics were largely left behind, being shuffled into the “white working class” and pushed aside to make room for other ethnic groups--both old and new--in the United States.

Throughout America, Catholic Italians, Poles, Irish, Slovaks, French (don’t forget Louisiana!) Germans, and the various combinations of these tribes forged from intra-European marriage are now left watching the country their ancestors helped to build slide into degeneracy and decay.

What happened?

Immediately, and without reserve, we can blame Vatican II, which provided the fetid groundwork for the abolition of the ancient liturgy of the Church as well as her customs and traditions and gave the greenlight for lisping, moustached, long-haired hippy pastors (many of whom would either go on to leave the priesthood or end up in prison) to gut or tear down the churches their own grandparents had scrimped and saved to build.

Fr. FroPhoto cred: Facebook/Fair Use

But the readers of The Remnant already know all this.

However, one of the causes of the dissolution of the ethnic Catholic communities in America that we have not ferreted out is the attack on the ethnic Catholic family, which is in a state of extreme dissolution.

Who destroyed the ethnic Catholics?

The answer, of course, is the devil and a legion of hate-filled, snarling demons, but they sure had a lot of help from Hollywood.

There are innumerable films, songs, and TV shows produced during the demise of the WASP establishment, but there is one movie that is emblematic of the attack on ethnic Catholic families and contains all the ingredients of the spiritual poison that prevented the emergence of a truly “Catholic Moment” of political and cultural power in America: 1980’s Caddyshack.

Before we discuss the movie, however, to preempt attacks in the “comments section” your author will say that he has not seen the movie since he was a teenager, and he is, by no means, encouraging the viewing of the film, which contains many near occasions of sin.

Although containing many side splitting, hilarious scenes, Caddyshack is a full frontal attack not only on WASP culture, but on ethnic Catholic Americans.

As is commonly known, the movie is set at a country club, a notorious symbol of WASP power and prestige that, until fairly recently had kept hyphenated Americans--whether Catholic ethics, Jews, or blacks--from its pristine lawns. The original movie poster has the tag line “some people just don’t belong,” and in many ways the humorous tittering gopher who tunnels throughout the manicured greens and avoids dynamite explosions while dancing to Kenny Loggins is a symbol of those ethnic groups who burrow their way into the crudely named country club.

Like Michael Novak’s book, The Unmeltable Ethnics, Caddyshack is an irrelevant assault on WASP manners and decorum.

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In the film, the owner of the country club, Judge Elihu Smails, ironically played by the Polish American Ted Knight (né Tadeusz Wladyslaw Konopka), is the emblem of Patrician cum 1970s tacky WASPishness. Dressed in brightly colored polos, the uptight Anglo-Saxon Protestant angrily ambles across his gulf course, venting his repressed emotions on family members and colleagues alike. Judge Smails, stereotypically like many WASPS who lost control of their country in the latter twentieth century, is disgusted by the shabby and crude ethnic interlopers at his country club, but is now straight jacketed by anti-discrimination laws from preventing them from entering his club.

In Caddyshack, Judge Smails is contrasted with the nouveau riche, real estate developer Al Czervik, played by the talented Rodney Dangerfield. With his relaxed and generous easy going demeanor Dangerfield’s Czervik stands for either the cool new Hollywood glitterati or a nonchalant liberated ethnic Catholic from Michael Novak’s The Unmeltable Ethnics.

gopherCaddyshack famously ends with the triumph of the hip Czervik over the stodgy Judge Smails in a golf tournament as well as the accidental demolition of the golf course by the greenkeeper who had been desperately trying to eliminate the gopher that was tearing up the country club.

As final crude note, Al Czervik promises the onlookers of the tournament a party at which they will be allowed to indulge in their passions--no, Dangerfield does not phrase it in that manner.

The message is clear that the ethnics who had been kept on the outside of American society have broken in and now, with the sex, drugs, and rock and roll, a new America is coming out of the rubble freer and happier than the stiff upper lip, Bible believing society that had thereto existed.

But Caddyshack is not just about singing the beard of the WASPs and ushering in the Aquarian Age of free love and festive music.

As much as it is an attack on Yankee Protestant culture, Caddyshack is an assault on the ethnic Catholic family.

The caddy of Caddyshack is Danny Noonan, a quiet and slightly morose, Irish-American teenage boy, with big dreams to win the caddy scholarship at the country club and go to college. Danny, like one of the film’s screenwriters, Brian Doyle-Murray, is a stand in for the ethnic Catholics born during the sexual revolution and its wicked sister Vatican II who never had the immigrant experience or the authentically Catholic life.

The plot of the film is basically Danny’s choice to either follow the path of a pristine but cruel and neurotic WASP, represented by Judge Smails, and become assimilated or to embrace the degenerate, free spirited counter culture of Al Czervik and others in the film.

Either way, Danny has to leave his own allegedly repressed ethnic Catholic culture.

As a supposed example of the suffocating environment of his Catholic family, we see that Danny’s house is full of parading Irish American children at the beginning of the film, giving the sense of an overcrowded, stifling Catholic house led by parents who need to learn about the wonders of population control and the newly invented “pill.”

In contrast to his strict home life, at the country club, Danny is initiated into a world of sex, drugs, and good times that his strict Catholic parents denied him.

Danny has relations with Judge Smails’ niece, and is sexually active with his girlfriend Maggie, who also works at the country club.

There is even the suggestion that his Irish girlfriend Maggie may have had a (newly legalized) abortion, for there is a scene in which after an initial scare, Maggie is found dancing on the golf course exclaiming “I’m happy! I’m not pregnant!”

Danny is also encouraged to use drugs by one of few “cool” WASPs in the film, Ty Webb, played by Chevy Chase.

In the final golf match between Smails and Czervik, Danny takes the side of the hip real estate developer over the uptight WASP and thus chooses the counter culture over American Protestantism.

The message of the movie to young ethnic Catholics was perfectly clear: abandon your faith and heritage and become an American, but become the right sort of American who has casual intercourse, uses drugs, is crude, and has no sense of loyalty to his family.

Ethnic Catholics, for the most part, took the bait from Hollywood, and the wasteland of doubt, divorce, and lonely addiction is the price we have paid for it as our religion and our cultures have become Disney-fied caricatures of themselves.

In 2018, it is okay for Italian-Americans to feel some lose attachment to pasta and pizza and enter and Olive Garden with some vague sense that the chain restaurant is connected to their own heritage and culture. It is also okay for an Irish-American to have a wind up leprechaun on a bookshelf and make jokes about family members who have drinking problems. It is okay for a German Catholic in North Dakota to drink Hamms and go ice fishing. It is even okay for ethnic Catholics to go to the Novus Ordo Missae and pray a Memorare quietly at home.

However, what the secular “elite” (I use that word loosely) that have hijacked our country, and now, it appears, our Church, has absolutely forbidden is the public practice of our faith and the open celebration of our culture and ethnic identities.

And that is precisely why now is actually the right time for Catholics from every culture in America to unite in a new culture war to reclaim our country for Christ.  

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