Salon “Jumps the Shark” With Paranoia About Secretariat’s Master Race


“Jumping the shark,” a term which initially referred to Happy Days’ Fonzie water-skiing over one, usually refers to a TV show so desperate for ratings that it gambles on a ludicrously over-the-top scene. If it’s possible for a movie reviewer to jump the shark, then Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir has just set the standard.

In his “unorthodox and admittedly inflammatorytake on the new Disney family flick Secretariat, O’Hehir unearths a deeply sinister subliminal ploy, a coded shout-out to its target audience of Christian conservatives. This movie, ostensibly about the greatest racehorse in history and his determined owner – “a classed-up version of Sarah Palin feminism” – is actually “master-race propaganda” that is, he writes,

all the more effective because it presents as a family-friendly yarn about a nice lady and her horse.

Um, it is a family-friendly yarn about a nice lady and her horse, but I suppose O’Hehir is so ideologically threatened by Hollywood reaching out to an audience for which it normally has open contempt – like it did with last year’s highly successful The Blind Side – that he feels compelled to destroy the film nonetheless. Like a Derrida-inspired undergrad, O’Hehir sets out to deconstruct this straightforward entertainment and decode the White Power deviltry within,

an ideological worldview that is never made explicit but is present in every frame. [Emphasis mine]

Seriously? Racial supremacism pulses from every frame? Quite a propaganda achievement. In your face, Leni Riefenstahl! O’Hehir ingeniously manages to ascribe racism even to the film’s lighting:

(It’s) as if someone just off-screen were burning a cross on the lawn.

Yes, you read that right.

In addition to being disturbed by completely hallucinated Triumph of the Will undertones, O’Hehir is also aghast that the movie takes place in 1973 and yet “the words ‘Vietnam’ and ‘Nixon’ are never uttered.” Nor should they have been, because this movie isn’t about the Vietnam war or any other social upheaval of the time, and to shoehorn those references in would, from a storytelling perspective, be jarringly irrelevant. One would think that a movie critic would appreciate the fact that story aesthetics are more important and satisfying to an audience than political indoctrination.

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