February 03, 2004

Father of the Revolution Knows Best?

Posted by Ed

Back when I was an undergraduate at Swarthmore College, I once had a conversation with a fellow quizbowl team member about how to create the perfect TV show. My suggestion: take any hackneyed and poorly written family sitcom and substitute Mao Zedong for the father figure. The result would be comedy gold!

I was recently reminded of this conversation as I read the latest collection of essays by one of my favorite writers, Clive James. James begins one essay--a review of a Bertrand Russell biography--with the following sentence: "Two twentieth-century philosophers whose names are inseparable, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Bertrand Russell, were such a great double act that there simply has to be a buddy movie sooner or later." That line got me thinking...

Maybe I'm just eccentric, but I think that Clive James and I are on to something here. I can see several possibilities--either James's system (a straightforward combination of a buddy movie and biopic) or my system (take a mediocre movie and substitute one of the pairs below for the two central characters--Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins do Rush Hour!). Either way, I'm convinced that we need some intellectual buddy movies, and here are some possibilities:

  • J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Sure, it's a little trite, but who wouldn't like to see C.S. Lewis riding in a motorcycle sidecar alongside his Oxford drinking buddy, chasing criminals as they discuss Elvish linguistics and early European mythology?
  • Vladimir Nabokov and Edmund Wilson. Mary McCarthy could make a special
    guest appearance! Vladimir would dazzle us with his one-liners and his multi-language puns! Edmund would cheat on his taxes! The possibilities are endless...
  • Ivan Turgenev and Mikhail Bakunin. Did you know that one of Russia's greatest
    novelists and the greatest anarchist in history were college room-mates? (I think so, anyway--they were certainly good friends.) Wouldn't, say, Animal House have been better if it had featured this dynamic duo?
  • Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict. Wouldn't it be great to see a mystery movie in which the two greatest lesbian lovers in the history of anthropology solved crimes together?

Maybe if the history thing doesn't work out, I can drop out of grad school and make my fortune as the writer/director of exciting intellectual buddy movies!

Important note: Yes, I'm aware that Sun Yat-sen (and not Mao Zedong) was "the father of the revolution" in China. But coming up with titles for blog entries is harder than you'd think!

Important note 2: If my GT posts are a little frivolous for your tastes, don't worry: more substantive fare is on the way.

Posted by Ed at February 3, 2004 12:17 PM
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