A “Mission: Impossible” Roundtable

Twenty years later, we talk Ethan Hunt as the American anti-Bond, the oddness of Brian De Palma helming a blockbuster franchise, and how M:I changed Tom Cruise’s career.  

Josh Smicker: I have a few questions/comments I’d like to toss to the group.

  1. So, the IMF is a specialized subsection of the CIA? Is that actually directly stated (rather than strongly implied, as in the NOC list, etc.)? Because I do think implication v. definition matters quite a bit here. If it is, does it stay that way in the future films? My memories of it are more of a Rainbow Six/SHIELD non-governmental group, but my memories of MI movies are pretty non-specific.
  2. After the “botched” first mission, how long does Tom Cruise stay in their HQ? Are we to think that the second IMF group, specifically sent their for a mole hunt mission, is unaware where this HQ is, and/or is totally inept at tracking communications from it? More generally, the film is at such an interesting inflection point in media technologies/infrastructures/cultures (and about a bunch of incipient digital technologies literally framed by the analog; apparently it was the last major studio release on Beta, too). I found the representations of hacking/the Internet to be super-hilarious even given the context (e.g. typing “max.com” into the usenet to look for Max; the “jam all signals now” command on the train).
  3. Given the themes of the film, especially around identity, I think De Palma makes a lot of sense as the director.

That’s it for now. I’m curious both about response to any of those, and also people’s general reactions upon returning to the film…


Programming Note: The Fair Jilt Does Mission: Impossible

This week is the 20th anniversary of the first Mission: Impossible film. For reasons that seem strange even to us, we are celebrating this anniversary with a symposium on the film. Over the next week or two we’ll be posting essays on a variety of M:I aspects: analyzing it as a film, locating it within the geopolitical environment of the day, contextualizing its soundtrack relative to other 1990s soundtracks, discussing what a big move this was for Tom Cruise (and thus mid-1990s American cinema), and praising Emilio Estevez’s best film performance since The Might Ducks. Among other things. We’ll have several interesting guest contributors as well.

So check in periodically or follow our Twitter feed (@fairjilt) for updates. Also note: as of last night Mission: Impossible was available for free stream on Amazon Prime, so if you want a refresher you can find it there.

Up first, a Mission: Impossible Roundtable: Twenty years later we talk Ethan Hunt as the American anti-Bond, the oddness of Brian De Palma helming a blockbuster franchise, and how M:I changed Tom Cruise’s career.

What Does the Sanders Campaign Mean?

According to Salar Mohandesi:

What we have emerging, then, is a new, diverse cohort of predominantly young people, the majority of whom belong to the working class or a collapsing “middle class,” now open to socialist ideas, clamoring for systematic change, and who are increasingly networked, trained, and experienced in organizing. The vast majority of these people are, like Bernie, not socialists in any specific historical sense, but they are willing to fight for major changes. The potential here is enormous, and for this, we have to thank the Sanders campaign, whether or not we like Bernie’s social democratic politics.

I’m not sure we know enough about the Sanders coalition to definitively state what that quoted paragraph says. As political coalitions the Sanders group is not all that diverse, actually; they appear to be mostly non-ideological, and they are largely comprised of the most flighty (in terms of political activity) demographic group in US politics. Moreover, it is not clear that they are “willing to fight for major changes”. Fight who? Fight how? So far this has been a costless fight, so it is presumptuous to presume depth of commitment.


Is Sanders Hypocritical for Taking Tax Deductions? No. But…

… it does de-fang a lot of his criticisms of the practices of corporations and economic elites. Before I explain why let me set the stage. Here’s Kevin Drum:

This isn’t even close to hypocrisy. If you don’t like the designated hitter rule in baseball, does that mean you should send your pitcher to the plate just to prove how sincere you are? Of course not. You play by the rules, whatever those rules are.

Lemieux at LGM loves it, but this is a category error. Sanders is not simply saying that he does not like the designated hitter rule. He is saying that anyone who employs a designated hitter is hopelessly corrupt, a crony (or tool of cronies), an active destroyer of the well-being of the 99% and indeed the entire world economy. He has said that people who use the designated hitter should be thrown into jail and have their baseball teams dismantled by diktat. He is suggesting that teams that employ foreign designated hitters are practically enemies of the state. He has argued that anyone who has given a paid speech to a group that supports use of the designated hitter is not qualified to play baseball.

Given all of that, it is absolutely legitimate to criticize Sanders for using a designated hitter.


Republicans In North Carolina Strategically Tapped Into a Long History of Anti-LGBTQ Rhetoric

The United States has a long and storied history of invoking the purity and safety of (cis, white) women and children in defense of terrible things. The racial/sexual purity of white women was used to justify the murder of Black men and boys including, 14-year old Emmett Till, who was brutally murdered for saying “Bye baby” to a white woman while leaving a Mississippi store.

Similarly, the safety of children has consistently and successfully been used to justify discrimination against LGBTQ people. So much so that The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the depiction of gay men as a sexual threat to children as possibly “the single most potent weapon for stoking public fears about homosexuality.” The first organized opposition to the gay rights movement began as a political campaign against a city anti-discrimination ordinance in Miami (sound familiar, North Carolina?). The group, led by celebrity singer and former Florida Citrus spokeswoman Anita Bryant,  called itself “Save Our Children.” (more…)

Nixon, the War on Drugs, and the Politics of Hindsight

Recent headlines report that a “Nixon official” (Vox) or a “Nixon aide” (Vice) or a “Nixon advisor” (Reason) has admitted that the War on Drugs had nothing to do with drug control, that it was not a benign-but-misguided social policy. The War on Drugs was instead conceived as a tactical policy intended to undermine the anti-war left and criminalize blackness. In other words: it’s true! What many have long suspected turns out to be true! The War on Drugs was, and remains, a war against enemies of the Republican party. (more…)