I just discovered this show yesterday, but it's quickly building a cult following, and it's easy to see why. Two big ol cracker thugs, the Pumphrey brothers, find some iconic piece of modern human construction and, like, completely tear the fuck out of it with their own bodies. (Examples include a prefabricated house, a small commuter plane, and, after cockteasing us by introducing the show outside of a large hotel, the destruction of only a single suite.)
It's doubtful that the Pumphrey's understand just how or why their show is so brilliant. "Human Wrecking Balls" is decadent, depraved, and irresistible in the same way that a teenaged babysitter is to a successful middle-aged businessman. Any reasonably intelligent viewer of this program knows they are doing something terribly wrong. The comparison to "Ow My Balls" is obvious and unavoidable. But watch it we do, and unless we are sociopaths we must find some rationalization for doing so. The middle aged businessman will probably remind himself of his contributions to charity or generous gifts to his employees before moving his hands down to those Rainbow-Brite panties. What is it that you and I tell ourselves, fellow viewer? What exemplary thing have we done to deserve this? What is it that makes me too good for the basic laws of decency, just this once?
Do we even try to think of anything specific, or do we just assure ourselves that it must be something, or do we even do as much as that anymore? Has American society itself become sociopathic?
The death of all of the old justifications for social stratification; God, race, and sex, should have paved the way for a new enlightenment and true meritocracy. Instead it has left in its wake an aristocracy of dullards, a universal sense of entitlement within American society that is too stupid to even know that it should be trying to justify itself.
People of all political persuasions generally agree that the biggest current threat to civilization comes from fanatical believers of some stripe or another. But perhaps the more serious threat comes from the Pumphrey's of the world; barbaric nihilists who don't know what barbarians are or what nihilism means.
For all of its many faults, Palahniuk's "Fight Club" does a good job of portraying what happens to men who embrace a masculine ethos that is wholly inapplicable to modern civilization. They are filled with an undifferentiated, semi-conscious rage, towards everything and nothing. Some deal with this rage by directing it at those they blame for taking away the superman's world they were promised; feminists, lawyers, vegetarians, professors, anyone they feel is responsible for creating a world built on anything more than force and will. Others face this rage more honestly, and realize that the conflict between the old masculine ideal and modern society can be settled only by destroying either the ideal or the society. How then will you choose brother? How will I?
Again, it is highly doubtful that the Pumphrey boys grasp any of this. Still it is highly evocative to see them tear away at the mundane superstructures of modern life.
Their chosen targets; the prefab house, the nice but not quite glamorous plane, and the upper-middle brow hotel, are all ingrained symbols of bourgeois banality. One quickly realizes that either of the Pumphrey's could kill a respectable middle-aged businessman in five seconds flat. A Navy SEAL would last maybe twenty.
I am a college graduate; physically unassuming, cultured, well-read, and wholly scornful of all the old entitlements granted to me for being a white male. I've already bought my ticket to ride along with modern society; a society which, notable exceptions aside, I generally like. Why then do I watch? Because I deserve it. I'm a college graduate; cultured, well-read, and wholly scornful of all the old entitlements granted to me for being a white male. So now that the kids are in bed why don't you stay up and have your first glass of wine with me, sweetheart?