February 7, 2011

"Bedtime for Bonzo"

From my column in Taki's Magazine:  
To celebrate Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday, I watched his most derided movie, Bedtime for Bonzo. We’ve been hearing wisecracks about it for generations, so it has to be an embarrassment, right?
Bedtime for Bonzo turns out instead to be a small but nifty family comedy that was a deserved hit in 1951. ...
 
Reagan was well suited to play an idealistic and impersonal professor in Bedtime for Bonzo. But it’s funny how liberal Reagan’s character is—a progressive psychologist who believes in nurture over nature. Reagan proclaims that criminals are merely victims of having been “born and raised in a slum environment.” ...

Reagan is engaged to a lady professor who is the daughter of the college’s dean, an old-fogey geneticist who still believes in heredity. When the dean discovers that his prospective son-in-law’s estranged father was a habitual conman, he withdraws his daughter’s hand and asks: “But what assurance do I have that your children, my grandchildren, won’t inherit criminal tendencies?”
 
Reagan then has a brainstorm: he’ll borrow a baby chimp from the college’s Viennese animal researcher and raise it like a human child: “Don’t you see Hans, that if it works, Dean Tillinghast will have to admit that environment is all important, that heredity counts for very little?”

Read the whole thing there.

58 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nostalgic for me. When I was very young, I guess at around aged 3 as you have dated the movie, my mom would tuck me in first, then my dad. He'd always kiss me, then say, "Night, Bonzo."

It's probable my parents saw the movie at the drive-in with me in the back seat in my pajamas. My dad was not very demonstrative so his term of endearment, which he used many, many years, is a fond memory.

BTW, he loved Reagan as President.

Fred said...

LOL @ "the James Dean of monkey movies". That could be the funniest think you've ever written, and that's saying something.

Anonymous said...

it seems to me... that you RAELLy go OUT of your way to find good things to say about Conservatives... or at least ppl that you identify with on an ethnic or ideological level.

i think this is your heart talking.... not your head.

Anonymous said...

for the same reason, you wrote a hit-piece book on BaracK Obama which i think damaged your credibility a bitl.

Anonymous said...

Funny! Never saw the movie, but reminds me of that great Three Stooges short, "Hoi Polloi". Two professors are having the nature vs. nurture debate, and one bets the other that with correct breeding and environment, he can turn three nitwits from the lowest strata of society (The Stooges) into gentleman. Needless to say, the good professor loses the bet!

Anonymous said...

I wonder if EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE was inspired by BFB.

Anonymous said...

OT.

Age of the critic over?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2011/jan/30/is-the-age-of-the-critic-over?INTCMP=SRCH

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Sailer. You're not a chimp. You're a Cyberbully. Which kinda makes sense according to this article from Education week:

February 8, 2011
Study Disputes Myth of School Bullies' Social Status By Nirvi Shah

I guess your popularity with your little online clique has gone to your head.

I expect a man in his 50s to have more insight into his motives for misbehavior but maybe your brain is just too complex for something like self-knowledge to aid in your self- monitoring.

Anonymous said...

I think your takedown of Tyler Cowen is leading to some backlash. Poor guys. You demolished their world.

Average Joe said...

for the same reason, you wrote a hit-piece book on BaracK Obama which i think damaged your credibility a bitl

Yes, because Obama has turned out to be such a fantastic president with great ideas who has helped the Democratic party grow from strength to strength.

Anonymous said...

For a long time the liberals used to love to call us "haters." I guess we will now be classified as "cyberbullies," as in, anybody who tells the truth about HBD is a cyberbully.

All this name-calling as a substitute for logical argument is pathetically transparent.

Lucas said...

In much the same way that Reagan in the movie had been brainwashed by progressive ideology and felt like doing progressive charity by bringing a chimp home, and treating him like a person, in real life, as a president, Reagan gave the keys of the house to a bunch of illegal immigrants by giving them amnesty and treated them like responsible citizens, with predictably disastrous results, especially to his home state of California.

really? said...

"for the same reason, you wrote a hit-piece book on BaracK Obama which i think damaged your credibility a bitl."

Really? I think it was a more general consensus that his credibility was increased. In September 2009, an Obama associate had pretty much admitted in mainstream media that the book was ghostwritten in the 90s, in order to give some "bio" and "history" to a person designated for the presidency, and who was not to be well known any other way since he would appear to come out of nowhere and be declared the best person to be an American president since he wasn't very American. I'll never forget that Time piece on him, talking about everywhere he'd lived except among his supposed constituents. He sounded more like he should be a mascot for the United Nations than an American President, or "Kenyan born senator" as an article from an Ohio newspaper called him in 2004 (scrubbed from the web, I saw the screenshot.) Closed records and documentation and all that.
B.O. has given no indication of being any sort of writer. Definitely not of things a supposed editor of the Harvard Law Review should have been writing about. You know, legal opinions, politics, things not necessarily having to do with his own black (officially) self. The truth is out there, and someday people are going to look back on this fraud hiding in plain site and say, "htf did THAT happen?"
and btw, I'd be glad to vote for a black person if he/she was all that, blah, blah, blah, just like any good white person is supposed to do while every other color votes unashamedly for their match.

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

for the same reason, you wrote a hit-piece book on BaracK Obama which i think damaged your credibility a bitl."

Yes, it would have been much better if Obama had remained a cipher interpereted to the american public by a corps of journalists who had never actually bothered to read his autobiography. Afterall, it's not as if his election were a matter of any consequence.

Gene Berman said...

Anonymous (the 2nd):

Steve is a liberal in every sense of the word except the most modern (in which you seem to be caught):
that of government as the rightful determiner of nearly all aspects of social and economic existence.

Science (and common sense) are squarely on Steve's side of very many (though not all) issues and where he (and many "conservatives") fall short is primarily due to taking a page from the (so-called) liberal playbook--using threat of violence (embodied in the law)--to effect desired change in society.

It is the very essence of modern (again--so-called) liberalism to mis-name things and to blur every meaningful distinction: confusion is the only atmosphere in which their oft-tried (and failed) list of panaceas have much prospect of achieving dominance through appeal to disparate groups cobbled together by special interests.

Reagan was a true liberal (and knew it). Who else but a true liberal could utter the words:
"Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

You further criticize Steve for writing a "hit piece" on Obama--with your very characterization serving broad notice that you've never read what you criticize so mistakenly.

Without presuming to understand your motives or the particulars of your criticism, I'll merely suggest that your attitude is the one encapsulated in the term "projection."

We are all Bonzos Now said...

So what does popular culture say about the evolution of the "nature vs nuture" debate?

1861 Great Expectations
1912 Pygmalion (Play)
1935 Hoi Polloi
1949 Knock on Any Door
1951 Bedtime for Bonzo
1956 The Bad Seed
1976 Star Wars
1983 Trading Places
1988 Stand and Deliver
1989 Little Sweetheart
1995 Dangerous Minds
1997 Gattaca
2009 The Blind Side
2010 Splice

There are many more, but the main change is that nurture overcoming nature used to be more of the uncommon individual valiantly beating the odds. It used to be an underdog story now the assumptions are reversed.

The overwhelming storyline today is utterly unrealistic in its comically simplistic Manicheanism. If nurture doesn't overcome nature it's entirely due to pervasive and overwhelming artificial injustices: white racism, indifferent teachers or school bureaucracies, poverty, etc.

The more interesting plots (not necessarily better movies) involve a more nuanced view into the subject while admitting the undeniable influence of nature as well as nurture like Gattaca or Splice.

By acknowledging scientific reality they begin to ask meaningful philosophic and moral questions about how society should deal with differing genetic makeups and inequalities.

Of course, there will always be the genetic basis for heros that are exempt from PC dogma like Superman or Spiderman. You don't see as many unknown prices and princesses rising from the muck based upon their secret noble birth stories although such plots seem tailor-made for Lifetime).

We are all Bonzos Now said...

So what does popular culture say about the evolution of the "nature vs nuture" debate?

1861 Great Expectations
1912 Pygmalion (Play)
1935 Hoi Polloi
1949 Knock on Any Door
1951 Bedtime for Bonzo
1956 The Bad Seed
1976 Star Wars
1983 Trading Places
1988 Stand and Deliver
1989 Little Sweetheart
1995 Dangerous Minds
1997 Gattaca
2009 The Blind Side
2010 Splice

There are many more, but the main change is that nurture overcoming nature used to be more of the uncommon individual valiantly beating the odds. It used to be an underdog story now the assumptions are reversed.

The overwhelming storyline today is utterly unrealistic in its comically simplistic Manicheanism. If nurture doesn't overcome nature it's entirely due to pervasive and overwhelming artificial injustices: white racism, indifferent teachers or school bureaucracies, poverty, etc.

The more interesting plots (not necessarily better movies) involve a more nuanced view into the subject while admitting the undeniable influence of nature as well as nurture like Gattaca or Splice.

By acknowledging scientific reality they begin to ask meaningful philosophic and moral questions about how society should deal with differing genetic makeups and inequalities.

Of course, there will always be the genetic basis for heros that are exempt from PC dogma like Superman or Spiderman. You don't see as many unknown prices and princesses rising from the muck based upon their secret noble birth stories although such plots seem tailor-made for Lifetime).

We are all Bonzos Now said...

for the same reason, you wrote a hit-piece book on BaracK Obama which i think damaged your credibility a bitl.

What is a "hit piece" in this commentator's mind?

Did Steve invent facts? Did he misinterpret them? Did he take them out of context or distort them in a consistent overarching way?

Do you have any substantial examples or patterns of this in Steve's book? Perhaps every book on any person of note a "hit piece" if they expose the hype, lies and fraud of your personal beatified saints?

Obama fundies have such a non-reality based view of the guy it's both a testament to the power of mass cultural brainwashing and the craven status-seeking gullibility human nature.

Obama fundies would be the ones burning people as witches 500 years ago because they are not of the body.

Anonymous said...

I think the chimp may have been the better actor. Possibly Bonzo would have made a great populist politician were it not for species discrimination.

Anonymous said...

So basically, it was the Nim Chimsky story, only 30 years earlier and funny instead of heartbreakingly sad?

Anonymous said...

"I expect a man in his 50s to have more insight into his motives for misbehavior but maybe your brain is just too complex for something like self-knowledge to aid in your self- monitoring."

Shaming language with no argument? Must be one of those astroturfers I've heard so much about. Don't worry, Sparky, Sailer is really unpopular with Republicans too. You'd help your client more by concern trolling at an explicitly Republican blog like Ace of Spades.

-bb

Dahinda said...

How come most of the people who slam you in the comments leave only Anonymous as their name?

Peter A said...

Reagan was great for Republicans, but he helped destroy American conservatism - probably for ever. Before Reagan conservatism meant skepticism about immigration, fiscal restraint, and believing that Christian values and American patriotism were more important than the profit motive. To my mind Eisenhower was probably the last true "conservative" to hold office in the US. Reagan marks the point where the Republican party became a neo-liberal (in the European sense of liberal) party that decided that it would just be a hand-maiden to large corporate interests, whether or not those interests coincided with American interests.

Thripshaw said...

Cyberbully!
That gave me a good laugh.
It is interesting, though, that Steve gets so few loony, hateful commenters considering that he tells some uncomfortable truths that are silenced in the MSM.
Unless he deletes a lot of comments that we don't know about.

elvisd said...

Off-topic, but a Classic example of the "immigration/restraunt" issue:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110207/us_nm/us_usa_immigration_fastfood

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Sailer. You're not a chimp. You're a Cyberbully. Which kinda makes sense according to this article from Education week:

Interesting article, thanks for heads up. But how does that relate to our Steve you pathetic libtard?

Anonymous said...

Maybe this interests you; Jon Haidt calls for more conservatives in the social sciences. I was actually at the SPSP conference, and I saw the talk. It was quite fun and received a good response. Here's coverage in the NY Times. Paul Krugman has already replied in the way you might expect.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/08/science/08tier.html?_r=2&src=me&ref=homepage

Mike Hunt said...

Yes, this is the plot of Trading Places as well...

greenrivervalleyman said...

Try 1964's The Killers. This was Reagan's last role and the only one, I think, where he plays a villain. Reagan looks aged here and it is amazing to think it will be another 30 years before he is done with public life.

Yet the movie is good and Reagan is pretty good as the businessman/racketeer character who owns Angie Dickison's heart. By the degenerate standards of today's youth culture (and game, etc.) he is positively pimpin'- he actually bitch-slaps Angie hard at one point. I'm sorry to say, but more widely circulating this image of a "badass" Reagan would do more good for his standing among the Eminem generation than 10 more airports named in his honor.

BTW, this version of The Killers has 2 hitmen way more "edgy" and vicious than the Jules and Vincent characters from Pulp Fiction (in the first couple of minutes they slap around a blind receptionist at a school for the handicapped- almost too stomach-turning to watch). Also, this movie is crazy for featuring 3 leads who became huge in their respective niches but one would never associate together, not even through 6 miles of Kevin Bacon- Dickinson (the biggest sexpot of her generation), John Cassavetes (indie film pioneer), and Ronald Reagan (future President, duh). It's as if someone told you that in 1918 France there was a hotel somewhere that for 1 week lodged together Hitler, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Elvis's grandfather- physically possible you agree, but too weird to contemplate.

Anonymous said...

Just win this one for the chimper.

Anonymous said...

"Sorry, Sailer. You're not a chimp. You're a Cyberbully. Which kinda makes sense according to this article from Education week:"

What's this all about? Did I miss something?

Anonymous said...

I know Sailer knows but I still wanna say a chimp is an ape, not a monkey.

Anonymous said...

"the James Dean of monkey movies"

Had it survived, it could have been the Richard Pryor of the 'monkeys'.

John Mansfield said...

When Reagan became president, KVVU Channel 5 in Las Vegas, an independent station owned by Johnny Carson at the time, showed many of his old movies. One gem was "The Girl from Jones Beach." Reagan plays an artist who has created the latest It Girl by combining the best features of several different models. For some contrived reason he needs to find one woman who he can present to the public as his model. That beauty turns out to be played by Virginia Mayo, a school teacher who is tired of men only appreciating her for her body and ignoring her mind. Reagan poses as an immigrant in Mayo's citizenship night class and goes about wooing her by flattering her intellect and ignoring her physical charms. It turns out that she doesn't like her physical charms being ignored either. It's a movie I've thought back on many times in the 30 years since I saw it.

Tino said...

"De Cordova became the inspiration for perhaps the most stupendous supporting character in the annals of sitcoms, Rip Torn’s Artie, the producer on The Larry Sanders Show."

Interesting fact. Rip Torn is a amazing supporting actor, who got Emmy nominations for each season of The Larry Sanders show and even one for his minor part in 30 Rock.

rob said...

Totally off topic.

Sailer, have you heard of the "charter city" concept? Basically a 3rd world country would contract for foreign governance in specific areas. It seems like a fantastic idea. The 3rd worlders get to live under Anglo administration with capable entrepreneurs creating decent (for the country) jobs- what they claim to want when they immigrate. Westerners who really want 'diversity' or cheap maids can move to the charters.

Unlike immigration, where we're stuck with never-ending generations of, well, the reasons we're against immigratio, if a charter city turns out to be a disaster, revoke the charter.

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/07/the-politically-incorrect-guide-to-ending-poverty/8134/

Anonymous said...

Skinner's ideas don't sit well with liberals. Liberals like to believe that people could/would/should come around to agreeing with them through free will, reason, and morality, not through behavioral mechanics.

Skinnerism isn't really about nurture. Nurture argument says good environment will bring out the best in a person who will then freely choose to be good. Skinnerism says a person is no more than the forces that manipulate and condition his basic biological program. Thus, there is no free will. Even 'goodness' and 'justice' are really illusions. 'Freedom' too is an illusion.

In this way, Skinnerism is related to biological determinism. Skinner did emphasize environment but only because he understood man to be an essentially a biological machine. Biology has programmed man to think, feel, and act according to how the buttons of those programs are pushed by environmental forces. So, even though environment has a profound influence on people, it is still within the realm of biology than philosophy. We act the way we do not really because of free will, ideas, and morality but because of the way our root biological program is handled by society.
And I don't think Skinner believed anyone could be made to do anything. What he could do was only within the biological programming. A pigeon had its own biological programming, but it could do pigeonish things; it could not be human. Similarly, a dumb person could be manipulated to do things only within his biological programming. So, environmental forces could only work in relation to the root biology, not independent of it--as many liberal romantics tend to tihnk.

Anonymous said...

Neocons and Bush Jr, Neo-libs and Obama, there's your new Bonzo stories.

Lucille said...

How is "Star Wars" an example of nurture overcoming nature? It seemed much more about nature overcoming nurture to me.

("He's just not a farmer, Owen. He has too much of his father in him.")

Thripshaw's Disease said...

Think Carlos the Jackal was bad?
Meet Steve Sailer – thought criminal extraordinaire!
From his secret lair he spreads the dreaded doctrines of isolationism, protectionism, and xenophobia. He dabbles in the black science of human biodiversity. He spews “Hate Facts” that, while true, are forbidden. He is, of course, a racist, a rabid, virulent, and rank anti-semite, but worst of all he is:
A Cyberbully!

One imagines the overwhelmingly powerful crime-thinker spreading his poison through cyberspace like a latter day Emmanuel Goldstein, cackling with laughter. “Bwah hah hah hah hah, you fools, you’ll never stop me!”

Anonymous said...

"I know Sailer knows but I still wanna say a chimp is an ape, not a monkey."

In popular usage yes, but according to cladistics, no: apes are also monkeys, in the same sense that apes and monkeys are also primates, in the same sense that apes, monkeys, and primates are also mammals, in the same sense that apes, monkeys, primates and mammals are also chordates, in the same sense that apes, monkeys, primates, mammals and chordates are also animals, etc.

Saying that chimps are "apes, not monkeys" makes about as much sense as saying that chimps are "apes, not animals". The common usage of words like "ape" and "monkey", as though these were mutually exclusive categories, is mistaken, and explains much of the public's confusion about such things as evolution. Cladistics is about classification in nested hierarchies, thus, related groups do not form mutually exclusive categories (like Platonic ideas or archetype) but rather nested hierarchies of types where newer groups branch off from older groups without ever becoming truly separate from their basal group. A mammal never ceases being a chordate. A chordate never ceases being an animal. And so on.

The distinction between "ape" and "monkey" is simply an oddity of English language due to historical accident. Other languages do not bother making a distinction between "ape" and "monkey", and there's no reason why we should insist that the English language should do so when it doesn't make much sense according to modern biology either. It may make sense not to call certain monkeys apes, but it makes no sense not to call apes monkeys. In the same sense, we humans are also still apes, and still monkeys, just as we are also still mammals, and still chordates, and still animals.

Just because popular usage of the words doesn't acknowledge these facts does not mean that we have to kowtow to popular ignorance.

Anonymous said...

Blindside.

Anonymous said...

The most ridiculous 'monkey' movie: Max Mon Amour. Foreshadowed a much later Rampling movie set in Haiti.

Monkey movie most relevant to our times: Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.

Matt said...

Sailer, have you heard of the "charter city" concept?

The main problem I would see with this is that the old style colonies (which are what these are based on) evolved due to a specific economic rationale, not kind of a central planning things where the only goal is to improve the lot of people from poor countries.

I've got kind of a conservative skepticism that these things, if driven by good intentions and utopian idealism rather than natural economic processes, won't end up just being large scale Potemkin Villages. Pure empty economic creationism driven by a Progressive agenda.

Perhaps this is too cynical a take though.

I also can't imagine globalist elites going for it when its cheaper and otherwise equal from their perspective to "invite the world". It just seems like one of those sci fi ideas that seem so logical, but never get implemented.

Otherwise, it at least seems better than "invite the world".

Anonymous said...

"How is "Star Wars" an example of nurture overcoming nature? It seemed much more about nature overcoming nurture to me.
("He's just not a farmer, Owen. He has too much of his father in him.")"

Maybe cuz even though Luke has his father's 'dark side' genes, he freely chooses the right side of the force.
To be sure, Annakin wasn't fated to be evil. He had both the capacity for good and evil, and he chose evil. Luke also had both good and evil, but he chose good. In the end, it's less about nurture vs nature than free will. Though both Annakin and Luke were trained by noble Jedi knights, Annakin freely chose the side of evil while LUke freely chooses the side of good. But, it's a bit more complicated because Annakin initially chose evil to do something good: to save his girl.

Maybe in a way, there is no Christian sense of good and evil in Star Wars. There is the need for the dark side to exist in order to balance the bright side of the force. But one must be careful about the dark side because if it totall takes over, one goes cuckoo, like with the ring in Nibelungen. It's like in EXCALIBUR, Merlin respects the power of the dragon but also fears its potential destructiveness. But Morgana wants all of it and unleashes it on the world for her own glory. In the Bible, the serpent is all bad. In paganism, serpent is to be feared but necessary for the way of the world.

There is one thing that's pro-nature in Star Wars. Jedis are not only made but born. Only those with innate promise/talent can be a Jedi. This special quality allows for greater ambition, self-esteem, mastery, excitement, glory, etc. But these qualities of superiority can also lead to narcissism, arrogance, power lust, ruthlessness. So, a Jedi must be both superior but control his superiority and use it for good of the people.

Some might say this is a spiritual than a nature/biological argument since the Force seems to be an occult-irrational force that can't be understood by science.

Truth said...

"apes are also monkeys, in the same sense that apes and monkeys are also primates, in the same sense that apes, monkeys, and primates are also mammals, in the same sense that apes, monkeys, primates and mammals are also chordates, in the same sense that apes, monkeys, primates, mammals and chordates are also animals, etc."

You see, we are all the same.

Anonymous said...

@Twoof sed: "You see, we are all the same."

No, we aren't. What part of "nested hierarchies" do you not understand? Have you ever seen the word "hierarchy" used to imply "sameness"? You can't possibly be this stupid. Your "logic" is as bad as a Creationist's.

Perhaps you think you are being cute or "ironic"; if so, who cares? This "irony" bullsh!t just demonstrates that you have nothing of any worth to say here. Go join the local dumb@ss "ironic" hipsters at your local coffee shop and "wow" them with your "ironic" non sequiturs - you add nothing useful or interesting to the discussion here. You are a waste of space.

Anonymous said...

Bill Buckley. Bedtime for Gonzo.

Anonymous said...

Problem with our social policy: BLANK CHECK for BLANK SLATE.

Baloo said...

"Star Wars" was a thinly-veiled biography of Hitler. Darth Vader was Alois.

Whiskey said...

Steve, I'm jealous. You get a better class of haters.

Larry said...

"Steve, I'm jealous. You get a better class of haters."

I dunno. He gets haters, but judging by the haters' comments, I'm not to sure you could call them classy. Usually a sign that someone has nothing valid to say....

Kudzu Bob said...

No fan of Reagan the politician, Gore Vidal speaks highly of Reagan the actor.

We Are All Bonzos Now said...

The most informed conservatives tend to be ex-liberals battered by reality.

Leftist faith-based claim that Reagan was stupid flies in the face of his early early speeches and writings. He sounds like a Tea Party candidate in this Goldwater stump speech.

EvilNeoconTesting99 said...

Whiskey said...

Steve, I'm jealous. You get a better class of haters.


My take is Steve doesn't censor on ideology to shape the message like the neocon and leftist sites tend to do.

Truth said...

"You are a waste of space."

Did you read your own post, by chance?

"Steve, I'm jealous. You get a better class of haters."

Oh don't worry about it Whiskey, It's kind of like crime rates, he may have a beeter class, but on terms of PERCENTAGE of haaters, you blow Steve-O out of the water!

Anonymous said...

On Cyberbullying:

"One imagines the overwhelmingly powerful crime-thinker spreading his poison through cyberspace..."

The cyberchimp's crimes are more than ones of thought. He knows this but seems to believe he's entitled to commit these transgressions. Probably a legacy from his market researcher past.

Marc B said...

Still can't believe how so many "conservatives" venerate the deficit-spending, drug-warring, amnesty-supporting, Bush-picking Reagan as a model President. He ran as a Goldwater-type nationalist yet presided like an Eastern Establishment acolyte, allowing the Bush NeoCon globalists to establish a beachhead in the Republican party.

The legacy of Reagan I remember are the Zero-Tolerance drug laws, no-knock-raids, mandatory reporting of cash transactions over $10K, and illegal aliens telling me in the late 1990's that they were keeping check stubs, bank paperwork, income tax forms in order to become citizens when the next amnesty legislation passes.