I've always been amazed at just how much life imitates art. This Is Spinal Tap as everyone remembers was a spot on mockery, "a mockumentary if you will", of life in a heavy metal band. What was even more impressive was the film's predictive powers for follow-on events that while completely unrelated to heavy metal, still fall into some of the same Spinal Tappian traps of life.
As fan's of the film recall, the mockumentary documented Tap's attempted comeback in the U.S. during the tour that was to support the release of their new album, "Smell The Glove". The cover of the album was controversial because Tap had a picture of a greased up, bound, woman with a glove being shoved in her face, forcing her to smell it. K-Mart and Sears were objecting since they viewed this as very sexist imagery. The boys had some difficulty understanding this enlightened view, but where completely outraged when they became aware of another musician's ("a no talent wanker" by the way) album cover.
From the script:
DAVID: Have you seen Duke Fame's current album?
IAN: Um... yes, yes.
DAVID: Have you seen the cover?
IAN: Um... no, no, I don't think I have.
DAVID: It's a rather lurid cover, I mean...ah, it's, it's like naked
women, and, uh....
NIGEL: He's tied down to this table,
NIGEL: And he's got these whips and they're all...semi-nude.
DAVID: Knockin' on 'im and it's like much worse...
IAN: What's the point?
DAVID: Well the point is it's much worse than 'Smell the Glove'...he
releases that he's number three.
IAN: Because he's the victim. Their objections were that she was the
victim. You see?
DEREK: I see....
IAN: That's alright, if the singer's the victim, it's different. It's
NIGEL: He did a twist on it. A twist and it s-
DEREK: He did, he did. He turned it around.
IAN: We shoulda thought of that....
DAVID: We were so close....
IAN: I mean if we had all you guys tied up, that probably woulda been
IAN: But it's...it's still a stupid cover.
DAVID: It's such a fine line between stupid an'...
DEREK: ...and clever.
DAVID: Yeah, and clever.
NIGEL: Just that little turnabout....
I was reminded of the band over the weekend when I heard about the latest PETA controversy. If you haven't heard by now, PETA put up a display in New Haven that showed giant photographs of people, mostly black Americans, being tortured, sold, and killed, next to photographs of animals, including cattle and sheep, being tortured, sold and killed. Reaction was predictable, at least to those of us with a brain:
One man demanded that the NAACP get involved immediately. Five minutes later, Scot X. Esdaile, president of the state and Greater New Haven chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, arrived at the scene, surveyed the photos and blasted the organizers. "Once again, black people are being pimped. You used us. You have used us enough," Esdaile said.
"Take it down immediately." "I am a black man! I can't compare the suffering of these black human beings to the suffering of this cow," said Michael Perkins, 47, of New Haven. He stood in front of a photo of butchered livestock hung next to the photo of two lynched black men dangling before a white mob. "You can't compare me to a freaking cow," shouted John Darryl Thompson, 46, of New Haven, inches from Carr's face.
"We don't care about PETA. You are playing a dangerous game." Paul Tomaselli, 46, of North Branford took exception to an exhibit that included a photo of a black man being beaten to the ground by a white man with a stick while a white mob gathers. Next to that photo was one of a man chasing a seal across the snow with a club.
"I think he's right," said Tomaselli, who is white, in support of Thompson. "To compare people to animals is an unfairness to people."
"Comparing people to animals is an unfairness to people", it really is as simple as that. Had PETA wanted to show the outrage of slavery and depict how slaves were once viewed as animals by their owners, well that would have been ok too. Somehow, the true believers at PETA missed this, and hence David's words would be useful for them to remember in the future.
"It's such a fine line between stupid an' ...........clever."