Planet of the 'Cavemen'


8-18-07, 10:47 am

The stock markets are plummeting and hundreds are dying daily in Iraq. Perhaps we need some escape from these dismal events by examining a new controversy from the world television entertainment. GEICO, the insurance company best known for its spokesperson lizard with a working-class English accent and petit bourgeois sensibilities, has developed recently a popular ad campaign with actors playing cavemen who express frustration with a GEICO ad campaign around the slogan, 'so easy even a cave man can do it.'

When I first saw these commercials, I saw them as a not so sly dig at civil rights groups protesting the stereotyping of minorities in mass media. One of the commercials has the actor caveman debating his position on a CNN type news entertainment show, and another has him talking to a psychiatrist. Everyone pretty much tells him to stop being so touchy and learn to accept the view that he is a member of a group that is clumsy, stupid, and not to be taken seriously. We are supposed to laugh at the situation, that is, a caveman who talks like the rest of us pretending that he is equal to the rest of us.

But now the situation has escalated. A new sitcom, derived from the commercials is being created, titled 'Cavemen.' The pilot, according to media critics, is filled with 'traditional' racist stereotypes directed against African Americans since slavery times, using updated versions of the minstrel show stereotypes, which continued in movies and television until the 1960s in an overt way and have continued in more covert ways since then. In the tradition of the minstrel shows, where all the performers were white in blackface, all the performers here are white, although the show’s producers have mentioned that minority people are involved in the production and that they may add a minority person to the cast. Excerpts from the pilot shown on promotions for the show give credence to these criticisms. Critics have made the point that they don’t want to censor or kill the show but to move it away from the demeaning stereotypes. The producers have, according to press reports, said that they will try to do that. I have an idea for a spin-off of 'Cavemen' for the producers. I call it 'Planet of the Cavemen.'

The cavemen in my scenario would be all registered Republicans, 'red necks' (itself a offensive stereotype) on an endless journey in large SUV’s through one 'red state' after another going nowhere. When a cavemen presidential candidate would say in my pilot, 'read my lips, no new taxes,' the cavemen would begin to jump up and down, howling in delight. Pictures of scantily clad Ann Coulter sitting on top of a tank in the middle of Baghdad in the most recent edition of 'Caveboy' would be secretly passed among them and they would stand on their heads. Also, they would sit in front of television sets growling intently, watching endless C-SPAN presentations from the Caveman’s Heritage Foundation and the Caveman’s Enterprise Institute. And they would have debates among each other for their party’s nomination. The 'neo cavemen,' led by Billy Crystalline, would disagree with the 'paleocavemen' led by Siegfried 'Rocky' von Buchanan over global barter policy, unilateral or multilateral hunting policies, and military actions to capture females. Of course, those who claimed that prehistoric societies worshipped fertility goddesses would be investigated by a new congressional committee, HUACAC or the House Un-American Cavemen’s Activities Committee, which all candidates would pledge to create once the Republicans regained control of Congress.

Like Fox News and many of the cable channels, the sitcom would keep its happily prehistoric audience somewhat awake with a steady stream of insults and abuses directed against humanism and post caveman humans. 'Did you here what that little guy Gandhi said. An eye for an eye will make the world blind.' What a wimp.' Rupert Murdoch himself might even make a guest appearance as a caveman seeking to change his citizenship from Cro-Magnon to Neanderthal in order to advance his business interests, especially his taking over the Stone Street Tablet, the daily bible of the caveman’s dream.

There might even be spin-offs: The Alpha Males, Donald Trump Meets the Flintstones, etc. In any case, the series would provide wholesome family entertainment for those 'nomadic' Republican sons of the pre-agricultural heartland sick who are tired of left-wing media, liberal government, even so-called 'primitive Communism,' which all self-respecting cavemen know is a Marxist falsehood (there were both investors and a single God in those huts and caves, along with the nuclear family and representational art).

If the program really takes off, it might lead to yet another remake of the original Planet of the Apes, one where a digitized Charlton Heston joins the apes instead of fighting them and organizes chapters of the National Rifle Association for them, showing the world that they can shoot and kill with the best of them. Instead of the ruins of the statue of liberty, this Planet of the Apes might have at its ending a new Mount Rushmore with Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush enshrined as Cavemen presidents while a lizard with a working class English accent extols their virtues.

--Norman Markowitz is contributing editor of Political Affairs.

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