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The Philodoxer
Thoughts on writing and publishing, and the various sources of entertainment...
A weekly column by Abel G. Peña, best known for his Star Wars work.

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THE PHILODOXER for 02/11/2007
The Last Weasel of Scotland

Last King of Scotland

You came to Africa to play the white man. But we aren't a game. We're real. This room is real. And when you die, it will be the first real thing you have done.
-- President Idi Amin to Dr. Nicholas Garrigan,
The Last King of Scotland

With his portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland, Forest Whitaker solidifies his reputation as a brilliant character actor. Whitaker's portrayal of Amin is of a brutal visionary of vast intuition, who runs into the same crisis of all that have naively tried to imitate the words of Plato, Machiavelli, or Marx in action: popular resistance to dictatorial "genius."

As handily as Whitaker's King Amin mesmerizes, save for the mentally juvenile, the performance just as easily allows us to abhor him. But equally despicable is Amin's right hand Scot, Nicholas Garrigan, young doctor and irresponsible little weasel. Here is a coward without loyalties save to his own animal impulses. Guided by his own self-absorption and sense of entitlement, we watch as he frolics his way through war-torn Uganda, banging married broads without a care to the consequences, because it's all there for his amusement, after all. We say that it's okay; after all, he's just a dumb, young man, out for a little harmless fun. But though we may see a little of ourselves in Garrigan's irresponsibility, that only drives home the point about the evil of his steadfast caprice.

Amin is right to question Garrigan's actions in Africa, however accidentally charitable-his passive intention "to fuck and take." The world is more than any individual's selfish existence; the moment we dissuade ourselves this is the case, all meaning is lost. Though Garrigan despises British spies for their easy-going hypocrisy, the doctor's duplicity is, if not as cultivated, just as repugnant. Surprisingly, King Amin doesn't care. For a "hero" forged in a war where honor favors not the noblest animal but the most savage, hypocrisy is a foregone conclusion. Amin only wants to make a man out of Garrigan, to get him to spit truth or fabrication with confidence and not fear death. The outcome, be it friendship or death, is irrelevant. For the self-aware bigot, dignity -- irrational -- is the last bastion.

Till next time folks.

- Abel G. Peña

<< 01/28/2007 | 02/11/2007 | 02/25/2007 >>

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