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Culture war contenders

Culture | Manson family values & other cultural buzz

Issue: "Paying with your life," April 4, 1998

President in the iron Mask
Randall Wallace, the writer of Braveheart, debuts as a director with The Man in the Iron Mask (rated PG-13). Mr. Wallace adds a heaping dose of culture-warring heroism to Alexandre Dumas' sequel to The Three Musketeers. Titanic survivor Leonardo DiCaprio plays Louis XIV, a bad king whose libido and sexual exploitation of his female subjects make him a better Bill Clinton than the John Travolta character in Primary Colors. He's also Philippe, his twin brother locked away in a dark dungeon. Aramis (Jeremy Irons), Athos (John Malkovich), and Porthos (Gerard Depardieu) are three veteran Musketeers who decide to end Louis's morally rotten reign. Gabriel Byrne is D'Artagnan, who stays loyal to the king and is placed at odds with his friends. The three decide that switching Louis with Philippe is their hope of restoring the integrity of their country. Aramis, a former Musketeer-turned-scheming-but-good-guy Jesuit priest, must hold the group together to reach a seemingly hopeless goal. His motivation is explicitly described as the outgrowth of his faith. In the meantime, debauched Porthos tries to keep from killing himself. (His vulgarity and his brief rear-nudity scene constitute the movie's major drawback.) In a direct biblical allusion, the son of Athos is Uriah-ed off to the front lines so Louis can grab his sweetheart, causing the grieving father to cry out for revolution. Mr. Wallace moves his movie quickly and stresses the main characters' gallantry, passion, and loyalty to their ideals. His next script, titled On Wings as Eagles, is a real curiosity raiser. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a German soldier ordered to shoot American POWs. Instead, he turns against the Nazis and decides to lead the prisoners to freedom. Can Wallace bring his brand of chivalry to the 20th century, with Arnold in the lead? Wait and see. Manson's revenge Every decade needs a clown to dress up in dark clothes, babble about playing with evil, and hang out with Satanist Anton LaVey. The '90s gets the former Brian Warner, now Marilyn Manson, who tells us all about his Long Hard Road. The book is littered with clip art anatomy pictures, his old writings, and photos to warm the hearts of those who fall for this balderdash. A chunk of the middle is filled with a European fanzine interview and a bunch of ugly photos sure to freak out Mom and Dad. The ghostwritten memoirs aren't that great either. Pasty-faced Manson hated Christian school as a kid and listened to a lot of heavy metal in high school. So he decided to get even with the world by becoming a rock-n-roll freak show. "I wanted to be the loudest, most persistent alarm clock I could be, because there didn't seem to be any other way to snap society out of its Christianity-and other media-induced comas." So he started doing lots of freaky things on stage and getting lots of attention. The book drones on and on and on and on about his antics, especially his girlfriends, and Satanism and such. It's 1998 and Manson is merely repeating an old formula. He's just more obnoxious because the music industry lets him get away with it. As if thousands before him haven't droned endlessly about how they dislike the Religious Right. Give Manson a little time and his long road to the top will become a short road back to obscurity. Generation-X-philes The decade of GenX is almost over. Hooray. Now the people who promoted the idea of twentysomethings as a lost generation have to find other things to do. Douglas Coupland, hailed as a prophet with his book Generation X, has written another novel that once against supposedly exposes the raw agony of our disaffected times. Girlfriend in a Coma is a depressing tale that follows a group of high-school friends from the late '70s to early '80s. One of them, Karen, mixes Valium and vodka and winds up in a coma for 17 years. Boyfriend Richard wanders through life drinking while trying to be a father to their daughter Megan. She turns into a body-pierced teenager, who drapes herself in black clothing while she hides her own pregnancy .The rest of the gang leads shiftless lives, running in circles and doing drugs. Depressing, ain't it? In 1997, Karen snaps out of the coma and everybody adjusts to the walking time capsule entering their lives. Then Mr. Coupland takes the book in a psychedelic direction: A plague suddenly wipes out everybody in the world except the little group. Richard's best friend, a cocky football player, comes back from the dead and everybody thinks about the meaning of life. He sermonizes on "the need to probe and drill and examine and locate the words that take us beyond ourselves," whatever that means. Then the ghost tells them that everything was a dream sequence and everything goes back to the time before Karen woke up. For all of its hip themes about the supernatural, television, Stephen King, It's a Wonderful Life, alternative music, supernatural bestsellers, and the retro-'70s phenomenon, this is not a fun read. Middle-class angst meets disease of the week. Mr. Coupland's imagination is more comatose than his main character.

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