When You Find the Bad Guy in the Mirror

Dear Reader (excluding anyone who wants to mark the 9/11 anniversary with a “First Responder Flatbread”),

In the 1993 movie Falling Down, Michael Douglas plays a bitter defense contractor who becomes unhinged. The plot doesn’t really matter, but the iconic moment comes when Douglas is finally caught by a cop and says, in authentic shock, “I’m the bad guy?

The movie was moderately well received by critics and generated a good deal of controversy because it was too polemical. These were the early days of the “angry white males” panic of the 1990s, which went into overdrive after the Oklahoma City bombing—and Bill Clinton’s attempt to pin some of the blame on Rush Limbaugh and conservatives. Prior to that the long-simmering gender gap had blown up. A Washington Post wire piece immediately after the 1994 midterm election proclaimed, “Polls show Angry White Males helped GOP.” I can’t find a link, but it’s in LexisNexis. 

The interesting thing about the article—which, you’ll just have to take my word for it, is utterly typical of the political conversation at the time—is that there’s literally nothing in the piece that supports the word “angry.” It begins, “Two years ago, it was the Year of the Woman. This time around, the election might become known as the Year of the Man, or the Year of the Angry Man.”

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