A pivotal confrontation between two rivals, which takes place in the OCP executive washroom, features a close-up crotch shot of a terrified junior exec wetting his pants. This is followed by Dick’s confession that he once called his boss “Boner” and “Iron Butt”; Jones’s erotically charged caressing of Bob Morton’s perfectly sculpted business hair; and finally, Bob’s breathy repetition of the word “dick” as he and his boss stand nose to nose in the men’s room. RoboCop satirizes the action genre by emphasizing its homoerotic undertones; during Bob and Dick’s bathroom confrontation, they seem just as likely to make out as to punch each other. As the literary scholar Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick famously argued, in typically male settings like the corporate boardroom or the US Senate, the exaggerated performance of heterosexual masculinity also masks an anxiously repressed same-sex desire. In the action film, defined by its violent excess and celebration of “hard bodies,” this desire is everywhere visible, yet nowhere acknowledged.
The doomed Old Detroit of the film does ring true in other ways: it is a city with no obvious economic basis other than its own destruction, an echo of today’s Detroit, where scrapping buildings is an employment of last resort, demolition is an economic development policy, and the city’s indebtedness is the raw material out of which Wall Street manufactures big profits. Even after taking what the media loves to call a “haircut” in bankruptcy court, Detroit’s creditors, like UBS, Barclays, and Bank of America, still stand to make hundreds of millions on their loans to the impoverished city.
"1987’s RoboCop is set in the Detroit of a not-too-distant future, a city where criminals rule the streets and even the militarized police force is underfunded and outgunned. The city government has been privatized by a vast corporation, Omni Consumer Products, which plans to build a gleaming new metropolis—Delta City—on the ruins of “Old Detroit.” Bob Morton, an ambitious OCP executive, develops RoboCop to solve two of the company’s problems: the PR cost of urban crime, and the high price of a human police force. Built out of the destroyed body of Alex Murphy, a policeman tortured to death by local drug kingpin Clarence Boddicker, the cyborg is designed to fight street crime in Old Detroit by any means necessary, and to automate the police force in the process. OCP thus excels in what business ideologues glibly call “creative destruction,” but the grisly opening scene reminds us that somebody else—indeed somebody else’s body—ends up getting destroyed. The film starts out as a familiar sci-fi story in which the cyborg, tormented by residual memories of his human life, sets out to find the man who killed Murphy. He soon learns, however, that the real criminals are in the executive suites."
Austerity Economics Is Like a Kick in the Groin by John Patrick Leary - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics
Image by Tom of Finland.
Our new issue is out! Featuring nonfiction from Nathan Deuel and John Patrick Leary; interviews between Kiese Laymon & Stanley Nelson and Aditi Sriram & Ayad Akhtar; poetry from Milorad Pejić and Mia Leonin; fiction from Vladimir Kozlov and Josh Weil; and in art, Alex Zafiris writing on the work of Mika Rottenberg.
Read the new issue here.
Readers, you Kickstarted us, so we’re offering up our top ten nonfiction of all time:
The liberal call for a return to “civility” is both wrong-headed and anti-democratic for at least three reasons. First, nobody really knows what it means—is it decorum? A political point of view, like bipartisanship? Old-fashioned etiquette? Secondly, it’s a fantasy—nostalgia for a lost era of quaint collegiality and friendly rivalry that has never really existed in a country whose sitting vice president once assassinated Alexander Hamilton for writing a critical letter about him. Cable news, for example, may change the volume and frequency of inter-party argument, but Congress was hardly a polite debating society before Fox entered the scene. And lastly, it never should have been.