Michael Mullenniex 1:43 p.m., May 25
When It Comes to Facebook, I'm With the Banned
It started with this image:
There is nothing less funny than having to spell out a joke, but here goes. Once upon a time, Mickey Rooney starred in the made-for-TV movie, Bill, as a mentally challenged man who ventures outside the institution for the first time in his life.
It's one of those "triumph of the human spirit" tear-jerkers that relies heavily on sentimentality. Rooney eats up the scenery with a false and shamelessly mawkish display of emotions. Needless to say, he took home a Golden Globe in addition to an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or a Special.
Bill premiered in 1981, one year after Raging Bull hit theatres, and just in time to coincide with SCTV Network 90, a show whose degree of wit and sophistication is unparalleled even today. Having achieved an MFA in Comedy Calculus, the math was blindingly obvious. What if Eugene Levy's diminutive cockeyed-character Sid Dithers starred as Mickey Rooney in the boxing spoof, Raging Bill? Ha! Ha!
SCTV was soon cancelled and with it went any hope for a parody, but a good gag refuses to die. Last week came time for the joke to finally be put to the test for my 4,573 Facebook friends, most of them dead celebrities, to decide. It was posted for not more than ten minutes before a gentleman responded with something like, "This would be funny if Mickey Rooney was not a victim of elder abuse."
Bottom line: the poster gag would not have worked without an angry shot of Rooney. It was Google Images or sift through Boys Town for a screencap. For once, I took the easy way out.
Forgive the unhealthy dose of cynicism that's about to follow, but what testified before a Senate committee on March 2, 2010 appeared to be a 90-year-old legend, who spent a lifetime playing to the crowds, giving what could amount to his last performance.
Part of me was saddened to learn the ill treatment that befell an actor of his stature, while the rest stood in awe of The Mick's ability to put on a show in Washington's backyard.
There was never any intention to diminish the threat of elder abuse in America, merely to wring a mean-spirited laugh, or even a knowing chuckle over the amount of thought and layering that went into this seemingly stupid throwaway gag.
I told my Facebook accuser as much and within minutes he reported the thread the FB Police. The electronic slap-on-the-wrist resulted in a three-day suspension from the social networking site.
The ban took hold a mere two hours before Whitney Houston was found dead, so allow me to get this status update out of my system: "Houston, we have a drug problem." Thank you.
Considering the mean-spirited things I've posted about Spielberg, Lucas, and Joe Paterno, it's surprising to learn that it took a 30-year-old gag that turned out to be about a 90-year-old legend, to finally take me out, at least temporarily. You never got me down, Mick.