When most people look at former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, they see corruption made flesh, unchecked power, bloated self-importance and the worst hair on a disgraced elected official since U.S. Rep. Jim Traficant of Ohio went to jail.
But I just see a man who has watched too many movies.
Blagojevich, who conducted at least 20 interviews on various TV programs last week instead of testifying during his impeachment trial, seems to have a spool of pop cultural ephemera at the ready whenever he needs to justify or explain his behavior or contextualize his treatment in the press. He compared himself variously to a Hollywood cowboy on his way to a hanging, various heroes in Frank Capra movies, and any number of great men whose lives have been portrayed in film, including Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and a few Biblical heroes.
And when asked who would play him in a movie, Blagojevich took it personally. “I wouldn’t mind playing myself,” he said. “I could probably use the job.”
I know this mentality all too well. I reference movie plotlines and quote scripts several times a day in my seminormal dealings with co-workers. I periodically have entire conversations with my best friend Phil Bacharach (who thanks the heavens every day that he is Gov. Brad Henry’s press secretary and not Blago’s) that consist entirely of lines from “Animal House.”
Just this morning, my editor saw a plastic duck call on my desk and said it reminded him of that scene when Daffy Duck’s bill got blown off in the classic 1953 cartoon “Duck Amuck.”
If Blagojevich weren’t such an allegedly crooked goon, he’d be one of “my people.”
The difference is that most of us know our depth. We take jobs that require us to write about movies, or we become film curators or projectionists. Or we go into the film industry itself, using our knowledge as a foundation to create new art.
But Blagojevich is a film geek who lost control, identifying too readily with the fictional characters on screen. His brazen (but still alleged) attempt to sell President Barack Obama’s old senate seat indicate a film character’s air of invincibility. As a result, he is now looking at plenty of free time to watch movies.
Well, maybe “free” isn’t the right word.