Reader G.F. e-mails with corrections and misgivings regarding my rave (with taste reservations) review of Team America: World Police (see “Team America”: Not Pretty but Pretty Funny, Oct. 18):

“The correct name of North Korea’s dictator and the movie’s eponymous character is Kim Jong Il, not ‘Kim Il-Jong,’ as you wrote in your post. And the voice imitates Eric Cartman, a South Park character, both charcters performed by Trey Parker. There is no ‘Eric Carter’ character or person doing voices for South Park productions.

“The only ‘towel-headed’ terrorist in the entire movie (which I saw twice this weekend) was [hero] Gary in his obviously bad attempt at looking Middle Eastern. The other terrorist puppets were ‘appropriately’ dressed and none had a towel instead of a turban. It wasn’t Sean Penn’s puppet who went up in flames; it was the sunglasses-wearing Tim Robbins. Helen Hunt’s puppet didn’t have its head blown off; her body was cut in half during a swordfight with Sarah, the brunette Team-ster.

“Not only does it seem you didn’t actually pay attention to the film you saw, but you clearly haven’t seen ‘South Park’ enough to understand that there is a nuanced cultural criticism that underlies all of Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s work. But, to the disappointment of both the left AND the right, each of whom would like to claim Parker and Stone for their own, South Park and the studio’s films have resolutely declined to make their criticisms partisan. The films and show are devoutly bipartisan and are equal-opportunity offensive. The ethnic stereotypes are funny to us young’uns, not because we believe them, but becase we recognize the lengths to which both the left AND right (and popular culture) go to disguise them in political discourse.

“We recognize the political stupidity of American-hero action movies, but also the silliness of the actors who appear in them and feel as though they are qualified to opine on foreign policy because they starred in a movie about Somalia. Remember the song about Pearl Harbor? ‘Montage’? ‘Freedom Isn’t Free’? The movie is making fun of movies, those who make movies, and those in power who create the circumstances which the movies seek to explain and thereby create movie stars-cum-foreign policy experts…. You should see the movie again–Parker and Stone’s goal is to make everyone feel responsible for the state of affairs. The left, the right, the CIA, you, me, and Alec Baldwin alike.”

Thanks for the corrections, G.F. I’m turning into almost as bad a speller as Maria “Shakespere” Alquilar! I’ve duly entered them below. You’ve seen the movie twice to my once, so I’ll take your word for the fact that it’s Tim Robbins’s marionette, not Sean Penn’s, that goes up in gasoline flames and that the Helen Hunt doll is cut in half, not beheaded. I dunno, however, about that Islamic-terrorist headgear: it sure looked like towels to me. Anyway, is there such a thing as “appropriate” dress for a puppet?

As for your contention that “Team America” spoofs right and left alike, you’re absolutely correct, and I, too, made that observation in my review. Trouble is, the movie portrays terrorism as all too real (the Islamicists blow up the Panama Canal, among other things), the movie-star left as a gaggle of pretentious, sermonizing appeasers, and the Team Americans, comical caricatures though they may be, as the ones we root for. Indeed, “Gary”‘s speech at the end, while too obscene for quotation here, makes the point that the overbearing-seeming Americans are the only ones with the guts to stand up to the world’s bombers and murderers. Sure, the film’s theme song “America, F— Yeah!” is crude and jingoistic, but I’ll bet some of our troops in Iraq will be singing it.
Reader E.B. e-mails to take issue with our contention that Dem presidential contender John Kerry relied on feminist myth, not hard facts, when he asserted during last week’s debate that women earn only 76 percent of what men earn for the same work. (See The Other Charlotte’s Debate Watch: Feminist Myth Cited As Fact, Oct. 14.) Here’s E.B.:

“You turn your head to true facts!!! First you claim that the wage gap for women is very much proportionate to that of men when considering all factors including child-care and time spent in the work force. Your claim that women enjoy spending time at home with their children is a common feeling all mothers have. This is just not true.

“But back to the point, I don’t think its fair that women should have to give up their careers to have a family. Take Sweden or France for example. They have very liberal laws pertaining to parental rights and workplace discrimination as well as a TRUE caring for children. Childhood poverty in this country is almost obsolete! They provide mothers with one full year off (PAID) after a child’s birth to breast feed and bond with thier child; they do all this while legally holding a woman’s job for her until she returns from maternity leave while paying her for taking care of a child, the most important job in the world. Secondly, they guarantee shorter days for working mothers. These women can work a six-hour day, having time to take their children to school and pick them up while still being considered full-time with the benefits that go along with it. Third, they provide women AND children with goverment health care (free) for a year after the birth of the children. Children are able to attend very good goverment preschools and day-cares.

“These places have extremely educated people working with these children on education and socialization while their parents are at work. And last but not least, these countries also offer fathers paid time off (80-90%) of his current pay to have three months off at the birth of a child. Family cohesion is much stronger in these countries than in the U.S. The divorce rate is lower, child health and welfare is higher, and the crime rate is so low it makes Americans look like Australia did about 200 years ago.”

All I can say to you, E.B., is: Read this article from yesterday’s International Herald Tribune about a just-released report from the French government warning that France is headed for “irreversible economic stagnation” unless it overhauls its apparatus of labor laws that allow people to work 30 hours a week and get paid for 40 and require employers to compensate new mothers at full salary for taking a year off. Someone has to pay for all of this, and in France it’s the entire economy. The French unemployment rate hasn’t fallen below 8 percent for two decades, and French economic growth has lagged at 1 percent below that of the U.S. for 10 years.   

As for Sweden, yes the Swedish divorce rate is low–but that’s because the marriage rate is practically nonexistent, as this column by Stanley Kurtz for the Boston Globe points out. The majority of Swedish births nowadays are to unwed mothers. Many of those mothers are living with their babies’ fathers, but such unions between unmarried parents break up at two to three times the rate of married parents’. These data are not surprising. When a country erects a costly cradle-to-grave social welfare system that requires nearly confiscatory taxes to pay for, both parents have to work in order to support those “extremely educated people” whom the government pays to take care of their children. That creates strong disincentives to either get married or have children. Both France and Sweden now have below-replacement-level birthrates and rapidly aging populations.

Me, I’d rather have the job and the money and make my own choices about child-care. Besides TOC’s post, I highly recommend this article on the IWF home page and this one by the IWF’s Carrie Lukas for National Review Online. And please read Christine Stolba’s Women’s Figures, an IWF-commissioned report on what women really earn compared to men.