Assholes: a theory
Directed by John Walker
Rated: PG for coarse language, substance abuse, and violence
Runtime: 81 minutes
Playing Friday through Sunday at Metro Cinema, 8712 109 St. in Edmonton. metrocinema.org
They’re everywhere: parking across multiple spots, cutting in lines, pretending like they’re the special children of the universe. We all know them, but why are there more and more of them around these days?
Sorry mom, but we’re surrounded by assholes. There’s even a new documentary that explores the sociological phenomenon and tries to explain it. I don’t need to tell you what it’s called or how many times the ‘A’ word is used in it (it’s a lot).
At one point in his life, director John Walker came to the same realization we all have: that we’re all surrounded by ‘them’. A colleague of his asked him if you had to be ‘one’ to be successful. In his research, he stumbled upon a copy of Aaron James’ book – a New York Times bestseller, no less – with the title he would base this documentary on.
Frankly, it’s been a long time coming. There has to be some explanation for all of that bad behaviour that we see everywhere from social media to presidential palaces and every parking lot in between. Never would I have thought such a discussion to be so entertaining while still being intellectual and informative enough, but here it is. Having John Cleese as one of the commentators is one way of confirming its accessibility and wit.
Aaron James is a professor of philosophy, too, so he has lots to say on the subject of people who fit the ‘A’ definition and the entire subset of the culture that fosters these ‘A’ people. He starts with surfers for some reason. He also asks how we could stop their proliferation, if possible. Watching this film actually made me feel better because it helped me to understand ‘them.’ It doesn’t mean it’ll help them to go away, but I still felt better about myself not being one of the narcissistic, self-aggrandizing, entitled, line-cutting, proud parking, advantage-taking, rude, belligerent, credit-taking, boorish, smug, arrogant, greedy people who are thoroughly examined and dissected here. There are a lot of familiar faces presented as examples of the type of personality described by the title. Documentaries like this are helpful in that they offer us a chance to understand them, and avoid them, or perhaps even avoid becoming them.