mongerers —by rigorously limiting thernfilm’s point of view. We see the world entirelyrnthrough the eyes of Enid and Rebecca.rnThe view is chastening, especiallyrnsince they are far more innocent thanrnthey would dare admit.rnThe friends wander about their Californiarnsuburb’s strip malls, trucking theirrnway along the sidewalks in clunky platformrnshoes and laughably abbreviatedrnskirts. Their getups unflatteringly accentuaterntheir wide hips and slouched shoulders,rnmaking them look like wanton hoydens.rnOf course, they’re nothing of thernkind. Sure, they talk tough about sex, butrntheir behavior reveals their inexperience.rnThey can’t seem to get dates; for romanticrnexcitement, they’re reduced to girlishlyrnteasing a young man working therncounter at a convenience store. Ratherrnthan the worldly seductresses they pretendrnto be, these girls are undoubtedlyrnstill virgins, hi another Hme, their intactrnstate might have been grounds for personalrnconfidence and moral pride —butrnnot in modern America, where pop culturernrelentlessly schools the young to believernthat something’s wrong if you’re notrnsexually rampant by 14. To avoid embarrassment,rnEnid and Rebecca have nornchoice. They must pretend to be well experiencedrnin debauchery. Enid’s mischievousrnvisit to the town’s adult bookstorerngives the lie to her pose, however.rnAfter watching men furtively thumb pornrnmagazines for a minute or so, she burstsrnout laughing. It’s too ridiculous, andrnshe’s not afraid to let the gentlemen knowrnthat she thinks they are contemptible.rnZwigoff never ridicules the girls, treatingrnthem instead with gentle, appreciafivernhumor. He reserves his scorn for thernforces within our societ}’ that exploit normalrnadolescent confusion, especially thernsordid pop-culture industry and the ideologuesrnof various leftist agendas.rnFor instance, Enid’s art teacher (IIleanarnDouglas) begins her course byrnshowing her own video production featuringrna doll being dismembered, itsrnlimbs cast one by one into a bloody toiletrnbowl. At its conclusion, she tells her studentsrnthat she wanted to give them “anrnidea of what it’s like to be in my specificrnskin.” She’s convinced that art of genuinernmerit must fuse aesthetic expressionrnwith personal confession. What she’srnconfessing is, of course, all too obvious. Arnfew meetings later, a go-getter coed followsrnher lead, exhibiting a sculpture she’srnconstructed of coat hangers, cannily explainingrnthat it “speaks to a woman’s rightrnto choose.” This, clearly, is a girl whornknows how to play the game. Predictably,rnthe teacher can’t restrain her enthusiasmrnfor this marriage of aestheticsrnand activism. Enid, however, slumps inrnher seat, her face glum with misgivings.rnShe may lack the resources to arficulaternher dissent from America’s prevailingrnabortion-rights ethos, but she intuitivelyrnrecoils at the grotesque spectacle ofrnadults encouraging the young to supportrnthe murder of inconvenient babies. Itrndoes, after all, cut rather closely to an alreadyrnalienated adolescent’s bone.rnThe best element in the narrative isrnEnid’s friendship with Seymour (thernalways reliable Steve Buscemi), a forh’-rnsomething connoisseur of blues and ragtime.rnShe meets him at a garage sale,rnwhere he’s selling 78 LPs of his favoriternartists. Although he’s an unprepossessingrnfellow, he fascinates her. ft’s easy to seernwhy: He’s completely out of step with therncontemporary culture that has failed herrnso miserably. He decorates his room withrnI940’s film posters, book covers, andrnmagazine advertisements. As Enid says,rn”He’s such a clueless dork, he’s almostrncool.”rnSeymour, as his name implies, helpsrnEnid see more. He reveals the increasinglyrnghostly world of an earlier America thatrnmodern commercial and political interestsrnhave tried to erase. In perhaps thernfilm’s most daring assault on today’s programmedrnattitudes, Enid discovers inrnSeymour’s apartment an advertisementrnfrom the 1930’s restaurant chain. Coon’srnChickeir Inns. It features a caricature ofrna moonfaced negro wearing a bellman’srncap. He grins from ear to ear, winking asrnhe offers the observer countr)-fried poidtry.rnStartled at what she takes to be flagrantrnracism, Enid challenges Seymour.rnHe explains that such imagery was notrngenerally thought offensive in the earlyrn20th centur)/. Now, he sarcastically continues,rnthe company has renamed itselfrnCook’s Chicken, deferring to today’srnmore tender sensibilifies. Enid asks wonderingly,rn”Are you saying things were betterrnback then?” Admitting that he thinksrnrace relations are probably better today,rnhe goes on to explain that such issues arerncomplicated. “People still hate one another;rnthey just know how to hide it better.”rnEnid senses she’s onto somethingrnand borrows the picture to show her artrnclass. The other students predictablyrngreet it with the shocked dismay expectedrnof them. Enid then unmasks their reflexivernhypocrisy. Her “found art,” she argues,rnreveals the hidden racism in ourrnmidst.rnThis is, of course, tricky ground. I takernZwigoff to mean that Americans havernbeen hectored into conformiirg to a varietyrnof institutional hypocrisies concerningrnnot only race but supposed sexualrndiscrimination, cultural differences, religiousrnbeliefs, and censorship —to namernjust a few. Consider how “diversity” hasrnbecome the password of enlightenmentrnamong business executives who routinelyrnspend their weekends playing golf on allwhiterncourses. It’s a commonplace todayrnthat the racism African-Americans findrnmost irksome is the kind that’s veiled behindrnthe seeming acceptance of politernwhite folks. But more than this, howrnmany among the college-educated middlernclass are openly willing to question “arnwoman’s right to choose”? How manyrnwill publicly risk saying that AIDS is a diseasernalmost always contracted throughrnextravagantly perverse behavior? Manyrnhave decided, prudenfly or spinelessly, tornavoid the possible consequences of crossingrnthe lines set down by well-heeled,rnpowerful interest groups. The olderrnAmerica might have been rougher andrnfilled with all manner of intolerance, butrnat least people knew where they stood.rnThe Coon’s Chicken ad propels fliisrnremarkable film to a denouement that isrnat once hilarious, sad, and troubling. UnlikernBurton’s Planet of the Apes with itsrnersatz moralizing, Zwigoffs film raises arnreal question of conscience: Why do wernso easily make peace with our civic savageries?rnLooking forrnarngood video?rnCheck outrnGeorge McCartney’srnreviews fromrnour back issuesrnonline atrnwww. ChroniclesMa^azine. orgrn56/CHRONICLESrnrnrn