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6.10.04 Midnight Cowboy (1969)

It's sort of a sleazy story. Joe Buck (Jon Voight) comes to New York City from Texas, with the intention of selling his services as a "hustler" or male prostitute. He's all gussied up in his cowboy outfit ready for the rich women to line up. Full of hope, but hasn't got a clue. In a New York minute, he's broke and homeless. He winds up living in a condemned apartment building with Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman). Ratso is gimpy and sick, but slightly wiser than Joe about NYC survival basics.

They hardly seem to like one another. It isn't quite a friendship but the twosome clearly becomes a family.

In 1969 we were just waking up to the fact that Doris Day & Rock Hudson movies probably did not reflect the full diversity of American relationships. Robert Frost said that "home is where, when you go there, they have to take you in." And, in a brutal world, Joe Buck and Ratso Rizzo -- losers by just about anybody's definition -- found home.

It's a little bit of a lesson on the moral judgments we make when we are trying to be objective. What would their story look like on the evening news? Something grimy and pitiful and indicative of a debased society. They did live in a debased world and were forced to debase themselves to survive. They had few strengths, few "protective factors" (social work talk). And yet they find a bit of salvation in one another. With Joe Buck, Ratso can have his final fantasy of escape and sunshine. With Ratso, Joe is goaded forward and finally away from the terrible darkness.

We live in a world of Pure Evil and Triumphal Goodness. You're either with us or against us. And really, do we have time for you if you're not a winner -- whether you are a Satanic Fiend who justifies our rants and our wars or a Grinning Good Guy? Sometimes it is worth a couple hours to look into the souls of losers to find their bits of nobility.

 


NOTES

Midnight Cowboy description.

The book was good too.

 

 

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