Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Self-Made Whiner

In 1954, Irvin G. Wyllie published The Self-Made Man in America: the Myth of Rags to Riches. The intent of the author was to explain the concept of the 'self-made man' and to see how it could be perpetuated in a world of big corporation where the emphasis was on the group and not the individual. More than 50 years later, HBO published this piece of shit of documentary in which they tried desperately to attach the sociological concept of the self-made man and the American Dream with the snobbish and hypocritical world of skateboarding.

Far from being 'men in gray flannel suit', skateboarders are among the few who do not have to make a choice between their jobs and their lives considering that their jobs is their passion as well. Paradoxically enough, this fauna counts an anormally significant number of whiners, more hypocritical than two white-collars in competition for the same position.
The most poetic of us would say this documentary is an ode to New York, while the most pessimistic would say it is meant to disguise NY skateboarders' lazyness with architectural excuses. No need to precise where I stand. Gino, who basically never had any footage in NY, is one of the first to point out NY's roughness. He's quickly followed by Pops, who used to rip seriously back in the days and who has now found a good exscuse to justify his lazyness. Perhaps, a piece of shit of European skater like me cannot understand what those modern guerillos have to say. Or maybe if they went to other spots than Macba and Bercy during Euro tours, they would have an accurate vision of Europe and know that NY is not the only place with rough spots.
At least, one thing we cannot take away from them is the photogenic quality of NY.

Keeping with the whining part, apparently NY is the only place with clubs, drugs and alcohol preventing you from skateboarding. Here again, though everyone complain about their demons it is interesting to see that some of them such as Fred Gall never fell of the map.

I guess the part I enjoyed the most was when skateboarders talked about their standard of living. It was interesting to see my illusions shattered and to realize that some of them (the less whiners, paradoxically) had a 9 to 5 job. I guessed it would have been interesting to emphasize more on this aspect. The 5 Boro team might have had a lot to say about that.

The self-made man owes his success to no one, and he is proud of that. While we might see it as ironical to see Gino and Pops (who live only thanks to their past fame and faithful sponsors) talking about it, it seems more logical to see 'hardworking' skateboarders such as Eli Reed or Zered Bassett (who actually deserve to be where they are at) sharing their opinion.

The real self-made men of this documentary might be Jahmal Williams, Steve Rodriguez and Billy Rohan, respectively Hopps owner, 5 Boro owner and skate-teacher. Those are the actual ones who seem to have struggled to build something tangible in the skatebaording world. The modesty of their achievements is contrasted by the amount of energy they put in it, and we cannot but admire them for what they built with their own hands and time. It is sad that HBO had such amazing material and concept at hand, and that they came up with such a 'cliché' documentary devoided of worthy content. It would have been interesting to spend more time interviewing the actual persons qualified to talk about being a 'self-made man'. And if the editing were better, perhaps we could have had two full sentences in a row instead of a succession of catchy slogans such as "this is the best city in the world!"

LaLodge would like to point out MC Quim Cardona's amazing performance who definetely gives rhythm and a touch of crazyness to the documentary.


  1. Je pense que le coté self made man et galere à s'en sortir a été accentué par hbo pour lancer leur série du même nom "how to make it in america". En gros HBO s'achete une sorte de street credibilty via ce doc.

    "How to Make It in America suit le parcours de deux trentenaires essayant de trouver le chemin du succès dans la Mode, déterminés à accomplir leur Rêve américain..." (wiki)

    Apres ce n'est qu'une opinion

  2. ouais c'est pas faux du tout. Après, j'ai seulement trouvé absurde de lier ça avec le skate, surtout en montrant certains des skateurs les plus paresseux...

    (merci de commenter dans tous les cas!)

  3. Such hate. I’m sure the comprehensive doc you did about where ever you live features much harder to get skaters, is way more focused and is way better edited, right?

  4. Yeah, we'll talk about how our spots are way harder to skate than anywhere! Can't wait!
    I might throw some contempt for California skaters in the game as well. After all, they're all a bunch of competitors who only skate marble spots, right?

    I gotta go sorry. Got some nasty stools to sand...