“You know a place where nothing is real”
Bryan Zepp Jamieson
December 28th 2022
Ben Shapiro didn’t like Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. He wrote on Twatter, “We only find out about the actual murder we’re supposed to investigate full one hour and 10 minutes into the film, as well as an entirely new backstory,” he complained.
Well, Benny, if you’re going to set yourself up as a film critic, you really ought to know something about the genre of film you are reviewing. This is what’s called a “murder mystery” or a “whodunnit.” Misdirection is one of the main elements in such films. The viewer is led in one direction, and if the filmmaker is honest (and in this instance they are extremely honest) then all the clues that would lead the viewer to the right deductions are there in plain sight.
But the main thing that upset Benny, protector of the privileged and sneerer at the non-privileged, was that the movie very clearly parodized, nay, MOCKED a titan of finance/industry/tech. One of the main characters is a billionaire who has an entire corporate empire, with dozens of inventions and new concepts to his credit, widely regarded as a great genius and, in his own estimation, a “disruptor,” someone who challenges and eventually supplants societal norms and the status quo.
While there are several dozen such creatures roaming the American landscape, there was little doubt in Shapiro’s mind that the movie targeted one particular tech scion: Elon Musk. I won’t argue that bit. Main showrunner Rian Johnson has said that he saw his billionaire, Miles Bron (Edward Norton), as an amalgamation of three different real-life characters. A partner of Bron’s was cheated of the fame and fortune of the Alpha network of companies, something we learn she played a greater role in creating than did Bron. One of the characters even says she got “social networked.” So: elements of Zuckerberg there. Bron also makes reckless and idiotic decisions, needlessly shafting the people he might need most as allies, and committing very public and conspicuous crimes secure in the belief that he is above social consequences. Donald Trump, anyone?
But most people spotted Elon Musk as the real-life exemplar of Miles Bron.
I thought about it. Rian Johnson and his crew probably began writing the script for this movie when Musk was still a public hero and inventor, supposedly, of the Tesla electric vehicle, genius behind Space X, and mastermind of such future wonders as the Boring tunnels and the Hyperloop. The first disturbing elements that caused people to question his personality and judgment, such as the flamethrower giveaway or the smearing of the rescuer of those children trapped in a Thai cave, had just come out.
But it took a lot more time for Musk to self-immolate, to the point where the larger segment of society realized he wasn’t a genius, wasn’t a leader, isn’t even particularly stable.
Indeed, I’m reading a book now, a well-done hi-tech spy thriller called “Portals” by Douglas E. Richards. Tech-aware and sophisticated, it holds Musk as an ongoing brilliant tech leader who has brought the world such marvels as humanoid AI Tesla robots and mind implants (and Musk is actually supposedly working on the latter, but has nothing to show for it but some 1,500 dead lab animals to date). For all Richards’ obvious savvy and political and tech awareness, his 2022 book still presents Musk as a tech wizard and leader. And, of course, that’s how Ben Shapiro sees Musk. He’s offended that anyone could even question it.
But in the movie’s denouement, Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) says of Bron: “His dock doesn’t float. His wonder fuel is a disaster. His grasp of disruption theory is remedial at best. He didn’t design the puzzle boxes. He didn’t write the mystery. Et voilà! It all adds up. The key to this entire case! And it was staring me right in the face. Like everyone in the world, I assumed Miles Bron was a complicated genius. But why? Look into the clear center of this Glass Onion… Miles Bron is an idiot!”
In the face of the Twitter débacle, the face of Musk is revealed. He wasn’t self-made, but is the heir to an emerald mine. He didn’t invent Tesla—he bought it out. For Space X, he just hired the right people and threw money at them. He’s an entrepreneur, which in the minds of America’s Shapiros is akin to being a genius leader, but he is neither a genius nor a leader. His Boring company which supposedly could drill tunnels four times faster than anyone else also only drilled a tunnel one half the diameter, thus displacing the same amount of dirt in the same time. His underground freeway system for LA was ridiculous on the face of it. His Hyperloop, based on proof-of-concept projects from the 1840s, has gone nowhere. He has an evil reputation as a union buster and workforce abuser. He insisted, for no good reason, that people work in close quarters during the most deadly stage of the coronavirus pandemic. The freedom of speech he promised for Twitter turned out to be the usual libertarian/fascist bullshit, in which free speech is for the rich and powerful only. Fascists for Free Speech, I call it.
So yes, Bron could be any of dozens of such monsters of American capitalism, but he’s most clearly Elon Musk.
Shapiro no doubt was dismayed that the hangers-on, Bron’s friends “The Disruptors” each represented a segment of American capitalist society. Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom Jr) represented the commercial science segment, and was being pressured by Bron to sign off on an unproven and potentially hazardous new hydrogen-based energy substance called ‘Klear’. Clair Debella (Kathryn Hahn) was the political segment, a governor Bron gave a huge donation to in order to rush through a project for the first Klear power plant, Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson) was a past-her-prime supermodel using the fashion industry to promote Bron’s ‘coolness,’ and Duke Cody, (Dave Bautista) was a blogger who is an incel/right winger who promotes men’s rights. Jay and Cody help Bron fight ‘wokeness’ by being politically incorrect (Jay was in hot water for describing a cheap person as ‘Jewy’ (not to be confused with another right wing moron who recently described his Catholic self as ‘Jew-ish’) and Cody always carries a large, ornate pistol that he likes to fire off randomly. Both appeal to the MAGAt crowd, of course.
Cody is also a cuckold and gets slapped around by a domineering if diminuitive mother and, it’s hinted, lives with mummy. I’m wondering if his character was the main reason Shapiro got so offended.
Glass Onion, like another movie earlier this year called Don’t Look Up, offends all the right people. It offends the far right, and it offends the people who still cling to the belief that fantastically rich billionaires are somehow beneficial to society and that because they are rich, they must be of superior intelligence, wisdom and morals. Even as Musk, Trump, Bezos and all the rest of the ultra-rich crowd prove that if anything, the opposite is true.
Glass Onion is a wildly entertaining movie, a first-class Agatha Christie-style whodunnit, and above all, a searingly sharp-edged social satire that comes along at just the right time. You can see it for yourself on Netflix.