Odd Cameos

By: Joshua Glenn
August 29, 2009

I’ve been watching a lot of movies on my desktop, lately, via Netflix: Watch Instantly. Works great. The only problem is, the selection is quite limited, so I end up watching movies I’ve never heard of. (Who knew Walter Matthau made so many movies?) Which is a good thing, really — in a “secret history” kind of way.

For example, did you know that after George W. Bush lost his first election, for the House of Representatives (because his opponent portrayed him as being out of touch with rural Texans), but before he quit drinking, he appeared briefly in the lowbrow 1982 comedy Porky’s?


His Porky’s cameo was W’s bid to reinvent himself as a good ol’ boy, I guess. I find it very convincing! More convincing, really, than anything Al Gore’s actor roommate at Harvard has ever done in that same vein.

And then there’s French philosopher Michel Foucault’s cameo in The Ruling Class, the 1972 nobrow comedy for which Peter O’Toole — who plays a paranoid schizophrenic — was nominated for an Academy Award. In the aftermath of ’68, of course, Foucault was studying disciplinary institutions for his 1975 book, Surveiller et punir, which would describe prison as just one part of the vast carceral network (including schools, factories, and mental hospitals) that is modern society. Le voici, in a scene set in a mental hospital.


The Panopticon, Foucault writes in Surveiller et punir, is a figure of political technology that “serves to reform prisoners, but also to treat patients, to instruct schoolchildren, to confine the insane…” Apparently, he did his homework.

I suppose the directors of these movies intended for these character actors to closely resemble W and Foucault. I wonder if anyone got the joke, though?


Haw-Haw, Movies