Saturday, December 3, 2011

John Hinckley, Jr., Captain America


The other day on the radio the announcer said John Hinckley, Jr., the guy who shot Ronald Reagan in 1981 and was found innocent by reason of insanity, wants more privileges.  Instead of going home to stay with his mother for ten days a month, he wants 24.  The Federal Attorneys in John's hearing on this matter quoted the Secret Service as saying that John is a liar and narcissist.  They said, for example, this summer his mother dropped John off at the movie theater to see Captain America.  But instead of going to the movie, he walked over to the Barnes & Noble and looked at books about presidential assassinations.  Then he went out to a bench, the Secret Service said, and sat down in front of the movie theater, telling his mom when she picked him up that he saw Captain America, and also later that week John went to a gathering with his mother and told friends and neighbors how wonderful Captain America was and how they must see it.

This story is reminiscent of the ridiculousness of a really good Curb Your Enthusiasm episode, but also showcases the tragic banality of real life.  The core of it is John searching out images of his own ghostly fame, that secret stardust the Secret Service will never see.  The unmitigated gall of this insane assassin!  Or is it just human nature?  Puffy-faced, intent on shaping his own weird shady legacy, John is a performance artist in this vignette, using Captain America as his cover and his allusion to bigger and better worlds, and to normalcy itself.  I haven't seen Captain America, but I did catch a preview of it, and it seemed to focus on the transformation of a skinny, heartfelt little guy who gets beefed up by a sci-fi machine in order to fight Nazis.  In the process of transformation a costume appears:  red white and blue with a shield and mask and everything.

Flash on John:  pants that probably don't fit, pit stains, hang-dog yearning.  A sadsack with mental problems looking for love in all the wrong places, dreaming of that one day when he got what he wanted.  All that attention, all that drama.  He still walks the earth like that.  And the Secret Service follows.  There has to be a loneliness like a hot light reaching through his clothes, burning and not burning his skin, like someone is always taking a picture of his heart. 

He doesn't know any better, and yet he's guilty none-the-less.  The subtitle of Captain America is "The First Avenger."  John could have chosen ten or eleven other summer blockbusters at the multiplex as his alibi.  I'm betting that subtitle was what drew him to that initial scheme.