Nolte: The Gloriously Inappropriate and Problematic ‘Blues Brothers’ (1980)

Dan Aykroyd listens as Ray Charles plays piano next to John Belushi in a scene from the film 'The Blues Brothers', 1980. (Photo by Universal Pictures/Getty Images)
Universal Pictures/Getty Images

Under the belief it was the movie that would most offend today’s Woketards, last week I wrote about the gloriously inappropriate and problematic Animal House (1978). Finding myself in a Belushi mood, a few days later, I watched his next hit, 1980’s The Blues Brothers, and quickly realized today’s Hitler Youth would hate this one even more — a whole lot more.

You have no idea how blessed I was to come of age in the 70s and 80s, two of the freest decades, not only in our country’s history but in world history. By 1970, Hollywood’s self-censoring Production Code had been dismantled, the great Norman Lear had pushed the boundaries of television with his masterpiece All in the Family, and suddenly nothing and no one was off-limits. There were no more sacred cows. No limits on satire. No protected groups.

And do you want to know the best part? Almost all the satire was good-natured. When a Carlin, Pryor, Lear, and Saturday Night Live took a shot at you, you couldn’t help but laugh at yourself — which is the healthiest of medicines for the human spirit.

We were truly free then. So free… And like young people do, I took it all for granted — just assumed it would always be that way.

Well, look at us now… We live in a literal Woke Police State run by Big Corporations. Ironically, this was something Hollywood frequently warned us about — and now Hollywood is one of our most fascist enforcers. McCarthyism and blacklists have returned with a vengeance.

Well, as the (soon-to-be-blacklisted) Python boys famously suggested, you should “always look at the bright side of life.”

So, yes, there are some benefits to Woke McCarthyism… First off, it’s kind of fun to feel like an outlaw just for daring to enjoy a movie. Secondly, we certainly live in interesting times. Finally, now that movies like Animal House and The Blues Brothers have become the forbidden, like all things forbidden, you cherish and enjoy them all the more.

The Blues Brothers was always a terrific movie, a legitimately great musical-comedy. It’s aged into something even more beautiful, though, and not just because of Woketardism.

You see, in the 41 years since its release, we’ve lost all the legends the movie paid such affectionate tribute to: Aretha Franklin, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, James Brown, and John Lee Hooker. They’re all gone now, and what a treat it is to watch them up on the screen strutting their magic. Each of their numbers, most especially Aretha’s “Think” and Calloway’s “Minnie the Moocher,” is a total show-stopper. You can’t help but sit with a big grin on your face mixed with an ache in your heart.

Yes, Giants once walked the earth … including John Belushi.

Best of all, you can sense the reverence John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd (who co-wrote the script with director John Landis) have for these giants. Not only are they eager to introduce their idols to a new audience, but during their respective musical numbers, Aykroyd and Belushi stay almost entirely out of the way. They generously (and appropriately) allow their musical heroes to shine alone in the spotlight.

Both the movie and musical history are better for it.

Before we get to listing all the woke sins, a quick rundown of the plot…

The Blues Brothers are Jake Blues (Belushi) and Elwood Blues (Aykroyd), two brothers who believe in only one thing: honoring, playing, and keeping the blues alive. Offstage and on, they wear the blues uniform of a black suit, black tie, black fedora, white shirt, and sunglasses.

Elwood: There’s 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark out, and we’re wearing sunglasses.

Jake: Hit it.

After Jake’s release from prison, Elwood picks him up in the Bluesmobile (an old police car) and they pay a visit to “the penguin,” a Roman Catholic nun (Kathleen Freeman) who runs the orphanage the brothers were raised in. She needs $5,000 to pay the taxes or the city of Chicago (where the movie is set) will close her down.

Now that they’re on a mission from God, Jake and Elwood decide to get the band back together and put on a show to raise the money. Along the way, they’re hunted by the police, Nazis, rednecks, a crazed ex-girlfriend (Carrie Fisher), and their parole officer (John Candy).

Jake: We’re putting the band back together.
Mr. Fabulous: Forget it. No way.
Elwood: We’re on a mission from God.

Let me explain the rest of the plot this way… For nearly 20 years, The Blues Brothers held the record for the most cars crashed in a single movie (the record was broken by the uninspired 1998 sequel, Blues Brothers 2000).

Our Lady of Blessed Acceleration, don’t fail me now!

This plot might sound simple, but the heresies committed herein against the Religion of Woke are almost too many to count…

I’ll do my best.

  1. A movie based entirely on cultural appropriation…

Jake and Elwood Blues are walking, talking, living, breathing sins of cultural appropriation — white guys who sing the blues. Woke heads would explode 20 minutes into this thing. But allow me to say this…

Cultural appropriation is, by any objective and moral measure, a good thing — a very good thing. The whole idea of America is culture appropriation or “out of many one” — which is our national motto (e pluribus unum). We should all be grabbing hold of the best from everyone else’s culture. On top of laughing at ourselves, cultural appropriation bridges differences and bring us together…

To keep us divided, however, the Hitler Youth of Woke have turned a moral and unifying thing into a sin.

  1. Faith in God and America…

There’s no irony or anything tongue-in-cheek about Jake and Elwood’s mission. While Aykroyd’s dry recitation of “We’re on a mission from God” is hilarious, the brothers truly believe this and, most importantly, so does the movie. Belushi is literally hit with the Holy Spirit in a Christian church (how could he not with James Brown preaching?).

Yes. Yes. Jesus H. tap-dancing Christ… I have seen the light!

And it is also during this moment where Elwood — and again without irony — expresses his love for America.

Reverend Cleophus James [Brown]: Praise God!

Elwood: And God bless the United States of America.

  1. Government is the villain…

Our heroes are out to save a Christian institution from being closed down by the government over property taxes.

  1. The glory of “insensitivity” reigns supreme…

There are fat jokes, sex slave jokes, and at one point, Jake impersonates an Arab trader. Ray Charles repeatedly fires a gun at a kid, Carrie Fisher looks sexy as hell posing with an assault rifle, women run around in bikinis, and people look cool smoking cigarettes.

  1. So much glorious “sexism”…

Carrie Fisher plays a crazed stalker, Aretha Franklin is a nagging wife, Twiggy is left outside a cheap motel waiting for Elwood…

That’s it. That’s all the women are allowed to do.

  1. Nazis played for laughs…

The Nazis, or to be more precise, the “Illinois Nazis” (led by the great Henry Gibson), are played entirely for laughs. This, of course, is the smartest and most effective way to marginalize Nazis — you turn them into a joke. But if this were done today, the cries of That’s not funny! would never cease.

Oh, and there’s even a gay Nazi.

I’ve always loved you.

And now we come to the movie’s most unforgivable act of Woke Heresy….

  1. Race is never mentioned… Not even once.

Although this is a movie populated with black and white characters and premised on the blues, never once is race raised as an issue. The Nazis aren’t even motivated by race. They’re just angry at the Blues Brothers for driving them off a bridge. The “rednecks” aren’t motivated by race. They’re angry over having their gig stolen. A centerpiece scene takes place in a honkytonk. Race is never mentioned.

Elwood: What kind of music do you usually have here?

Claire: Oh, we got both kinds. We got country and western.

Throughout, we see blacks and whites sing, dance, argue, joke, travel, and perform together, all in a spirit of brotherhood.

This is deliberate, one of the overriding themes of the movie, one Elwood dares to speak out loud when he tells a massive crowd of people from all walks of life:

We do sincerely hope that you all enjoy the show and please remember people, that no matter who you are and what you do to live, thrive, and survive, there are still some things that make us all the same: You, me, them! Everybody! Everybody!

Like Animal House, and despite its R-rating (only for the occasional F-word), The Blues Brothers is ultimately a very moral movie. This is a story about redemption, brotherhood, recognizing our shared humanity, ignoring skin color, thumbing your nose at authority, accepting responsibility, the futility of grudges, and pursuing a cause greater than self.

And because of all that, because of all that goodness and good humor and colorblindness and ennobling of the human spirit, The Blues Brothers could never get made today — at least not without everyone involved getting blacklisted by today’s Woke Nazis.

Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC. Follow his Facebook Page here.

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