Nathan Rabin is…The Time-Warped TV Recapper: Episode VI, The Cape’s “Goggles And Hicks”
Four years ago, pop culture writer Nathan Rabin fell down at a Phish show and contracted a bizarre medical condition that forces the sufferer to perceive every television show they encounter as a new and miraculous phenomenon sweeping the world. Random Nerds then decided to callously exploit this unfortunate and totally real medical condition by forcing him to watch every episode of The Cape, followed by an episode-by-episode jaunt through Baywatch Nights.
Ladies and gentlemen, I just came back from one of the most transcendent and transformative experiences of my life. I was in the heart of Palm City alongside thousands of other people whose lives revolved around a mysterious hero of the night known only as The Cape, and inhabited by the restless spirit of disgraced former cop Vince Faraday.
We all stood united in the pounding rain at a political rally like none either. Here we were, the people united, angrily demanding that The Cape, a fictional superhero from a fictional television show, run for President of the United States with the specific purpose of making America great again.
Speech after fiery speech was delivered, as people from across the political spectrum, including Noam Chomsky, James Woods, Jesse “The Mind” Ventura, and the ghost of Lyndon LaRouche all implored The Cape to run for political office. They proposed a conspiracy theory as provocative as it was unassailably true: that Republican front-runner “Donald Trump” was nothing more than yet another psychotic alter-ego of all-powerful Palm City businessman Peter Fleming, A.K.A. super-villain Chess, A.K.A. Donald Trump.
Observe: in “Goggles and Hicks”, the sixth episode of the reality television program about The Cape’s first season, Peter Fleming utters Trump’s famous catchphrase, “You’re fired!” This is a phrase that did not even exist until Trump invented and copyrighted the notion of relieving someone of their employment and informing them of their new status in the world of unemployment!
The masses writhed in unison, apoplectic at the current state of affairs and desperate for a messiah to emerge from the fog-enshrouded mist to save us from ourselves, our corruption, and our intense, insatiable spiritual longing for a way out of the quagmire of contemporary existence. The screaming intensity reached a fever pitch as The Cape prepared to mount the stage and suddenly everyone and everything vanished and I was left alone with myself, naked and shivering in the woods by my home, blood smeared across my distorted visage. I realized that everything I imagined I was experiencing was actually an elaborate hallucination brought upon by the powerful, potentially deadly combination of drugs, spirits, and mood-enhancers I weekly imbibe to get myself into an appropriately “spiritual” state of mind before I commune with another episode of The Cape.
It’s appropriate that my peyote-ravaged mind would have difficulty delineating between the hyper-reality of the fictional world of The Cape and the real world outside it, since the inhabitants of The Cape seem to have a devil of a time separating comic book fiction from reality as well.
In “Goggles And Hicks”, for example, real-world super-villain Peter Fleming tells Goggles (character actor Pruitt Taylor Vince, the living embodiment of “hulking”), part of an international assassination duo, that he wants him and his associate “Hicks” to kill The Cape. To which Goggles all too calmly retorts, “It’s a comic book. It’s not real.”
Chess is unsurprised and oddly non-discouraged by Goggles’ assertion, and simply informs him to kill him and take his cape. Fleming also wants to meet Hicks, only to be told, “The only people [Hicks] meets, he kills.”
I don’t know about you, but I suspect we all have a friend like that, who consistently sabotages themselves, personally and professionally, by killing everyone they meet. I know a lovely girl, for example, who’s smart and funny and cute and interesting, and a little neurotic, sure, but she simply cannot hold onto a partner because every time you ask about a new boyfriend she’s always all, “Things started off really well but since I met him I had to kill him so I broke his neck in the back of a taxi and buried his corpse in a field.”
Thankfully for Hicks, he is a professional assassin by trade, so his predilection for killing everyone he meets actually gives him a distinct professional advantage. Goggles, who gets his nickname by virtue of the glasses he wears (let it never be said that The Cape is not a slave to literal-minded thinking), is intrigued about the prospect of killing a fictional character, or someone playing a fictional character in real life, or maybe a character who blurs the real and the fictional in mind-blowing ways.
Goggles is that rarest and most wondrous modern creation: the geek in a work of genre entertainment who is a fan of that same form of genre entertainment and consequently understands the rules and conventions of the genre in a meta-textual, theoretically “fun” kind of way. In this case, Goggles spends a lot of time eating sugary food, not exercising, and talking either to himself or his one friend in the universe (Hicks), who happens to be a psychotic creep. In this respect, The Cape’s depiction of the geek lifestyle feels psychologically accurate.
Meanwhile, someone has tricked The Cape into thinking Scales wants to meet with him. The Cape quickly learns otherwise, but nevertheless feels compelled to quip of the church where they’re meeting, “If you’re praying for your sins I can come back in four or five years.”
I immediately recognized this zinger from the hilarious Comedy Central special from a few years back, The Cape Roasts Minor Villains.
A few years back, the Cape joined forces with Greg Giraldo and Lisa Lampanelli and cooked up some outrageous roast jokes for Scales. There’s that five-years-to-confess-sins line, which is funny because Scales has not led a godly existence, and would be in a position where he’d have to confess for years at a time! Also, when Scales refers to saving his skin, The Cape replies, “Skin? Now that’s using the term very loosely, Scales!” Now, I know that reference is hilarious, but Scales seems to be afflicted with a terrible skin condition and it is problematic at best for a “hero” to mock someone appearance that way. It’s ablist, creepy, mean-spirited and just cruel. True, The Cape refrains from recycling some of the other zingers he indulged in on The Cape Roasts Minor Villains, like, “He calls himself Scales, but we know him by another name: Fails!” but it still seems unbecoming for an ostensible hero to be so nasty with a zinger.
The character of Goggles allows for a certain element of meta-commentary and post-modernism to sneak in. It’s telling that Goggles is initially pretty excited about being asked to kill a real life superhero. But his enthusiasm fades pretty quickly, and it doesn’t take long for him to be bored both by the demands of hunting the real-world Cape and the mythology of the fictional The Cape. The show finally introduces a geeky character to be the audience surrogate and he seems pretty over The Cape not long after he’s introduced to it.
For his part, The Cape contemplates a new idea in this episode: taking time off.
After months and months of non-stop cape tricks and cape heroics, he decides he should take a day off. But it soon becomes apparent that neither he nor the show has any idea how human beings behave when they aren’t trying to clear their name by being a make-pretend superhero, killing a man taking on the mantle of a make-pretend superhero, or being an ally to a make-pretend superhero.
So what The Cape/Vince Faraday does on his day off is lurk around stalking his son, who reminds me of my late colleague Anderson Jones’ comment that seeing children in movies made him realize that he hated child actors as well as plain old children. I’m not saying that the main child actor in The Cape is bad enough to inspire hatred of real-life children, but I also can’t see him inspiring a lot of viewers to want to reproduce.
“Goggles And Hicks” ends on an open, ambiguous note, with no less than four villains still in play: Chess, Goggles, Hicks and Scales. True, the union of convenience between Goggles and Hicks and Chess ended when Chess uttered the immortal words, “You’re fired”, but I can’t imagine we’ve seen the last of this rogue’s gallery of poorly thought-out, one-note minor villains. I can never envision delighted audiences uttering the words “You’re fired” to either The Cape or its dashing hero.
At the risk of getting all Nostradamus on you, The Cape’s popularity will outlast everything, including the end of civilization. In the possibility of a thermonuclear attack, the only things guaranteed to survive would be cockroaches, BuzzFeed, and The Cape (hence the show’s hashtag of solidarity, #sixmilleniaandamovie).
Long may it run.
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