When Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Team America: World Police came out in 2004, critics didn’t quite know what to make of it. With its bashing of liberalism, celebrities, and puppet sex, some believed it was an act of juvenile rebellion with little more to say than “fuck the establishment.” Today, it stands as a cult classic for those who grew up in the Bush era, and people my age can sing all the words to its anthem, “America – Fuck Yeah.” But there’s one part of Team America we should all be thankful for – its portrayal of actor Matt Damon.
Upon making Team America’s puppets, Parker and Stone noticed that the mold of Damon’s head hadn’t come out right, and made him look mentally challenged – as a result, the only words Damon says in the film are his own name. Parker, voicing the Good Will Hunting star, utters his name in a hysterical drawl that lovers of the film still mimic to this day. Like the rest of Team America, it is tasteless, offensive, and hilariously stupid. It is also my favorite version of Matt Damon ever.
Now, some may say that their favorite Damon is as Will Hunting, the main character of the movie that made him famous. Others will say their favorite Damon is the amnesiac spy from The Bourne Identity trilogy (what last two movies?) Those are fine, but here’s the thing – watching Damon in those movies, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that when he’s not acting, he says really stupid shit. Like this quote when he expressed dissatisfaction with Barack Obama for not doing everything he wanted him to do:
“He broke up with me…Jimmy Carter came out and said we don’t live in a democracy…[Obama’s] got some explaining to do, particularly for a constitutional law professor.”
Or this quote about diversity, spoken to black female producer Effie Brown in the fourth season of HBO’s Project Greenlight:
“When you’re talking about diversity, you do it in the casting of the film, not the casting of the show [meaning crew people on set.]”
Or this quote about gay actors staying in the closet:
“In terms of actors, I think you’re a better actor the less people know about you, period…Whether you’re straight or gay, people shouldn’t know anything about your sexuality because that’s one of the mysteries that you should be able to play.”
To paraphrase Stephen Colbert on Mitt Romney, there’s a reason Damon loves putting his foot in his mouth – it’s made of candy!
Damon has apologized for saying most of this dumb shit, but his remarks this past week on Hollywood’s epidemic of sexual assault win the award for Stupidest Things Ever Said by Matt Damon. The first came in a Rolling Stone interview last weekend, where he expounded upon the subject, claiming there is “a spectrum” of sexual assault with a “continuum” of what counts as rape and what doesn’t.
Damon presents this thought like it’s something that nobody has ever said before, when it isn’t. A quick Google search can bring up plenty of articles, PDFs, and presentations by women about this very subject. And as a white dude, he’d do better to shut up and listen to women about this subject rather than offer Matt Damon-esque opinions. He would do well to read the excellent rebuttal to his remarks from his Good Will Hunting co-star, Minnie Driver, which reminds him and all others like him that we don’t get to control this conversation right now.
Problematic though I thought Damon’s initial quotes were, I wasn’t too distracted by them, since I don’t usually write about celebrities who aren’t Susan Sarandon (who’s also satirized in Team America.) Besides, Trump may fire Robert Mueller, and certainly that has more impact on our lives than anything Matt Damon says or does. But last night, Damon did it again:
“We’re in this watershed moment, and it’s great, but I think one thing that’s not being talked about is there are a whole [shit]load of guys — the preponderance of men I’ve worked with — who don’t do this kind of thing and whose lives aren’t going to be affected. If I have to sign a sexual-harassment thing, I don’t care, I’ll sign it. I would have signed it before. I don’t do that, and most of the people I know don’t do that.”
First of all, Matt Damon knows Ben and Casey Affleck — two men accused of various forms of sexual assault and harassment. Second of all, you want a gold star for not harassing women? Have you lowered the bar this much in your mind? How did you get into Harvard? Which brings me back to Team America.
You don’t watch Team America and think about all the dumb shit Matt Damon says because all he says in it is his name – which is the only thing he should say when asked about sexual assault. “Hey Matt, what’s your opinion on sexual assault?” “MAAAAAAATT DAAAAAAAMON.” It works because not only does it make Team America fans happy, it reminds men not to voice their unfiltered opinions on topics they shouldn’t opine on.
And you can’t be offended by Damon’s portrayal in Team America, because it’s not a knock against the developmentally disabled – it’s a knock against Matt Damon. Damon himself isn’t offended by it although he doesn’t quite get it, either. His colleague, George Clooney (who’s not only spoofed in the movie, but who also helped bring Parker and Stone to Hollywood’s attention in the 90s ) even praised it at the time. Sean Penn, who gets eaten by Kim Jong Il’s cats in the climactic action scene, doesn’t think so highly of it, but nobody cares what Sean Penn thinks.
In the time since Damon became a trending topic on Twitter, I have sent out at least 3 GIFs of him in Team America, and will no doubt send out more, since as long as the real Damon keeps saying stupid things, we’ll have his puppet counterpart to put him in his place. As we’re celebrating the things we’re grateful for this holiday season, we should thank Trey Parker and Matt Stone for giving this piece of comedy gold. And so I’m offering this simple phrase to kids from one to ninety-two: though it’s been said many times, many ways, “MAAAAAAATT DAAAAAAAMON.”
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Jeremy Fassler is a writer and journalist living in Brooklyn, New York.