Groucho, Chico, Harpo, Zeppo and Karl

A bunch of us were trying to watch Duck Soup last night as a guy provided unsolicited Marxist subtextual analysis. It was quite illuminating. For example, I had never realized that Edgar Kennedy, selling his  lemonade, represented Capital while Harpo, the peanut vendor (or El Manicero, badly whistled), was Labor. Their struggle was represented brilliantly by the metaphor of the burning straw hat and even more so by Edgar Kennedy pushing over the peanut vendor’s cart and then Harpo dancing in his lemonade. It’s so obvious, he said, which made me feel so clueless as I’d always thought it was just really funny.. The mirror scene was also a metaphor of class struggle. And the whole motorcycle and sidecar thing. I bet you never knew this. The primary theme of the film, however, was how Big Capital and the duped American working class embraced isolationism instead of entering WW2. When Groucho tricked Ambassador Trentino into calling him an upstart and  declaring war he was trying to tell the American public that it was time to confront their anti-Semitism and enter the struggle against Hitler. All this was particularly prescient in that WW2 was not happening at the time, nor, indeed, was Hitler even in power when the screenplay was written. This was pointed out and while the narrator agreed that such was the case, it only proved his point. Continue reading