“The age of the playboy began to slip away in the 1960s when everyone started dressing as if they were affiliated with Three Dog Night, and people felt it worthwhile to contribute something to society. That just wrecked everything. Things got worse when the entire planet started exercising, watching their weight, ditching nicotine, wearing belted shorts, reading books by Thomas L. Friedman. It has reached unimaginably hideous depths in the age of the gated community, the speed dater, the Charlie Sheen victory tour, and the virtual dink.“—Joe Queenan, “Requiem for a Dream,” The Weekly Standard, August 8, 2011 (subscription required to read full article)
Joe Queenan, normally a hawkeye when it comes to cultural trends, has discerned most of the reasons for the decline of the playboy. But, I’m sorry to say, his text missed an obvious one, even though, inexplicably, his subtitle—“The International Man of Mystery Ain‘t What He Used to Be”—implied it.
I’m not talking about the hopeless love for Annette Bening and their four kids that have sidelined Warren Beatty (from the looks of it, probably permanently). Nor am I talking, as Queenan did in his opening paragraph, about the creeping decrepitude that has left Hugh Hefner one step away from the fate of J. Howard Marshall II, the nonagenarian oil man who, in his last pathetic days, became the would-be sugar daddy of Anna Nicole Smith.
No, I’m talking, of course (as you might have guessed from the photo accompanying this post), about Austin Powers’ disappearing mojo.
Mojo, I don’t have to tell you, can get you out of all kinds of jams. Mojo enables you to be an International Man of Mystery with a Carnaby Street wardrobe instead of a monochromatically dressed, middle-aged burnt-out “Circus” case from some John le Carre novel. And it gives you savoir faire to spare, which comes in pretty handy when you’re swinging on a very long but perilously thin rope of dental floss, with Elizabeth Hurley clinging to your neck for dear life.
But by the time of the third installment of the franchise, Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002), the thrill was gone. The plot resolution of Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me to the contrary, it was obvious that Dr. Evil had indeed succeeded in stealing Austin’s mojo after all.
So flaccid was Goldmember that the secret agent has not been seen in nine years, a near-decade in which not only the enemies of the free world ran amok abroad, but also the world monetary system was threatened (make that is threatened) with mass collapse. It’s as if Inspector Dreyfus of The Pink Panther Strikes Again had not only succeeded in obtaining a nuclear device that would allow him to get his hands on his longtime tormenter, Chief Inspector Clouseau, but had also managed to hook up with Goldfinger to do a whammy on the global economy. Were I Beyonce, I’d harangue my manager about why he had placed me with this turkey.
(Oh, wait: Until recently, Beyonce’s manager was her father. Never mind!…)
Now comes word that Austin Powers will be returning for another installment of the franchise, in Thunderballs (though it‘s unclear whether he‘ll be back in 2012 or 2013). Where was he when we needed him?
Undoubtedly, the dentally challenged one was so ashamed of losing his mojo for so long that he couldn’t bear to be around any fembots. It looks as if he may yet be in time to save the world, but I doubt if even his most "Oh, behave!" smile can stem the tide running against his own playboy species...
I Have to Ask: The Zoë Heller Edition
1 hour ago