Film & TV

‘We Need Bullies’: Chris Rock Speaks Truth to Weakness in Tamborine

(Netflix via YouTube)
And be faithful in your marriage, and reject pornography.

Who said it: G. K. Chesterton, John Wayne, or Jordan Peterson? “We need bullies. Pressure makes diamonds. Not hugs. Hug a piece of coal and see what you get. You get a dirty shirt.”

Buzzer sound. The answer is none of the above. Chris Rock said it, on his new Netflix special Tamborine. Rock isn’t a political conservative, and I doubt he’s ever voted Republican in his life. But in his one-hour standup routine he articulates a vision in which the harsh facts of existence are to be welcomed rather than bubble-wrapped, sexual morality is the core of a successful marriage, and men acknowledge their special burden to toil for others. Take out the “mother*****r”s, of which there are many, and you could almost be listening to an unusually sharp-witted pastor.

Near the outset, Rock recalls attending a high-school orientation session for one of his daughters that promoted the kind of touchy-feely wish-based thinking that infects education these days. Noting that the kids were told, “You can be anything you want to be,” he thought, “Why are you lying to these children? Maybe four of then can be anything they want to be. But the other 2,000 better learn how to weld.” He imagines a more truth-based approach to pedagogy: “You can be anything you’re good at, as long as they’re hiring. And even then it helps to know somebody.”

Rock doesn’t like it when kids fail to observe property courtesy with their elders (when they tell him, “Hey, good work, Chris, really funny, Chris,” his thought is, “It’s Mr. Rock, b***h!”), and he thinks schools have gone entirely too soft. A zero-tolerance policy for bullies? Please. When he heard about that, “Right then I wanted to take my daughter right out the school.#…#School is supposed to prepare you for life. Life has a**holes and you should learn how to deal with them as soon as possible.” Rock’s snowflake policy sounds a bit like Colonel Jessup in A Few Good Men, or Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Full Metal Jacket.

“One of the problems with the world is we got too many people telling their kids how special they are,” Rock says, building up to a riff that is perhaps the high point of the entire hour:

We need bullies. How the f*** you gonna have a
school without bullies? Bullies do half the work.
Teachers do one half, bullies do the whole other half.
And that’s the half you’re gonna use if you’re a
f***ing grownup. Who gives a f*** if you can
code if you cry because your boss doesn’t say ‘Hi’?
You think people were nice to Bill Gates in high
school? “Hey, Gates, you Charlie Brown–looking
motherf***er!”

A little ostracism, Rock finds, can be a good thing: “That’s why there’s so many fat kids in school right now — because there’s nobody to take their lunch money.”

Rock has previously been guarded about his 2016 divorce, from his wife Malaak Compton-Rock, which was caused by his own admitted infidelity. He speaks at length about his regrets here, making a plea to put commitment first and forget about the self-actualization: “I’m talking from hell, you don’t want this s***. You got somebody you love, hold tight. That’s right, hold f***ing tight. Commit.” Being a voracious consumer of pornography didn’t help him bond with his wife either. “I was addicted to porn,” he says. “I was 15 minutes late everywhere.” When he speaks about the destructiveness of porn he sounds like Ross Douthat. “When you watch too much porn, you know what happens? You become like sexually autistic.” You develop problems relating to real people. You can no longer handle eye contact or verbal cues. “You get desensitized,” he says. “When you start watching porn, it’s like any porn’ll do. It’s like, ‘Ahh, they’re naked. Whoo-hoo!’” After far too much of this, only gratification of an extremely specific fetish would bring satisfaction.

The world is harsh, so expect no favors from it.

Repackaged, Rock’s set could actually make for a Peterson-style self help guide — Rock’s Rules for Life. The world is harsh, so expect no favors from it. Be faithful and committed in your marriage. Reject porn. And if you’re a man, be one. Take responsibility. “I brought this s*** on myself,” Rock says. “You gotta learn some lessons, some man lessons.#…#There’s a coldness you have to accept when you’re a man, especially a black man.” Rock thinks “only women, children, and dogs are loved unconditionally,” whereas “a man is only loved under the condition that he provide something. I’ve never heard a woman in my life say, ‘You know, after he got laid off, we got so much closer.’” After all, when a man meets someone new, his friends ask, “What does she look like?” When a woman meets someone new, her friends ask, “What does he do?”

The value of a man is tied up in his work, Rock says: “What the f*** does that n****r do that can help you out? Can this m**********r facilitate a dream or not?” The advice to men is sound: Think less about your grievances, think more about providing for others.

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