Following the results of the 2016 presidential election, the term “Fascism” is on pace to be Merriam-Webster’s “Word of the Year,” based on volume of searches. (For the record, the dictionary defines the word as “a political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts nation and often race above the individual.”)
The word has been on the tips of Americans’ tongues for weeks now, as both sides of the political aisle prepare for the reality of the next four years. Ahead of the season finale of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown—which features the host traveling to Italy, the birthplace of Fascism and Benito Mussolini—the chef penned an essay for CNN.com that seemed to comment on the world’s current political climate.
Drawing inspiration from Bernardo Bertolucci's The Conformist—a film that follows a young nationalist as he sets out to kill his former, anti-fascist professor in 1938—Bourdain makes an interesting case for history continuing to repeat itself. Ultimately Bourdain and Italian actress Asia Argento work out the chef's feelings on the subject together.
Near the end, the brilliant and always honest Asia Argento says, "So you're saying there's a little fascist inside you?" Yes. Thinking about it now, I am saying that.
And to some extent, that's what this episode is about: the urge, the impulse, for ordinary people, even ones surrounded by beauty, to want a leader, a man on a horse, to come down from on high and make everything better. Someone/anyone who will say with a firm voice, "Listen to me! I know what I'm doing!"
That things have historically seldom if ever worked out in the wake of such promises is almost beside the point.
Remind you of anyone?