Matt Damon Still Doesn’t Know Why He’s Like “That” In TEAM AMERICA

Luckily, someone he knows quite well has the answer!

There are two things I have in common with Matt Damon. One is a long-standing and unwavering dedication to Ben Affleck, and the other is the fact that when I first saw Team America: World Police in 2004 I had no idea why he was depicted as what is now politely referred to as "intellectually disabled" (if you promise to whisper, you could also say "retarded"). If memory serves, the Damon puppet only utters his own name in a caveman like drawl throughout the movie, and while Trey Parker and Matt Stone have never shied away from mocking celebrities, that one seemed a bit odd - at that time it was usually his buddy Ben who got the butt of such cheap shots. 

But one thing we do NOT have in common is our ability to remember the actual reason for his depiction in the film. I got my answer pretty quickly, because in early 2005 - only about three months after the film's lackluster box office run - Matt Stone explained that their puppet design was fine but it came out of the oven looking, well, like THAT. And they didn't have time to change it, so despite the fact that they were fans of the actor and presumably had a different use for him in the script, they opted to just go with it. Since they sometimes write their South Park jokes the day the show is aired, I am willing to believe if anyone can shrug and rework parts of a script quickly - despite the complications that would ensue on an animated project - it's Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

Like the three seashells (which Sly explained while promoting Rocky Balboa, also in an online Q&A), it's one of those things that people wonder about but apparently never take the time to look up, because the answer isn't exactly hard to find. At least, it wasn't for me - Matt Damon apparently never heard the answer, because in a recent Reddit AMA for Jason Bourne*, he was asked about it and replied: “When I saw myself on screen just only able to say my own name and not really that well, I kind of wondered, ‘Wow, is that how people perceive me?’ At that point I just kind of was like, ‘I’m a screenwriter and an actor, and like really? I can barely say my own name?'” But before anyone gets any idea he's some jerk who hated the film, he quickly added that Parker and Stone are “geniuses, and I don’t use that word lightly. I think they are absolute geniuses, and what they’ve done is awesome and I’m a big fan of theirs, but I never quite understood that one.”

I mean, the movie is twelve years old at this point; it seems he could have found out by now, right?  Turns out he did. Apparently, he should have consulted the Matt Damon who participated in a Reddit AMA in 2014, because THAT one had already been informed of the reason, saying “I heard an interview with them and they said the puppet came in looking kind of mentally deficient and they didn’t have time to change it, so they just made me someone who could really only say his own name. Also, I liked being included as a person who was against the Iraq war.”

Now we have two jokes to make! One is that we could assume he's REALLY getting into his role as an amnesiac. The other is that he's possibly intellectually disabled. And so are you if you have yet to see this masterpiece, which offers up a world only slightly less cartoonish than the one we actually live in right now. In Team America's world, tabloid celebrities challenge the way things are run; here they run for President and will probably try to institute something like the World Police, who will gleefully destroy more than the terrorists would have and claim victory. The film's villain, Kim Jong-il, is no longer running things (or alive), but his son Kim Jong-un is, if anything, more worthy of lampooning (and even more dangerous, according to one of his father's ex-bodyguards), so in some ways watching the movie now might make you nostalgic for the relatively saner times of 2004. And really, the only reason I'm writing this up at all is to plug the movie - if you've never seen it you should fix that immediately, and if you HAVE now's a great time to revisit. Even the Michael Bay song is funnier now than it was then - this was before Transformers movies! In 2004 he was still kind of dependable! Now I too wonder why he keeps getting to make movies. Oh, right, because they make more on opening day than Team America made in its lifetime. 

*Which I have taken to referring to as The Bourne Appellation to keep with the Ludlum-ian naming pattern of the series.