everybody should read


Freddie deBoer used to blog at lhote.blogspot.com, and may again someday. Now he blogs here.

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19 Responses

  1. Tony Sifert says:

    In a cultural context, I think he makes one small omission (if you can call it that), though – the argument over marriage. I think most of the conservatives he interviewed–those with Pajamas Media, at least–are generally in favor of same-sex marriage (you could also add National Review’s Rob Long). Like Conor himself, they’re the kind of conservative that isn’t the most controversial kind – like the technician he interviews says, they’re not “hardcore social conservatives.” That could have used a little more development.Report

  2. Trumwill says:

    I’m not sure how much I agree with you on the “essential elements of the arts”. I think that there is intrinsically liberal art and intrinsically conservative art. The former is that which questions authority, questions the status quo, points out the nuance and shades of gray that exist everywhere around us. The latter are stuggles of good against evil, the defense of purity, and so on. That’s not to say that the left cannot appreciate good and evil and the right nuance and change, but I think those are the basic orientations.

    After 9/11, there was a huge opening for conservative entertainment. Going after the terrorists and whatnot. America being good and others being evil. Very little of it made it into entertainment. There was always the need to hedge, such as in 24 when more often than not the true villain turned out to be the white guy in suits. That’s sort of clever the first time around, but it’s become remarkably predictable. Cop shows (shows wherein conservative themes are most natural) hedge with subplots about gay cops and hate crimes and so on. Meanwhile, liberal entertainment rarely hedges. Stories about the evils of government and/or corporations turn out to be about the evils of government and/or corporations. Boston Legal almost never effectively presented two sides of the story. No one felt the need to hedge the liberalism. Even shows that are ostensibly about different points of view rarely contain articulate conservatives.

    By and large, this works for me. I find nuanced stories to be far more interesting than good vs evil struggles. And there is very little that sounds less interesting to me than a “conservative response” to Boston Legal or West Wing. But there is definitely a lopsidedness that transcends artistic sensibilities. So in that sense I wish conservative writers well… and sincerely hope that they take the advice in the AFF piece.Report

  3. Sam M says:

    I remember when I first started teaching composition at a university. We were told to use a textbook compiled by Joyce Carol Oates. In the intro, she said something to the effect of, “art must never comfort,” or some such.

    I’m not so sure. From the essays compiled therein, I gather that she meant that art must somehow confront. It must rile people up and make them rethink things. But must it really do that? When my mom, who is close to 70, goes out looking for art to hang in our house, does she really have to select a Robert Maplethorpe photo? Because we didn’t have any of those. We had that one of the pope and JFK “Sowing the Seeds of Peace.” And lots of florals that she thought was pretty.

    Did that not count as art, because there was no bullwhip?Report

  4. Will Wilson says:

    Yes, because we all know that conservatives hate (in ascending order) new things, shaking things up, and drugs. Oh, and you forgot puppies, kittens, and joy.

    Wait, what? Are you making the mistake of believing that “Oakeshottian Conservative” is synonymous with “Conservative”? Also, not all art, and not even all movies, are a celebration of physical pleasure. Some are a condemnation of physical pleasure. Maybe I’m missing something big, but this currently makes no sense to me.Report

    • Freddie in reply to Will Wilson says:

      Don’t be facile, or obtuse, and it will unfold before you like the opening petals of a delicate flower.Report

    • Freddie in reply to Will Wilson says:

      Seriously though: of course, I’m speaking in broad strokes. There’s no sense in which I intend to say that no conservatives dislike X. But look, do a poll– what ideology is more culturally aligned with new things? With shaking things up? With tolerance to drug use? Bill Buckley tells me that opposition to revolutionary change is a foundational principle of conservatism. I don’t think that anyone, with the necessary caveat that we’re speaking generalities, would question that these things have the ideological inclinations that I have attached to them.

      And, indeed, it’s exactly a preference for these things in movies that is often sold as being toxic to conservatives. If you poke around Big Hollywood for a minute, you’ll find that a lot of people there think Hollywood is repellent to conservatives by virtue of being too friendly to drugs, sex, the abandonment of tradition, and so on.Report

  5. Sam M says:

    “Bill Buckley tells me that opposition to revolutionary change is a foundational principle of conservatism. ”

    You mean the same Bill Buckley who, as an undergrad, poked his thumb in the eye of Yale University (an old-line traditional institution at the time) with a raucous best-selling book?

    The same Bill Buckley who riled up the media establishment with a raucous, irreverent magazine?

    The same buckley who ran an absolutely bizarre campaign to be mayor of New York, promising to overturn the entire establishment along the way?

    The same guy who threatened to “sock” Gore Vidal in the “goddamn face” on national television?

    I remember being in college. A bunch of dudes from National Review came to speak. Not Buckley, mind you. But I seem to recall someone showing up to the afterparty with a garbage bag full of marijuana.

    At any rate, though. Sure. Buckley was a renegade. But he wasn’t a Hollywood renegade. He did write a bunch of novels, though. Not sure where that puts us. But clearly, respect for “institutions” was not a hallmark of his career. He hated institutions, like the media establishment, the academic establishment, the political establishment, and, at least on one day, Gore Vidal.Report

  6. Freddie says:

    I think what I want to say, to Will in particular but just in general, is that it’s precisely the people who complain about there being no conservative movies or filmmakers who are defining conservatism in a narrow, restrictive way. When they say they want conservative movies, they mean, like Veggietales. And they say so. If I’m guilty of restricting what it means for a movie to be conservative, I’m only doing so in the sense that most people who ask for conservative movies do themselves.Report

  7. E.D. Kain says:

    Mel Gibson has made some fine conservative movies (and some not-so-fine ones). Apocalypto, for instance.

    I think also one has to consider the fact that preservation of art itself is a form of conservatism. Art and tradition. A “sense of loss” or a lost time is featured in a great deal of film, literature, and art. Almost all science fiction harbors a deep distrust of change and of tyranny.

    I don’t know. It just seems to me that in the end art can be created regardless of political views, and regardless of whether or not someone is consciously thinking of those views. Tolkien’s work certainly took into account his deeply conservative beliefs, but he wasn’t out to make overt political statements with it either.

    Beyond this, I think that artists have always had a bit of the anarchist in them, out of necessity, and when it all comes down the circumstances of Hollywood’s liberalism are more incidental than anything else – a counter-reaction to things like the Hays Code and McCarthyism and so forth.

    I imagine an industry in a nation that had remained far more free in its practice of speech and political affiliation than ours did in its darker days would not have a film industry that became such a bastion for those who needed to find safe-harbor there, and would be a bit more diverse politically today.Report

    • Ryan in reply to E.D. Kain says:

      It also depends on what you mean by “conservative”. Judd Apatow’s movies, for instance, are deeply conservative. So are most of Kubrick’s, when you get right down to it.

      In defense of Freddie, though, these are not the kinds of “conservative” that are usually intended by the people doing the complaining, who really just want a lot more Passion of the Christ and Red Dawn.Report

      • E.D. Kain in reply to Ryan says:

        Red Dawn. I remember as a kid I had a very vibrant imagination. I’d always image that we’d be invaded and that my friends and I would have to hide out on the mountain and fight a guerrilla war against the enemy. I wonder how many young men and boys across the world have similar heroic fantasies – how many of these young men and boys are living them out now in the mountains of Afghanistan or elsewhere.Report

  8. Trumwill says:

    Freddie’s point about the way that conservatives restrict themselves is brilliant. A film that largely and forcefully condemns sexual promiscuity by way of showing its adverse effects would be decried as too sexually explicit. There are so many areas that many of the conservative tut-tutters would forbid a conservative production company from going seriously hinders art. It would be as if the left said it wanted some good anti-war films but anything that actually shows war would be wrong because war is wrong and anything that builds up the best pro-war arguments to knock them down is unacceptable because it builds up pro-war arguments. None of these are problems on the left but they are problems on the contemporary (social) right.Report

  9. Petellius says:

    I agree with a large part of what you (and several of the commenters above) say about the way that contemporary conservatives limit/censor their way out of producing truly substantive art, in favor of lame “Veggie Tales”-like schlock.

    But this:

    “The fact that the arts are a bastion of liberalism isn’t some historical accident, but rather a consequence of certain essential elements of art and the artistic temperament– a preference for the new, the desire to shake the establishment, the elevation of physical and aesthetic pleasure, the studied outsiders air that is apolitical policy-wise but in tension with the conservative regard for the family.”

    is nonsense.

    Shorter Freddie: “Art did not exist before Byron.” *eyeroll*Report

  10. sam says:

    The problem I have with the guys at Big Hollywood is that I’m convinced that if they got a call from Steven Speilberg to come work for him, they’d cream their jeans.Report