Dissecting the Robin Hood socialist/Randian divide

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Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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62 Responses

  1. Avatar Jivatman
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    says:

    Making political comments is what political pundits do. It’s what you’re doing. The stark division between right and left is an unfortunate effect of a two party system.

    Sometimes movies are intentionally and overtly political. remember Avatar? The writer’s intended morals of the story would not be more obvious if a narrator literally explained them the end.

    Still, I retain my right to argue it was really about property rights and national sovereignty.Report

  2. Avatar North
    Ignored
    says:

    I don’t care how much politics is injected into it. I’m not giving any of my dollars to that lame Robinhood retread.Report

  3. Avatar gregiank
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    says:

    Point 1: Oh lord yes , yes i agree a hundred times.

    Point 2: Your assuming a lot people can tell the difference between the political system then and now.Report

  4. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    Every time a movie has any sort of conservative theme they go all crazy touting it not for its quality, its direction, its acting or story, but for how conservative it is. It’s a damn movie. Please stop bringing politics into everything as the supreme good by which all things – people, art, etc. – should be judged. It’s silly.

    If I may over-analyze this…

    I am a reluctant movie-goer.

    There’s a lot of little reasons conspiring together for this…

    1) Cost. When I was a kid in college, a movie cost about 4 bucks. I was working the counter at a little cafe and we split the tips in the jar at the end of the day which translated to me always having some money in my pocket and a movie was a great way to unwind when you got off work at 5ish after getting to work at 6:30ish. There were weeks that I saw *3* movies in the theater. Now? Well, I’m married. While I might be able to figure out a way to spend 7 or 8 bucks to catch a film were I still single, it now costs me around 25 bucks to see one. There’s me, there’s Maribou, there’s popcorn, there’s a Slurpee, and there’s Junior Mints. The cost of catching a flick has quintupled… which also means that it costs me about the price of a Blu-Ray disc to see a movie in the theater.

    2) Video Games. Until recently, the price of a decent video game was $50 (now it’s $60). A decent video game has anywhere from 10 hours of gameplay for a trifle like Prince of Persia to more than 80 for an epic experience like Dragon Age or Mass Effect or Fallout 3. For the price of two movies, more or less, I get more than twice as much time being entertained and in the cases of the epics, 20 times.

    3) I over-analyze everything. What is the director saying? What are the actors *REALLY* communicating? What moral am I expected to leave the theater with? What is the point of this sermon? This means that, all too often, I’m stuck with a movie that is sweet on the tongue like honey but bitter in the stomach. Like oh-so-many of my friends, you may want to say “Lighten up, Francis! Just turn your brain off and enjoy the ride!” Well, if I wanted to just turn my brain off and enjoy a ride, I’d rather be playing something like Prince of Persia. The story is light and fluffy and engaging and, more to the point, the artists who made the game are having me interact with their artwork. The movie artists just want me to sit back and turn my brain off and absorb it. The game designers want me to notice the joy they put into designing the level by overcoming it.

    All three of those conspire into creating an opportunity cost for seeing a movie. I will have to be challenged by it or entertained by it to a point commensurate with, oh, half of a video game for me to weigh seeing a movie in the theater as worth my time/money.

    And movies with crappy morals and/or incoherent arguments do not come even *CLOSE* to doing that and movies that are just “sit back and enjoy yourself!” kinda movies don’t usually come anywhere *CLOSE* to the level of enjoyment provision that even most mediocre games are capable of providing.

    I have been blessed with a delightful wife and delightful friends and, every now and again, they make me watch a movie that, were I by myself, I would never even consider watching. I love them, of course, and enjoy sitting with them for a couple of hours… but, really, if it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t watch the movie.

    I reckon that many folks out there have similar reasons (if not video games, arguing on the intertubes or golfing or building ships in bottles or whatever) and there is just so much opportunity cost to see a movie that, at the end of the day, calls one “stupid” (I reckon that’s how many conservatives see the message from Hollywood) that one is better off just spending the money on any other number of vices that one may have.

    When a movie comes along and it’s opportunity cost is remarkably low, I tend to tell folks to see it.

    Have you seen Kick-Ass yet? See Kick-Ass.

    I reckon that “this movie is actually conservative!” is a similar signal.Report

  5. Avatar Jay Daniel
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    says:

    Which conservatives “have have loudly cheered the movie for its apparently conservative message”? I’m not arguing or alleging that what you are saying isn’t true. But if you are going to paint with such a broad brush, you should at least link to some examples. I haven’t seen this behavior with respect to Robin Hood, and it would be helpful to link to one or two such conservatives to give your readers a sense of who and what you are criticizing.Report

  6. Avatar sam
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    says:

    Point one: why do conservatives do this? …

    ED, have you ever visited Big Hollywood, the Breitbart “Hollywood is full of Commies” bitch site? From their point of view, any movie that has what they consider a “conservative message”, any movie at all, is seized upon to salve their outrage at leftists in the movies (which outrage would evaporate in nanosecond if someone in Hollywood, preferably Spielberg, would only call and offer a job).Report

  7. Avatar Kaleberg
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    says:

    You’d think the traditional Robin Hood would appeal to modern conservatives. Wasn’t he fighting the cruel environmental laws that protected Sherwood forest and its deer? Wasn’t he anti-tax collector? Wasn’t he big on unfettered bow and arrow ownership and use? Unfortunately, much of the modern right has been captured by Sheriff of Nottingham and Guy of Gisborne types.

    My favorite Robin Hood had an impassioned appeal for peace and understanding between the Normans and the Saxons. This was 1938 and I suppose it really was time for the French and English to bury the hatchet, ideally in the Germans. (The Lord of the Rings dates from that period as well, but it was a more serious tale.) Then again, I loved the movie Samarkhand with brave crusaders bring truth, democracy, and the American way to 11th century central Asia.Report

  8. Avatar trumwill
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    says:

    why do conservatives do this? Every time a movie has any sort of conservative theme they go all crazy touting it not for its quality, its direction, its acting or story, but for how conservative it is.

    I think they latch on to it for the same reason that I am inclined to latch on to television shows or movies that take place in my home city. If I was from New York City or Los Angeles, I wouldn’t care because almost everything takes place in NYC or LA. But when you don’t get to see something that matters to you often, it becomes the most important thing about whatever does show it.

    Conservative politics portrayed in non-derogatory terms is relatively rare in Hollywood. It’s no surprising that it excites conservatives when they see it. Nor is it any surprise that the conservatism is the most important aspect of it.

    I, too, wish conservatives would stop doing it, though. For one thing, it gives conservative art a pass on being, well, lousy. It makes conservative entertainment – what little of it exists – more about appealing to conservative audiences rather than about being good to anyone that doesn’t care that it’s their hometown about the politics or is hostile to the politics involved.

    And ultimately it adds a level of scrutiny to it. Shows like The West Wing and Boston Legal weren’t judged by liberals (solely) on the basis of its liberalism and so they were allowed to be something other than liberal shows. For conservatives to ever have a show with a great Republican president portrayed positively, they need to resist the urge to make it About That.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to trumwill
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      says:

      @trumwill, “Conservative politics portrayed in non-derogatory terms is relatively rare in Hollywood.” Nope, not buying that. There is lot of media out there that is aimed what would roughly be called “conservative” values. There have been roughly a million Dirty Harry or Rambo knock offs. There have been another few thousand Die Hard template movies and tom clancy style flicks.

      Many conservatives want to feel approved of by the mass media in all forms. They seem to need feel vindicated taht they are the only true, good Americans.Report

      • Avatar trumwill in reply to greginak
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        says:

        @greginak, care to name some examples? Even cop, espionage, and military shows take explicit swipes at conservatives and conservative organizations these days.

        Why do you think they latch on to something as ambiguous as Robin Hood? It’s because they have little else to latch on to.Report

        • Avatar greginak in reply to trumwill
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          says:

          @trumwill, Well aside from every chuck norris movie and tv show, and the various permutations of the styles i already mentioned, how about Band of Brothers and The Pacific. I’ve seen BOB a few dozen times and it doesn’t diss conservatives.

          saints and solders a ww2 movie
          fireproof religious con movie
          300 with an extra bonus of it being just about most homo-erotic movie that isn’t actually gay porn
          most new Mel Gibson movies

          hows that for five minutes of thought?Report

          • Avatar Kyle in reply to greginak
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            says:

            @greginak,

            Maybe I’m missing something but this seems like you’re conflating “cowboy” pro-America action films with “non-derogatory portrayals of conservatism.” The false dichotomy here should be readily obvious but either way I think there’s a distinct difference between nationalism and political identity.

            Maybe some people buy into the idea that pro-America machismo is conservative (I’ve met union people, it’s really not) but I’m not one of them and happen to think nationalist themes don’t necessarily have a political charge to them.Report

            • Avatar greginak in reply to Kyle
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              says:

              @Kyle, i don’t particularly disagree. I think when people talk about conservative or liberal content the terms only loosely apply. However i think “cowboy” action films fit pretty well with a lot of the current conservative mythos. Overt nationalism seems a pretty big part of conservative thought nowadays. Not your view, but a lot of others.

              I think the seeming desire of conservatives to find conservative messages in a lot of media is a silly. One reason for that is what you allude to which it that people, well at least most people, like all sorts of flix that don’t necessarily comport with their politics. So the seeming urge by conservatives to “own” some movies seems emblematic of insecurity and bad movie criticism.Report

              • Avatar Kyle in reply to greginak
                Ignored
                says:

                @greginak,

                “they drink the sand because they don’t know the difference.”

                It seems to me that there are two fault lines we’re dancing around. Class and Politics. I think trumwill’s right. When politics/politicians are portrayed positively, the majority of the time they are liberal/democrats. Which is why the majority of the films mentioned in this thread/post that are ‘conservative’ aren’t expressly political films, they’re action/adventure/dramatic films with co-opted political themes. It’s also more scraping the barrel than finding a diamond in the rough.

                That said, I think the quick – if odd – connection between Die Hard and conservatives has zero to do with politics and everything to do with culture because John McClane seems like the kind of guy who would vote Republican, if he votes at all. (Also, he called Zeus, “Jesus” one time because he’s a racist!)

                It seems to me that while cowboy action films might disproportionately appeal to conservatives, neither that fact alone or the cultural markers created specifically to appeal to such an audience doesn’t make a film conservative in any kind of political sense.Report

          • Avatar trumwill in reply to greginak
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            says:

            @greginak, the permutations you refer to are movies they’ve stopped making (Chuck Norris hasn’t released a movie in five years). Two movies you mention (Saints and Soldiers and Fireproof) were put out by religious organizations precisely because it’s the type of movie that Hollywood doesn’t like to make. The movie 300 strikes me, much like Robin Hood, as the kind of movies that conservatives latch on to because they’ve got nothing nothing else. Movies about World War II are generally apolitical and are part of a war we entered into under a liberal president.

            No matter, though. I said “relatively rare.” Maybe I should have added the word “high-profile” in there. The movies that get the budgets and the attentions tend to fall under one of two categories: apolitical and liberal. The exceptions cited are mostly just that: exceptions.

            It’s the general absence of movies with genuinely conservative themes that lead conservatives to want to hijack apolitical movies. Liberals get movies fiercely condemning conservatives and Republicans and they get shows with honorable and a show dedicated to the great workings of a great (fictional) Democratic Administration. Meanwhile,Republicans and conservatives get big productions… about World War II? They can’t even get a good fictional presidency on 24 unless it’s to make way for a spectacularly bad one.

            Does it really strike you as foreign or unreasonable that this might be kind of aggravating to some people?

            To repeat myself into the ground, if there were more genuinely conservative movies with conservative themes out there, conservatives wouldn’t have to grasp at straws to line up behind movies that are not conservative and declare them as their own. They’d be talking about the actual conservative movies. And when they come out and make a splash (as with Passion of Christ), they do. The rest of the time, they grasp at straws.Report

            • Avatar greginak in reply to trumwill
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              says:

              @trumwill, I mentioned Band of Brothers for a reason. Why shouldn’t conservative latch onto that? What isn’t conservative about it? I would actually suggest that because there was a lib prez that actually makes it less okay for conservatives to gush over it. What about The Pacific?

              But as Kyle noted and i agreed with political values don’t always translate straight into movies. What specific ideas or values are you looking for? They are remaking Red Dawn, that should be worth a conservative orgasm or two.Report

              • Avatar trumwill in reply to greginak
                Ignored
                says:

                @greginak,

                What would your response me if Republicans tried to declare any movie about World War II to be conservative in nature? Personally, I would laugh. Then I would be offended at the notion that World War II was something that liberals were against. That may be a reason for a reluctance to declare it quintessentially conservative the same way that they’re trying with Robin Hood.

                For what it’s worth, quick scan of National Review articles on Band of Brothers and The Pacific reveal that they had positive things to say about both. Despite the fact that FDR was in office at the time.

                What specific ideas or values are you looking for?

                Three basic things where Hollywood needs to improve: Characters, plot, and ideas.

                Characters: I would like to see more Republican/conservative protagonists in addition to the many Republican/conservative antagonist and Democratic/liberal protagonists we get. The vast majority of Republican characters exist to be one of three things: comedy relief (Denny Crane, Jack Donaghy) a villain (Rob Ritchie, Charles Logan), a stooge (Brad Chase, Hal Jordan in comic books), or a “reasonable” Republican to contrast to the unreasonable ones (Arnold Vinick, Robert McCallister). And even those that don’t fall into one of those categories often have a notable asterisk of some sort (they were introduced as a villain but became sympathetic, took a liberal stance at a pivotal moment, were on shows where they were outnumbered by liberals several-to-one, etc). I’m sure there are exceptions without asterisks that are not coming to mind, but they’re still exceptions.

                As much as anything, this bothers me as a writer. I take great care in my writing to have sympathetic and unsympathetic characters across the political spectrum. I don’t want to pigeonhole Republicans or Democrats any more than I want to pigeonhole blacks or Latinos. Democrats are somewhat fairly represented good and bad regardless of where they fall on the political spectrum. Republicans aren’t.

                Plot: It gets tiring when TV keeps trotting out the same villains and worse when they keep trying to make it a surprise. Using conservative institutions over and over again (Big Oil, Big Business, National Security apparatus) gets annoying after a while. Using Muslim terrorists as the red herring fails to surprise if you’re generally afraid to use Muslim terrorists as the actual bad guys (24 has done this over and over again). Any show in which you hear about an organization that resembles Blackwater (FlashForward, Leverage, K-Ville, Law & Order), you know they are going to be evil to the core. This is one part bias and two or three parts laziness, but the result is the same for conservative viewers. It may seem like a stretch for the CIA or some similar agency to be the unambiguous good guys, but if they really want to do something different, they should give it a try.

                More than anything, though, I would like to more frequently see a plot where liberal ideas and conservative ideas are put up against one another and the discussion is not totally rigged. Or maybe have the conservative side get the better end of an argument. I don’t at all mind that The West Wing featured a bunch of liberals fighting for liberal causes against stodgy conservatives. I mean, a show about a White House team has to be on one side or the other. But there’s no conservative counterpart. At all. Boston Legal was week-after-week of vindicating the liberal worldview.

                Now, some of these shows lend themselves to more liberal politics. But they manage to make shows that lend themselves to conservative politics (cop shows, military/espionage) and give them a liberal streak. So the result is naturally conservative shows having their conservatism mitigated while naturally liberal shows are free to flap their liberal feathers.

                Ideas: You probably think me a right-winger and I don’t blame you if you do. But take my word for it that there are issues where I am to the left of Obama just as there are issues where I was to the right of Bush. My conservative ideas are constantly being challenged by popular entertainment. My liberal ideas almost never are. Issues I have where I am conflicted (which is a lot of them – strong convictions are not my strong suit) are typically challenged from only one side. I would genuinely like to see a show seriously challenge my opposition to the death penalty or make the case that increased immigration hurts the working poor. I think something is lost when nobody has.

                I can only imagine how aggravating it must be for genuine conservatives. At least for me, Hollywood is sometimes on my side. So in that sense, I can very much understand where bona fide conservatives are coming from in their frustration. As mentioned earlier and elsewhere, I think that their response to this frustration is overwrought and counterproductive and I think that if they got they really wanted it would result in television that I would be utterly uninterested in watching. But I understand the frustration and do think that it would be better if there were more balance. Easier said than done for a number of reasons.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to greginak
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                says:

                What would your response me if Republicans tried to declare any movie about World War II to be conservative in nature?

                That it would be every bit as dumb as calling “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and “Wouldn’t it be Nice” conservative.Report

    • Avatar Kyle in reply to trumwill
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      says:

      @trumwill,

      E.D. I think Trumwill’s right here. Conservatives are excited in part for the same reason why blacks were excited to see Lt. Uhura or Bill Cosby. Identifying with a positive role model.

      I think it’s undeniable that conservatives feel under siege, they feel the drip, drip, sometimes imagined but often real drip of contempt and that gives them both an acute awareness of positive/negative representations in media but also a hypersensitivity to it.

      At the same time, political identity is something more than identity, it’s about values. Seeing someone positively portray a value you think is becoming rarer and rarer is – in my experience – something that most people find noteworthy regardless of where it comes from. That desire to preserve the value in society leads us to celebrate it, to perhaps demonstrate more goodwill towards it than is necessary or even appropriate. It’s not unlike an adult making a spectacle of a polite young child. Whether we’re talking about politeness, tolerance, or conservatism I think the impulse is basically the same.

      I also agree with trumwill’s criticisms of it but go a bit further, the root problem is that this siege mentality is fed by right wing pundits, conservative talk radio, and fear profiteers. This is America not Helm’s Deep, apparently that’s news to people.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Kyle
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        says:

        @Kyle, I agree that conservatives feel under siege and that is eagerly fed by right wing media. I truly wish they felt less oppressed. But it should be obvious that this group that feels oppressed is also in some ways a group that has had quite a bit power and or privilege.

        It is at the same time true and very, very odd to compare the thrill of a black person seeing bill cosby break down a massive barrier pushing against a long history of oppression with that of a majority white person, likely middle class or downright rich, seeing values presented which have been presented oodles of times ( john wayne, etc) , which are considered bedrock American values, after R’s held the presidency for 8 years and for most of the last 30 years.

        Conservatives may feel under siege but i think they are a bit better off then blacks were when bill cosby was kicking butt on I Spy.

        It’s hard not to notice that conservative feelings of oppression seems to ramp up every time they lose power democratically. The election of the guy who looks like Cosby has seemed to correlate with a lot of conservative screaming about how oppressed they are.Report

        • Avatar Kyle in reply to greginak
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          says:

          @greginak,

          This gets a solid yes and no. My main criticism of this is the monolithic way it treats/conflates conservatives and whites.

          I’m not white but I get a little bit excited sometimes when I see a non-liberal in media portrayed as something other than a heartless, self-centered bastard. I appreciated that Alan Alda’s character was far more sympathetic than Governor Ritchie as foils for a Democratic presidential campaign and that has everything to do with seeing people who portray values I like not being evil and nothing to do with a lineage of white privilege that I’m not an heir to.

          The other thing and I think this gets missed in the umbrage wars is that culture in this country is dominated by upper middle class whites who have a social presence that far outstrips their actual numbers.

          The ubiquity of the well-to-do white masks the presence and experience of poor whites who are told in no uncertain terms that because their ancestors weren’t enslaved or denied the use of public facilities by law, they’re the heirs of white privilege in this country and couldn’t have had it that hard anyway because well they were/are white. Think Appalachia, or the rural South. I mean Walmarts aren’t popular in the South because people like the decor enough to buy $2 shirts.

          Don’t get me wrong, I think conservatives by and large feel more oppressed than they are. That said it’d be a mistake not to recognize the way we respond to a monolithic idea of white, male privilege without making the distinction that privilege was not equally distributed.

          That said, I’m not really sure that conservatives felt less oppressed during the Bush years rather than being less vocal about it, for the same reason pro civil liberties and anti-war liberals are distinctly less vocal now than they were 3 years ago.Report

    • Avatar ThatPirateGuy in reply to trumwill
      Ignored
      says:

      @trumwill,

      I’d like to have a list of what conservative points of view should be portrayed positively? Be specific.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to ThatPirateGuy
        Ignored
        says:

        @ThatPirateGuy, out of your list of five things, four of them are not truly conservative but liberal things and the fifth is a code word for racism.Report

        • Avatar ThatPirateGuy in reply to Jaybird
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          says:

          @Jaybird,

          Depends on what the issues are. If it is economic, I just don’t see the market. I certainly don’t see the market for over-regulation unless you are dealing with intentionally corrupt politicians driving the small business man out(which we all know will be at the behest of stereotypically evil Big Business).

          If it is about family values then your very well covered. Unless by family values the conservatives mean that gay people are evil hateful things that should not be.

          If it is about portraying religion in a positive light that is all over the place. Unless people mean that no-one should criticize it in film.

          So I really can’t respond if I don’t know the specific issues.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to ThatPirateGuy
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            says:

            @ThatPirateGuy, I’ll go through my head for a handful of “conservative” movies and see what I come up with.

            Signs, mostly for its treatment of matters of faith.
            The Dark Knight, mostly for its treatment of The War On Terror.
            Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, mostly for its treatment of post-first stage romantic love.
            40-year old Virgin, mostly for its treatment of sex.

            I debated putting Kick-Ass in here, mostly for the promo he cut in front of the 7-11, but there were a lot of things in the movie (treatment of adolescent sexuality, for instance) that are so very un-conservative that I’ll leave it off. I’ll still post this paragraph, however.

            So that’s my 4.Report

            • Avatar ThatPirateGuy in reply to Jaybird
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              says:

              @Jaybird,

              Signs treatment of faith is the stock standard treatment. Usually there are a few kicks at the people who are “getting it wrong” by being intolerant.

              Skeptics and non-believers really do get the short end of the stick in fiction as the monsters are always real and the skeptics made stupid and silly because the writers have to find a way to have them not believe the obvious evidence. Skeptics of religion are always missing the miracle that proves everything real or merely muddies the water enough to make it ambiguous.

              In what sensible way is the dark knight’s theme conservative? First you get the concept of blow-back, then you have the bat-snooping portrayed a giant wrong, yet necessary. Finally you have the criminals overwhelming the warden to stop him from detonating the other boat while the innocent people are debating blowing up the prisoners. Then human goodness wins out on both boats.

              The joker is wrong we weren’t deeply selfish and troubled creatures like him.

              The eternal sunshine of the spotless mind isn’t really conservative or liberal, or any other political ideal.

              The 40-year old virgin wouldn’t work if Steve Carrel’s character weren’t both the butt of the joke and deeply sympathetic due to it being a matter of his bad luck and giving up. If he were preachy about it the audience would have hated the character.

              I Loved kick-ass, can you explain what was so conservative the specific scene?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to ThatPirateGuy
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                says:

                @ThatPirateGuy, I thought Signs was notable in that it was explicitly a Christian religion rather than in some cloudy post-Christian melange of Sensitive New Age Hippie Crap.

                “In what sensible way is the dark knight’s theme conservative?”

                Well, do you see it as an apologia for Bush and PATRIOT in response to an insane villain who wants to watch the world burn?

                There were a ton of folks who did, you see. It got called “conservative” by more folks than me.

                Was that *MY* take on it? Eh… I thought it was more that we were still processing 9/11 rather than excusing excesses in response to it but I am very much a Batman partisan and the movie would have to be Batman Returns or worse to get me to start a spittle-flecked rant and Dark Knight wasn’t even close.

                “The eternal sunshine of the spotless mind isn’t really conservative or liberal, or any other political ideal.” Well, when it comes to, sigh (I hate this term), “family values”, the ending was *EXCEPTIONALLY* conservative.

                We need to address these things like adults rather than romantically forget at Lacuna. (Some original drafts had them meeting and erasing themselves *MULTIPLE* times. Golly!) Post-romantic. Post-emotional. Treat this stuff like adults without all of the idealistic touchy-feely crap. That’s a hell of a lot more “conservative” and “family values” than “follow your heart” stuff.

                Sure, Steve was the heart of 40 Year-old Virgin but their treatment of sex was, surprisingly!, conservative. The folks who didn’t treat it as important were shown to be grotesques. Steve’s character was the only healthy one at the poker table (hell, in the store!).

                Heck, I might even extend “conservative” to Knocked Up. It’s arguably the most pro-life movie to come out in recent memory… who would come close? Juno?

                As for Kick-Ass, the scene where he was facing the thug holding a knife and explained that he cannot just stand idly by while people are victimizing others and, indeed, he’d rather die was, it seems to me, exceptionally conservative. The social programs set up to protect individuals were corrupt (see, for example, the cops) or being gamed by the folks they were intended to help (the drug dealer). The whole “rugged individual taking on crooks when cops are corrupt and society is soft” has always struck me as conservative. Perhaps it’s more “libertarian” than “conservative”… but rugged individualism has associations with the right to a degree unmatched by the left. No?Report

        • Avatar trumwill in reply to Jaybird
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          says:

          @Jaybird, I can’t find where Pirate mentions five things. Before I respond, I want to make sure I am caught up on where he is.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to trumwill
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            says:

            @trumwill, that was me being snarky. There was no list.Report

            • Avatar ThatPirateGuy in reply to Jaybird
              Ignored
              says:

              @Jaybird,

              He was anticipating my reaction.Report

            • Avatar ThatPirateGuy in reply to Jaybird
              Ignored
              says:

              @Jaybird,

              I thought Signs was notable in that it was explicitly a Christian religion rather than in some cloudy post-Christian melange of Sensitive New Age Hippie Crap.

              Eh, I hate the new age hippy crap just as much as the next guy.

              “In what sensible way is the dark knight’s theme conservative?”

              Well, do you see it as an apologia for Bush and PATRIOT in response to an insane villain who wants to watch the world burn?

              There were a ton of folks who did, you see. It got called “conservative” by more folks than me.

              —-
              Tpg
              I remember, I thought it was silly then.

              Was that *MY* take on it? Eh… I thought it was more that we were still processing 9/11 rather than excusing excesses in response to it but I am very much a Batman partisan and the movie would have to be Batman Returns or worse to get me to start a spittle-flecked rant and Dark Knight wasn’t even close.

              “The eternal sunshine of the spotless mind isn’t really conservative or liberal, or any other political ideal.” Well, when it comes to, sigh (I hate this term), “family values”, the ending was *EXCEPTIONALLY* conservative.

              We need to address these things like adults rather than romantically forget at Lacuna. (Some original drafts had them meeting and erasing themselves *MULTIPLE* times. Golly!) Post-romantic. Post-emotional. Treat this stuff like adults without all of the idealistic touchy-feely crap. That’s a hell of a lot more “conservative” and “family values” than “follow your heart” stuff.


              Er, what this is the big deal I have with the whole “conservative movie” thing. It is a way of saying look at them stupid liberals they don’t don’t even know what love looks like. You are right to hesitate to use the term family values as it is a term used to say that only some families count. Liberals get family, they just have a broader definition.

              Sure, Steve was the heart of 40 Year-old Virgin but their treatment of sex was, surprisingly!, conservative. The folks who didn’t treat it as important were shown to be grotesques. Steve’s character was the only healthy one at the poker table (hell, in the store!).


              tpg

              One of the reasons why I though it was a deeply sexist and funny film. All of the other male characters were sexist douchebags who couldn’t relate to women as people.

              Steve’s character was endearing because he could.

              Heck, I might even extend “conservative” to Knocked Up. It’s arguably the most pro-life movie to come out in recent memory… who would come close? Juno?


              tpg agreed it was a very sexist movie. Very funny too.


              As for Kick-Ass, the scene where he was facing the thug holding a knife and explained that he cannot just stand idly by while people are victimizing others and, indeed, he’d rather die was, it seems to me, exceptionally conservative. The social programs set up to protect individuals were corrupt (see, for example, the cops) or being gamed by the folks they were intended to help (the drug dealer). The whole “rugged individual taking on crooks when cops are corrupt and society is soft” has always struck me as conservative. Perhaps it’s more “libertarian” than “conservative”… but rugged individualism has associations with the right to a degree unmatched by the left. No?
              —-
              This is what I am talking about viewing including me are bringing more to the scene than is there. The scene is a cry for justice. It isn’t about what you are talking about. I don’t think it is what the scene is about.

              The scene reminds me more of situations like the civil rights struggle where liberals died to help secure the rights of other people to vote. (see what I did there.)

              Look at the rest of the movie and notice how much Big-Daddy’s quest for revenge ends up costing hit-girl. The movie as a whole revels in how screwed up actual super-heroes would be.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to ThatPirateGuy
                Ignored
                says:

                @ThatPirateGuy, a cry for justice? It was more than that, given that he was taking his life into his own hands to create the justice that he was crying for.

                Indeed, he even pointed to the crowd who were, presumably, good men doing nothing.

                “The movie as a whole revels in how screwed up actual super-heroes would be.”

                Continue on, even in the face of everything… the scene where Kick-Ass is washing his face? Wow. That was a *GOOD* scene. They go on, even in the face of everything.

                But, in my defense, I didn’t include Kick-Ass in my list. (I stand by the inclusion of the scene in front of the 7-11, though.)Report

      • Avatar trumwill in reply to ThatPirateGuy
        Ignored
        says:

        @ThatPirateGuy,

        How about a show wherein lawyers are spotlighted defending people against avaricious plaintiff’s attorneys rather than the reverse we constantly get where they’re standing up to big, evil business? Shows where they are defending good doctors rather than always suing evil and greedy insurance companies.

        A military or anti-terrorist show that’s not constantly opening the curtain to reveal that it’s really the American government and/or big business or some other group of white people in business suits pulling the strings.

        How about a political show from a Republican perspective where they’re defending the right to bear arms and standing up to the teachers unions. If the networks had a lick of sense, they’d be working on a conservative West Wing right now. Cast Fred Thompson as the president. I’m not going to wait with bated breath because… well… I like to breathe.

        In shows where liberals and conservatives co-exist and discuss issues, have the conservative sometimes be right or vindicated by events instead of speaking up to be demonstrated to be wrong.

        And do these things without hedging. Without always trying to insert some plot turn (a crisis of conscience on the part of the defense attorney, the real threat to the Republican administration coming from its right, etc) to somehow vindicate the liberal worldview.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to trumwill
          Ignored
          says:

          @trumwill, here’s something that I have no idea how to deal with…

          I’ve heard it said that you can tell the general inclination of a society towards crime by their crime television shows.

          Perry Mason, for example, was a Great Defense Attorney. He always found that the guy was innocent and that the cops/prosecutors were exceptionally overzealous in finding somebody (anybody!) to collar. Hell, let’s put Matlock in here too.

          Currently, we’ve got the Law and Order thing, and the CSI thing, and COPS (how I loathe that show) and so on. The focus is always on The State and how they do the things they do.

          Now, here’s my questions:

          Which of these are “liberal”? Which are “conservative”?

          I’d be tempted to say that Perry Mason and Matlock are “liberal” and L&O “conservative” but that doesn’t feel right. Swapping that around doesn’t feel right either… but is it possible to get more culturally conservative than Matlock?

          I don’t know.Report

          • Avatar ThatPirateGuy in reply to Jaybird
            Ignored
            says:

            @Jaybird,

            I know as a liberal that I find myself more in the Perry Mason view than the Law and Order view.Report

          • Avatar trumwill in reply to Jaybird
            Ignored
            says:

            @Jaybird, Law & Order started off as a conservative show. At some point, though, they decided that they would use the power of the NYPD and District Attorney’s office to score points against the Iraq War and our health care system and Blackwater and so on. They made sure that the number of characters espousing liberal politics outnumbered the ones espousing conservative ones. And so on.

            Ironically, I think that one of the reasons that they may have done this is fear that Law & Order was being considered too conservative. Too political. So they tried to balance a naturally conservative show with liberal viewpoints.

            They don’t worry about that sort of thing when it comes to Boston Legal. Liberal viewpoints are approached as idealistic (and thoughtful!) and conservative viewpoints are approached as political.Report

        • Avatar ThatPirateGuy in reply to trumwill
          Ignored
          says:

          @trumwill,

          First none of those concepts are terrible ideas in general but they definitely have some difficulties.

          How about a show wherein lawyers are spotlighted defending people against avaricious plaintiff’s attorneys rather than the reverse we constantly get where they’re standing up to big, evil business? Shows where they are defending good doctors rather than always suing evil and greedy insurance companies.

          tpg start:
          Could be good tv but the villain seem dull and ordinary, where is the vicarious thrill of sticking it to the man. I ask because the villain makes a show in my opinion. Ruling out known big villains would scare the heck out of risk averse/lazy Hollywood.

          end tpg

          A military or anti-terrorist show that’s not constantly opening the curtain to reveal that it’s really the American government and/or big business or some other group of white people in business suits pulling the strings.

          tpg begin

          So where do you get the plot twist? Who betrays the heroes putting them in their most dangerous situation yet? Conspiracies are fun stories and it is hard to write them without a shadowy group of white people.

          If the conspiracy isn’t from within then the heroes can always rely on their chain of command. “We don’t know how far this goes.” is a staple of action-drama for a reason. I get the motivation as I can’t stand how scientists are constantly portrayed as non-curious. I just don’t see how you don’t run that storyline.

          How about a political show from a Republican perspective where they’re defending the right to bear arms and standing up to the teachers unions. If the networks had a lick of sense, they’d be working on a conservative West Wing right now. Cast Fred Thompson as the president. I’m not going to wait with bated breath because… well… I like to breathe.

          tpg begin
          The big problem here is that conservative are on the wrong side of the culture war issues that draw eyeballs. Even worse the 18-35 demographic doesn’t like conservatives very much. Other than that you make a fine point.

          In shows where liberals and conservatives co-exist and discuss issues, have the conservative sometimes be right or vindicated by events instead of speaking up to be demonstrated to be wrong.

          tpg start

          Then how would the writer be able to express his belief that all conservatives are like Rush Limbaugh?

          Stupid hollywood hacks.
          Report

          • Avatar trumwill in reply to ThatPirateGuy
            Ignored
            says:

            @ThatPirateGuy,

            Re: The Law Show

            There are some good reasons why shows would more often than not take the plaintiff’s side. But every show? People like criminals to go to jail, yet ABC managed to produce a show that featured a bunch of criminal defense attorneys working to get guilty people off. It lasted eight years. In large part because it was a great show that pushed viewers to re-examine their biases against “sleazy defense attorneys.”

            The little guy going after the big guy has a natural appeal. But tort reform is a relatively popular issue. There’s room there for a show that takes a critical eye towards what are considered to be frivolous lawsuits.

            Re: The military show

            The thing is, they only feel compelled to do this when it’s a Muslim terrorist. Having moles and double agents makes for good television. No question. But there’s only so many times you can pull that rabbit out of a hat and have the audience say “Wow! It’s a rabbit!” And while moles and double agents are interesting, they’re not the only way to keep things interesting.

            There are all sorts of potential evil, powerful bad guys out there. They could make it the UN. They could make it the Middle Eastern royal families. They don’t always have to make it some stand-in for Shell or the Military-Industrial Complex. But I think writers naturally gravitate towards that because (a) they see these people as the most natural enemy and/or (b) they’re lazy and don’t want to change things up.

            Re: The Right Wing

            In 2008, while Republicans were busy getting thrashed, John McCain scored nearly 60 million votes. George W. Bush pulled in 60 million votes in 2004 and 50 million in 2000. These people voted Republican for a reason. There’s an audience there.

            Republicans are not particularly popular at the moment, but there was no rush to create conservative television back when they were popular. I don’t find it particularly convincing that their relative unpopularity now should be a reason that Hollywood would want to stay away. In fact, given conservative frustrations, I think the timing is perfect for a show with a conservative President Fred Thompson.

            I should add, though, that I’m not asking why Hollywood isn’t doing this (I do wonder a bit about NBC, which at this point has nothing to lose by trying a Hail Mary or two). There are a lot of reasons. Among them, they’d have to have people to write the show and there is a dearth of conservative entertainment writers out there (and I’m not trying to insinuate a Hollywood left-wing conspiracy behind this). Further, Hollywood writers (being human beings) will do what they can to justify writing the kinds of stories they want to write and will accept any decent reason not to write the kinds of stories they don’t want to write. And if conservatives started their own studio, they would be entering it to grind an axe rather than entertain and they would likely fail.

            But with all of this in mind, and even if there is absolutely nothing that can be done about it, conservative resentment over Hollywood’s portray of conservatism is not unjustified. Their desire to find conservatism wherever they possibly can is understandable. If rather obnoxious at times.Report

            • Avatar gregiank in reply to trumwill
              Ignored
              says:

              @trumwill, I’ll come at this a different way. Last night while i was responding to this thread i was watching ST: TNG streaming off the net. I grew up liking sci fi and finding precious little decent on tv. PBS gave me Dr. Who. In short i’m not particularly used to finding what i want on the networks. I rarely put them on, so i also don’t complain much about them. they serve some people and not others. I’ve never watched boston legal and about one ep of L and O. If the networks aren’t showing what people want then look other places. The networks are just one source of content. The networks are also rabidly capitalist and have minimal restrictions.Report

            • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to trumwill
              Ignored
              says:

              @trumwill,
              I’m curious.

              What’s your take on something like JAG or NCIS? (Or for that matter Major Dad)

              I mean yes on occassion they fell on tropes you bring up, but I think that was rarer than the norm.Report

              • Avatar Trumwill in reply to Nob Akimoto
                Ignored
                says:

                @Nob Akimoto, Ooooh, Major Dad is a good one. Mostly apolitical, but if I had to tag it one way or the other I would probably have tagged it as conservative.

                I haven’t seen all that much of JAG and NCIS and I really don’t like what I have seen… but my impression is that you’re right that they did/do not indulge the need to add nuance by making the enemy from within.Report

  9. Avatar Gold Star for Robot Boy
    Ignored
    says:

    Best line I’ve heard about this came a few months ago, by a writer from The Awl:

    “You try everything in the culture—The Incredibles, Wal-Mart, Crocs—and you ask: Is it conservative? This makes us look like creep socialists from the 1930s, debating endlessly about whether something is sufficiently proletariat.”

    http://www.theawl.com/2010/01/dear-conservative-movement-stop-ruining-my-life-by-michael-brendan-doughertyReport

  10. Avatar Mike Schilling
    Ignored
    says:

    Please stop bringing politics into everything as the supreme good by which all things – people, art, etc. – should be judged. It’s silly.

    You’d think it might give Breitbart et al. pause that it’s the same way art was judged in the Soviet Union, but apparently not.

    Anyway, the politics I recall from the Howard Pyle version wasn’t John vs. Richard, but Robin Hood defending the Saxon common folk against their Norman oppressors.Report

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