There’s Plenty of Conservatism in Quality Art; Conservatives Just Refuse To Embrace It

Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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112 Responses

  1. Patrick Cahalan says:

    Rather, they are penned by writers that succeed in painting with words the human experience.  And we humans and our lives simply are not the black and white cardboard caricatures that political parties wish us to believe.

    You probably could have saved all the rest of the post (although it was still good, btw) and just used that.Report

  2. Pub Editor says:

    Pick any day that conservatives think is overly important and turn on talk radio, and if you listen all day…

    So many other ways to finish that sentence:

    * your ears may bleed.

    * you may despair for the future of the Republic.

    * your co-workers may wonder what is wrong. Or they may ask you to turn off the radio, if you’re not wearing headphones.

    * you may accidentally drive off the road.

    * you may experience nausea, headaches, insomnia, violent rage, or other health issues. If symptoms persist, consult your doctor.

    Listening all day to talk radio: not generally recommended.Report

  3. Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life

    Vera Farmiga’s Higher Ground

    Two films that are quasi-conservative examples of quality art that in a sane world should have been embraced by conservatives.Report

  4. Will Truman says:

    The problem with this is that conservatives try to claim popular art as liberal all the time. Iron Man. The Simpsons. Tolkien. And the response (except sometimes on that last one) is whatever. There is this myth that conservatives will denounce anything and everything that isn’t exactly as they want it. This isn’t true. There are some, but seriously.

    To put it pointedly, what is at issue here is that liberals get The West Wing and Boston Legal, as well as a lot of insertions on ostensibly apolitical programs, and then are told that when it comes to their preferences, they have Everybody Loves Raymond and need to be content with that.

    This notion of the open-minded liberal, who naturally accepts conservative entertainment, belies itself when it comes to whatever conservative entertainment exists. Striking up a conversation about Toby Keith around liberals can be revealing. Or Tom Clancy. Or 24. But by and large, liberals can afford to ignore conservative entertainment because it’s such a small segment of entertainment in the overall. Conservatives have a much tougher time of it.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Will Truman says:

      I think in a lot of ways we are in agreement; but I would argue if you feel things are not talked about in Conservative Approved tones – without consideration of quality – you don’t listen to much talk radio.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        For a couple of years I was driving a ’78 and all I had was AM radio to listen to.

        Your argument seems to rest on the notion that conservatives have a very strict idea of what is approved. It was during that stint that Ten Things I Hate About You (at least I think that was the one) came out. That was an Approved Movie. They were excited about a teenage movie that didn’t hinge around sex and had a relatable father who was worried about his girls having sex.

        This, to me, is a markedly different thing than an obsession with An American Carol, even if AAC got more attention than it deserved.

        I guess it’s my view that conservatives are desperate, desperate, to have their ideas and values represented in entertainment. And they’re latching on to it where they can (often inaccurately). Your view seems to be that they are overlooking it when it exists. Sorry if I was piling on in my comment. This is obviously one of those things that I feel strongly about.Report

        • Scott Fields in reply to Will Truman says:

          I guess it’s my view that conservatives are desperate, desperate, to have their ideas and values represented in entertainment.

          I’d appreciate your thoughts on why there is such desperation. Entertainment is, after all, a business. Businesses seek out under-served markets, so you’d think entertainment would be made to give the conservatives exactly what they want.Report

    • Will H. in reply to Will Truman says:

      The Ramones were actually very right-wing, but conservatives have been trying desperately not to claim them.Report

      • Don C. in reply to Will H. says:

        Only Johnny Ramone was conservative and it caused tension between him and the rest of the band.  Would conservatives write a song called “Bonzo Goes to Bitburg” protesting Reagans visit to the Bitburg cemetery? Jonny freaked out and had the name of the single changed for US release, but Joey Ramone (the creative force in the band) was liberal.Report

        • Rufus F. in reply to Don C. says:

          Yes, Johnny was the conservative and Joey was pretty liberal. Dee Dee probably would have voted for heroin, if he could. It’s hard for me to think of Joey as the creative force in the band though, since Dee Dee wrote some pretty great songs (and came up with the name Ramones), and Johnny was one of the really great guitar players in punk.Report

          • Will H. in reply to Rufus F. says:

            I think Dee Dee was really the “creative force” in the band, and Joey sort of had his own thing that was kind of a bit different.
            Johnny was really the spokesman for the band though.
            Straight-up conservatives.
            It’s part of how I got indoctrinated.Report

            • Rufus F. in reply to Will H. says:

              Yeah, I’d agree that Dee Dee was pretty central, although, like I said, Dee Dee and Joey wrote most of the songs. Johnny didn’t write much, but without his style of guitar playing, I don’t think the Ramones would have been the Ramones and maybe I’d take that even further and say punk music probably would have sounded differently. Also, I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for Johnny because, as a teen, he supposedly went to an outdoor concert and threw rocks at the Beatles, which is about as punk as you can get.

              Now, I’m sorry to be a music nerd, but I’d really have to see some source where Dee Dee ever expressed a political opinion, or showing that Joey was a conservative. I’ve seen a handful of them saying that one of the sources of tension between Joey and Johnny- after Linda, of course- was that Joey was the squishy liberal and Johnny was the fairly strident conservative. This was one of the subthemes in that End of the Century documentary. I mean, I suppose Joey wrote a song bashing Tipper Gore and the PMRC, but so did everybody in the 90s. I’m old enough that, when someone mentions Al Gore, I get grouchy and think, “Oh, yeah, the let’s-tie-up-Congress-having-hearings-into-Prince-lyrics dude”.Report

              • Don C. in reply to Rufus F. says:

                Ok, I’ll pull back my assertion that Joey was the creative force (actually a discussion I’d be into, just not on a politics blog), but that is still far more supportable than a claim the Ramones were “very right wing”Report

              • Will H. in reply to Don C. says:

                Now, I would never throw rocks at an outdoor Beatles concert for fear that one of them might hit a big smelly hippie, leaving the rock blemished with a dreadful stench that not even days of soaking mud from Woodstock could ever wash off.
                But as far as the Beatles go…
                I know that I, myself, would be incredibly embarrassed and ashamed— afraid to show my face outside– if the Bee Gees ever, ever, ever re-made a whole album of my material and made it sound better than me.

                PT boat on the way to Havana
                Hooray for the USA!

                How’s that for typical conservative jingoistic boilerplate?Report

    • Michelle in reply to Will Truman says:

      Disclaimer: I don’t consider most of what’s shown on television to be art, but rather popular entertainment. However, as with art, the best programming isn’t that which hits your over the head with a political message, but that which is more nuanced and respectful of opposing views.

      Take for instance, The West Wing and Boston Legal. Admittedly, both had a liberal bias but West Wing was the much better show because the conservative characters were not treated as cardboard cut-outs and demonized as they were in Boston Legal, a show, which in its last few years, became tedious and predictable. And boring.

      The best “political” shows don’t lead with their politics; they tell stories to which the politics are incidental. The original Law and Order did this quite well. Although more liberal than not, the conservative characters, such as those played by Angie Harmon and Fred Thomas, were complex and presented conservative political views in a rational manner that belied stereotyping. Plus, the politics were always woven into the story. This approach makes for a much more thought-provoking and interesting program.

      Striking up a conversation about Toby Keith around liberals can be revealing. Or Tom Clancy. Or 24.

      I know quite a few male lefties who loved 24. Go figure.Report

  5. Tom Van Dyke says:

    Tod, good stuff, but I question most of yr examples as art atall.  Was Nicki Manaj’s banal anti-Catholicism at the Grammys last night art?


    We must not confuse form with essence.  Just because it quacks like duck doesn’t make it a duck.  It could be Gilbert Gottfried.


  6. MFarmer says:

    One definite criterion that makes the case for art distinguished from not-art is that not-art is ascribed to either conservative or liberal as a category. I can’t imagine any true art being described as either conservative art or liberal art.

    If we’re still talking about pop-art, then we’re talking liberal or conservative entertainment, and that’s fine, I suppose, although it’s so boring to consider these types of distinctions. Does everything have to be politicized?Report

  7. For what it’s worth, this piece by Sonny Bunch from a few years ago seems worth referencing, since (a) he’s a movement conservative-type; (b) he’s a pretty decent critic who avoids these traps; but also (c) basically made this exact argument.Report

  8. joey jo jo says:

    Powdered Zombies?Report

  9. Will Truman says:

    Also, I’m curious as to your mention of Juno? Are you under the impression that it was ignored by Hollywood-tutting conservatives or derided for its premarital sex?

    I did a search for Juno on BigHollywood. Nothing revealing. It’s hard to say because there are so many mentions of it that the signal-to-noise ratio was pretty low. Most of the mentions were either that they liked it or did not like it and not about politics.

    National Review named it the #8 in Best Conservative Films.

    Brent Bozell said the following: Abortion will forever be an emotional, divisive issue in our society, with great passion on both sides of the debate. But for once there is a movie whose message has brought cheers from both the pro-life and pro-choice camps. This is a good thing. Hollywood is applauding Juno. The public should applaud Hollywood for Juno, too.

    Christianity Today wrote glowingly on its pro-life message.e

    In The Atlantic, Ross Douthat said it has a pro-life message. Matt Yglesias said it does not.

    This is all very much as I remember it when it came out. Conservatives mostly tried to embrace it, and liberals either downplayed the politics (“Eh. The plot needed the abortion not to happen.”) or denounced the politics in the process of condemning the movie (“I wish she’d had the abortion, because then there wouldn’t be a movie.”).Report

  10. James Hanley says:

    Conservative leaders need to realize that they will never win over the hearts and minds of even their own followers with party-approved dreck.

    Why not?  It worked so well with socialist realism?Report

  11. Scrooge McDuck says:

    Part of this has to do with the current definition of conservatism:   the bands of othodoxy are defined so narrowly, right now, that there’s not much room for insight, or transgression, or dual meaning.

    Socialism used to mean something quite specific–primary state ownership of the means of production.   Now, in “conservative” parlance, it seems to mean any slight deviation from pure laissez-fair market ideology.   So the entire universe as it actually exists has become socialist, and only the highly-contrained pure and theoretical ideal is acceptable.

    Art–high, middlebrow, and pop–is explorative in nature.   But when there world is reduced to only two categories–the abstractly orthodox, and the “liberal,”– it is virtually inevitable that no meaningful or resonant “conservative” art can be found.

    Artists tend to be indifferent to political and cultural orthodoxies.   Almost any resonant piece of art has aspects that are transgressive, and other parts that are not.   Take almost any cultural work that people respond to widely and strongly–from Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, the Wire, to Juno, to Narnia, to the Beatles–and there are messages that could be  understood as traditionally conservative, or as reformist or liberal.

    But current conservativism is so narrowly normative that it doesn’t intersect much with the real world, as people live in it.   What would a “conservative” piece of art be able to say, today?   That Obama is a socialist?    That liberalism is sick and corrupt?   That homosexuality is outside of God’s plan?    The concerns and definitions of the current conservatives are so rigid and so narrow that there’s not much coincidence with the traditional concerns of “art.”Report

  12. Rufus F. says:

    This is probably my problem, but I feel a bit lost in all of this. When you say the word “art” I automatically go to my mental list of favorites, but most of them aren’t exactly political. Then I have trouble thinking of overtly conservative works of art, and then have trouble thinking of overtly liberal works of art, and finally wonder if the words have any real meaning any more. Maybe it’s just me.Report

    • Michelle in reply to Rufus F. says:

      No, it’s not just you. But, as I said above, I don’t consider much of what pop culture produces to be art. To me, it’s entertainment, some of which might stand the test of time to become art. I guess I’m rather elitist in that view.Report

      • Kim in reply to Michelle says:

        Just a bit.

        It’s ALL art, just of varying levels of quality… Just because someone fails (even spectacularly) to make their boat float, doesn’t mean that they didn’t build a boat.Report

    • Chris in reply to Rufus F. says:

      I had the same reaction. I do see people politicizing art, which is unfortunate, though. “Hey, it’s got religious themes. It’s conservative!” “Hey, it mentions gay people. It’s liberal!”Report

      • MFarmer in reply to Chris says:

        But, does it have to be done here?Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Chris says:

        Indeed.  It’s an anti-artistic way to analyze art.  if what you’ve got a hold of is good art, and that’s how you’re coming at it, you’re likely doing interpretive violence to it.  And if that’s the spirit it was created in, do whatever you want, it likely sucks and you can’t do much damage to its meaning anyway.  In the cases of the exceptions, great, good for you.  There’s not many of them, and it adds nothing to their value that that happen to be political pieces of good art: compelling political statements and effective propaganda come at a dime a dozen; what’s precious and valuable about them are the fact that they are pieces of good artwork, so that’s still how they are be best approached.Report

  13. Burt Likko says:

    Maybe it’s not fair to compare the CPAC Rappin’ Foundin’ Fathas to OutKast.

    OutKast’s video has professional production values, babes, and high-quality sound engineering. The guys in the lawn jockey outfits still make me laugh out loud and so does Andre 3000 as the shy guitar player. It was easy and entertaining to watch the whole video.

    I couldn’t make it through the Foundin’ Fathas. They were obviously a couple of GOP party hacks who sort of like hip-hop. They were trying to be Preachy first and Entertaining second.  They achieved their first objective. But even if they’d had all the professional talent behind the OutKast video, it would still have been Preachy rather than Entertaining.

    Juno is a great example of how an entertaining movie can also be conservative. Juno was entertaining and set out to be entertaining first. It was never intended to be Preachy; it was content to let the hero’s moral choices, good and bad (mostly good), stand on their own merit. And at the end of the day, you had a teenage girl who got pregnant, decided to keep the baby and couldn’t go through with an abortion, in a supportive family unit, found a responsible parent to raise the child she could not, and ultimately found love with the father of the child. Can’t get much more socially conservative than that.Report

    • mark boggs in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Nevermind the objective analysis of whether this thing is conservative or that thing is liberal in terms of its artistry.  The great thing about Juno is that shit like that actually happens.  Some of it we might disagree with or think she should have chosen differently, but it doesn’t change the fact that shit like that actually happens. 

      Maybe what I’m trying to say is that, besides the crap that ends up being blatantly political first, the tendency to view things through a lens of what *ought* to happen to appease our political taste is the real problem here.  Like I said, maybe whoever wrote Juno, wrote it exactly that way not out of fealty to an ideology but because shit like that actually happens.Report

  14. David Ryan says:

    I suppose this would be a good place to mention that one of the films we shot but I decided to leave unfinished featured a young GOP couple, married, and very much in love. My working title was “Ben and Desire: A Red State Love Story”

    A man and woman, in love and married, loving each other. Seemed pretty conservative to me.Report

  15. greginak says:

    I’m coming real late to all these thread. However the problem seems to be that when people are saying “conservative” are they really mean “partisan republican”. So art that is conservative in the widest meaning like Tolkien doesn’t seem to count while only those bits that contemporary Republican conservatives can hold as solely their own are considered “conservative” art.

    There also seems to be belief, coming out of  black and white thinking, that art can only be one or the other ( or i guess none of the above). Art can be many things and it can be liberal and/or conservative, in the  wider sense, at the same time.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to greginak says:

      I think there are two issues here. One of which is yes, there is a lack of partisan Republican material. It’s not as though there isn’t partisan Democratic stuff out there. I mean, I loved Boston Legal, but goodness gracious, it ended with a touching scene where the Republican character (mentally ill, of course) did The Right Thing and voted for Obama. TWW was a six-year following of Democratic protagonists (I mean, you have to pick one side, but they don’t seem to ever pick the other – unless it’s a “good Republican” who spends half of his time not being like all those other Republicans). There are no Republican equivalents. So, while I am not anxious to see a whole lot of partisan Republican programming, I do understand where they are coming from here.

      The secondary comes to various stories inserted into plots and more abstract themes. As I pointed out elsewhere, Republicans are actually anxious to claim shows and movies that are even marginally conservative. They claimed Battlestar Galactica right up until the colonists became suicide bombers. They claimed The Simpsons until the writers told them where to shove it. They claimed Iron Man. But the second they claim these things, people point out all the ways they are not actually conservative after all.

      Republican plots: Girl (as is required to further the story) decides not to abort her kid and marries her boyfriend. Sitcom with a nuclear family. (And, yes, the blindspots regarding criminal civil rights.)

      Democratic plots: Alan Shore, for the eighth consecutive episode, denounces conservative orthodoxy as ridiculous, mean-spirited, and destructive. Jed Bartlett tries to push through a Democratic policy while Arnold Vinick and Matthew Santos run to their respective party’s left. Dr. Montgomery performs an abortion while her ostensibly pro-life coworkers tells her that she’s doing a good thing.Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Will Truman says:

        Will – I have a minor problem with some of this, that I think gets to the heart of why people roll their eyes at conservative proclamations of TV & movies that your mention.  I know (obviously) a lot of liberal women, and I don’t know any that would say that a story of a woman getting pregnant, having a baby and marrying the father of her child was “conservative,” or that a drama showing someone struggling and going the other direction “liberal.”  Similarly, I think you have to be conservative to think “Hey, here’s a show about a nuclear family that isn’t getting divorced – it must be a conservative family.”  Saying such things (and conservatives do) probably chafe people on the other side of the aisle.

        When you see liberals roll their eyes when a conservative says Iron Man is conservative, because the hero loves his country and fights terrorists, I think you’ll find they are rolling their eyes at the thought that a conservative believes if you love your country and are anti terrorist you must be a conservative.

        I’m not sure that liberals by and large break up all entertainment into “moral character = someone exactly like me” the way that conservatives seem to think they do, and demand for themselves.

        And the whole “it’s liberal because it has non-white people” thing is truly cringeworthy, and likewise doesn’t go the opposite direction.  (I’m pretty sure liberals didn’t go from thinking the Simpsons was conservative to liberal the moment Apu became a major character.)

        As to other shows you mention, the only one I have ever seen is West Wing.  And, per the OP, I would argue that was first and foremost good writing and acting.  The liberal president was censured for committing fraud, and the white house staffers all had flaws and at times did questionably moral things.  It wasn’t a “liberal” show, any more than Sorenkin’s Charlie Wilson’s War was “conservative.”  That’s just a lens conservatives choose to view things through.Report

        • Will Truman in reply to Tod Kelly says:

          I know (obviously) a lot of liberal women, and I don’t know any that would say that a story of a woman getting pregnant, having a baby and marrying the father of her child was “conservative,”

          Tod, that’s partly what I am getting at. Conservatives have to claim relatively non-committal stuff because it’s all they have (outside of Nashville). And when they refuse to claim this stuff, you get criticisms along the likes of Greg’s where if it’s not sufficiently partisan then conservatives don’t count it. (That’s what I was responding to above.)

          The notion that liberals would not be similarly bothered is comparatively untested because there is so little conservative entertainment out there. And when tested, they often fail. Judd Apatow is labeled as anti-feminist. Toby Keith is derided as a jingoist crank. 24 is conservative propaganda.

          I get what you’re saying about The West Wing, but a show about a Democratic president pursuing a largely Democratic agenda where the characters are discussing Democratic points-of-view… well, what is that? Is it really partisan hypersensitivity to think of it in terms of Democrats (good guys, mostly) and Republicans (bad guys, except the ones who criticize other Republicans)? Charlie Wilson was a Democrat, too, for that matter (and not the conservative kind, but rather the “Liberal From Lufkin”). So was Andrew Shepherd. That’s not to say that these were not quality productions (I haven’t seen Charlie Wilson, but liked the other two), Sorkin’s work carries with it rather strong political views. The fact that his characters aren’t angels doesn’t change that.Report

          • greginak in reply to Will Truman says:

            The difference between what you are presenting at the L vs C style of criticism is that L’s are saying one particular artist is bad while C’s are saying we are oppressed and have no voice. Toby Keith might suck, i don’t’ know i don’t listen to modern country, but saying he sucks doesn’t make me a victim or make any meta statement about the media. As Tod noted in the post i think there are plenty of “Liberal” entertainment that L’s don’t like and would pronounce as officially lame. Lifetime movies and the OWN come to mind.Report

            • Will Truman in reply to greginak says:

              I don’t like the victim-talk, myself. But that I don’t like the way they are making their point does not mean that they do not have a point.

              On Toby Keith, he doesn’t just suck. He sucks in good part because of the perceived (hawkish) political content of his music. In a time of war, he wrote rally songs. I don’t blame liberals for not liking that. But it wasn’t a matter of having a problem with his vocal quality.Report

      • greginak in reply to Will Truman says:

        I think Tod has listed most of the good points. Why are Iron Man and Juno conservative? Beats me. Is Red Tails L or C? Beats me and who the hell cares. But instead of reiterating the points Tod already made I’ll pose a question that i think gets the heart of why i find C’s sort of off on this; What would make C’s happy regarding entertainment? Would it be one top ten show about an R prez? Would it be many pro-cop police procedurals? Would it be the NFL being insanely popular? I just can’t see what would ever make C’s actually say: hey this is cool, we are truly represented.

        This is a bit off the point but isn’t Orwell considered a visionary and great writer by people all over the spectrum? I know its for 1984 and Animal Farm. Somehow C’s seem to dig him even though he also wrote the brilliant books The Road to Wigan Pier and Down and Out in Paris and London.Report

        • Will Truman in reply to greginak says:

          I think Tod has listed most of the good points. Why are Iron Man and Juno conservative?

          They aren’t. But you were criticizing conservatives for not counting things that are conservative. I was making the opposing point that conservatives actually count things that aren’t meaningfully conservative. Because it’s all they have.

          What will satisfy them? I don’t know. Some doubtless never will. But I can tell you when I will stop defending them on this: When I start seeing characters that are smart, articulate, non-villainous, and consistently conservative (a pro-life character who demands her daughter have an abortion doesn’t count). When the best conservative characters aren’t there essentially as foils for the liberal ones (or villains or sitcom characters). When the best Republican or conservative president on TV in the last twenty years isn’t John Keeler. But mostly? When they can point to a couple TV shows that plays to them the same way that The West Wing and Boston Legal play to other side.Report

          • Of course…neither The West Wing or Boston Legal are currently on the air, or have been for the last several years.

            Is there a more recent show that you can point to?

            I mean….
            JAG was a pretty pro-military show, even if it had its own “anti-establishment” stuff.
            NCIS and its spinoff are essentially about reasonable, competent military investigators and is one of the most popular procedurals on TV….

            Downtown Abbey? Stuffy old Tories basically….
            Friday Night Lights? The “real America” conservatives love to talk about. (Nevermind there’s non-white people in it…)

            There’s no real explicitly “liberal” shows on TV right now, except maybe Parks and Rec which is liberal insofar as it shows government employees (other than military/CIA types) can be decent people….go figure.Report

            • From what I understand, Harry’s Law is Boston Legal for people who thought Boston Legal was too moderate. The Good Wife follows the family of a Democratic politician (and if there is a Republican on the show, I don’t know who he is). Those are the two most overtly political shows that come to mind. Various current non-political shows go out of their way to incorporate ideology into the show (Private Practice and abortion, Grey’s Anatomy and gay rights, Revenge made sure that you knew that all of the villains supported a corrupt conservative senator).

              Are liberals willing to concede a show about “reasonable, competent military investigators” as being conservative in nature? Are these things that liberals do not value in the same way that conservatives do not value Democratic politicians serving a Democratic agenda or liberal lawyers calling Republicans stupid every other episode? I don’t view this as comparable.

              If conservatives did try to claim these shows, it would be like Iron Man all over again.

              I can name a couple of conservative shows over the last ten years (Touched By An Angel, Seventh Heaven), but they were not nearly as bombastically so – or as overtly political – as a stream of more liberal shows. Liberals might be bored by Touched By An Angel, but that show never went out of its way to poke at them (as far as I know).Report

              • So basically unless a TV show is about bigoted pro-lifers who hate gay people and vote Republican, but are somehow not villains, liberals have to accept the criticism from conservatives that TV shows are slanted against them?Report

              • Good pro-life and sincere characters would be a start. Characters being Republican that isn’t a punchline (or a villain) would be another. They manage to do it with liberals and Democrats all the time. I’m not saying they have to be angels. Just not punchlines and villains. Preferrably interesting.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                “…unless a TV show is about bigoted pro-lifers who hate gay people and vote Republican, but are somehow not villains…”

                Well, see, as Will points out, every time conservatives try to point to a show or movie or character as being “conservative”, we’re told immediately and at great length that we’re totally wrong and that particular show/movie/character is completely not conservative in any way at all.Report

              • Kim in reply to DensityDuck says:

                If you found it conservative, then it was — at least to you (and only in the most egregious cases will I laugh in your face and provide my reasoning as to why it’s not). It may be more of an expression of “I think this dovetails with my values” than anything, though, because conservatives tend to judge values in art more than liberals. (tend to. they don’t screen birth of a nation anywhere).

                I can enjoy a lot of things that aren’t much about my values, or that actively rankle them.Report

              • The Good Wife is also about a woman whose husband was involved a huge public scandal (ala Spitzer) and she finally gets fed up with it and chooses to do something else.

                And in many respects the “liberal” characters are often shown on TV to have very serious moral failings.

                I think one reason you don’t see a lot of Republicans on TV that are likable characters is that the current crop of Republicans just aren’t particularly likable people.Report

              • And in many respects the “liberal” characters are often shown on TV to have very serious moral failings.

                Yep. But they’re all protagonists and not foils. Most people are rooting for them in the end. It’s part of the point of the show.

                I think one reason you don’t see a lot of Republicans on TV that are likable characters is that the current crop of Republicans just aren’t particularly likable people.

                I’m sure the writers in Hollywood think so. Conservative viewers, however, might disagree.Report

              • I’m not so sure…

                Would YOU watch a show with a protaganist based on a Rick Santorum or a Mitt Romney? I sure as hell wouldn’t.Report

              • My conservative credentials are… rather suspect. I could easily make a show about a Mitt Romneyesque character. Like Al Gore, I doubt he is personally what his public persona suggests.

                I honestly believe that the networks missed a serious opportunity by not immediately trying to sign Fred Thompson after the 2008 elections and making a presidential show based around him. The “[Fred Thompson’s character] IS MY PRESIDENT!” bumper stickers (like the ones I saw with Bartlett) practically sell themselves.


              • After 2008 I don’t think anyone would’ve believed Fred Thompson could win a presidential election….Report

              • Pshaw. These people think Rick Santorum can win.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                If Thompson had known it was gonna be a personality race and not an issues race he might have stayed in longer.

                On the other hand, if he’d known it was going to be Old White Dudes vs. The Magic Black Man, he might not have even started.Report

              • Homeland is one of the most right-wing shows I have ever watched, and it’s critically acclaimed.Report

      • There’s plenty of Boston Legal episodes where they make fun of some liberal tropes. Alan would occasionally go after liberal sacred cows (which were pretty ridiculous) or it’d be Shirley Schmidt doing the same. And in the same vein, Alan Shore was hardly a moral paragon, with his numerous failings.Report

        • greginak in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

          I’ll just note that there is far more entertainment out there then the few big name tv shows people keep noting. I haven’t watched any network tv since following csi about 5 years ago. In many way the network shows are just a niche market albeit with a bit more prestige and name value. There is an entire Military Network, wouldn’t that fall into the C entertainment camp There is an entire hunting/fishing network that i’m sure skews heavily C. My quick run threw my cable lineup finds at least 3 all religion stations including BYUTV and a heavily Catholic network.Report

          • Will Truman in reply to greginak says:

            They made a list recently of which shows liberals watch and which ones conservatives watch. Conservatives watch a lot of reality shows and such. This can mean any number of things, but I believe it to be indicative of the fact that Hollywood isn’t producing material that catches their interest.Report

            • greginak in reply to Will Truman says:

              Yeah reality TV. The thing is Hollywood or as its also known The Entertainment Industry is producing reality TV. They are producing stuff C’s like. The HW/TEI is cranking out all those alternatives that C’s watch because they don’t like the networks. All that crap on cable is from HW/TEI; The Military Channel, The Kardashians, Crazy Fisherman in Alaska, Doomsday Prepper’s…whatever, its all TEI.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to greginak says:

                I should have specified: Hollywood is not producing scripted material that catches their interest.

                The notion that conservatives don’t like scripted programming (and thus the networks have to go with the Reality stuff) is… off-base, in my view. It’s indicative of a disconnect between the types of scripted programming Hollywood likes to make and what a large portion of the country wants to watch. Way back in the day when they did make stuff that appealed to conservative types, CBS made no secret of the fact that it hated the stuff it was producing.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to Will Truman says:

                Note that shows such as Mythbusters, Deadliest Catch, and American Chopper are categorized as “reality TV”.  While there’s certainly creative editing (and some flat-out stage-managed bits) in those shows, it’s not like people watch them for the same reasons they’d watch “The Real World” and its ilk.Report

        • In all of the various cast changes on the show, there were… two conservatives. One of which was crazy and voted for Obama. Three if you count the little person who guest-starred occasionally. The vast, vast majority of episodes of BL ended with Alan Shore attacking conservatives. That a couple went in the other direction doesn’t change the underlying ideology of the show.Report

          • Brad Chase and Denny Crane?

            Denny’s whole struggle with Alzheimer’s is one of the strongest parts of the show. The fact that he voted for Obama doesn’t mean all that much in the context of him being both comedy foil, but also serious drama character. I mean for god’s sake, William Shatner won an Emmy for that role!Report

            • greginak in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

              Wait….What??? Shatner won an emmy??? If he didn’t win for being Hooker or The Kirk then its a worthless award.Report

            • I watched the show because I loved it, but can you see how it might be… quite alienating… to someone who actually agreed with Crane? He was also someone clearly not to be taken seriously. He never made arguments half as coherent as the others on the show. Chase spent all of his time whining (there was that good episode about the military uniform, I will grant).

              As I said below, it doesn’t count as much to me when the conservative character is primarily used as a foil for the more articulate liberal ones.Report

              • Yeah, but if you’re watching a David E. Kelly show for support of the status quo (which was from 2004 – 2008 the GOP) you’re watching the wrong show.Report

              • Yes, but it remains… there is no conservative counterpart to BL.Report

              • I’m not even sure what a conservative counterpart of Boston Legal would look like….I think JAG came close. Some of the L&O series, too.Report

              • Law & Order started off in a conservative vein, but gradually shifted as time progressed and they moved from regular crime-of-the-week to Ripped From The Headlines and was, at best, all over the place politically. Jack McCoy, the principal political character in the show, was rather liberal. But after the first couple years it wasn’t reliably anything.

                From the few episodes I’ve seen, JAG was rather bland all-around. Did it regularly make a point of espousing conservative points-of-view that liberals would disagree with?Report

  16. It worked out nicely to have this video:

    drop on a day where you make this post. It is a video that outlines the history of a magazine that has shaped my thinking quite a bit in the last few years.

    The man talking is the founder of the magazine and while it is definitely a Christian magazine it is one that strives to push past that label with good graphical design and good writing while trying to find the spiritual and Christian messages that are found in all of culture.

    I would not have picked up on the film I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, Higher Ground by Vera Farmiga, without this magazine. A movie that honestly deals with doubts and the “dark night of the soul” that many Christians have experienced, including myself.Report

  17. Robert Cheeks says:

    This post is actually, an excellent example of how ‘librul’ ideological precepts derails the mind and causes disordered thinking. And, interestingly, how it also demands that society be lured into this manufactured Second Reality. Which indicates a spiritual disease; “..All mankind must join the socrcerer in the hell of his damnation.”

    You need hep, Tod.Report

  18. Kim says:

    Deerhunter, anyone? Best selling video game of all time?Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Kim says:

      I didn’t want to get into the whole “videogames as art” discussion but I suppose I have to…

      Other major sellers are military-themed video games. Tom Clancy’s Modern Warfare, EA’s Battlefield titles, the Call of Duty titles… all have a decidedly pro-military bent. They’re all quite regularly in the top five of the top ten best-seller lists.

      Now, of course, you can’t say that “it’s conservative” or “it’s liberal” about the military without starting a fight but it is interesting to point out that many of these titles eschew political correctness insofar as the war takes place against foreign countries rather than white supremacists at home.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird says:

        Ecch, hunting is not the exclusive province of the Conservative.   Nor is military service.   Hell, I didn’t realize I was a Liberal until I’d been in the military a while.Report

        • BSK in reply to BlaiseP says:


          This is where things get tricky.  There are very few, if any, ideas that are exclusive to one party.  Sure, we say things like liberals are pro-LGBT and conservatives are opposed, but it wouldn’t take me long to find a homophobic liberal or a conservative in favor of full rights for gays.  We have to look at larger trends and tendencies.

          If your larger point is that hunting and the military are less conservative than they are often made out to be, that is very possible, but we’d need more data to say so definitively.Report

        • Kim in reply to BlaiseP says:

          The religious/cultural milieu of the liberal is more probably populated with folks who think of hunting as immoral/bad/”against my religion.”

          I THINK, but I don’t know, that dry counties map more towards conservative mindsets. (of course, I’m branding my entire state as something like that…)Report

          • BlaiseP in reply to Kim says:

            Pretty much every environmentalist understands deer require a top predator to maintain healthy populations.   We happen to be that top predator and have been for a good long time.   Out here in the boonies, we see deer carcases in the spring, lying in the woods, starved and frozen to death.    My landlord paid me in deer meat to do some repairs around here and shovel the walks.   I would have done it anyway, but that’s how things are around here in rural Wisconsin.

            The most serious environmentalists I know are hunters, especially duck hunters and fishermen.   They are adamant about maintaining wild spaces.    Big foofaraw out here about sand mining.

            As BSK notes above, issues of this sort don’t take sides.   Serious Liberals understand the need for the Second Amendment.   I’ve often used this and the issue of hunting as examples in discussions with Conservatives who haven’t met many Liberals.   Folks, the propagandists must not win the battle for hearts and minds when it comes to what the words Liberal and Conservative actually mean.    Though we approach these issues from differing viewpoints, we often reach the same conclusions, a happy surprise for both sides.

            As for BSK’s point to bigotry, I question this assertion.   Liberals have it tougher.  Our causes are often bound up in issues made manifest in civil liberties cases involving horrible people.  It takes more courage, at least a stronger stomach, to be a Liberal.   We’d all like to see criminals locked up.   Fewer of us are willing to ensure criminals get due process and judicial review and the benefit of counsel and the other facets of Innocent Until Proven Guilty.

            Liberals have pushed the LGBT issue to the point where Conservatives are now pretending they never treated that community with disrespect and made laws against them, published their names, got them fired them from their jobs, attacked them in the press, denied them their rights in law.  Well, it was the same with Negroes back in the day and Women before then.   Gimme that Old Time Religion.Report

            • Kim in reply to BlaiseP says:

              In Judaism, one is not allowed to eat hunted food. So it’s something that I’ll call “moral for you” and “immoral for me” (as I wouldn’t eat the food). Hell, I’ll even buy you bullets! (and since jews tend to be more liberal — the overlap between “we culturally/religiously don’t hunt” and politics tends to happen on the liberal side).

              Up north in PA, the deer are eating the woods, literally destroying all the oldgrowth timber because they eat the young plants. And then starve to death.Report

  19. Gary says:

    It’s unfair to criticize Hollywood for being liberal; its prominent faces and voices are, in fact, wealthy center-leftists, but institutionally Hollywood is as conservative as they come. There’s hardly ever any appeals for radical socialism or confiscatory wealth redistribution — some scifi shows depict a utopian socialist future but one ever talks about how things got that way — and love stories tend to follow the guy-meets-girl (or occasionally guy-meets-guy and girl-meets-girl) pairing, instead of two-guys-meet-house-full-of-girls free-love setting. If anything, Hollywood panders to liberals, or at least the uninvolved moderates who fancy themselves progressive activists.Report

  20. Jimbob says:

    Litmus test for O.P.:  Was there a big conservative embrace of “Friday Night Lights”? There was not. Interesting data point supporting O.P. found.Report

  21. Freddie says:

    I wrote this before, but it may have disappeared into the ether. So: great post.Report