Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Hollywood's Right Wing Agenda

On the run today so I'm going to violate the magician's rule and write today's post in bits and pieces right before your very eyes, thereby giving away all my tricks.

Nancy Nall saw Million Dollar Baby for the first time over the weekend and has posted some of her thoughts, one of which is that the movie in no way does what Right Wing critics insisted it did, including advocating a "culture of death."

Which, because I was thinking along these lines after yesterday's post, has me wanting to make the case that over the last 25 years or more Hollywood has not been pushing its Liberal agenda nearly as much and as hard and profitably as it has been pushing a Republican and even a Right Wing one.

First, let's look at the way that Hollywood pushes a plain old Republican agenda.

Forget North Country. Almost all its movies are concerned with the doings of upper middle class white people whose lifestyles and life choices it almost invariably celebrates. Most movies show that happiness is well-accessorized with consumer goods and luxury items, that the good life is to be bought with gobs of money earned by working at a great, self-aggrandizing career.

Second, forget Brokeback Mountain and look at how Hollywood movies treat love in general---as the be all and end of male-female relations.

Love is the Answer, always, and love is permanent, monogomous, and leads almost always to a wedding, children---so far Democrats can be on board with this too---and an expensive life in a big house in the suburbs.

In Hollywood love stories, love means settling down.

By way of an aside here: Forget Hollywood's supposed Feminism. The Feminism that movies and TV shows preach is the most superficial and Republican kind---their feminism is a matter of giving beautiful and talented and already privileged upper middle class white women anything their hearts desire, including a glamorous, self-aggrandizing career that makes them oodles of money that they use to buy themselves expensive shoes and gorgeous apartments; but when the time comes these women will find the right guy, marry, settle down, and raise the kids. Finally, the point of feminism in the movies is a big house in the suburbs. The only way this isn't a Republican paradise is that movie wives actually give up their careers and raise the kids without hiring nannies that they pay substandard wages.

Third, in the generation since the original Star Wars, Hollywood's bread and butter hasn't been blockbusters, but blockbuster action-adventure movies. And forget Munich, in almost all action-adventure movies---definitely in most of the most successful---there is a sharp divide between Good and Evil, and Good is us and Evil is Them, and it's Good's job---our job---to stamp out Evil.

Now here's where Hollywood veers sharply to the Right.

Star Wars is almost unique among the blockbuster action-adventure movies of the last generation in insisting that there is a code that the Good Guys have to follow and they can't break that code without becoming villains themselves.

This is explicitly the theme of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, but Lucas began to introduce it right from the first with the news that at one time Darth Vader was a good guy and then he made it explicit in Return of the Jedi when Luke refuses to kill Vader and lets the Emperor try to kill him rather than call on the power of the Dark Side to save himself and the Rebel fleet.

Luke isn't committing suicide here. He trusts that by keeping to the code he will accomplish what he needs to accomplish, bring Anakin back from the Dark Side, and defeat Emperor Palpatine.

Lo and behold!

But although Star Wars begat countless action-adventure movies, it begat no more Lukes.

Instead for the next twenty years we had Rambo, the Terminator, Steven Seagal, the Die Hard movies, and Indiana Jones.

In all these incarnations, the hero isn't bound by any code. He isn't even defined by his virtues. He is good because he is the hero and the bad guys want him dead. (Yes, I remember that in the first Terminator movie, the Terminator was a bad guy. I'm really talking about Schwartzegger in most of his movies, of course.) Evil is very clearly defined as the work of monsters, but Good is defined only by its hatred of Evil and the violence it uses to stomp it out.

The stomping part is the important part.

And whatever he needs to do to stomp it out is fine.

For a generation Hollywood has been selling us the idea that Heroes are angry, brutal, violent, and Right. Good is what they say and what they do. This is an extremely Right Wing notion, that law and order are what the authoritarian strong man says they are and that not only are we to accept this, we are to applaud it and fall in line to cheer the strong man on.

It's heartening that since Schwartzenegger's, Stallone's, and Harrison Ford's knees gave out on them, Hollywood hasn't been able to find any reliable successors, but they haven't stopped looking.

Hello, Matt Damon. Hello, the Rock.

This is all a bunch of gross generalizations that I need to tie together. Like I said, I'm on the run, so I'll have to leave it here.


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