Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Don't "Party Like It’s 1669"

Charles II (r. 1660-1685)
“What you’ve seen with our politics. . . partly because of the Balkanization of media so people just watch what reinforces their deepest biases, partly because of big money in politics, is increasingly politicians are rewarded for taking the most extreme, maximalist positions.”

--Barack Obama, to New York Timesman Tom Friedman

We have offered three lessons for those who would “tip” America away from its current progressive rule:
  • expose the corruption of Democratic crony capitalism at the top; 
  • fight for control of American popular culture without losing one’s values, and;
  • run female and minority candidates for higher office, including president. 
We’ll take up crony capitalism later. That conservatives must seek out female and minority candidates is obvious on its face. That leaves culture, and the need to contest liberal domination of it.

What our progressive president means when he describes (see above) our politics as 1) Balkanized, 2) dominated by money, and 3) catering to extremism, is that our system 1) is insufficiently progressive, 2) lacks a liberal campaign financing monopoly (in spite of Obama’s 400+ fundraisers), and 3) has yet to crush its “most extreme, maximalist” opposition.

In short, Obama wants the England of Charles II, culturally libertine with a king powerful enough to keep Parliament dissolved. He wants England before the Glorious Revolution (1688) yielded parliamentary rule, before John Locke promulgated an individual right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

A ratings system known as the Bechdel test suggests why the left may not deserve its current cultural monopoly. The Bechdel test looks at how women are portrayed in film. In order to pass the test, a film must accomplish three things:
  1. It has to have at least two named women in it; 
  2. Those two named women must talk to each other and; 
  3. Those two named women must talk to each other about something other than a man. 
According to Katie Pavlich, conservative author of Assault and Flattery:
A majority of major Hollywood films fail the Bechdel test. . . The entire “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, all “Star Wars” movies, “The Social Network,” “Pulp Fiction,” and all but one of the “Harry Potter” movies fail this test. . . When the Bechdel test was applied to major 2013 films in the United States, the majority of them failed.
So Hollywood--misogynistic?

Conservative Andrew Breitbart (1969-2012) used to say that politics is downstream of culture, meaning “any truly successful political turnaround needs to start by changing popular attitudes.” Conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg agrees that Hollywood is liberal, but argues America isn’t. Hollywood liberals support abortion rights, but since “Maude,” sitcoms don’t talk about abortion, and nearly every pregnant TV character treats her unborn child as if it’s already a human being.

Goldberg reminds us that:
The Left may be anti-military, but such movies tend to do poorly, which is why we see more pro-military films. Similarly, it’s a safe bet that Hollywood liberals loathe guns. But you wouldn’t know that by what they produce. Not many action stars save the day by quoting a poem. Most Hollywood liberals probably oppose the death penalty, yet they make lots of movies where the bad guy meets a grisly death to the cheers of the audience. The Left rolls its eyes at “family values,” but family values are at the heart of most successful sitcoms and dramas.
One explanation is that while it is true that culture is upstream from politics, reality and, I would argue, morality are upstream from culture. Good stories must align with reality and a sense of justice. They can be set in space or Middle Earth, but if they don’t tap into something real about the human condition, they will fail. As Margaret Thatcher used to say, “The facts of life are conservative.”
It’s true that conservative cultural successes don’t necessarily last--“Duck Dynasty” being a recent example. Still, we are once again witnessing the odd phenomena of conservative box office successes. From an article by the AP’s Lucas Johnson II:
It's the Hollywood ending every studio wants: Low-cost production and high returns at the box office. Filmmakers Alex and Stephen Kendrick seem to have the formula down — grossing nearly $80 million on four films made for less than $4 million combined. Only thing is the Kendrick brothers work far from Hollywood and, outside the world of Christian-themed cinema, many have never heard of their films.
At one point in April, there were four faith-based movies in the Top 20 at the box office, including "Heaven Is for Real," about a 4-year-old boy's account of his trip to heaven. It has grossed more than $99 million on a production budget of $12 million by Sony Pictures.
"Hollywood has taken note," said DeVon Franklin, former Sony senior vice president of production, who oversaw "Heaven Is for Real." The Kendrick brothers . . . are making movies that could see wider release as distributors pay attention to the box office trends in the traditional Bible Belt and beyond. . .While the Kendricks have found success, they're still in the shadows of faith-centric blockbusters like "Noah," which was released in March and has made more than $359 million at the global box office on a production budget of $125 million.
Two possible lessons for dispirited conservatives: 1) Hollywood may not be so liberal after all, and 2) the over-riding urge to make money may explain lesson #1.

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