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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Cinema Reactionarium

Films are quite powerful in their own right. From Westerns to Action-Adventure, Comedy to Sci-Fi, each genre has a way of capturing an emotion within each of us that no other medium can. But films can also be quite innocuous, and even bland to the eye and ear. These are primarily the "straight-to-dvd" fare that we see en masse at our local Hollywood Video or Blockbuster chains lining the walls like filler between movies that actually have something to offer.

The film reviewer, in many respects, is someone who should never be taken at his/her word fully. Their primary job is pretend that they understand the art and style of cinema and string a few sentences together in order to make the particular piece they are reviewing something it isn't - be that for good or ill. And when personal agenda is attached to this, the reviewer almost literally becomes a whole new form of entertainment themselves.

For example, Jonah Goldberg's recent review of James Cameron's magnum opus "Avatar" quite mirrors his take on Pixar's family flm Wall-e, as he proves once again that there's always room to read way to much into a piece of fictitious entertainment. This time it's not the creeping spectre of "fascism", but the injection of "religion" into the material:

The film has been subjected to a sustained assault from many on the right, most notably by Ross Douthat in the New York Times, as an "apologia for pantheism." Douthat's criticisms hit the mark, but the most relevant point was raised by John Podhoretz in the Weekly Standard. Cameron wrote "Avatar," says Podhoretz, "not to be controversial, but quite the opposite: He was making something he thought would be most pleasing to the greatest number of people."

What would have been controversial is if -- somehow -- Cameron had made a movie in which the good guys accepted Jesus Christ into their hearts.

Of course, that sounds outlandish and absurd, but that's the point, isn't it? We live in an age in which it's the norm to speak glowingly of spirituality but derisively of traditional religion. If the Na'Vi were Roman Catholics, there would be boycotts and protests. Make the oversized Smurfs Rousseauian noble savages and everyone nods along, save for a few cranky right-wingers.

But it isn't just Goldberg that is riding this train of the thought, the theory that Hollywood is secretly implanting racism, anti-colonialism, and religious persecution into films. Some conservatives are actually seeking to implant this bizarre notion that certain films espouse "conservative values" that others lack. And what they come up with is rather odd at times.

Over at HotAir, Allahpundit highlights a statement from Telegraph film critic Nile Gardiner where he takes a giant, headfirst, leap into the shallow end of the pool:

Every movie in Nile Gardiner’s top ten deals with war in one way or another except for one, and that one — The Dark Knight — is often read as allegorical about the war on terror and enhanced interrogation. Gardiner’s reasoning: “A central theme that runs through several of my top ten picks is the eternal conflict between good and evil, and why the forces of tyranny and despotism must be confronted and defeated. They include films that Barack Obama should watch as he contemplates appeasing the likes of Iran and North Korea, or turning a blind eye to mass murder in Burma, Sudan and Zimbabwe.”

Ah yes, if only Obama would watch 300, he would see that he's acting like the King of Persia and that the tea-partiers are the brave men that fought to defend Sparta. Then maybe he would stop being a tyrannical leader. Typical reactionary wing-nut fare. But more so than Gardiner's laughable assertion that liberal/progressive Democrats can't seem to discern between good and evil is his complete lack of understanding of films that he deems "conservative" in theme.

The problem lies within Gardiner's claim that conservatives mirror the lead character(s) being portrayed in the film(s) he has cited. To say that modern conservatives can readily identify with Batman ( and it has been stated that George W. Bush was just like the Dark Knight ) or "Hoot" in Black Hawk Down, or even Maximus in Gladiator is to completely misrepresent the modern conservative.

Over the past year, we have seen people like Glenn Beck, Michelle Bachman, and a host of fringe members of the conservative movement completely take their ideology into an entirely new realm of paranoia and conspiracy. In the films that Gardiner references, if you looked at the traits of the lead character(s) in his top ten, none of the "leaders" of the conservative movement share these. The answer is quite clear, though many may not realize it.

Conservatives are so wrapped in this "what if" world, the fictitious world, that they have used it to rationalize their actions and words on a daily basis. From Jack Bauer in "24" to Batman and beyond, what Gardiner doesn't comprehend is that the modern conservative is about falling prey to fear, and spreading that fear like The Scarecrow's poison in Batman Begins. They shriek and howl like The Ring Wraiths in The Lord Of The Rings, seeking to regain that item of power that turned them into the beasts that they now are. This isn't to say that characters in certain films don't display conservative traits, but that the modern conservative has lost sight of what it really means to be a conservative.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What's wrong with Gardiner?

For the answer to the comment by "melloncollie on Dec 8th, 2009 at 8:03 pm" found here.

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