Sunday, February 15, 2009

They Were Against Them Before They Were For Them

If you haven’t heard of the National Review’s "Best Conservative Movies of the last 25 Years" list, well children, gather ’round. It’s a pathetic attempt to boost subscriptions while letting the geeks in the Republican haircuts and Bible bags know that you, too, can be one of the cool kids.

No. No you can’t.

Like the National Review’s Top 50 Conservative Rock Songs list, it’s a rather shallow thing, focusing on superficialities while completely ignoring the meaning behind these films and songs. It’s as if they have no idea that music and film are art forms which are viewed on more than just a two-dimensional level.

Which is so typical: one thing we’ve learned about conservatives is that they are about as deep as a creek bed in August and as tone deaf as cats in heat. Self-analysis is not their forte, thus they present Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil” as a “conservative” movie because it “evoke(s) the worst aspects of the modern megastate,” completely oblivious to the fact that filmmaker Gilliam himself believes (via Glenn Greenwald)
the very authoritarian horrors depicted by the film are the exact ones ushered in by the U.S. Government over the last eight years.

The poor dears. For years the conservative movement has tried desperately to prove their ideology has some kind of cultural relevance beyond the tiny clique of like-minded souls sequestered away in their alternate universe so aptly named "The Corner." Meanwhile, the rest of us just scratch our heads in puzzlement.

Anyway, showing how pointless it all is--how lame--is this post over at the Rude Pundit comparing the National Review’s current top conservative films with their original reviews of the films culled from the archives. It’s hilarious. For example:

Groundhog Day: "Yet why should poor Rita be forced to relive this miserable day just to give Phil a chance to evolve from crafty Casanova into selfless swain?...This sexual shell game, these moral tergiversations, attest to the film's queasily exploitative values. In the end, all is contrivance..." John Simon, April 12, 1993.

United 93: "[R]eal art, especially art that takes on events whose wounds are still unhealed, needs to do more than stir up strong emotions in its audience. United 93 buys its power cheaply." Russ Douthat, May 22, 2006.

Team America: World Police: "The movie is not a clear success, being too crude, for one thing. (By 'crude,' I don’t mean dirty, which it is, to a revolting extent. I mean not clever enough.) In truth, the movie, slam-bang and brief as it is, is a little dull." Jay Nordlinger, November 8, 2004.

It’s funny to see conservatives try to participate in the cultural discourse when they are so culturally tone-deaf. By its very definition, conservative is about maintaining the status quo, preserving existing institutions, anti-change, not moving forward into a bold new future. Most conservative ideology is in response to a fear of change.

Pop culture, on the other hand, is a constantly evolving, shifting thing, on the forward edge of the bubble called change. Pop culture responds quickly to social change; it's how we had movies about divorce back in 1937, and racism in 1959. The two seem diametrically opposed, which I guess is why when conservatives do pop culture, they do it very badly (“American Carol,” anyone?) This is why conservatives hate Hollywood, because they are on opposite ends of the cultural spectrum.

So why the constant need for approval? You just want to ask, What the hell, anyway? You guys hate Hollywood. Why are you looking to Hollywood for validation?