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The Right retrenches in the Culture Wars

Pop culture is the last resort of scoundrels and ideologues. I ought to know, having spent the last 8 years sifting through bad movies for a political subtext that made sense of it all. So even before  the grand guignol lunacy of the CPAC convention exposed their bankrupt ideas, conservatives were trying to lay the blame for their misfortune on the usual suspect, the Liberal (or is it Socialist now?) Hollywood Establishment. But they have gotten a little out of practice since the heyday of Michael Medved and his “America vs. Hollywood: Popular Culture’s and the War on Traditional Values” came out at the beginning of the Clinton Administration in 1993.

For example, "The National Review,” which, to its credit, tried a positive approach to reigniting the Culture Wars last month with its list of the “25 Best Conservative Movies.”

Some odd choices to be found here, to be sure, and also a lack of consistency. As Matthew Yglesias points out in his blog, how do they reconcile giving first place to “The Lives of Others” which “chronicles life under a totalitarian regime as the Stasi secretly monitors the activities of a playwright who is suspected of harboring doubts about Communism” with #12, “The Dark Knight,” praised because: “Batman has to devise new means of surveillance, push the limits of the law, and accept the hatred of the press and public. If that sounds reminiscent of a certain former president — whose stubborn integrity kept the nation safe and turned the tide of war don’t mention it to the mainstream media.”

Don’t worry, I won’t breath a word. That stubborn integrity also accounts perhaps for #4, "Forrest Gump. " whose hero is "an amiable dunce who is far too smart to embrace the lethal values of the 1960s. The love of his life, wonderfully played by Robin Wright Penn, chooses a different path; she becomes a drug-addled hippie, with disastrous results. Forrest’s IQ may be room temperature, but he serves as an unexpected font of wisdom.”

Stupid is as stupid does, as we sadly know after enduring two terms of it.

So much for looking on the bright side. The positive approach of “The National Review” didn’t survive the annual righteous wrath directed at the Oscar Broadcasts by the watchdogs of decency and American values. In his article “Partisanship run amok: The Oscars put political agenda above artistic merit...again” written for the “Denver Movie Examiner,” Erik Buckman explains why the schmaltzy Japanese weepie “Departures” beat out Ari Folman’s “Waltz Wirth Bashir.” “The reason?,” he writes, “Well sir, I believe it has to do with the Academy's clear anti-Israel agenda.”

Well sir, I don’t think you saw either movie, since “Bashir” is an uncompromising assault on the horrors and wrongheadedness of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. Actually, had “Bashir” won it would have been a more convincing argument for an anti-Israeli bias. In fact, though, it is just further proof that, in the Foreign Language category at any rate, the most sentimental film always wins.

Finally, there’s the always reliable Dr. Ted  Baehr, founder and Publisher of MOVIEGUIDE® and Chairman of The Christian Film & Television Commission, who notes in his post-Oscar assessment in  “Andrew Breitbart’s Big Hollywood”  Website that “Sean Penn and his Buddies Will Sink Hollywood.” He writes: "The Academy Award members painted themselves as a bunch of Commie rats last night,” he points out,  when they applauded madly during Communist sympathizer Sean Penn’s gleeful greeting to them after winning an award for portraying an assassinated homosexual leader,'You Commie, homo-loving sons of guns!'"

So much for irony. Baehr goes on to point out, via a fog of statistical  hokum reminiscent of Michael Medved, that “For seven years, MOVIEGUIDE® has been looking at the political content of the Top 250 English-language movies that open nationally each year in the United States. An examination of the domestic box office averages for movies promoting an unabashedly socialist or Communist viewpoint shows that such movies averaged only about $15.5 million and $7 million per movie from 2002 through 2008.”

Those Communist movies, by the way, include “Che,” “Religulous” and “Mama Mia!.”

On the other hand, “movies with more conservative content, including the new Indiana Jones movie where the villain is a spy from the Soviet Union, ‘Prince Caspian’ and the Christian movie ‘Fireproof,’ which attacked the porn industry, averaged $81.2 million.”

No doubt “Fireproof” was included to jack up the otherwise anemic box office of “Indiana Jones” (Baehr discretely overlooks the anti-McCarthyism elementsof Spielberg’s film). Or maybe it serves to reflect this other characteristic of conservative taste discussed in “Porn in the USA: Conservatives are the Biggest  Consumers" on the ABC News website. In a study of online smut patterns, Benjamin Edelman of Harvard Business School found that 8 of the 10 states that voted Republican in the last election  were also among the top ten consumers of online porn. Notes Edelman, “Some of the people who are most outraged turn out to be consumers of the very things they claimed to be outraged by.”

 

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