At the Movies
Tibor R. Machan
Ordinarily I am not a paranoid person, so this hypothesis of mine is not
the usual type. But recently I have noticed that when I see serious
American movies, mostly the ideological take in them tends to be
anti-capitalist, anti-free market, against free trade, anti-business,
anti-corporate?in short against most things associated with the United
States of America. Granted, there are policies by the US Government that
I, too, find very upsetting but these aren?t what these movies tend to go
after?like increasing meddling in people?s personal lives, Court decisions
that favor the government over the private sector, preoccupation with
political correctness and so forth. No, the targets of these movies tend
to be ordinary American values.
It is difficult to list all the movies that incorporate some of these
themes in a rather underhanded, subterranean fashion?little asides by the
heroes, championing of people who show their ?virtues? by embodying these
attitudes, etc. There are the more blatant ones, though, such as Wall
Street Glen Gary, Glen Ross, Erin Brockovich, and some of Steven Segal?s
propaganda movies about how American business is so nasty to that sacred
cow of Hollywood, the environment.
It isn?t only the movies?television drama and even sitcoms serve as
vehicles for these sentiments (Law and Order this and Law and Order that,
Boston Legal, and similar shows all do it, sometimes in pretty
entertaining ways). Despite some pretty good writing on these, it has come
to be something of a pain to watch such fare for anyone with a serious
regard for the ideals with which America is associated, such as
individualism, freedom, commerce, profit making, the bottom line,
industrial development, wealth creation, and the rest. The good guys are
usually people who find all this abhorrent and only love a pristine pure
environment and peddle rank altruism?not benevolence but self-sacrifice.
Such protagonists consider all developers mean and nasty people, while the
villains are, of course, developers and makers of SUVs and anyone who
would have a good word to say about them. (The movie and TV fare is rife
with such alleged thought crimes, by the way.) I think you probably
recognize what I am saying here but may be so used to it that you don?t
take notice any longer. (My son keeps telling me to just relax and enjoy
the show and ignore the ideology but I am not willing to heed his advice.)
Interestingly, though, as in the old Soviet Union, where serious movies
all had to hail socialism, communism, or at least accept them as the norm,
in America now it is science fiction movies and cartoons that manage to
sneak in various American ideals and ideas. Take, for example, this recent
Batman Begins flick that has no patience with modern liberals excuses for
violent criminals, or last year?s big hit, The Incredibles, about a group
of retired comic heroes, in which incompetence was dissed while
exceptional talent praised. Both imply considerable disdain for the
intellectual community?s favorite ideology, egalitarianism.
These animated and sci-fi flicks aren?t my own favorite types, so I only
catch them now and then, when someone I trust recommends them out to me.
Despite their much more appealing values, I am not all that drawn to this
type of fare?I have never quite managed to suspend disbelief, so science
fiction stuff just doesn?t work so well for me (but I am not a
one-size-fits-all kind of guy about such matters). The few of these movies
I have attended do remind me of what used to be said about those old
Soviet movies, namely, they seem to allow the themes of individualism,
freedom, capitalism, meritocracy, pride, good versus evil and the like to
emerge rather forcefully in the fashion of a sort of aesthetic black
In Batman Begins, for example, we see the idea that crime should be
excused because of ?mental illness? pooh-poohed head on, depicted as
mostly an excuse for escaping personal responsibility and fostering the
therapeutic state. (Thomas Szasz would have been delighted with this part
of the movie, I am sure.) No show starring Susan Sarandon or Paul Newman
would allow such heresies?they would puncture too many of the modern
liberal dogmas to which these folks are attached and which are their
vehicles for peddling the interventionist government they so love.
But it seems that science fiction screen writers, as well as those
renegade South Park producers, manage to get away with championing values
that the serious folks will not embrace and feature in their offerings.
Although there is no out and out state censorship of these values in
America as there was in the old USSR, not yet at least, it is arguable
that a kind of cultural peer pressure is in force such that only movies
that seemingly offer nothing but technical razzmatazz get to say some true
and unusual things about human nature and life.
I haven?t done a scientific survey but think there is something to my
impression. I urge my readers to check it out for themselves.