Class / Culture / Movies / Politics / TV

Are You On a Movie Date With a Fascist?

We all like movies. Or at least, when we have time in between bullshit, we do. We all like movies as a theoretical pastime activity.

My theoretical pasttime activity is eating seeds.

My theoretical pastime activity is eating seeds.

Art is an important means of expressing social ideas, so I often think about the political bent of the art I consume. Most of what I consume consciously is strongly leftist. Leftists are big on judging people who disagree with them, so we don’t spend a lot of time considering the differences between different kinds of enemies that we have. But, I thought that the two “genres” of non-leftist cinema presented an interesting pair of trends that are worth keeping in mind, both when critiquing cinema and when arguing with cracker-ass honky motherfuckers.

First, a word on leftist cinema

I would define leftist cinema as that cinema whose social message portrays the conflicts within society that we, as leftists, hope to overcome. These include issues of the divisive nature of “race,” the oppressive institution of sexism, homophobia, capitalism, etc. All cinema needs “conflict,” and the conflict in leftist cinema ought to be that between oppressor and oppressed, such as that between occupier and occupied (frankly, Avatar does this), racist institutions and the oppressed “races” (as critical as I can be of Tarantino, Django Unchained), class conflict… Norma Rae I guess? Americans don’t like talking about class conflict very much, which is what the other two categories have in common, but let’s talk about how they do that…

Liberal cinema is about “YOU”

The “conflict” in liberal art is always a conflict within the individual. Social conflicts are avoided, because, we’re all just, like, individuals, man. Why do you try to make us part of these collectives? Of course, since real life is full of actual conflict between abstract collectives such as different “racial” groups or class conflict, liberal films often erase groups who remind us of that conflict. Class, or its reality, is fairly invisible in the liberal film.

Many comedies fit into this genre. For example, many films by Adam Sandler render class invisible or capitalism toothless. Even think of Mr. Deeds, which nominally deals with wealth: How is class portrayed in the film? Adam Sandler’s character is not shown to be dealing with the crushing reality of poverty as so many Americans are aware of it when he is swooped up, as if by magic, by the death of the wealthy uncle. The wealth is shown to not change him (in stark contrast to how people actually react to being given any sort of power), and in his compassion he doesn’t lose sight with “normal” people. Although the film does imply there are evil rich people, they are evil not BECAUSE they are rich, but because they are trying to exploit the wealth of the good rich, who earned it honestly (note that Sandler’s character’s uncle is shown to have climbed his way to the top, bootstrapped himself you might say?).

Believe it or not, this film is not that intellectually serious.

Believe it or not, this film is not that intellectually serious.

Point being that Mr. Deeds is sort of the dividing line between the liberal and leftist film. Issues from the real world do exist, but sanitized of what makes them actually important. The poor in Sandler films are merry jokesters who bring simple amusement to the world, whereas all the poor people I know are pretty much angry all the time and trying to figure out how to not be poor anymore.

But many liberal films don’t even respect the audience’s intelligence this much: Click (I know, again with the Adam Sandler) is all about a moral lesson that a man who is far more affluent than I can foresee myself being at any point in the near future, if ever, learns about cherishing every moment of his life which is way better than mine. Well huh. And what if you worry about food and debts and don’t own anything, should you cherish all that too? Not that it matters since you would never think to try a magic remote if you don’t have a television. The same for all other such films: Sex and the City’s central conflict is one of the special individual, who lives in an imaginary New York sanitized of its real economic and political concerns. I could go on, but I won’t.

Now you may respond: Why take it all so seriously? Where’s your sense of humor? The films aren’t there to make you think, they’re there to make you laugh. Well, sure, except that Bullworth was really funny too. Bullworth was way funnier than Sex and the City and every Adam Sandler movie combined. Bullworth is the best fucking movie ever made in the United States of Whatever.

Fascist cinema is about “US”

There are loads of examples of these from all over the world, but most of my American friends don’t think about how very fascist our own film industry is. Fascist films are all about conflict, but centered around a nefarious external enemy out to get the fundamentally unified capital-“P” People of the United States. Basically, it’s about “terrorists” coming to get “us.” Now, obviously, a lot of self-described liberals scoff at overtly racist shit like Red Dawn, because it’s such naked worship of militarism and they’re not a bunch of gun-toting republicans. But here’s the thing, liberals, and while I wish you would come over to our side and watch Bullworth and play my Bullworth drinking game with me, a lot of you seem to be leaning fascist more than you know, and I can tell by your movies.

saving-private-ryan-1998-a-world-war-ii-tom-hanks-makes-it-his-mission-to-rescue-private-ryan-matt-damon-the-sole-survivor-among-four-military-sons

To someone who is fully aware of the US’s role in the world and that pretty much all patriotism is mind poison, There isn’t much difference between a John McCain (or Obama) speech, Red Dawn, Argo and Homeland. They all have the same message: We’re all Americans, we’re all number one, and we’re all gonna do what we gotta do because those foreigners are crazy and don’t love freedom like we do.

Self-described liberals I know spent ages and ages fighting with me, trying to convince me that there was some sort of important message in Zero Dark Thirty. And I’m sure it’s going to happen again, because most people I know don’t like when I burn the US flag in front of them, but they have no problem with Obama’s murders. And why? Probably because of all the fascist movies they watch! Television and films tell us that villains do things like burn US flags, and that Americans with guns are heroes who save lives, not murderers like the bad foreign men. This is an instinct that Americans can’t seem to escape, no matter how much they make fun of Americans who do it more overtly than them. In fascist cinema, poor and rich Americans are portrayed as one side against a dangerous and omni-present threat, when in reality, poor Americans are exploited by rich Americans. Fascists ignore that, to create a false heroic America pitted against a false evil foe.

Like leftist art, liberal art finds fascist art too militaristic and nationalist. Liberal art denies that the “us” is against anyone: the “us” is just this relaxing, partying society of fun people with disposable income. However, like fascist art, liberal art finds leftist art too angry at “us.” Fascist art denies that “us” is a dividable thing or that “us” can be wrong. Both liberal and fascist art erase the main sources of real conflict for Americans in favor of either enormous nebulous enemies, or petty nebulous feelings.

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4 thoughts on “Are You On a Movie Date With a Fascist?

  1. Good post. Yeah, it’s true that American (and world) cinema intended for wide distribution is expensive. Expensive usually means corporate and corporate usually means the work will carry the fascist baggage you’re describing. That baggage isn’t just present in Mr. Deeds and action/war films, it’s present in nearly everything that goes to a multiplex: the baggage is often in the gaze, rather than entirely narrative-borne.

    With that said, it’s fun to look at the exceptions. In 1945, Curtiz and James Caine got Mildred Pierce made and financed by MGM. That movie is a pretty clear-eyed look at consumerism/class conflict. If you ever see it, you see a lot of anxiety around the real function of wealth. It’s also sort of meta, since a lot of movies at that time (then as now) used wealth as a fantasy backdrop– pretending it’s the norm– without ever examining the acquisition of wealth or the absence of wealth.

    Also interesting you don’t mention Opera Hat or Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (source material for Mr. Deeds), but I regret to inform you that, while Capra’s a much more interesting political trainwreck than Adam Sandler, he could still be described as somewhat… well… “patriotic.” o.o (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m4Ebv-FzP60)

  2. Pingback: How’s that Ender’s Game Boycott Going? | Be Young & Shut Up

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