John McCain

"Perhaps You Haven't Noticed, but We've Been Sharing Our Culture With You All Morning."

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Brad Reed and Roy Edroso, two liberals who regularly write about conservative appropriation of pop culture, have a longer piece on the topic in The American Prospect. It's funny but the conclusion misses something.

What the Konservetkult has failed to grasp through all this is that art is most successful when it is not put slavishly in the service of political ideology. To be sure, art and politics have commingled in the past, from Beethoven's symphonic tribute to Napoleon to Goya's graphic depictions of war, to South Park's barbed libertarian social satire. But lasting political art uses politics as its inspiration; in the Konservetkult's calculus, politics must always use art. Normal people look at a piece of art and ponder how it changes their view of the world, or how it deepens their appreciation for life. The right's culture critics look at art and ask, "How can this help us win?"

Thing is, conservatives/traditionalists/hawks used to have a lock on pop culture. Victor Davis Hanson or Myrna Blyth's yen for more conservative art isn't like James Dobson's nostalgia for an Ozzie and Harriet-style America. That kind of America didn't exist, but the show did. And while that was on the air, outwardly sexual or anti-war or pro-gay entertainment was kept off. The pro-war pop culture critic's frustration is even easier to understand, as during the "good war" they could watch Frank Capra-directed fighting man films and during the Korean War they could pore over Two-Fisted Tales. It's natural for them to get wistful about that after three decades of Eric Maria Remarque-lite cinema with the occasional token nod to WWII (Saving Private Ryan). They want more pro-war films and are frustrated that no one is making them.

Edroso actually gets this. As he blogged a while back:

I would much rather see a Unification Church production of Petraeus: Man of Iron than another silly rant about how Hollywood is engaged in treason.

Jeremy Lott's classic article on the Christian culture industry is here.

UPDATE: My back-of-the-envelope casting call for Petraeus: Man of Iron:

Gen. David Petraeus—Gary Sinese
President George W. Bush—Dennis Quaid
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki—Alfred Molina
Fred Kagan
—Wayne Knight
Sen. John McCain—Michael Hogan
Michael O'Hanlon—James Spader
Private Scott Thomas Beauchamp—Hayden Christensen

NEXT: Drew, a Lesson

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  1. My father always told me The Honeymooners was a much, much more accurate portrayal of 1950s America than Ozzie and Harriet.

  2. Something I’ve noticed about overtly-conservative film criticism: when the good guys are rebels fighting against a government, it’s a conservative movie because conservatives are the anti-government party; when the good guys are government agents fighting against rebels, it’s a conservative movie because conservatives are the pro-security, law-and-order party.

  3. I can’t wait to see what the reaction to these two movies is gonna be:

    Rendition

    Lions for Lambs

  4. Love the link in the first paragraph. An intentionally funny piece about seeing popular films through a conservative lens is followed by untintentionally funny comments about how a couple of the mentioned titles are obviously in harmony with their liberal worldview.

  5. I love how the conservatives tried to turn “300” into an anti-Iranian film.

    Oh, well, off to celebrate my 25th Birthday. Have fun hanging at home, suckers!

  6. Hayden Christiansen? What, you want to stereotype him as The Lying Journalist for the rest of his career? He’s got enough trouble with the Lucas dialog he was forced to utter without this type of role.

  7. Two-Fisted Tales is a bad example. The late, great Harvey Kurtzman didn’t romanticize war at all, and hardly spread conservative ideas about it. You could probably replace that comic book with G.I. Combat or something and be okay, though.

  8. Make that Hayden Christensen.

  9. For “conservative” in my previous comment about Two-Fisted Tales, please read “hawkish”.

  10. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TAKTIX!

    And did you know you’re at least twelve years older than “JEFF”?

    (prizes not fabulous)

  11. My father always told me The Honeymooners was a much, much more accurate portrayal of 1950s America than Ozzie and Harriet.

    1950s America was composed entirely of drunken, loudmouth Brooklynites. Who knew?

    Not to say that Ozzie & Harriet is all that accurate, either.

    Come to think of it, I can’t think of too many current TV/movie depictions of modern-day Americans that are anything but idealizations or caricatures.

  12. In contrast with “the negative pessimistic crap that too often passes for art in blue states like New York,” Kudlow argues that Con Art produces “beautiful, calm, pleasant pictures. Stuff you can enjoy looking at, which is what I think art should be.”

    If I actually believed that my side of the political spectrum could only appreciate art that isn’t challenging, disturbing, but could only enjoy art that made them feel happy, I’d be embarassed to admit it.

    Especially if my side of the spectum was going through a years-long run of abject failure because of its refusal to listen to inconvenient facts and arguments.

    This Philistine brags about it!

  13. I can’t wait to see what the reaction to these two movies is gonna be:

    Rendition

    Lions for Lambs

    The right will just claim that it’s yet more proof of just how much all those Hollyweird elites hate Uhmerica, red meat, baseball, mom, and apple pie.

  14. Joe, that was exceedingly well said.

  15. I love how the conservatives tried to turn “300” into an anti-Iranian film.

    WTF ?

    The Iranians were the bad guys in that movie.

  16. Other war comics may have been pro-war, but not Two-Fisted Tales, and certainly not Frontline Combat; at least when Harvey Kurtzman was in charge.

    Also Michael Hogan as McCain is my perfect.

    Also I’m a huge nerd.

  17. Chris0, I think his point was that the 1950s was not some hunky-dory golden age full of smiling, shiny happy people that some folks make it out to be.

  18. It seems odd to single out demanding that art serve ideology or producing painfully unfunny political satire as unique to conservatives in contemporary politics. But Team Red blah blah Team Blue blah blah whatever.

    And while the genre is much disparaged, I actually find that examining the ideological premises in a work of art can be interesting and informative if done well. And if it is done poorly, it’s often unintentionally hilarious, so it’s all good.

  19. RE: 300

    He means anti-modern Iran. That’s like saying the Patriot was made because Mel Gibson hates Tony Blair.

  20. “… beautiful, calm, pleasant pictures. Stuff you can enjoy looking at…”

    Such as The Passion?

  21. I love how the conservatives tried to turn “300” into an anti-Iranian film.

    Oh, well, off to celebrate my 25th Birthday. Have fun hanging at home, suckers!
    I saw 300 having some right-leaning relvance to modern neocon thought. Most of Frank Miller’s works has the “Don’t make fucking come over there, jackass” vibe that the neo-cons have without the “suck up to people of authority” vibe that neo cons have.

  22. dudes you’re all really wrong:

    who’s the effeminate imperial power, wallowing in hedonism?

    who’s the all-male gang of fanatics willing to sacrifice their lives for their cultural ideals?

    sparta = al qaeda

    no i’m not joking.

  23. Aww, too bad they missed the awesome Independent Women’s Forum review of King Kong.

  24. In contrast with “the negative pessimistic crap that too often passes for art in blue states like New York,” Kudlow argues that Con Art produces “beautiful, calm, pleasant pictures. Stuff you can enjoy looking at, which is what I think art should be.”

    “As for the degenerate artists, I forbid them to force their so-called experiences upon the public. If they do see fields blue, they are deranged, and should go to an asylum. If they only pretend to see them blue, they are criminals, and should go to prison. I will purge the nation of them.” – Adolph Hitler

  25. dudes you’re all really wrong:

    who’s the effeminate imperial power, wallowing in hedonism?

    who’s the all-male gang of fanatics willing to sacrifice their lives for their cultural ideals?

    sparta = al qaeda

    You blaspheemer! How dare you!

    Sparta = U.S.M.C* Oorah!

    *Albeit with less tribal tattoos than at present.

    (The inept Acadians, were of course the U.S. Army, those hosers.)

    Semper Fido!

  26. Petraeus: Man of Iron sounds absolutely uber. I’d love to see some over-the-top asskicking propaganda movies based around the Iraq War. Sure, ancient greeks in kinky man-on-man violence against computer generated backdrops does have a high degree of awesomeness, but seriously, every time I look at Petraeus, walking around in full fatigues and helmet, I think just how natural that guy would look wearing a Roman crest and bronze breastplate. I didn’t know a dutch guy could scream “TOUGH ASS SOB” until I saw him. Damn.

    Yeah, I’d be totally there. But who will Bruce Willis play?

  27. I love how the conservatives tried to turn “300” into an anti-Iranian film.

    Conservatives did not try to turn 300 into an anti-Iranian film. The Iranians bitched that it was anti-Iranian.

  28. “Don’t make fucking come over there, jackass”

    What genre do you watch, animal continence flicks?

  29. Just speculating here, but the 60s counterculture probably wouldn’t have happened if everybody were Ozzy & Harriet. They were reacting against something.

  30. UPDATE: My back-of-the-envelope casting call for Petraeus: Man of Iron:…

    Let’s do it! I think the Saudis will help.

    You make a good point. Our consensus reality does change over time. I think mainly what changes, though, is which parts of the American experience people feel like giving lip service from era to era. Even if we have, to some folks’ tastes, an insufficient number of pro-war films, we still have a war.

  31. Good casting, except:

    President George W. Bush – Dennis Quaid

    I think you meant Randy.

  32. every time I look at Petraeus, walking around in full fatigues and helmet, I think just how natural that guy would look wearing a Roman crest and bronze breastplate. I didn’t know a dutch guy could scream “TOUGH ASS SOB” until I saw him. Damn.

    Plus, his name is Petraeus. Which is a pretty bad ass name.

  33. Dave,

    “Thing is, conservatives/traditionalists/hawks used to have a lock on pop culture.”

    Did they really ? Sounds like a dubious assertion to me. The Fifties were a time of Film Noir, Jazz, EC comics, Marlon Brando, the Beats and so on, any and all of which seem capable of annoying conservatives of the period, judging by conservative reactions to their artistic equivalents today.
    Also, this nostalgia for “Ozzie and Harriet” (which show i know nothing about but am going to assume is some sort of shiny happy family show) cannot be more that just that – nostalgia from the vantage of several decades. I mean, did conservatives of the period really like stuff like that ? Did a you William F. Buckley really dig Ozzie and Harriet ? I bet he did not.

  34. young William Buckley

  35. young William Buckley

  36. Well, I was going to comment on how poor a choice ‘Two Fisted Tales’ was as an illustration of 1950’s conservative pro-war media/art but it seems like there are more EC comics fans on here than I would have ever imagined!

  37. The market drives the film industry. The market for thoughtful, artsy pro-war films has dried up because of current events. Do you blame moviegoers? I wouldn’t want to see that shit right now either.

  38. 1950s America was composed entirely of drunken, loudmouth Brooklynites. Who knew?

    Ralph Kramden was a drunk. Who knew?

  39. I guess the authers of that essay never read any Walter Benjamin. His argument was that the “massification” of art guaranteed that art would become politicized, by the Right and the Left. However, after decades and decades of politicized art churned out by state approved groups in the old eastern bloc, and even in left leaning countries today, I find it kind of ironic that these guys would throw a hissy at conservative critiques of art…

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