The Eagle Has Responded


Over at the American Prospect, Ben Adler, author of this silly column on the Simpsons movie, is upset at me for "oversimplifying" his apparently complex point about the film's disappointing lack of lefty proselytizing. My original post is here, but I'll quote a few passages from his Guardian piece as a refresher:

Some would argue that making Marge a housewife who stands by her man despite all his shenanigans hardly sets a feminist example for younger viewers.

The anti-environmental thread runs throughout the movie. Lisa's presentation at a town meeting on the pollution in Lake Springfield is called "An Irritating Truth". Lisa and her new boyfriend are presented as self-righteous nags for badgering the town about pollution and environmental efficiency.

I took the mick, as they say in Guardianville, out of Adler for applying a political litmus test to a cartoon, saying there was something "Bozellian" about it. Responding on Tapped, he points to a "libertarian impulse to falsely equate the harmless foibles of liberals with the nefarious proclivities of conservatives," and cites me as an example. I haven't a clue what this means, but his complaint that he is, after all, nothing like Brent Bozell misses my point by a country mile. Here is Adler:

Having actually covered Bozell's shenanigans I seriously resent the comparison. Bozell, like most conservative media watchdogs, does much more than write light-hearted columns gently critiquing a little political message he does not support.(Note: As one Tapped commenter put it, "Just clicked through and read the piece. That was 'lighthearted'? When is this guy dour and humorless?") Bozell leads campaigns to berate corporations out of promoting content he finds offensive for political or moral reasons. As Moynihan may have noticed I didn't call for a boycott of The Simpsons movie.

Errr, no. One needn't go whole hog, grow a pirate beard, and start a creepy pressure group to share characteristics with those on the right who comb popular culture for subversive content. If I call Adler's prose style "Brechtian," I'm not accusing him of being a communist. In other words, one can be a cultural scold worthy of the appellation "Bozellian" by simply vetting popular culture for acceptable political content on a blog.

But Ben continues his extrapolation: "I suppose Moynihan thinks no one should write op-eds discussing the political implications of cultural products at all." But dear Ben, surely there is a difference between discussing the political implications of Ken Loach film, a Kurt Weill opera, a Billy Bragg record…and a cartoon. It is one thing to discuss a political work of art—one that is either expressly or subtextually political—and quite another impart ideology onto a largely apolitical work.

Also posted on the Prospect website yesterday, as previously blogged by Dave Weigel, is this interesting column by Brad Reed and Roy Edroso, on the conservative tendency to read righty messages into Hollywood films:

[Y]ou might wonder what the political angle would be for, say, Knocked Up. Or 300. Or the new Harry Potter movie, or the old Chevy Chase chestnut Fletch, or comic book movies …

Well, wonder no more—welcome to the right-wing school of movie criticism! In this burgeoning genre, the sort of stuff that concerns ordinary critics—characters, dialogue, cinematography—pale in importance when compared to a film's potential to further right-wing political goals.

C'mon guys, what's the problem with "discussing the political implications of cultural products?"