Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Conservative Guide To Movies

Today is more a question than anything. I’m putting together a book: The Conservative Guide To Movies. I think this could be a useful tome to teaching conservatives how to take back Hollywood. So far, I’ve outlined most of the stuff I plan to cover, but I’m curious what you all think such a book should include?

In a general sense, I’m planning to define conservatism and liberalism and explain how to spot a film’s ideology. I’m thinking of debunking the liberal boogeymen that films often include, like the evil corporation. I’m planning to take an in-depth look at some conservative films and some liberal films and then compare and contrast a series of similar but ideologically opposite films (e.g. Dirty Harry v. The Star Chamber) and explain how their choices formed their ideology. And I’m thinking of pointing out some liberal hypocrisies, such as their professed feminism compared to their treatment of female roles. The idea would be to help conservatives express themselves better when Hollywood asks "what do you conservatives want?" and to give conservative writers some tips on how to slip conservatism into their work.

I can't promise you anything, but I would love to hear any thoughts you want to share! What else would you like to see in a book like this? Any films you think should definitely be covered? Anything you think should be debunked?

44 comments:

Ed said...

Andrew, I'm not sure what else I would like to see covered, but I love the idea and I'm looking forward to reading it!

Are you going to look at films like Michael Moore's films or story films?

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Ed, I hope you like it.

I wasn't planning to hit the overtly political documentaries like that because they are obviously leftist films meant to push a leftist agenda. I'll probably mention them in passing, but I'm planning instead to look at "entertainment" films that have messages.

T-Rav said...

Andrew, the one thing I can think of to suggest is that filmmakers need to make sure the messaging is subordinate to the story. The problem, as I see it, isn't that you can't slip in conservative messages; look at the popularity of films such as Pixar's "The Incredibles," which had obvious conservative overtones. The problem is that the few filmmakers or TV producers who lean right tend to go overboard and make conservatism more visible than the characters or the plot.

To use an example from TV, compare Mike Judge's "King of the Hill" to another short-lived series of his on ABC, "The Goode Family." The latter was funny, at least for conservatives; it was about a center-right family who moves to a liberal neighborhood and realizes how crazy the people are. It only lasted a few episodes, but I don't think it was because the leftie network execs threw a fit; I think it was because Judge spent more time making political jabs than fleshing out the characters and making them appeal to the audience on their own. This is directly opposite to "King of the Hill," which ran so long and so well because it had entertaining characters in Hank Hill and his family and friends, which then allowed the writers to juxtapose them with left-wingers and draw some genuine laughs. So, long story short, I would say worry about the typical storytelling elements first, then insert the messaging.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I agree entirely and that's a message I hope to get across repeatedly -- story must come first.

I think the reason An American Carol failed was that rather than making a good story using conservative principles, they set out to attack liberalism. That didn't really give you much to enjoy if you didn't believe the message and even if you did, it didn't really give you anything to latch onto other than just the political statements themselves.

Good example with the "King of the Hill" and Mike Judge examples. I thought "The Goode Family" was doomed the moment I heard the concept because it sounded like a purely political statement. And that's pretty much what it was.

People will accept all kinds of politics in their entertainment, but only if it entertains first.

Koshcat said...

I re-watched a movie the other night might that might be good from the standpoint of an underlying conservative message., or at least a message that conservative would agree with.

8-Mile

The first time I saw it I didn't pick up on it but liked the movie. It was after sites like BH and yours that I sat up and paid more attention. Conservatives are so quick to get annoyed with rap many would pass this by. But, you have young men living with their moms; little male role-models; using people to get ahead; partying and playing all night; and hoping their buddy will make it big so they can ride the gravy train. But, the main character played by Eminem tries to be a good male model to his younger sister, wants to move out of his mom's house, wants extra shifts at work, wants to make it big on his own in his own way, loves his friends but doesn't want to rely on them to make him successful. Uncommon themes in a modern movie.

AndrewPrice said...

Koshcat, Good call! I hadn't thought about 8 Mile, but you're 100% right about 8 Mile's underlying things and that might be an excellent edition.

I've actually made this point once before at BH back during the "rap wars," when Ben Shapiro came out and said "rap sucks." This drew all kinds of pro and con arguments, some of which unfortunately were pretty ignorant. There were clearly a lot of people who believed that blacks and particularly rappers should be shunned by conservatives on principle.

I tried to point out that they were missing something. My point was that if you look at what rappers are singing about (excluding the cop killer stuff), large chunks of it really fit nicely with conservative values because they are pushing the very idea that they would rather be self-reliant and build their own lives than remain wards of the state.

That's a pretty strong conservative message. And I thought it presented quite an opening for conservatives to reach out to that community if conservatives really wanted to expand conservatism. Unfortunately, a lot of people really didn't want to hear that.

Ed said...

Andrew, Are you going to do only famous films or more obscure films?

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, I don't want to do anything too obscure, but it doesn't have to just be blockbusters. What have you got in mind?

Ed said...

Nothing in particular, I was just wondering.

AndrewPrice said...

No problem. If you think of anything, let me know.

Outlaw13 said...

I would encourage some conservatives to get that stick out of their asses and have a sence of humor about themselves. If you spend all day looking for things to be offended about you surely won't be a disapointed.

This even goes back to teh Superhero post, it's always story, story, story. If you have a crappy story the odds of making a movie people want to see goes way down.

Ben Shapiro said...

Why does everyone here keep picking on me? I'm just trying to protect conservatism from all that evil non-conservative stuff, even the stuff other people say is conservative! Because I know better!

ScottDS said...

^You already know what I think but that was a low blow.

I suppose some conservatives will always bristle at certain things (sex, violence, etc.) and, yes, they might wonder, "Why doesn't Andrew talk about that stuff?" but that's not the purpose of this book.

I would also suggest the idea (which I've said before) that, say for example, the presence of a gay character doesn't = gay propaganda, etc. Too many conservatives are quick to judge that sort of thing. (I admit it's partly Hollywood's fault as well.) As with all things: Look Deeper.

Perhaps a recommended reading list at the end: not political books, but how-to books: writing, budgeting, cinematography, editing, etc...?

ScottDS said...

Okay, maybe the "Shapiro" post wasn't a low blow. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Outlaw, I think that's very true -- it's always about story first. Without a good story nothing else matters.

Yeah, I know what you mean about the stick. I'm amazed how many people love to proclaim their ignorance -- like it's something to be proud of. For example, I'm amazed how many conservatives go to a place like Big Hollywood just to say things like "I've never seen a movie and I don't intend to." Ok, then you've really got nothing to say that's worth listening to, do you?

There are many things I personally don't like in music or film, but to use my personal tastes to define conservatism (or to limit it) would be downright stupid. And that's what these people are doing -- they decide that because they don't like something, it cannot be conservative and it should be ignored. That's just 100% wrong to me though. For one thing, life is too short to divide the world into "things like me" and "things I hate." For another, our goal as conservatives should be to find people who believe in conservatism but might not know they are conservatives and win them over.

Also, I have to say that too often, these people are completely missing the bigger picture. For example, they will attack a film based on a description of the film without ever bothering to realize that the film itself is very different than the description they've been given. That does a lot of harm because it confuses the issue and it hurts the very films and songs we should be supporting.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I shall refrain from responding to your Ben Shapiro taunt.

On your other point, that's a good point -- just because a film contains something we don't like does not necessarily mean it's anti-conservative. I've made this point a couple times in prior posts: you have to look deeper to understand what is really going on because the meaning will depend on how those things are used.

Lets use an example of a Republican candidate. If a Republican candidate is included and is shown in a nasty light, then it's an anti-conservative message. But if they end up saving the day or are presented as a decent person, then it would be a pro-conservative message. So the inclusion of such a candidate by itself is neither pro nor con... it's how they get used that matters.

The same is true with any other issues as well.

Koshcat said...

I smell a sock puppet in here.

Andrew, you are so right about some people being closed minded just because they don't like (or think they won't like) a genre. I don't care for Christian pop music, but I am not anti-Christian. What I find interesting is listening to some of the music out there by some bands complaining that the government is holding them down. I guess that is either an anarchist or tea party theme. I think most of them think they are being anarchist, but then you see them supporting some democrat who has done more to suppress them than any GOPer. They would probably also scoff and call Ron Paul as crazy (ok, he is a little) but he is saying the exact same thing. We need a better way to connect to them.

AndrewPrice said...

Koshcat, I'm getting that feeling too... definite sockpuppet! LOL!

On your point, I agree entirely. I think there are a lot of people who should be conservatives, but don't realize it. The punks/"anarchists" are complaining about the government trying to control them, but as you point out -- they then end up supporting leftists. That's stupid because that's the very group that is putting in place the rules that they are complaining about.

But I think they turn to the left because the left is friendliest with them, and has painted conservative as fuddy-duddies who only like 1950s music. Unfortunately, a lot of conservatives also play into that, as they will constantly attack these bands.

At the same time, rappers are complaining about being put on the government ranch and treated like children. They rap about wanting responsibility and control over their own lives. But again, they vote Democratic because the Democrats have better PR with these groups and because Republicans have treated them like aliens who need to be quarantined.

Our philosophy aligns perfectly with the complaints of these groups, but we have been unable to explain that to them because the left has controlled the message and we've bought into the left's sales pitch that these groups belong to them.

We need to change that. I'm not saying conservatives need to love rap -- I definitely don't -- but we need to stop treating this like it's the plague and we need to start letting these people know that they're being misled by the left.

Koshcat said...

Just like anything, there is really good rap and hip/hop and really bad. It is sometimes hard to like because often the language is very coarse as well as the themes. I was just listening to an Eminem song called "Drips", pretty graphic but again the underlying theme is STDs. Part of the song is getting one from unprotected sex, which is your own fault, and part is due to finding out your partner has been cheating on you.

A lot of rap I don't like but some of it is really quite artistic. I tend towards more punk/alternative for the most part. It is ok to like something that maybe liberal. I like Green Day and agree with a quote by Ted Nugent about them who said (and I am paraphrasing) "I don't like their politics but I love their music."

AndrewPrice said...

Koshcat, I like some rap, and dislike some of rap. I really like a couple of Eminem's songs, in particular "Stan," "Without Me," and "Lose Yourself." And I think the messages of those are actually surprisingly conservative, though I doubt Eminem realized that and I wonder how he would react if someone told him that?

That's a great quote from Nugent!

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

I mentioned this before but one idea might be to explain just how the liberal boogeymen, in fact, became boogeymen in the first place.

I'll also reiterate my idea for some kind of recommended reading list at the end. I can suggest a few titles for you.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Suggest away. I'd have to think about what you're talking about with the boogeymen because you may be talking about producing a history of liberalism to explain those things -- and that would be a little beyond the scope of this book.

Wanna send me more details?

AndrewPrice said...

P.S. On the recommended reading, I think it's a good idea, but it also needs to be fairly short.

T-Rav said...

Eminem's an interesting example. On the one hand, I think he's a little ridiculous and I don't care for rap in general; on the other hand, I give him a lot of credit for calling out this "gangster" culture that seems to have infected the youth. I wouldn't exactly call him a conservative by any means, but it is nice to see someone in the music industry who points out that actions have consequences.

Nah...I'm totally sure that Shapiro guy was legit. ;-)

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Yeah, don't get me wrong -- he's no conservative. He's firmly ensconced in all the bad that is liberalism and half of what he writes is really twisted and sick. But he is a talented singer and every once in a while, he comes up with some solid material -- and that material has definite conservative themes. I don't think he realizes that, but it's true. His best stuff is very much railing against the welfare mentality and against the celebrity culture.

A lot of rappers are like that. And I think it would help to show them this and to work to change the reputation of conservatives as lacking talent, being out of touch, and being fuddy-duddies.

In fact, this is one of the key problems with the conservative movement is that every time it moves to embrace something that isn't Leave It To Beaver, along come groups of activists to throw hissyfits and demand that whoever it is stop consorting with these evil people. That makes it so easy for the left to sell this image of us as book burners and that keeps us isolated from the people who make the culture.... it is considered career death to be conservative in the culture industry because of this reputation that the left continues to cultivate.

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: Sorry to be so late, but yesterday was a mass of unplanned emergencies and social intrusions. The one thing that I think will make your book a success is your ability to distinguish between genuinely conservative movies with true messages and those that appear to be conservative but are actually just surface rah-rah, go America movies. Likewise, you recognize movies that are frequently damned as liberal-left when they are actually conservative, but just don't fit the mold of being jingoistic or reactionary.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, That's a good point. I've seen that way too much where people assume that just because a film is "patriotic" or "kicks ass" that it must be conservative. That's simply wrong. You always have to look at the motivations, the actions and what the film glorifies or downplays.

Floyd R. Turbo said...

I would argue that most (if not all) great movies are at core conservative in values. If they become that popular (especially non-comedies) then they most likely hit the Aristotelian high points which means they highlight common virtues that are widely celebrated. Even movies that purport to be liberal (like Dead Man Walking) are often really conservative at heart because they highlight those traditional values.

I would also point out that conservative messages (usually cautionary tales) can be taken out of movies. I detested Sideways as a comedy but taken as an example of people wasting their lives it works well.... To use a TV example like Seinfeld. The point of the whole show is how vapid and narcissistic those folks are. They are not to be emulated -- they are to be ridiculed. It's a conservative show because it holds up the vapid 1990s hook-up single culture, materialism, etc. to merciless mockery.

Taking the conservative message out of any movie (or song or any artwork) is pretty easy if the movie has a good story. I argue (though it's hard to quantify of course) that any truly good story is conservative at its core -- even if the director/screenwriter is "liberal".

Floyd R. Turbo said...

Now for titles...

Most film noir is conservative in tone and theme.

Even anti-war movies are often quite "conservative" -- though "classically liberal" might be better since Paths of Glory and All Quiet... can be seen as cautionary tales about blindly following government, etc.... again supposedly "liberal" movies.

Modern liberals have seized the notion of "Questioning authority" as some 1960s radical notion when it goes back to at least St. Paul exhorting his readers to "test the spirits". As such... any "question authority" film or story is really somewhat Judeo-Christian in theme since it goes against blindly following centralized earthly authority.

In that sense, even purportedly liberal movies like Norma Rae, Shawshank Redemption, and Brubaker have conservative themes (even if liberal overall)

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, That's a great point and it's something I've been thinking about a lot. I think there is something fundamentally inconsistent between liberalism and good storytelling. Liberal values simply don't work in stories because they aren't consistent with human experience. For example, we want an action hero who takes it upon himself to solve his own problems. We don't want a "hero" who relies on the government.

And while we do value things liberals claim to want, liberals don't actually define those things in ways that we value them. For example, liberals claim to want racial equality, which is a noble goal we can all believe in. BUT their version is not equality for individuals, it's group rights. Indeed, they believe the individual must do what is needed for the benefit of the group. Thus, a hero who fights for equality for individuals is actually a conservative idea -- the liberal version would be pushing for group rights. Therefore, something like To Kill A Mockingbird actually is a strong conservative message and is inconsistent with modern liberalism.

Now, that's not to say that you can't hang a liberal veneer onto a film that is fundamentally conservative, or that you can't make a liberal issue film (e.g. pro global warming), but to make a good story, I just don't think it's possible to genuinely use modern liberal principles.

Could you make a good story without using conservative values, i.e. without values? Maybe. But all in all, I think you're right that the best stories will be those that use conservative values because those are the things we accept as true to human nature.

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, Paths of Glory is an interesting choice. I've seen that several times and the first time I saw it, I kept thinking: "I know this is anti-military, but why does it feel conservative?" The more I watched, the more I think it's crawling with conservative ideas -- the opposition to group punishment, the willingness of individuals to stand up to a tyrannical state (in this case the generals), etc. So even though it was probably meant to be liberal, it really doesn't send a liberal message.

Floyd R. Turbo said...

Andrew...

Paths of Glory is a Due Process movie and ACLU types have seized "Due Process" as their value. That's BS. Due Process is the best way to find Truth and Justice in our system. It is an American value. Also... the antagonist gets his comeuppance...

I recommend a book about Film Noir called Arts of Darkness: American Noir and the Quest for Redemption by Thomas Hibbs. It's a bit dense (a lot of stuff about Pascal whom I love), but a very interesting book.

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, That's true about due process and Path's of Glory. What's interesting about due process being considered a liberal value though is that due process really reinforces the idea of rule of law -- which is a very conservative value. Liberals are the lovers of equity and fairness and unbounded government power "to make things right." Conservatives are the ones pushing consistency of law and limitations on government power. As a principle, due process really fits in our world, not theirs.

So I've always seen their adoption of due process as a bit of an illusion. I think they've liked due process only when it helps their ultimate goals -- just as they only like states rights when that protects liberal states.

Thanks for the recommendation -- I'll check that out. I am aiming to make the book as useful as possible, so I'd like to be able to approach each issue from as many angles as possible, or at least with as much knowledge as possible!

tryanmax said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
tryanmax said...

I should probably have kept that superhero idea to myself. As an aspiring but, as yet unaccomplished writer, I should guard my novel ideas more carefully.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I wouldn't worry about it. The odds of someone stealing it are very, very low. But to allay your fears, I'll delete the comment. Here is your comment again without the idea in it:


From tryanmax

I'm up too late, so let me just tick off my recommendations:

1. I think there should be some exploration of how liberal filmmakers ascribe "conservative" values to their villains. For example, many films feature an overbearing and abusive parental figure who is supposedly devoutly religious. Or a radical terrorist group who's leader quotes conservative thinkers while ruling his collective with an iron fist.

Perhaps that exploration could include some discussion on how to effectively turn that trope around.

2. My suggestion for the recommended reading list is David Mamet's latest book, The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture, which outlines his awakening from being a "brain dead liberal." The liberal book reviewers didn't just throw Mamet under a bus for that one, they threw him under a monster truck.

3. I don't know if this is particularly useful, but perhaps you could discuss how if any man tried in real life to do any of the outlandish things to win the girl that are romanticized in the typical romcom, he would likely be served with a restraining order or sent to prison. At the very least, he would be receive court-ordered psychological therapy.

And finally, I think you hit the nail on the head with this statement: "Find people who believe in conservatism but might not know they are conservatives and win them over." I have found that the most amazing way to start that conversation is by simply saying, "You know, that's actually a very conservative point of view." Just don't say that during a meal. Otherwise the winning over won't take place unless you happen to know the Heimlich.

Sadly, I do not.

AndrewPrice said...

Those are all great ideas! Thanks. Tryanmax!

"they threw him under a monster truck"!! LOL! That Mamet book might be an excellent reference for people as it fits right in with the philosophy behind this book and it might give another good perspective to people why they should stop being liberals.

I definitely plan to attack liberal boogeymen and that would be a good place to discuss your point about liberal filmmakers ascribing conservative traits to their villains. Those need to be debunked!

I know what you mean about not saying that to liberals while they're eating. I've pointed out to several liberals that they actually agree with conservative values and their heads just about exploded. But it was a great opener to the discussion that they're on the wrong side.

AndrewPrice said...

P.S. If you want to run your idea by someone, feel free to e-mail me:

commentarama@yahoo.com

I won't steal it.

thundercatkp said...

Andrew,

Are you putting anything in there about Pontypool? I have read several reviews on it and people are split some say it's conservative but others are very adamant that it is liberal. One I read thought that the....liberal hippies wanted to make talk radio host look insane. I didn't get that though...kill means kiss...sounds normal to me ;)

Karen

AndrewPrice said...

Karen, No, Pontypool isn't well known enough. I might mention it in passing, but that would be about it.

tryanmax said...

I just saw MoneyBall last night and, without getting into it too much, I think that is a film that greatly embodies conservative principles.

It's a story about pursuing principles that work in the face of popular opinion that favors the traditions and superstitions they've grown accustom to without knowing why. In a way, it's a morality tale that doesn't dwell on morals, because what is more right than what is provable?

Some other positive aspects include a positive portrayal of a divorced dad, some lessons being truthful even when it isn't pleasant, and the overall family-friendliness of the picture without being "kiddie". Oh, and there's baseball, too!

I'm not much for sports films, but even when I was in the theater, I was already saying to myself, I'm going to buy this on DVD! That's the highest endorsement I can give a sports film.

AndrewPrice said...

thanks tryanmax! I do want to check that one out -- I've heard great things. And I am honestly a Brad Pitt fan.

tryanmax said...

Just saw Pontypool. That was actually pretty cool!

I love a good, obscure movie.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I reviewed that (here). I'm super impressed with it.

I'd like to post the review at BH to get some publicity for it, except I'm waiting for it to go back on Showtime so people can actually see it... Netflix doesn't have it.

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