Time to Call Out James Cameron
“Relax, it’s just a movie.”
You often hear that when you step up to point out the lefty assumptions, biases and what John Nolte calls the “liberal tells” within popular entertainment. You are allowed to praise the technical achievements of an Avatar – such as they are, since many of us think it looks freakin' stupid – but heaven forbid that you dare question the hackneyed liberal noble savage clichés that James Cameron offers up instead of a story. The message is clear - our proper role as pop culture consumers is to sit back, open our eyes, slacken our jaws and swallow Hollywood’s agenda.
But what is remarkable – and crucial – is that we are no longer passively accepting whatever Hollywood dumps on us. The backlash to Avatar’s flabby thinking and tired ideology is the new paradigm, with even reviewers outside the conservative movement slagging it for its staggering intellectual hypocrisy, cardboard military/corporate villains and sophomoric Mother Earth enviro-babblings.
This is good, because Avatar is not just a neato movie. And “Imagine” is not just a pleasant song. And Adam Lambert is not just a flamboyant artist with a powerful personal vision that transcends our hidebound, repressed notions of morality. They are all part of an agenda, and the proper response to that agenda is illumination.
The real danger is not that Hollywood preaches the tenets of its agenda – people tend to tune out preaching – but that its assumptions and values will be inculcated by osmosis and accepted simply because they are always there and no one even bothers to point them out, like ideological wallpaper. Left/liberalism first infects the political culture through popular culture, and it must work in secret to displace the values, norms and traditions – like decency, hard work, free enterprise and patriotism -- that most people are still brought up to believe in. If you see, for example, enough movies where the villain is – surprise! –an evil corporation, after a while that is going to make an impression.
Look at the JFK assassination. Somehow, through the magic of popular culture, in the minds of millions of Americans the murder of a fairly conservative (by modern standards) president by a dedicated, Castro-loving communist became the martyrdom of a crusading liberal by a cabal of military/capitalist conspirators. Huh?
Don’t look for movie critics to do the job of calling out the nonsense. Most of them are in on it and always have been. Witness the unbelievably embarrassing review that liberal Roger Ebert bestowed upon 1991’s staggeringly ignorant and foolish JFK. Back then, if you weren’t reading National Review, you probably had no idea until you plopped down your money for a ticket that the staff of Pravda couldn’t have made a more anti-American film.
This backlash is something new, and it means that we no longer have to let left/liberalism be our culture’s default setting. Vitally, the internet and resources like Big Hollywood mean that we no longer need to fight alone. We can leverage our collective power to support that kid coming out of Avatar somewhere in Missouri who thought the movie looked kinda cool, but can't help thinking that seeing all those American soldiers getting slaughtered was not something people should be cheering about. He can't really put into words an explanation why he feels that way to his gushing friends. Now we can give him the tools to put his finger on the nagging feeling that so much of popular culture leaves him with, and we help him to articulate his response so that the next time he can say, "Wait, I'm not buying that, James Cameron." And so he can tell his friends. And they’ll likely agree.
We are all soldiers in this fight, and popular culture is the front line.
But isn’t it a losing battle? Why be the guy who says, “Wait a sec – did that character on CSI: Miami just refer to global warming like it’s more real than leprechauns, unicorns and Blue Dog Democrat senators who vote the principles they profess?”
No, it’s not a losing battle, because the mere act of raising the issue defeats the Hollywood elite’s insidious power to infiltrate and undermine. If the viewer sees the agenda, he can evaluate it, consider it, and then decide whether to accept or reject it. That’s not a process we conservatives fear. We don’t have to disguise what we’re selling like our liberal – oops, I mean “progressive” – friends. That’s why the Hollywood elite values a discussion of its agenda like the post-1/20/09 Democrats value dissent.
We need to confront the agenda not just because we like picking apart movies – though we do enjoy holding foolishness up to ridicule – but because every time the silly ideas and clichés of the Hollywood elite pop up, someone has to be there to play cultural whack-a-mole. After all, those who send these messages succeed only through misdirection -- “America sucks. Now quick, look over there at that explosion!”
And we need to respond, “Wait, America what?”
And we need to call out their nonsense every single time, whether in print or just to the pals you went with to the movies. Avatar cries out for it:
Oh, the bucolic natives are once again oppressed by the evil Americans! Nonsense! Americans have freed more people from oppression than any other group in history. The world would be an immeasurably worse place if we had not conquered North America. And the American Indians were imperfect like all human beings – some were good, some were bad, but they were certainly not the dopey, touchy-feely constructions of pure Rousseauean sweetness and light of modern Hollywood’s patronizing portrayals.
Oh, evil businessmen ruthlessly ravage mother Earth and exploit innocent Third World peoples in a greedy race for profits! Nonsense! Capitalism and market economics have done more to improve the lives of human beings than anything else. The Third World’s embrace of socialism, self-destructive cultures and through-and-through corruption are the overwhelming causes of its problems.
Oh, evil Western countries are causing climate change that will result in an environmental catastrophe! Nonsense! Global warming is a scam, a hoax and a fraud, and is less science than pagan religion. I wish it weren’t – hot weather is a great excuse to mix up some Sapphire and tonics and this cold weather we keep having is becoming a real bummer.
And Hollywood, you can peddle your oppressed visionary act to some other sucker. Nobody is saying don’t make liberal films. We’re just saying that your days of doing it in secret, of being able to get away with putting out your propaganda knowing that your secrets are safe with fellow traveling reviewers, are over.
You go ahead and make the films you want to make – many of us have fought for your right to do so. But it’s our right – and our duty – to critique you. Now you actually have to make your case, out in the open, in the global warming-amped sunlight.
You’re welcome to compete with us in the marketplace of ideas. Except we’re going to be Wal-Mart: embraced by most Americans; and you’re going to end up like Circuit City: obsolete, inflexible and ultimately bankrupt.
We’re calling you out – on your flabby arguments, your weak thinking, your stunning ignorance of history and your rank hypocrisy. We’re not going to be distracted by bright colors, loud explosions, or hi-tech gimmicks. We’re ignoring all of the hype.
So, Jimmy Cameron, tell us….
Why is capitalism – you know, the economic system that allowed you to make Avatar – so bad?
Why are primitive societies – you know, the kind you manifestly do not live in – so morally righteous?
And why are the deaths of American fighting men – you know, the folks who are keeping at bay the bastards who would saw your open-minded, tolerant, liberal head off with a butter knife given half a chance -- something you think ought to bring cheers from the audience?
Hey, Jimmy, you made your stupid movie. Now we’re going to make you make your case.