We conservatives spend a lot of time criticizing Hollywood’s failings, calling out its errors and pointing to its hypocrisies – and this is entirely appropriate since so much of the crap spewing out of the Tinseltown cookie cutter is borderline commie nitwittery masquerading as profundity. But if nothing good ever came out of Hollywood – if everything it produced hewed to the same lame party-line pinkoism rejected everywhere except in Westside L.A., university faculty lounges, and Washington, D.C. – we all would have stopped paying attention long ago.
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And many conservatives have. Many of us have thrown our hands in the air and opted out of popular culture completely, exhausted from enduring liberal sucker punches buried within crummy flicks about magic robots battling Dick Cheney vampire clones that we pay $12.50 to see in theaters maintained at the hygiene level of your average bus station men’s room. You can hardly blame them for giving up.
But as tempting as it is to withdraw from the battlefield, to dig in and hope it somehow changes, surrender was never an option. This is our culture, not theirs. And they don’t get to control it.
The fact is that among the detritus of American popular culture, there are voices of sanity. Sure, they are nearly drowned out by over-praised hacks like Aaron Sorkin and over-indulged clowns like Oliver Stone. Yet, occasionally, Hollywood has allowed positive, conservative messages to slip through.
Sure, some of them are from long ago, but we have never forgotten them. In fact, we have embraced them and treasured them, a powerful demonstration of the fact that good commonsense messages can also be commercially viable. Some of them are more recent as well, teachers of vital lessons that somehow the guard dogs of liberal culture missed.
The following list is by no means complete – the commenters will no doubt offer hordes of other worthies between their observations about how I am insane and/or stupid. It is simply these ten solid conservative messages that I have found particularly meaningful – however, please note that Heat has earned emeritus status and is not found on the list.
So, in no particular order:
This magnificent three-part epic illustrates several great conservative lessons through the tale of Frodo, a gentle hobbit who finds himself the only hope for the world of free peoples as a wicked tyranny arises. The various nations and races of free creatures are disorganized and confused, with some thinking they can simply hide or wait out the terror. But J.R.R. Tolkien, who fought in the miserable trenches of the First World War and later watched the rise of Hitler, understood that there is no sanctuary from aggressive evil. His characters, at a terrible cost, choose to march out and meet the enemy.
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Of particular note is the frivolous, care-free land from which Frodo hails, the Shire, a green and pleasant realm that considers itself far from danger and immune to evil. But, as blogger Kellie Jane Adan recently discussed, Frodo had the wisdom to see what his happy countrymen could not or would not – that the enemies of freedom will not just go away if you ignore them. Even those who get eaten last still get eaten in the end. The peril of freedom is that it can lead a people to forget that it comes with a price tag, and that the price is sometimes payable in blood.
It does not take a genius to see the parallels between The Lord of the Rings and the real world of Tolkien’s time, nor the parallels to our world of today. The jihadi movement and the rogue crime syndicates masquerading as nations such as Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela make no secret of their intentions. Still, the Western elites remain willfully blind, looking inward and caring only about their own petty personal interests. The Lord of the Rings is a powerful rejoinder to that foolishness, and one every parent should ensure their children see and understand.
2. “Leaders lead by example” — We Were Soldiers (2002)
America’s bookstores are filled with tedious management tomes written by college professors and CEOs, but while many of their books’ titles contain the word “Leadership,” comparing their tepid version of management to true leadership is like comparing Justin Bieber to AC/DC in terms of rocking. If you want to learn something about what leaders do – and can put aside Mel Gibson’s personal character failures – pop in a DVD of We Were Soldiers.
A bloody and harrowing account of the ferocious 1965 Battle of Ia Drang, Gibson’s (then) Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore is the quintessential United States Army officer, the first off the chopper during the air assault and always in the thick of the fight.
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Watch as Gibson surveys and assesses the situation, makes his tough decision to call in dangerous close-in air support, and then joins in the fight alongside his troopers. Playing a cavalry battalion commander – a job I held, though not while deployed – Gibson is everywhere on the battlefield, encouraging his men, controlling the fight and most importantly (when all hell breaks loose) staying calm.
And it’s an accurate portrayal, not only because the battle tracks the fight depicted in Lieutenant General (Retired) Moore’s superb book. I actually saw LTG Moore speak at Fort Benning during my Infantry Officer Advanced Course in 1994. Gibson may be a creep in his personal life, but he did LTG Moore right in the film. And do not forget Sam Elliot’s awesome portrayal of Command Sergeant Major Basil Plumley – a commander is only as good as his NCOs.
We Were Soldiers demonstrates that a leader isn’t some guy at a desk at the other end of a phone line filling out paperwork. Leaders lead. Period.
3. “The only colors that matter in America are red, white, and blue” – Glory (1989)
Liberals talk a good game about diversity. But more than any other institution in America, the military lives it. Once again, We Were Soldiers sums that up:
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But that was not always true. During the Civil War, freed blacks had to fight for their right to fight. Glory tells the story of those incredible America soldiers and the white officers appointed to lead them. The conservative lesson is clear – nonsense like color makes no difference; character is everything. The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry proved its bravery in battle, not thanks to some quota or by some special dispensation by liberals who deep down think no one else can prosper without their help. They did it themselves:
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Colonel Shaw, the white commander of the 54th was killed during the storming of Fort Wagner. According to legend, the Confederates refused to return his body, instead burying him with his black troops. They thought it was an insult. In fact, there could be no higher honor for an American officer.
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Glory teaches the essential conservative truth that honor, courage, and patriotism are not the province of any one race. Now, it’s entirely possible that the makers of Glory, like the makers of some of these other films, did not think they were sending a conservative message at all. If so, they are wrong. Race means nothing to conservatives, but it means everything to liberals.
Keep in mind that liberals customarily assign any wrongdoing in the past to “conservatives,” as if today’s Tea Party would re-impose child labor and slavery if it had its Neanderthal druthers. Don’t buy that nonsense. The next time some liberal starts yapping about racism, just ask him which party, in 2010, hailed as an “icon” a KKK Kleagle and Exalted Cyclops, one who incidentally wrote these hideous words:
I shall never fight in the armed forces with a Negro by my side…Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds.
Hint: Senator Icon was not a Republican (or a soldier, for that matter).
4. “You are the check on the power of the state” — Twelve Angry Men (1957)
Set inside a jury room during a murder deliberation, a dozen jurors (played by a who’s who of great old-time stars and character actors) start off eager to convict the young defendant and go home. However, Henry Fonda refuses to be railroaded and forces the others to confront their apathy, personal issues, and racial prejudices.
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Another movie that probably thinks it is liberal, Twelve Angry Men appears to believe it is an indictment of pure prejudice. However, what it really is is a conservative critique of the power of the state and what happens when citizens allow their own interests and biases to cause them to abdicate their responsibility to doubt their government and challenge it.
If the defendant is convicted, he will be executed – there is no greater example of the power of the state. But as these citizens pick at the government’s case they find flaws and inconsistencies. The government is not perfect or omniscient – far from it. The state is as flawed as human beings themselves, and the answer is not to meekly submit to its power but to stand up to it, to limit its powers and to make it justify every exercise of authority. That’s not anarchy or “hatred of government,” as liberals label any attempt by conservatives to rein in the leviathan – rather, that is the conservative notion that a government of men will be as imperfect as man itself. Every citizen has an absolute duty to ensure it never slips out of control – even where he’s outnumbered by 11-1 by those who find it easier to conform.
5. “True capitalists make America great” — It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Brought to the screen just a few years after the Depression ended, IAWL is not an indictment of free enterprise but, rather, a celebration of it. Some quarter-wit progressives – yeah, I’m looking at you again Aaron Sorkin – think this classic Frank Capra slice of Americana makes Old Man Potter into a capitalist poster child. More nonsense. The track record of the policies progressives espouse being unblemished with anything like success, their opinions about this and everything else should be summarily disregarded.
In fact, Potter is only a “capitalist” in the way that Chrysler, General Motors, and AIG are “capitalist” enterprises – he’s the face of a conglomerate tied in with the government (remember how he offers to send the police over to “help” during the panic?) and with other big businesses (remember how he takes over the town bank?). He is the power structure; the form he takes is “capitalist” only when it suits him.
Potter is not merely about money but about control over others and their lives – and like the liberals we deal with today (including the ones who make most movies), he has nothing but contempt for regular people. Throw in the word “transfats” or “guns” and Potter might as well be zillionaire Michael Bloomberg decrying the refusal of the masses to conform to his personal vision of how they ought to live their lives.
If alive today, Potter would find himself welcomed to the table with his liberal Democratic co-believers, pausing from making more mischief only to welcome their newest lobbyist, former Senator Chris Dodd.
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Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey is the true capitalist, working hard at the Building & Loan his father started not only to support himself and his family but to help his community. He doesn’t ask for (or give) handouts. His pride comes not from making money (though he apparently does okay, which is cool) but by being the guy responsible for helping so many hardworking Americans earn homes. That’s not unusual – when I talk about my business, I talk not about my AGI but about how many people I employ. In fact, the whole point of the movie is that Bedford Falls is a better place because of George Bailey – and, by extension, the country is better because of similar true capitalists.
IAWL is a warning about how self-styled elitists will use every lever of power at their disposal – big business, big government, or whatever – in order to control the lives of others. Old Man Potter no more represents capitalism than Aaron Sorkin represents sobriety. As IAWL teaches, we need to be on our guard and in the faces of these creepy petty fascists every single minute of every day.
Stay tuned for Part II.