[Editor’s Note: This list is arranged in no particular order. Read Part I here.]
6. “Being exploited is different from being empowered ” – Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
Often too-easily dismissed as a raunchy teen sex comedy, Fast Time was a tremendously influential and important mirror on young America in the early 1980s. The fact that it is gut-bustlingly funny – Sean Penn’s turn as surfer/stoner Jeff Spicoli remains his only role where he doesn’t annoy me – seems to overshadow the serious undercurrents, as does the ample nudity culminating in the unforgettable swimming pool scene starring the glorious Phoebe Cates.
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However, there is a very, very dark undercurrent to this movie that provides a serious lesson to young people. Jennifer Jason-Leigh’s Stacy is a pretty but not-so-bright 15/16 year old who does not understand the difference between love and sex. In a world of absolutely no parents (not a single one is ever seen), she tries to find love (or at least attention) by basically trying to have tacky sex with every guy she meets – and it’s heartbreaking. She’s not “empowered” – she’s used. The ugly scene where she loses her virginity to a guy in his 20s in a Little League dug-out staring at graffiti reading “Surf Nazis Must Die” is a better repudiation of the “hook-up” culture than a hundred lectures.
After scaring off the one guy who actually likes her for herself by trying to bed him too, she seeks comfort underneath his skanky pal. A grim, humiliating encounter in a pool house leaves her pregnant and she immediately seeks an abortion. Regardless of one’s stand on the life issue, one cannot be anything other than horrified at how the fact she sees herself as literally nothing but a mere receptacle leads her to feel nothing at all about her decision.
But there is hope. The film ends with her finally back with the boy who actually loves her, and a final title card assures us that they remain together and “still haven’t gone all the way yet.”
7. “You make your destiny” — The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
Liberal filmmakers would have you believe that you are nothing but a victim of forces you cannot control, and that without their help you have no future. That is especially true for minorities, who liberal ideology requires be told again and again that without the help of their liberal masters they can never succeed. But, of course, liberalism never leads to success, only to a few more scraps in the form of entitlements offered in exchange for perpetual ballot box fealty to the elite overlords.
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The Pursuit of Happyness drives a Mac truck through that loser paradigm. Will Smith is the lead in the true story of a man who hits bottom but simply will not quit. Believing in himself, working his butt off, taking risks and – shock! – out-performing the competition, he goes from homeless to capitalist success story.
He doesn’t look for handouts. He doesn’t sit back waiting for his the liberal overlords to decide what he gets. He embraces the challenge of the free market and through sheer dedication makes himself a winner. He makes his own destiny; he doesn’t wait to be told what it can or will be.
As such, Pursuit may well be the one of the most subversive films of the last decade.
8. “Character is what you do when the stakes are the highest” – Bolt (2008)
This terrific Disney cartoon about a TV star dog who thought he was the superhero he plays on television then finds himself separated from the little girl who owns him makes a huge point about character. It comes up most clearly at the end, where his little girl is trapped on a burning soundstage. The dog who had replaced Bolt runs away, leaving her in the fire. But Bolt, though he now knows he is just a normal hound, goes back in anyway.
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Character isn’t something that you wear like a medal. It’s what you do when the chips are down, when all hell is breaking lose, when everyone else is running away.
The message of Bolt is a powerful statement that is especially applicable to young people. My little girl saw Bolt as a good dog who would not leave his girl behind and understood why that mattered; her dad thought of his own heroes who would not leave those they swore to protect no matter what the cost.
And when young people are a little older, they’ll be ready for the similar messages of Black Hawk Down – “It’s what you do right now that makes a difference” and “Leave no man behind.” (BHD also teaches the vital lesson that there is no substitute for the firepower of heavy armor and artillery.) But Bolt is a great foundation for learning about character – as well as a great movie.
9. “The west is worth defending” – 300 (2006)
If you enjoy lame liberal flicks that spend most of their time apologizing for our Western culture, you’ll probably want to miss 300. I’m sure there will be plenty of seats available for the revival of Lions for Lambs down at the Nuart.
But if you unapologetically support the victory of the West in our current war against jihadi barbarism and its related pathologies, you might dig 300. It makes no excuses about the superiority of our culture and our freedoms, which is why liberals hate it.
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300 is the highly stylized story of the small Spartan contingent that fought a legendary delaying action at a narrow pass called Thermopylae in northern Greece that allowed the rest of the Greeks to prepare to meet the Persian horde and their self-styled demigod king. They were slaughtered to a man, but succeeded in their mission.
The beauty of 300 is the fearlessness with which the filmmakers tell the truth – though it is unclear if they intended to make that statement, make it they do. While imperfect, the Greeks as portrayed in the film embody the Western values of individual freedom while the Persian hordes are mere faceless slaves. The Greeks stand and fight because they are free men who choose to do so; the Persian soldiers fight with whips at their backs, mere cannon fodder for a tyrant’s ambition.
Nothing has changed in the last couple thousand years.
It’s almost shocking to see a major Hollywood film make clear that our way of life is unequivocally worth defending, and death in battle against tyranny is infinitely preferable to “life” as a slave. When folks get all wrapped up about “creeping sharia” I usually mention that it doesn’t worry us American soldiers because we would never be alive to see it happen; we’d all be lying dead surrounded by empty magazines, spent shell casings, and the bodies of our enemies. If you don’t understand that perspective, you might want to skip 300. You might also want try and see if your doctor can help you out with a spine transplant.
10. “Your personal happiness is not the most important thing in the world” – Casablanca (1942)
Besides being arguably the greatest movie ever made, Casablanca also teaches one of conservatism’s most important lessons. The usual Hollywood pap tells you that your personal short term desires are your only guide; just look at the unspeakable moral disaster that is The English Patient. While conservatism is about individual liberty, with liberty comes the responsibility to occasionally put your own needs aside when duty calls.
Hollywood’s moral compass was not always broken. In Casablanca, Rick throws away his chance for happiness with Ilsa in order to help defeat the Nazis. Watch this classic scene – probably Hollywood’s finest hour both artistically and morally:
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Here’s the key quote. Try imagining it coming out of the word processor of one of the pampered, over-paid Ivy League twerps churning out scripts today:
Rick: We’ll always have Paris. We didn’t have, we, we lost it until you came to Casablanca. We got it back last night.
Ilsa: When I said I would never leave you.
Rick: And you never will. But I’ve got a job to do, too. Where I’m going, you can’t follow. What I’ve got to do, you can’t be any part of. Ilsa, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that.
Let’s assume there is still a director out there who would allow that many lines of dialogue in a row without a shaky camera jump cut. Even then, we’d still get Victor Laszlo as an uptight, probably Christian, creep with the unreasonable expectation that his wife not start banging another man just because she finds him sexy. Instead of sending her away, Rick would probably tell off Mr. Jesus J. Stickuphisrear, then he and Ilsa would jump on the plane together. Let other people deal with the Nazis – inconveniences like honor and duty just get in the way of validating one’s own feelings! Plus, they’d probably cast Ashton Kutcher as Rick and Katherine Heigl as Ilsa. And switch the location to Vegas. And change the Nazis into CIA agents. And make Sam into a streetwise hustler played by 50 Cent, who could also do a hip-hop version of As Time Goes By that somehow incorporates the phrase “my bitches.”
No, the fact is that sometimes your problems don’t amount to a hill of beans, that you have to make hard choices and do the right thing even where – gasp! – it might make you feel bad. Casablanca is easy to take because of great actors, a great script, and a great story, but its message is strong medicine. And, as we enter a second decade of (open) warfare for our civilization’s survival, it could not be timelier.
Again, this list is by no means complete, but it is evidence that within our popular culture there is the capacity for art to make powerful conservative statements. After all, that is the whole point of Big Hollywood. We cannot just leave our culture to the left – we know where that leads. Instead, we need to identify and support positive popular culture, to demand it instead of accepting whatever crap the Hollywood elite tries to force down our throats. And we need to fight back by calling out and mocking mercilessly the lefty nonsense offered to us by the Hollywoodoids, so coming soon: “The Top 10 Idiotic Leftist Movie Messages.”
And it turns out that, try as I might, I cannot present a list of vital movies messages without citing Heat. So here’s on key one that’s helped guide me in my daily life: “It always helps to use intensive, controlled automatic weapons fire, along with rapid maneuver, to defeat your enemies.” That’s truly a message we can all relate to.