Friday, July 25, 2008

Conservative Messages In Movies

I don't know if the conservative messages in 300 and The Dark Knight were intended or if we conservatives, desperate for something positive out of Hollywood, are reading our own hopes and dreams into those movies. I'd like to think it's the former, but sometimes I wonder if it's the latter.

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting take on The Dark Knight.

There seems to me no question that the Batman film "The Dark Knight," currently breaking every box office record in history, is at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war. Like W, Batman is vilified and despised for confronting terrorists in the only terms they understand. Like W, Batman sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past.

And like W, Batman understands that there is no moral equivalence between a free society -- in which people sometimes make the wrong choices -- and a criminal sect bent on destruction. The former must be cherished even in its moments of folly; the latter must be hounded to the gates of Hell.

"The Dark Knight," then, is a conservative movie about the war on terror. And like another such film, last year's "300," "The Dark Knight" is making a fortune depicting the values and necessities that the Bush administration cannot seem to articulate for beans.

It is interesting, though, that 300 and The Dark Knight made beaucoup dinero, while the recent spate of anti-war movies has essentially flopped.

When heroes arise who take those difficult duties on themselves, it is tempting for the rest of us to turn our backs on them, to vilify them in order to protect our own appearance of righteousness. We prosecute and execrate the violent soldier or the cruel interrogator in order to parade ourselves as paragons of the peaceful values they preserve. As Gary Oldman's Commissioner Gordon says of the hated and hunted Batman, "He has to run away -- because we have to chase him."

Values, morality--complexity, thy name is man.


M.A. said...

I realize that television and movies are not (or should not be) where our children learn about values and morals, but I worry that shows like "Leave it to Beaver" and "The Brady Bunch" have been replaced by "Hannah Montana" and "Bratz". I realize the older shows are outdated, but at least the characters learned a valuable lesson in every episode. That element seems to be missing in modern shows.

Ellen K said...

It's a shame that conservatives don't have a current equivalent to The Great Communicator because I sense that people are desperate for an alternative. Even some of my more liberal friends have serious doubts about Obama. Did you hear Glenn Beck's comparison of Obama and Hoover today? Frankly, the comparisons are astonishing and frightening.

Eric W. said...

I must have missed the conservative message in 300. I was distracted by the gratuitous blood and CGI abs.

Darren said...

You missed the whole freedom vs. tyranny story? I can see how--those were some pretty spectacular CGI abs!

Eric W. said...

Conservatives haven't cornered the market on freedom, y'know.

Darren said...

Perhaps not, but they seem to define it, value it, and practice it in a way far more similar to the way I do than the libs do. Just as an example, read the post (not the comment, but the post) above this one.

Liberals never grew up. They throw tantrums when they don't like something, and they need the government to act as mother to everyone.

Eric W. said...

There are more political leanings than conservative and liberal, too.

rightwingprof said...

In the case of 300, the director was up front about the conservative message of the movie. The Dark Knight, well, nothing like that yet.

It's a hell of a movie, though.

Eric W. said...

I thought everything about Heath Ledger being excellent was pity/hype, but he really was great as the Joker.

Paul said...

I think when you take into account pieces of Batman Begins, it becomes pretty clear that one of the underlying themes of the recent movies is that Batman himself creates as many problems as he solves. It's at the end of the first movie, remember, where Gordon basically describes the Joker as blowback.

On that, more plausible, reading, I think it's kind of a stretch to see The Dark Knight as a defense of GW Bush.

And, in any case, the movie only celebrates Batman as the best a screwed-up city can do. As a defense of Bush, that only works on the assumption that America's pretty screwed up, which isn't the typical conservative line.

Or it could just be a not-very-political movie.