Over at Salon, Andrew O’Hehir looks into the Right’s disastrous relationship with pop culture:
[…] It’s almost more a question of affect or tone or presentation than it is of substance. Conservative-oriented, family-friendly movies like “Won’t Back Down” or the hit antiabortion drama from last year, “October Baby” – only the most prominent example in a recent wave of Christian-themed, social media-promoted films – are made cheap and fast, without the slick, professional cinematography and editing of most Hollywood productions. Watching them, you feel a vague time-warp effect, as if you had stumbled on a 1997 made-for-Lifetime production while channel-surfing.
Along with the relative artlessness and the technical weakness comes an overwhelming sense of sentimentality and sincerity, the almost uncomfortable feeling that the movie is coming at you heart in hand, saying exactly what it wants to say, and shamelessly urging you to share in the exaggerated emotions of its characters […]
More than that, pop culture (also known simply as culture to you and me) refutes the Conservative Movement’s major claims: That America is a conservative, Christian nation that has fallen from grace and needs Big Daddy Republicanism to put it back on the straight and narrow. If this were the case, Kirk Cameron would be the biggest movie star on the planet, instead of a half-forgotten hack with some confused ideas about the utility of bananas.
The reason Conservative attempts at entertainment come off as artless, preachy and fatuous (not to mention dull, strained, hackneyed, trite, and clumsy) is because the entertainment value is placed second behind the message. Rather then craft and genuine expression of anger, frustration or bewilderment about living in in the 21st century and how that clashes with traditional concepts of a meaningful life (a movie I, a godless Lefty would go see) Conservative entertainers instead, with minor exception, preach. Because going to church is just so much fun.
By and large, conservative entertainers talk down to the audience (America) and make them feel belittled, disenfranchised and inconsequential. I blame 30 years of sucking up to rich psychopaths, but either way, they loose the audience, is my point. Exhibit A, for now and years to come, will be the time Clint Eastwood harangued an empty chair for 15 minutes. Yes, it was at a politcal convention. But the only reason Dirty Harry was there was so Mitt Romney, king of the artless nimrods, could hitch a ride to the White House on his coat tails. Shiny shiny coat tails earned by making artful, non propagandistic entertainment.
The reason all that Hollywood lefty* pop culture is so popular, with its sex and drugs and Darwinis, is because it encourages the audience to relate to likable characters who are flawed and have wants and desires. People who a e just like them: moved by human motives. Everybody wants to win, to beat the smug asshole, to get the girl. What they don’t want is to have some frustrated closet case stand there for an hour, trying to tie the parable of the sower to a year-old Internet meme as a way to explain why Jesus hates condoms and teachers unions.
If conservatives want to use entertainment to recruit to their cause, their cause needs to first and foremost be something people want. Until people want to be scolded for their shortcomings and die alone and unloved in the gutter, the Conservative message is going to flop. Hard.
Link via Roger Ebert on Twitter.
* As John Rogers and others have explained, Hollywood isn’t Left at all, or even political for exactly the reasons I outline above in relation to Conservatives: propaganda doesn’t put buts in seats. You aren’t going to make money with a movie that tells people they suck. And making money is Hollywoods agenda. Everything else is craft to support that goal.