Self-Reliance and all that

I found this interesting, if mostly as an exercise in selective interpretation. More generally, I could see how many of traditional elements of popular storytelling--foremost the always compelling arc of anexceptional and heroic individual triumphing against seemingly insurmountable odds--would, in the grossest sense, affirm a conservative sensibility.

Then again, what makes a good story isn't necessarily always the same as what happens in reality. In reality, seemingly insurmountable odds are often actually insurmountable and the arc of any given individual is alternately circumscribed and enhanced by countless factors, many unseen and difficult to compellingly dramatize and many more having nothing to do with a person's own actions and attitudes. Thinking on this makes me miss "The Wire" terribly--not just because it affirms my politics (which it does) but because it managed to evoke the gears and pistons of reality in a way that many fictions don't even bother trying to do.

Isn't it interesting, then, to think in the broader sense how the stories we tell over and over again become a sort of reality all their own, where our expectations of them are informed not by our experience of life but our experience of how we talk about and represent it.

1 comment:

Grendel said...

This kind of stuff always kills me. Hollywood's reputation as "liberal" is undeserved, in my opinion. most of what Hollywood films do is 1. Present the status quo. 2. Challenge it. 3. Recapitulate it. Most Hollywood films are conservative, by this measure. I mean, when is the last time you saw a movie where a girl gets pregnant and after some soul wrestling decides to abort the unwanted fetus and gets on with her life? Never, and you never will. Hollywood promotes American conservative values while pushing the envelope a little bit on tolerance re: race and homosexuality. But just a little bit. Hollywood products hardly ever contain anything actually subversive. It's a gatekeeper role, circumscribing the boundary of the cultural playpen -- "we'll go this far and no farther." But even that limit is criticized by hyperconservatives, who call themselves conservatives, and the bland year-in, year-out middlebrow fare of big budget films gets defined as the "liberal left agenda" or whatever. As if. Now, there are left-wing films from time to time, of course.

Anyway, it's a sign of the bankruptcy of the conservative philosophy that Hollywood has to specifically create THEIR art too, since being conservative and being an artist is almost never a good combination. And what a stretch they have to make to even claim some of these movies. Yeah, in the middle of the Iraq War, Grima Wormtongue reeeeeally reminded me of Keith Olbermann -- that's just who I was thinking of as the lying, cynical, smarmy type in our recent politics. And Saruman -- deaf to reason and goodness, rejecting human values, hungry for war, enlisting the lower classes into violent service to maintain power. I guess he would be who? Rachel Maddow? Whoopi Goldberg?