Monday, April 12, 2010

Two Quick Examples of How Politics Hurt Art

Don't get me wrong: there is nothing inherently wrong with political propaganda, as long as its authors are up front about what they are doing. For instance, everybody knew that the movie Rendition was a piece of leftist agitprop, and its box office reflected the market for said agitprop. Which is fine, since the movie never pretended to be anything else.

What is a shame, though, is when otherwise good art is marred by propaganda. I offer two examples. (Warning: spoilers ahead.)

  • The movie Moon was reasonably good considering its budget, but at the film’s epilogue, an audio mash of news clips informs us that the protagonist, Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) has been successful in drawing public attention to how his erstwhile employer, Lunar Industries, is choosing to man its helium-3 extraction facility on the moon.  The closing clip is of what is obviously a Rush Limbaugh sound-alike complaining that Sam is an “illegal immigrant.”

    What’s irritating about this is not only that nothing in the film’s narrative concerns immigration.  The film’s narrative does support a pretty obvious conservative* talking point:  the immorality of human cloning.  This point is so obvious, in fact, that nobody with even a liberal’s understanding of conservative knee-jerk reactions could fail to anticipate it.  Unfortunately for the writers, most of the film’s audience would agree with this reaction, and since the writers goal was to make conservatives look foolish, they are forced to make up a reaction that is wildly implausible.

  • The movie The Time Traveler's Wife was an excellent film with a plot twist so cliched that I was embarrassed for the filmmakers. After establishing that Henry DeTamble's father-in-law Craig is (1) a pompous plutocrat of a type that was already worn out when John Houseman was doing it in Silver Spoons, (2) a Republican, and (3) a hunter, the movie has Henry getting shot by Craig in a hunting accident that didn't even nod towards plausibility. While it is true that hunting accidents do happen, they almost invariably happen when either the target or the victim is in motion relative to the other. (See, e.g., "Dick Cheney".) In this case, both Henry and the target are standing still when Craig shoots him with a scoped rifle without realizing it even after the fact. No half-way experienced hunter would make that kind of mistake, but the filmmakers decided to take a shot at wealthy Republican gun owners anyway.

* Conservative in general.  I have no idea whether or not Rush Limbaugh has a position on human cloning.

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