It’s kind of sad that conservatives feel they have to co-opt popular culture just to seem hip. Aren’t they supposed to be above all that, above chasing the arbitrary, ephemeral nature of trendiness in order to affirm timeless values? Guess not, judging by the National Review‘s list of the best conservative movies of the last 25 years. There’s actually a lot of good movies on this list, but are they conservative? It takes a lot of wishful thinking, or deliberate obtuseness, to call some of these movies conservative. Mostly, it takes the assumption that conservatives have a monopoly on such virtues as heroism, patriotism, self-sacrifice, and opposition to terrorism and totalitarianism. It also takes willful ignorance of the ambiguity inherent in most movies.
For example, Juno makes the list because its heroine chooses adoption over abortion, but I was taken to task not long ago by a conservative critic (responding to this article) who insisted that Juno was a liberal movie because it depicts teen pregnancy as no big deal and men in general as feckless and weak. Team America: World Police skewers both liberals and conservatives. Gran Torino is about a bigot who learns to appreciate immigrants and their culture. The listmakers like Brazil for saying that a Big Brother government is bad, but they also like Dark Knight for saying it’s good. They like 300‘s militarism but breathe not a word about its extreme homoeroticism. They like Metropolitan‘s celebration of class privilege and noblesse oblige but don’t notice the movie’s simultaneous lampooning of the debutante set for being hopelessly out-of-touch dinosaurs. Even the ultraconservative Red Dawn (see trailer above) — which the opportunity to praise was, I suspect, the excuse for drawing up this list in the first place — has some mixed messages, particularly in the character of the general (played by Ron “Superfly” O’Neal) who comes to doubt the rightness of his invasion and sympathize with the occupied. Seems that imperialist invasions of other countries for no good reason are bad no matter who’s doing the occupying, but that’s a message that conservatives have somehow missed despite 25 years of watching that movie over and over. “Wolverines!” Continue reading