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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Maybe it's because they get their themes from movies and TV
Posted by Jill | 7:15 AM
Today David Brooks notes that the meme of the Rugged Macho Individualism of the Old West that has characterized Republicans since Ronald Reagan put on a cowboy hat and rode around his stage ranch doesn't resonate anymore:
Republicans generally like Westerns. They generally admire John Wayne-style heroes who are rugged, individualistic and brave. They like leaders — from Goldwater to Reagan to Bush to Palin — who play up their Western heritage. Republicans like the way Westerns seem to celebrate their core themes — freedom, individualism, opportunity and moral clarity.

But the greatest of all Western directors, John Ford, actually used Westerns to tell a different story. Ford’s movies didn’t really celebrate the rugged individual. They celebrated civic order.

For example, in Ford’s 1946 movie, “My Darling Clementine,” Henry Fonda plays Wyatt Earp, the marshal who tamed Tombstone. But the movie isn’t really about the gunfight and the lone bravery of a heroic man. It’s about how decent people build a town. Much of the movie is about how the townsfolk put up a church, hire a teacher, enjoy Shakespeare, get a surgeon and work to improve their manners.

The movie, in other words, is really about religion, education, science, culture, etiquette and rule of law — the pillars of community. In Ford’s movie, as in real life, the story of Western settlement is the story of community-building. Instead of celebrating untrammeled freedom and the lone pioneer, Ford’s movies dwell affectionately on the social customs that Americans cherish — the gatherings at the local barbershop and the church social, the gossip with the cop and the bartender and the hotel clerk.

Today, if Republicans had learned the right lessons from the Westerns, or at least John Ford Westerns, they would not be the party of untrammeled freedom and maximum individual choice. They would once again be the party of community and civic order.

Of course we've had a taste of the Republican vision of civic order in the federal Administration of George W. Bush and the local one of Rudy Giuliani. It's a vision of mass surveillance of Americans' comings and goings, a concept of pre-crime where we'll assume you are guilty no matter how innocent you are, and then of course there's the ever-popular police shootings of unarmed black men.

But Brooks' main point serves to underscore what's wrong with the Republicans, again, ever since Reagan: They can't distinguish between reality and fantasy. Ronald Reagan wasn't an actor who played "The Gipper", he really WAS the Gipper. He put on a cowboy hat and that made him a rancher. George W. Bush bought a stage ranch in Texas, denying his Kennebunkport roots, and became a cowboy who spent his vacations clearing brush trucked in from a local schoolyard. Republicans worshiped the illusion of cowboy rather than the real thing. And then there's Jack Bauer, the fictional CIA agent of 24. How many times have we heard the "ticking timebomb" what-if scenario used to justify torture? This scenario is taken right out of 24, and that show is used to "prove" that torture works. Yes, in the eyes of the defenders of torture, we know torture works because we saw it in 24.

The other night I saw a TV commercial in which a tired, bored therapist ignores a patient's desire to burn down his office and ends up sitting in an inferno. In small print at the bottom of the screen is a message: "Never commit arson." Then of course there are the disclaimers "Stunt driver on closed track. Do not attempt" messages in car ads. One would think these shouldn't be necessary. But as long as there are Republicans who can't tell fiction from reality, I suppose they will be.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...
And I thought that they had simply adopted Dallas and Dynasty as the correct role and thought models identifying with the powerful.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Where has Carrie's blog gone? I checked it last weekend, and it had been removed. The week prior, there had been no mention of her deciding to shut it down, so I'm assuming it was removed by blogspot.com

Are you in contact with her, do you know what happened?

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