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Cultural Kommisar Attacks Filmmaker Reitman

Like old-fashioned Marxist criticism before the fall of the Berlin Wall, a critic at Slate characterizes Oscar-nominated filmmaker Jason Reitman's deviancy from progressive politics as revolting decadence.

by
S. T. Karnick

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April 2, 2010 - 12:04 am
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One indicator of how far statism has progressed in American society and culture is the tendency to view everything through a political lens. Feminists used to argue that “the personal is the political,” and this attitude has become commonplace on both sides of the political spectrum.

A recent essay by Slate columnist Dennis Lim slagging Jason Reitman, director of the Academy Award-nominated film Up in the Air, exemplifies this baleful phenomenon. Lim criticizes Reitman for a failure to convey a progressive political vision, expressing open astonishment that the screenwriter-director has not been blacklisted by Hollywood’s allegedly liberal-minded industry self-censors:

[I]t is hard to fathom his success in the supposedly liberal bastion of Hollywood: His politics lean right when they are at all legible, and yet he’s embraced as an insightful social satirist, the second coming of Billy Wilder.

Lim goes on to provide what he sees as the answer to this riddle: Reitman is a fiendishly brilliant manipulator on the order of Fu Manchu or, well, President Obama:

On a deeper level, though, this disconnect makes perfect sense: It speaks to the brazen hucksterism that is so much a part of Reitman’s method. He’s a mediocre filmmaker but a world-class panderer. His movies, which instinctively play to both sides of a charged issue, are the height of smoke-and-mirrors artistry, wholly dependent on the concealment and the semblance of meaning.

Reitman, son of Ghostbusters and Stripes director Ivan Reitman, is the director of three very thoughtful and intelligent films with satirical elements: Thank You for Smoking (2005), Juno (2007), and Up in the Air (2009). His films do feature political themes prominently. Thank You for Smoking tells the story of a lobbyist for the tobacco industry, and the protagonist of Juno is a pregnant teenager who decides not to have an abortion but instead to give up her child for adoption. Up in the Air tells the story of a corporate consultant who makes a living going around the country firing people, but whose real character problem is his failure to establish close relationships in his personal life.

One can see why progressive politicos would find such films difficult to enjoy: they consistently place the personal above the political.

As Lim makes clear with the left-handed compliment of saying Juno “at least triggered some debate about its politics,” the only possible happy ending of a film about abortion, in his view, is evidently for the unborn child to be killed and the young lady to have her decision endorsed by everyone except the obligatory Catholic and born-again Christian villains. Or, of course, to have her killed by said villains, culminating in a lovely closing crane shot moving somberly away from her tragic, bleeding body signifying her martyrdom for the great and good cause of killing children in the womb for money. That would surely be a big hit in downtown Boston and San Francisco.

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