Roger, our second point of disagreement:
Old Hollywood used to do that. The message of most classic Hollywood movies from the glory years was “America is A-okay.” That spread around the world. It could happen again, but we first have to tell it to ourselves, make ourselves believe it.
Hard to accomplish in the current atmosphere? Yes, but it can be done. In fact it was done in this Oscar year. The film I voted for in the nominating process — Lone Survivor – was just such a work. It said American servicemen in Afghanistan were the good guys, were “A-okay.”
The pro-American quality of classic Hollywood is an expression of a deeper underlying value system. Back in the ’30s and ’40s it was still fashionable to talk about good and evil. And I think that’s the key missing ingredient in much of today’s entertainment. As I’ve been obsessing over Disney’s classic movies, my working thesis: the more effectively a film depicts good vs evil the better it will be. Generally, in looking at the quality of a Disney movie, it seems that the scarier, more threatening evil of the villain, the stronger the dramatic tension and thus the deeper impression the film can make. (Duh!) But hence why I’ve been so obsessed lately with Fantasia, where Disney makes the fight the most explicit. The “Night on Bald Mountain” sequence at the end with the Chernobog summoning fire demonesses has some pretty wild stuff for a “kids” movie. Is there a scarier animated sequence in the history of film?
I’m going to explore more of the cartoons from this period at PJ Lifestyle over the next few months — and not just Disney. The dark side of the human experience shows up in comic works too.
Ever seen how the Middle East was depicted at the time?
In a future post I’ll unpack some of the themes in these: 1932′s “Mickey Mouse in Arabia,” and 1934′s Willie Whopper short from former Disney collaborator Ub Iwerks, “Insultin’ the Sultan”:
Odd: in both cartoons the sultan kidnaps the hero’s female companion and then tries to seduce them. The Iwerks short goes even further than Disney’s where the kidnapper just tries to kiss Minnie. (Iwerks was always a bit darker and creepier than Disney in what I’ve seen of them and read.) Gee, I wonder what the banana Iwerks’ Sultan tries to feed the little girl is suppose to symbolize?
I guess this was what America wanted its children watching in the 1930s. Today Hollywood won’t even direct adults’ attention at present-day evil. And as a result they cannot recognize the real scope of the threats really facing free societies today. From John Boot in his Oscar coverage yesterday, quoting Steve McQueen, writer/director of this year’s best picture winner:
“Everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live,” he said. “This is the most important legacy of Solomon Northup” (whose life story was the basis of the film). “I dedicate this award to all the people who have endured slavery. And the 21 million people who still suffer slavery today.”
I haven’t seen 12 Years a Slave yet; perhaps it really is the best picture of the year. It’s hard for me to get all that enthusiastic about seeing another movie rehashing the slavery America overcame in the 19th century when the modern slavery of the 21st century continues to advance all around the world today.
Twenty-one million people? That will be a great day when the human race is actually down to only that many still living enslaved. The actual reality of the world is that the majority of the world lives in a state of slavery under some combination of lawless dictator, 7th century barbarian religious law, or corrupt oligarchy. According to Freedom House’s most recent report, only 40% of the world’s population lives in free countries. Twenty-five percent live in “partly-free” states and 35% live in nations that are not free at all, like Vladimir Putin’s mafia state Russia.
But Hollywood wants to throw a party for itself because it has the courage to make films condemning white American slave owners from 150 years ago? Roger, one of my favorite quotes from your memoir comes to mind: ”I do think there is almost always a good and evil, a right and wrong–although often you have to look closely–and the relativist view of the world is at best lazy and at worst a stalking horse for fascism.”
I might as well just reprint the whole passage, from one of the graphics I made identifying its influence on my “counterculture conservatism”:
Roger, as Breitbart argued in word, and you have demonstrated in deed through your return to creative writing, it’s indeed time for conservatives to aim their arrows in the cultural realm. But as we do, the talk should include upgrading our art’s technological arms. Again, a classic Disney cartoon contains old-fashioned wisdom…