Many conservatives are upset that American Sniper and director Clint Eastwood were (predictably) snubbed at the Oscars; but they shouldn’t be. The fact that a film with an overtly conservative message, directed by an openly conservative pop-culture icon, has grossed more than $400 million is a sign that conservative messages hold a powerful resonance with the American public.
American Sniper is hardly an aberration.
When high-quality entertainment that reflects conservative and/or libertarian ideals is presented to the public, it finds a broad and enthusiastic audience. From the various Marvel Films superhero barn-burners to novels by authors such as James Patterson, Brad Thor, and the late Vince Flynn; from graphic novels like Frank Miller’s 300 to TV shows like Downton Abbey, great stories with conservative sensibilities have proven to be commercial winners.
Note what all of these examples have in common, though: none of them are political polemics. Rather, they are well-crafted pieces of middle-brow entertainment, aimed first and foremost at telling a compelling story that (as any great story does) reveal truths about the human condition. Any specific political or ideological message is, thankfully, secondary.
It’s exciting (and rare) when a surge of creativity jibes with consumer preferences. In fact, I believe we are witnessing the start of a great renaissance in conservative creative culture. As the Publisher of Liberty Island, I’m continually impressed at the quality of the short fiction and novels that come across my desk from self-described conservatives and libertarians. These are not folks who can get their scripts produced in Hollywood or on Broadway, nor can they expect mainstream publishing houses to take a chance on their novels. However, they are the farm team, the next generation of conservative creators who will replace the Eastwoods and the Flynns.
Like any renaissance, this one requires nurturing and encouragement of nascent creators and that is a job we take very seriously. All of this has come with a surprising finding: we’ve found that the greatest enemy of creative conservatives isn’t the liberal cultural establishment; after all, it’s easy to bypass gatekeepers in the age of digital distribution.
Rather, the real enemy is a DC-based conservative establishment that is indifferent or outright hostile to cultural pursuits. They argue that building a conservative counterculture is a waste of time, and will make no difference. Some even go so far as to argue that middlebrow culture is inherently liberal or corrupting.
It’s as if the right side of the conservative brain has atrophied to such a degree that the people who claim to speak for us can’t see beyond the next election cycle or next Sunday’s news shows.
The very people who claim the legacy of Ronald Reagan denigrate the medium that made his career, and made him the extraordinary leader that he was. Reagan understood the power of the narrative; and he further understood that the story of the average man doing extraordinary deeds defined both conservatism and American exceptionalism.
That, more than any policy choices, is the legacy Reagan left to conservatives. And I firmly believe that the next Reagan will be found not among politicians and lawyers and investment bankers but among writers and directors and actors.
The essay above is the fourth in volume 2 of the cultural discussions between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island exploring the history of counter-cultures, the future of conservatism and the role of new, emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism.
- Frank J. Fleming on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Government? Why It Won’t Look Like Star Trek
- Aaron C. Smith on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Superheroes? Why They Need To Start Killing Super-Villains
- Mark Ellis on February 26, 2016: What Is the Future of Gen-X Manhood? Adam Carolla Vs Chuck Palahniuk?
See the first volume of articles from 2014 and January and February 2015 below:
2014 – Starting the Discussion
- Sarah Hoyt, March 22 2014: Interview: Adam Bellow Unveils New Media Publishing Platform Liberty Island
- David S. Bernstein, June 20 2014: What Is Liberty Island?
- Adam Bellow at National Review, June 30 2014 kicking off the discussion: Let Your Right Brain Run Free
- Dave Swindle on September 7, 2014: Why Culture Warriors Should Understand the 10 Astounding Eras of Disney Animation’s Evolution
- Dave Swindle on September 9, 2014: The 50 Greatest Counter-Culture Films of All Time, Part I
- Dave Swindle on September 19, 2014: The 50 Greatest Counter-Culture Films of All Time, Part II
- David S. Bernstein on November 19, 2014: 5 Leaders of the New Conservative Counter-Culture
- Dave Swindle on November 25, 2014: 7 Reasons Why Thanksgiving Will Be My Last Day on Facebook
- Kathy Shaidle on November 25, 2014: Is America Overdue for a Satanic Revival? (Part One)
- Dave Swindle on December 2, 2014: My Growing List of 65 Read-ALL-Their-Books Authors
- Kathy Shaidle on December 3, 2014: Is America Overdue for a Satanic Revival? (Part Two)
- Mark Elllis on December 9, 2014: Ozzy Osbourne and the Conservative Tent: Is He In?
- Aaron C. Smith on December 22, 2014: The Villains You Choose
January 2015 – Volume I
- Paula Bolyard on January 1, 2015: 7 New Year’s Resolutions for Conservatives
- Susan L.M. Goldberg on January 1, 2015: The Plan to Take Back Feminism in 2015
- Kathy Shaidle on January 4, 2015: Did the 1960s Really Happen? (Part One)
- Andrew Klavan on January 5, 2015: In 2015 The New Counter-Culture Needs to Be Offensive!
- Clay Waters on January 5, 2015: The Decline and Fall of Russell Brand
- Mark Ellis on January 5, 2015: How Conservatives Can Counter the Likable Liberal
- Audie Cockings on January 5, 2015: Entertainers Have Shorter Lifespans
- Aaron C. Smith on January 6, 2015: How Mario Cuomo Honestly Defined Zero-Sum Liberalism
- Stephen McDonald on January 10, 2015: Why the New Counter-Culture Should Make Strength Central to Its Identity
- Stephen McDonald on January 16, 2015: The Metaphorical War
- Kathy Shaidle on January 19, 2015: Did the 1960s Really Happen? (Part Two)
- Frank J. Fleming on January 20, 2015: What if Red Dawn Happened, But It Was Islamic Terrorists Instead of Communists?
- Mark Ellis on January 21, 2015: Adam Carolla: The Quintessential Counterculture Conservative?
- Aaron C. Smith on January 29, 2015: Objection! Why TV’s The Good Wife Isn’t Good Law
- David Solway on February 2, 2015: For a Song To Be Good, Must It Tell The Truth?
- Mark Ellis on February 6, 2015: President Me: Adam Carolla Vs. the Scourge of Narcissism
- David Solway on February 6, 2015: ‘Imagine’ a World Without the Brotherhood
- Kathy Shaidle on February 9, 2015: Was Rod McKuen the Secret Godfather of Punk Rock?
- Aaron C. Smith on February 10, 2015: Kick NBC While It’s Down: Use The Williams Scandal to Set the Terms of the 2016 Debates
- Spencer Klavan on February 12, 2015: How to Apologize for Your Thought Crimes
- Kathy Shaidle on February 16, 2015: David Byrne: Creepy Liberal Hypocrite
- David P. Goldman on February 18, 2015: Understanding This Bloody Truth About the Bible Will Save Your Life
- Lisa De Pasquale on February 20, 2015: Why American Sniper Is a Much Better Love Story Than Fifty Shades of Grey
- Spencer Klavan on February 24, 2015: How Bad Ideology Destroys Good TV: Why Glee Crashed and Burned