The 50 Greatest Counter-Culture Films of All Time, Part I
Dear Adam Bellow,
I'd like to congratulate you on building and launching Liberty Island. You've assembled an extraordinary team of writers -- 25 so far profiled at PJ Lifestyle -- with several of them beginning to contribute blog posts and freelance articles here. I'll call them out, these are some really great writers and fascinating people: many thanks to Pierre Comtois, Jamie Wilson, Roy M. "Griff" Griffis, Michael Sheldon, Clay Waters, David Churchill Barrow, and David S. Bernstein. And Karina Fabian too is about to make her debut shortly with a wonderful piece that I'm scheduling for tomorrow. Updated: don't miss "10 Excuses For Why We Don’t Get More Done (And Why They Are Excuses)."
I can't wait to get to know more of the Liberty Island writers and continue collaborations.
I appreciated your recent manifesto, "Let Your Right Brain Run Free," at National Review and really only took mild issue with what seemed to me your overemphasis on the novel and pooh-poohing of film's greater power to hypnotize viewers:
What about Hollywood? Many conservatives talk about the need to get into movie production. I agree this is very important, but it requires a massive investment of capital, and more to the point, I think people on the right are over-impressed with the power of film. To hear some conservatives talk you’d think movies were the Holy Grail, the golden passkey to the collective unconscious. This gets things precisely backwards. Sure, a successful Hollywood movie can have a major impact. But as a vehicle for political ideas and moral lessons, movies are simplistic and crude compared with the novels on which many are based.
Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and the Narnia books by C. S. Lewis both produced big-budget movies that reached millions of people with what most of us would probably agree is a subtly conservative message. Yet both of these successful movie franchises ultimately pale in comparison with the impact of the books. Even at their best, movies are essentially cartoons and their effects are superficial and fleeting. Books engage the reader much more deeply, at a level of identification with the characters and plot that can instruct the soul and edify the mind. A hundred years from now, moreover, these classic books will still be read all over the world in dozens of languages when the films on which they are based are long forgotten or superseded by new forms of entertainment.
In short, conservatives should remember that mainstream popular culture is still largely driven by books. Fiction therefore is and will remain the beating heart of the new counterculture. This is not just my bias as a publisher. It is a practical reality — and a fortunate one for us, since there are hundreds if not thousands of conservative and libertarian writers out there today producing politically themed fiction. The conservative right brain has woken up from its enchanted sleep and it is thriving. Instead of banging on Hollywood’s front door, a better approach is to go in the back by publishing popular conservative fiction and then turning those books into films.
I will write novels someday. And I still enjoy reading good ones. Recently my wife pushed on me her newest obsession, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:
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Here's the new book my wife has been obsessed with lately.... I'm going to try reading it. Americanah, a novel about a Nigerian #woman coming to #America. She says that it has a lot to say of value on the subjects of racial identity and cultures, which I am researching for my book.
The vivid narrative is a fictionalization of the author's life and tells the story of a young Nigerian woman who immigrates to America and develops a career blogging about her discoveries among races and cultures. A wise excerpt from Page 273:
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"What I've noticed being here is that many #English people are in awe of #America but also deeply resent it," Obinze said. Page 273 of #Americanah, a knock-you-on-your-ass great novel by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. #literature #culture #Africa #England #UnitedStates
The movie rights have, of course, been acquired, with Lupita Nyong'o and Brad Pitt starring. I can't wait to see it.
So real life inspires blogging, blogging inspires a novel -- the highlights of which are the blog posts in it -- which in turn inspires a movie. I wonder how they'll depict blogging in the film. Maybe they'll update it and make her a vlogger on YouTube instead? Part of my wife's enthusiasm for the novel was because the character was also part of the online "natural hair community," black and mixed race women who share YouTube tutorials about methods for giving up straightening their hair with destructive chemicals and switching to natural styles and products instead. From page 13:
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No wonder my wife loves the hero of this book so much. She's a #naturalhair #counterculture activist too. Page 13 of #Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, a Gen-Xer from Nigeria who is an astonishing writer. Almost done with first chapter. She also writes like my wife does with long, flowing sentences and wry observations...
My wife in her art has called them a counterculture:
My interdisciplinary work concentrates on the Ebony woman, Gen-X leaning Millennials, and our hair. Social media and video-based tutorials have influenced many Millennial women to embrace natural representations of their ethnic hair. These young women have become pioneers of the Millennial Natural Hair Movement, an expanding and informed counterculture responding to painful trends that date back to the early twentieth century.
Here's an example of a video she made depicting the kinds of tips that circulate on YouTube amongst Natural Hair vloggers (she gave it an artsier spin):
I think this is an expression of the paradigm for today -- that the various mediums of novels, film, and online media are blending back and forth together and the line between fiction and non-fiction blurs more too.
Recently when April and I made our move to South LA this summer in our packing and unpacking I had the opportunity to go through the DVD collection I'd accumulated over the last 15 years and assess the titles that still had the most value to me. As we've discussed and you know I've written about, so many of the movies and filmmakers that I once loved as a nihilistic postmodern college leftist I now regard with varying levels of disdain, disgust, and embarrassment.
But these are ones that I continue to regard with affection, that I still return to, and that I think can offer inspiration for your growing team of counterculture crusaders looking to change the world with their art. Some of them I'm a little bit more critical of than I once was, but they all still have some usefulness in some capacity or another...
(Note: this is a version 1.0 of this list, future editions will incorporate newly discovered films and suggestions from readers...)