Sunday, May 27, 2007

MOVIES ARE STILL YOUR BEST ENTERTAINMENT. I'm beginning to believe that, as Doghouse Riley likes to say, American conservatism is in its Ghost Dance phase, summoning the power of myth to bring new life to its people. We have recently seen an American Spectator howler claiming that "a different cut of Star Wars would have become a rallying cry for Thatcherites." Now Reihan Salam, ostensibly reviewing a DVD of an old Chevy Chase movie, tells no doubt saucer-eyed Slate readers that their favorite funny movies are paens to Reaganism:
So, why is Fletch such a failure? It could be that—like it or not—hipster liberalism just doesn't mesh well with screwball comedy. Animal House, the ur-text, pits the lovable ne'er-do-wells of Delta Tau Chi against the duplicitous and icily priggish Dean Wormer, and we know from the start whom we're rooting for. Or take the more recent smash hit Wedding Crashers, in which a pair of charming scoundrels square off against the privileged scion of a great American family. To the extent there's any political subtext here, you might think it's simple, straightforward egalitarianism: You can't let some two-bit tyrant ruin all your fun, and you can't let some J. Press preppie bastard get the girl.

But there's more than a passing resemblance between this narrative and classic right-wing populism. Like "Bluto" Blutarsky rallying his fraternity to ruin the homecoming parade, crafty conservatives have been riling up middle America for decades against champagne-sipping limousine liberals. The boys in Animal House aren't, say, fighting tooth and nail for a living-wage ordinance. These mostly privileged young men are fighting for their right to party—a libertarian cause if there ever was one. And consider that the villain in Wedding Crashers is a Kennedy clone, a cultured environmentalist who hides his woman-hating ways behind earnest platitudes.
Regrettably, Salam does not address the burning issue of whether The Flintstones was a rip-off of The Honeymooners.

That this argument is being made in a major online publication, rather that through clouds of bong smoke in a dorm room, demonstrates that the jazzed-up leftists who used to tell us how mainstream movies and Madonna singles were "subversive" have passed their jingling fool's-caps and motley to conservative culture warriors. Such are the uses, and perhaps the necessity, of fantasy.

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