Celebrating The Good Stuff

For years now, some of us conservatives have been struggling to take back American popular culture.  Sick of movies, television shows, music and literature disfigured by a lockstep conformity to leftist ideology, we’ve sought to wrestle the arts out of the grip of an alienated and small-minded elite and give it back to artists in moral synch with most Americans.  The idea, as far as I’m concerned, is not to reshape the pop culture landscape into one of sentimental patriotism and faith or limit artists to the creation of squeaky clean family entertainment.  I merely want to see more art that represents the moral universe as it is:  that shows a world, for instance, in which freedom is better than slavery and therefore America is better than, say, Saudi Arabia; a world where military courage in defense of the right is worthy of honor and therefore a US soldier fighting an Islamo-fascist is a hero not an abuser; a world where faith can be uplifting and not corrupting; where women and men are different and therefore might be justly treated differently; a world where ideas and behaviors can be judged on their own merits whether the people involved with them are white or brown or black.

"You said you wanted my gun, right?"

These past forty years, too much of our culture has been dedicated to propagandizing us, to normalizing and elevating moral relativism, atheism and brainless multi-culturalism.  The deep philosophical corruption that now permeates our government and the Obama administration’s assault on our traditions and values could never have happened if we hadn’t lost the culture first and will never fully end until we take the culture back.

But we can’t win back the arts unless we love them.  Too many conservatives boast of their philistinism.  “I haven’t seen a movie in years,” they brag, as if that were some sort of achievement.  Too many others seek to clip the wings of artistic imagination, demanding that artists turn away from anything disturbing or violent or sexual, which is to say from much of life itself.

Artists work for love—more than they do for money—and unless we learn to celebrate and nurture what’s good in our culture, it will not grow.  Yes, it’s right to express moral outrage when a film like Avatar undermines our troops in the field or when a TV show like Law and Order relentlessly casts patriots and priests as villains.  But such moral outrage can be addictive.  It can keep us from enjoying—from even noticing—the terrific work that’s being produced all around us.

We might consider for instance, that both the greatest living English playwright—Tom Stoppard—and the greatest living American playwright—David Mamet—are not only brilliant but politically conservative.  We might take delight in some of the amazingly beautiful video games that allow young men to imagine themselves as American soldiers and other heroes, just as we older guys used to do while watching John Wayne and Clint Eastwood films.

Or we might consider television, which has been going through a startling Golden Age with great police dramas like The Wire and The Shield, soap operas like The Sopranos and The Tudors, and plenty of good straightforward comedies and mysteries like The Big Bang Theory and the new Justified.  And while too much family entertainment is still marred by political correctness, there’s also wonderful stuff like Up, Ratatouille and The Incredibles.

Good art is like those desert flowers that grow in any drop of water they can find.  It’s growing now, and we need to nurture it and keep it alive until the leftist lies fall silent and the culture speaks the truth again.

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  • http://stkarnick.com/culture Daniel

    Andrew,

    I just heard you talking about this piece on Mike Gallagher’s show, so I immediately came to you site to check it out. This is exactly what’s needed if we want America to respect its foundational values of liberty, limited government and personal responsibility.

    It is what I was getting at in a recent post titled Attend a Tea Party, Support the Arts, where I wrote,

    “We must have more than just ballots in our arsenal in this battle of ideas. Voting is one way to resist those who would enslave us to the state, but it cannot be the only way. We must support those who seek to foster a culture of liberty and personal responsibility through the cultural influence professions. We must build what S. T. Karnick has described as an Omniculture.”

  • Dan

    I appreciate the sentiment here, but it is irritating me how whenever there’s even the slightest elevation in ticket sales Hollywood takes this as a mandate to claim ‘See? liberal politics sells seats!’
    I think, no offense to the fantastic artists out there, that Hollywood’s failing would be a landmark in American culture. The truly talented would be off the leashes of the embittered old guard, no longer forced to make deliberately tanking movies for tax reasons, and go on to employ their talents outside the ironclad studio system.
    This worked with Pixar.
    We can enjoy the magnificent panoply of work these fine men and woman produce in empty and worthless causes…but we can just as easily enjoy them on DVD :/

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  • Night Fighter

    “Too many conservatives boast of their philistinism. ‘I haven’t seen a movie in years,’ they brag, as if that were some sort of achievement.”

    Yada yada yada, Andrew. Under certain conditions it is an achievement, and those conditions have prevailed until only recently. It is not philistinism to abjure evil, or even mere crap, and evil and crap are what TV and the movies have largely been serving us for several decades now. I indeed stopped watching TV in the ‘eighties. I have never regretted it. “Omigod, you’ve never seen Cheers,” my friends say. “You’ve never seen Seinfeld or The Sopranos or 30 Rock?” Well, no, I haven’t. Am I a philistine? I read books. Great books, with real value and meat in them, like Don Quixote, Moby Dick, The Brothers K, and etc. (not to mention Shakespeare). Yes, I really do. Am I an intellectually starved human being for doing that?

    The bulk of American video product is made purely for entertainment (leaving aside any political propaganda component). It is not made to teach or enlighten, but merely to titillate and amuse. No one is going to starve intellectually by foregoing such titillation. In fact, the endless hours most people spend watching such stuff is quite clearly a moral failing, not a virtue. A little light entertainment once in awhile is one thing, but I know very few people who, say, only watch the one show they happen to like once every week and shun all the rest. Most people settle in for evenings (and often days) at a time, absorbing TV shows and movies by the hundreds when they could be off doing something either more useful or less damaging.

    There is also the point about feeding the beast. It’s a truism that when we go to crap movies and/or movies that offend our moral sensibilities, we encourage Hollywood to make more of them. If I have to see a hundred movies in order to hit upon one that’s actually worthy of my support, I’d say I’m doing more harm than good. Yes, there are reviews to read and all that, but there’s not a reviewer out there who’s smarter or better educated than I am, and I often find their opinions lacking. Thus, there’s a certain amount of guesswork involved in enlightened movie-going, and when we guess wrong we end up feeding the very beast we want to starve to death.

    I don’t claim there’s a perfect solution, and certainly there’s fare out there worth seeing. I very much enjoyed and appreciated “Up,” for instance (which, incidentally, going in I feared was going to be a case for me of feeding the beast, mostly due to the Asner quotient–so there’s a perfect example of wrong guesswork). But I think your labeling of us nay-sayers as ipso facto philistines is wrong-headed and insulting.

  • Dirtt

    It’s not Hollywood that I boycott. It’s the crap. And boy o boy do they make crap.

  • http://www.celiahayes.com Sgt. Mom

    Some years ago, I had a feeling – no, it wasn’t a feeling – it was one of those absolute convictions – that we would have to get in there and reawaken our sense of who we were as Americans, where we came from, what our real history was. We had to know that our ancestors, actual and metaphorical were decent and honorable people, that what they built was amazing, that we had to put those flaws into context instead of examining those flaws to the utter exclusion of everything else. We would need our stories of how we came to be what we were and are – and the best way that I could see to put ordinary consumers of popular culture back in touch was that I should start to write historical novels – touching on historical interludes and incidents that had been neglected or never known in the first place. I did four novels which have been pretty popular locally, and am working on two more. Writers like me are speaking now, quietly and in small ways – and we are building an audience.

  • cot

    Excellent, Drew! I greatly appreciate your naming names as to who in Hollywood and other venues we can trust to offer unadulterated, unidealistic entertainment. Too often we have seen the moniker “family” attached to films that did not deserve that title. Keep up the good work!!! cot

  • Joe Doakes

    To Hollywood: Truth, Justice, and the American Way . . . Keep telling us stories with these themes, and we will always watch. If you tell us stories that fly in the face of this I will not watch. With regard to sex and violence, so long as it advances the story, go for it. Too much and it is just pornography – and I can get that for free.

  • http://stkarnick.com/culture Daniel

    Dan, no one in Hollywood is preventing writers from writing, filmmakers from putting projects together, artists from putting paint to canvas, or poets from cobbling together verse. No One.

    It also interesting that you long for Hollywood’s bankruptcy claiming it “leashes” people and then laud Pixar for becoming so successful for working outside the “studio system.” You can’t have it both ways. Either people are leashed or they’re free to create whatever they want. And in case you didn’t know it, Pixar became part of Disney back in 2006, long before UP got started. Can’t get more “Hollywood” than that.

    And you seem to wish the death of the theater experience. You might think LOTR is just fine on DVD seen on a 42″ high def television, but a lot of folks folks don’t own that kind of television and want to see the it on the Big Screen. Do you want to deny them that so you can feel good about throwing people out of work in Hollywood?

    Your response is exactly why the Right is losing the American culture. You do nothing but throw stones at the cultural influence professions and then get upset when “Hollywood” doesn’t produce what you want. Why should anyone produce what you want to see when you’ve shown nothing but disdain for them from the outset?

  • http://www.twitter.com/jjtyler justin.tyler@yahoo.com

    Could not agree more. There’s good stuff out there. The best art takes no sides but shows the truth. I know liberals hate that, needing a slant on it all.

    And not only can you look to the good stuff, you can try to create some too. Like Klavan.

  • http://RuleofReason Edward Cline

    Mr. Klavan: First, I love your Pajamas TV spots. I pass the links of those around to my wide circle of friends and fans. However, I never brag that I “haven’t seen a movie in years”; I complain that I haven’t, because if the movie isn’t a leftist vehicle of collectivist or politically correct messages, then it’s a botched up rendition of a good novel, or a clueless remake of something from long, long ago in a Hollywood far, far away, whittled down and slicked up to appeal to boneheads of all ages (e.g., “The Ladykillers,” “The Four Feathers,” “Cape Fear”). I know the culture well enough to be certain that when I hear about a pending remake, it’s going to be awful. So, I’m not so much boycotting movies; I’m bored. Now I read that “Red Dawn” has been “remade.” It’s not one of my favorite movies, but it was a decent, patriotic movie. I’d much rather they borrowed that idea and called it “Islamic Dawn.” Or actually shot “It Can’t Happen Here,” because it certainly is happening. And for all the screwballs and loose lips in Hollywood, no one in the last quarter century has been able to produce a genuine “screwball comedy.” I think the last one that would qualify in that genre was “The Producers.”

  • allyHM

    I watch movies and support the arts. I’m just cautious and judicious about which movies and what art productions. For example, I won’t give Cameron one red cent of my hard earned money to pay to watch Avatar in a theater house or on DVD. When it’s on “free” TV, I’ll watch it..maybe. By contrast, The Blind Side I will support as much as I possibly can both financially and philosphically. I’m not going to support the crap and the crap-makers who make it. I’ll support those things that are worthy. Period.

  • Jeanne Dunn

    I agree with you for the most part. I just don’t go to moves where I know the director has an axe to grind, or the move is so violent and graphic that I want to thou up at the end.

    What I would like to see is a well written scrip, withaa beginning, meddle and an end. Creator development, no message thrown at me, or graphic sex that adds nothing to plot. On the waterfront is a good example of this, at the end of that film I knew exactly what was being said, and who those people were.
    jldunn

  • Rebel

    Actually I am a frequent patron of films, but a choosy moviegoer who is very selective about what I spend my money on and what kind of films I support with my movie dollars. When I shun films, I do so for those which display unnecessary, overt, and ridiculous political biases which for as long as I can remember, are always left of center even when such films are advertised as strictly non-fiction, historical, or documentary.

    The problem for moviegoers such as myself is that as Hollywood continues to pump out biased leftist drivel at ever increasing levels, while the amount of worthwhile movies many people are willing to shell out bigger bucks to see shrinks proportionately. In short, Hollywood refuses to grasp the facts why theater attendance is dwindling: audiences are tired of the endless assaults on American culture and social normality and sick of being lectured by snot-nosed, multi-millionaire Hollywo0od left-wing elites who blame them for all the evils of the world yet ask for their money to support this self-deprecating onslaught.

    The last politically themed movie I saw that was not a bash America fest or a celebration of ethical weakness, moral sickness, social deviancy, or cultural perversion (Hollywood’s favorite themes) was “From Paris With Love” with John Travolta and Johnathan Rhys Meyers. Hollywood critics hated it and savaged it whereas I thoroughly enjoyed it. Why? Because for a change, the bad guys weren’t “arrogant” stupid American bullies but heroes compared to radical Islamic terrorists and their blind, violent ideology. This movie and “Taken”, with Liam Neeson, stand in stark contrast to the usual anti-American fare such as, “Green Zone”, which was met with abundant fanfare and gushing critical praise by the Hollywood liberal elite.

    Given the decades of heavy leftist hands on art and film, audiences no longer trust Hollywood to handle a subject without injecting it with a heaping helping of left-wing biases and filling movies with antithetical liberal doggerel, unilateral white/American guilt, and leftist moral lectures. Even when morality plays are apt and suited to the storyline of the movie, the personification of evil and immorality is, you guessed it; you and me and America itself.

    Thank God for video games.

  • Dawn

    It’s really hard to watch a movie or tv programming that is pushing its viewpoints on our children Like 9, shorts to name two plus Disney tv stars pushing go green and a “don’t listen to your parents” type message. To the point where my 9 year old can point it out. I also can not watch any movie with Matt Damon in it without seeing his condescending sneer on his face. I can not support something I no longer value. We do however enjoy older movies and tv shows.

  • ex-pat

    allyHM and almost all above – I agree and will not spend my hard earned money on this crap. If it comes on tv and I can turn it off if it offends, I will. How can we keep shoveling money into all the porn they put out and expect them to change? We haven’t done it enough to make a dent in their financial gain and we need to. More should join us, especially the young.

  • http://www.bunkerhilldvd.com Tony Malanowski

    Dear Andrew,

    I also heard you this morning on Mike Gallagher’s Show, and couldn’t agree with you more! And justin.tyler’s post is also right on the money – if we don’t like what is presented to us, we can just create our own alternative programming. We should also do this to make sure that the true story of the United States as a Nation is not lost to our children. This is why I recently created the series AMERICA: HER PEOPLE HER STORIES and our first DVD effort entitled THE BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL.

    I’m hoping through the creation of this new series of traditional, DocuDrama-styled productions, to teach our young people that America is still a Great and Noble Nation, and that they can feel free to be proud of our country and our culture (you can see clips on our website at http://www.bunkerhilldvd.com). This is a totally self-financed and self-distributed venture that I am doing to combat the revisionist, anti-American “history” that is being forced on many of our young people. Only if we all now stand up and fight for what we believe in, can we turn back this tide of socialism, and ensure that our exceptional country’s story continues.

    And don’t forget, that we live in the “Digital Age”. There is no reason why we can’t buy or rent movies to share with our children. It shouldn’t matter that “they don’t make ‘em like they used to”…we now have access to the whole history of cinema right in our living rooms! Invite the neighborhood over, order some pizza, and watch Walt Disney’s DAVY CROCKETT series. Make some popcorn and run a John Wayne or Errol Flynn film (ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD still looks mighty good!). Whatever you loved as a young person could find a welcome audience in your own children…but you have to make it available to them first. I think you’ll be surprised by the results!

  • easy

    I will not pay my money to see Liberal crap!!!
    Sorry,but that is where I draw the line.

    Make a good movie a leave the politics out , I might go.

  • http://paulbiz8@aol.com Paul

    It really hurts companies like ours — we have a movie LETTERS TO GOD in 900 theaters right now.

    Exit polls scored the movie incredibly high — people are truly moved by the picture. But getting them into the theater is tough. Please let people know there are quality family films out there with values that need your support — and watch LETTERS TO GOD this week at a theater near you!

    ( For a preview, see the trailer at http://www.letterstogodthemovie.com)

  • rob

    Andrew

    I love you and your work. I think we are fortunate to have you and others like you on our side. I think you are exactly wrong about this. Taking the good 10% provides the infrastructure for the bad 90%. The America haters in Hollywood – sorry but that is what they are – do care about “art” (their point of view) but they need $ to do any of it. If it’s not free or really cheap – Redbox – many people do not consume it – MSM and movies for instance. The consequences of the passing of the structure and studios is their problem as far as I am concerned.

  • John T. Simpson

    Andrew, Fellow Big Hollywood contributor Johnny Simpson here. I’ve already sent you a private email that goes into this subject at length, but wanted to make a public statement here as well.

    The fact is Americans, and not just conservatives, are already boycotting Leftist trash at the box office and on TV with their remotes and their wallets. Green Zone is a perfect example. $34M domestic, $65M worldwide on a projected overall outlay (production, marketing, etc) of $150M-$200M. And Brian de Palma’s Redacted made an anemic 65K domestically on a 10M budget, funded mostly by Leftist billionaire Marc Cuban. Even Lefties didn’t go to see it!

    Also, the new HBO series The Pacific has been tanking ever since its release. One can’t help but think that Tom Hanks’ unthinkable slander of our brave troops in the Pacific War has impacted the ratings. Band of Brothers started out with 10M viewers in 2001, the premiere of The Pacific with 3.079M in the wake of Hanks’ egregious statements. The last ratings available, for Week Four, were at a mere 2.516M.

    For the record, I emailed Veterans’ groups all over the country in protest, recommending they not watch The Pacific. Also for the record, I am a six-year Vet whose father was Normandy Beach D-Day veteran as well. Words Do Matter, Andrew. And I believe some offenses by Leftist Hollywood demand severe public brow-beatings and ratings and box office dope smacks by the viewing public.

    I believe it is quite apropos to selectively target the most egregious offenders like Hanks. All that said, I am with you 1000% on The Shield and The Sopranos. Two of the finest shows ever made for TV, IMHO. You are right in declaring that ignoring the great for the sake of the lame is, as Bruce Lee put it in Enter the Dragon, “concentrating on the finger and missing out on all that Heavenly glory.” But sometimes stands MUST be made. Otherwise Big Hollywood, and even you for the most part, might as well wrap it up and pack it in.

    I love film, and I even love Hollywood. I’m a screenwriter! How can I not? But as I see the Leftist Caligulas and Neros presiding over the moral corruption of celluloid Rome, I will speak out on their burning of a once phenomenally great and pro-American industry wherever they spark their Leftist propagandist infernos, and will do my best to extinguish those flames and point out the arsonists to the citizenry. ’nuff said.

  • Johnnyo

    Some Hollywood actors love their jobs, most of them love money more though. I am not going to give Sean Penn, a gifted actor incidentally, my money so that he can pivot and punch me in the nose with it by donating it to some commie rat cause for which he yearns. I wake up in the morning and think, “can I live without seeing a Sean Penn movie, or John Cameron’s Avatar?” “Yes,” I think. “Yes…I can.” That’s all ya need to know.

  • Kevin Byrne

    Andrew,

    In general, I don’t like the idea of boycotting the arts. There is nothing wrong with opposing points of view. However, when Tom Hanks calls the war against Japan “racist”, it’s an insult to every family in America who had a member in the WWII armed forces. My father and his brothers served in the Army in both theaters of conflict. I’m not asking anyone to boycott Hanks, but I’ll be damned if he gets a dime of my hard earned money. The same goes for Sean Penn and Matt Damon who view anyone who disagrees with them as rubes.

  • Rock

    K Byrne above pretty well outlines my position here, with the exception that I have no problem with spreading the word around among my friends. Hanks crossed a line and now joins a long list of those that I will not waste my time and or money on. However as you noted there is a large selection of entertainment that has not decided to preach a agenda, and I do enjoy them. My complaint is many of these so called celebrities have the ear of the media because of their fans, given the divide in the Nation they risk insulting many of these fans, of course they are entitled to their opinion, however they will not be using my dime to insult me. The Dixie Chicks cried because their fans took the same view, works for me.

  • http://www.machinepolitick.com Frances

    Thank you for your article Mr. Klavan. You are one of the few people I have seen address the issue of putting forth a Conservative perspective in the arts. I am currently working on a Conservative art movement, of all things. Our goals are many, but two of the more important will most likely appeal to you: promoting Liberty and creating work that can be judged on its merits. Please contact me if you have any ideas or suggestions of how I can appeal to people who could help me reach my goals.

  • Joe S

    No one is stopping anyone from producing wholesome “Americans killing muslims is good” programing or whatever it is you want to see. It’s actually very simple. You gather up some other like minded people, pool your money, hire a like minded producer/actors, and put the story together. Now I wouldn’t pay to see that but supposedly the people commenting here would. Hopefully that’s enough business so you can at least recover your investment. Unfortunately the truth is that something less than 20% of the US population has an interest in this type of art. And given that these people spend a lot of time at prayer meetings and political meetings or otherwise live within a very narrow band they may not have much time to support your art. And since your art would be even more blatantly biased and filled with intentional propaganda than the diversity of art coming out of Hollywood the rest of the regular patrons of the arts would avoid it like the plague. Until YOU put up the money you’ll have to put up with what I want to see. It’s not idealogy. It’s capitalism at its finest.