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Goldberg and Miller Get Their Wires Crossed: Are These Movies Conservative Or Fascist?

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by Tommy Brown

When I came across an article by the National Review‘s John Miller listing the twenty-five greatest conservative movies,  I got a pretty good laugh out of it. Movies such as Team America: World Police, Groundhog Day and The Dark Knight made the list, with reasons ranging from “they make fun of Hollywood actors” to “it’s a metaphor for Bush and the War on Terror.” Pretty amusing stuff.

Now, before this, his coworker Jonah Goldberg wrote in his seminal wingnut tome Liberal Fascism that many Hollywood movies are fascist in theme or tone. These movies included Dead Poet’s Society, The Matrix and Fight Club. But the really really entertaining part is that a few of the movies on Miller’s conservative movie list made it onto Goldberg’s fascist movie list as well.

My favorite? Forrest Gump. Miller writes:

Forrest Gump (1994): It won an Oscar for best picture — beating Pulp Fiction, a movie that’s far more expressive of Hollywood’s worldview. Tom Hanks plays the title character, an amiable dunce who is far too smart to embrace the lethal values of the 1960s. The love of his life, wonderfully played by Robin Wright Penn, chooses a different path; she becomes a drug-addled hippie, with disastrous results. Forrest’s IQ may be room temperature, but he serves as an unexpected font of wisdom. Put ’em on a Whitman’s Sampler, but Mama Gump’s famous words about life’s being like a box of chocolates ring true.

But in Liberal Fascism, Goldberg takes Mr. Hanks and Co. to task for their film:

Of course, sometimes it is not a psychosexual breakthrough that redeems the white man but a physical abnormality or injury usually resulting in the suppression of his ability to reason. In Forrest Gump a retarded white man is the only reliably moral force during the chaos of the 1960s and the 1970s

It gets better. Miller’s article lauds the films 300 and Braveheart, perennial favorites among conservatives and people who just like to see heads get chopped off:

300 (2007): During the Bush years, Hollywood neglected the heroism of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan — but it did release this action film about martial honor, unflinching courage, and the oft-ignored truth that freedom isn’t free. Beneath a layer of egregious non-history — including goblin-like creatures that belong in a fantasy epic — is a stylized story about the ancient battle of Thermopylae and the Spartan defense of the West’s fledgling institutions. It contrasts a small band of Spartans, motivated by their convictions and a commitment to the law, with a Persian horde that is driven forward by whips. In the words recorded by the real-life Herodotus: “Law is their master, which they fear more than your men[, Xerxes,] fear you.”

Braveheart (1995): Forget the travesty this soaring action film makes of the historical record. Braveheart raised its hero, medieval Scottish warrior William Wallace, to the level of myth and won five Oscars, including best director for Mel Gibson, who played Wallace as he led a spirited revolt against English tyranny. Braveheart taught that freedom is not just worth dying for, but also worth killing for, in defense of hearth and homeland. Six years later, amid the ruins of the Twin Towers, Gibson’s message resonated with a generation of American youth who signed up to fight terrorists, instead of inviting them to join a “constructive dialogue.” Liberals have never forgiven Gibson since.

Of course, once again Mr. Goldberg takes the opposite stance, and throws in The Last Samurai for good measure. Quoth Jonah:

Consider such popular films as Braveheart, The Last Samurai and 300. Many conservatives loved them because they depicted resistance to tyranny and celebrated “freedom.” But the “liberty” of these films was not individual liberty per se so much as the freedom of the tribe to behave according to its own relativistic values. The clans of the Scottish Highlands were hardly constitutional republics. Tom Cruise portrays the proto-fascist culture of the Meiji-era samurai as morally superior to that of the decadent West, echoing the German fascination with the Orient. And the Spartans of 300 are a eugenic (and vaguely homoerotic) warrior caste that would have had Hitler applauding in the aisle, despite valiant efforts to Americanize them.

Who to believe, who to believe. You just can’t make this stuff up.

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