September 5, 2019

THE CULTURE WARS ARE A ROUT:

Conservatives Should Watch More Television (KEVIN D. WILLIAMSON, September 4, 2019, National Review)

Margaret Thatcher famously insisted that the facts of life are conservative. Great art -- even merely adequate popular art -- begins with those facts of life and the timeless truths embedded in them. Hence a piece of highbrow television such as The Wire, which was created by a by-the-numbers progressive but could have been written by Charles Murray and Thomas Sowell and produced by the Manhattan Institute, exploring the serial failure of institutions (city government, labor unions, public schools, the media) in a largely black city with a Democratic monopoly on political power. The show's creators did not intend to create a conservative critique of the failures of urban progressivism, but they could not help themselves.

The same phenomenon is observable all over our popular culture: Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy reimagining Batman as a kind of esoteric Straussian who (in a series beginning just a few years after 9/11) countenances torture and illegal extradition methods to protect a public that must be kept in the dark about how hard things get done, who faces off against an Eastern terrorist cult targeting New York City, an amped-up version of Occupy Wall Street, and, most famously and perhaps most immediately relevant, an unhappy loser who shows that he can shut down a city with "a couple of bullets." Or consider Skyfall, with its Royal Doulton bulldog draped in the Union Jack, its conservative organizing principles ("Sometimes the old ways are the best") and dramatic retreat to the family homestead, its unabashed invocation of "patriotism" and "love of country." The Walking Dead ends up being an extended exploration of Mancur Olson's "stationary bandit" and the tensions between democracy, the rule of law, and the practical necessities of physical security -- with an ode to property rights and free trade thrown into the bargain. Breaking Bad was a reimagining of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a meditation on the seduction of evil, and it ends with the most forthright of confessions: "I did it for me. I did it because I liked it." If a conservative social critic had tried to write a series about how to be an unhappy young woman, the result would have been something quite like Girls, or maybe Fleabag. The theme of Stranger Things is not so much "Winter is coming" but "Winter is already here, and always has been, if you know how to look."

There's a funny bit on this week's Remnant podcast where Jonah Goldberg and Charlie Cooke seem puzzled at how much they like 30 Rock and Parks and Rec.

Posted by at September 5, 2019 7:15 PM

  

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