March 30, 2002

A CASE FOR THE COENS :

Chris Kerstiens notes an ommission from the Brothers Judd conservative film list.
I was checking out the Brothers Judd website, and found this list of conservative films. Surprisingly, nothing by the Coen Brothers made it in. The Coens have a few films that could reasonably be considered conservative - ethically if not politically.

Barton Fink : A veritable indictment of socialism and limousine liberalism. Barton is a leftist writer who believes he speaks for the common man and praises the life of the mind. However when talking with the common man from the room next door, he can't be brought to listen to him - the writer continually trying to steer the conversation in the direction he wants it to go. And, clearly, this common man prefers the rougher and more carnal pleasures of the life of the body. Rather than insulting the working class, it makes a statement that the common man is as full of faults as anyone - not to be stepped on or put on a pedestal.

Raising Arizona : If you take it seriously, a very old-fashioned movie thematically. Pro-family, pro-marriage, and all about trying to do the right thing and become a good citizen. The bad choices come back to haunt everyone and the good ones reward with a happily ever after ending - sorta.

Fargo : A line from the policewoman protagonist Marge shows the most direct judgement yet on their felonious characters. Directed to the greedy murderer in the back of her squad car:

There's more to life than a little money, ya know. Don'tcha know that? And here ya are. And it's a beautiful day. Well. I just don't understand it.

The quiet, calm (you could argue boring) life of Marge and her duck-painting husband contrasts sharply with the frenzied, stressful life of the criminals of the film.

Overall, I'm not sure I'd call the Coens conservative, but I'd say they avoid some of the more patronizing treatment that Hollywood tends to give stories about everyday people. While the Coens characters are often cartoonish, they're also sometimes more real.


As I mentioned to Chris, we'd consider Blood Simple to be conservative too because it is a film noir. Folks often mistake noir for nihilism or existentialism, but they are actually fiercely moralistic : a basically decent guy does something stupid or even evil, mostly because of his lust for a smokin' hot babe, then the world caves in around him. They're practically advertisements for monogamy, fidelity, and honesty. Posted by Orrin Judd at March 30, 2002 9:08 AM
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