Often we conservatives dismiss popular books, movies and TV shows because they don't promote conservative values or are dominated by the Left. True, much of today's entertainment doesn't line up with conservative or Judeo-Christian values, but is that reason enough to totally disengage in the conversation? Today, I read an article highlighting the best performances by Robin Williams. It was on a conservative website. There was only one comment:
Why such admiration of celebrities?I value my plumber more.How can we blame people for embracing those who don't snark at every non-political thing? What value is there in dismissing the real feelings and emotions people have from watching movies and TV shows that impacted their lives? Sadly, this isn't just an attitude from internet commenters, but one I often heard when I was the director of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) from 2006-2011. Speakers and panels on engaging in the culture often focused on making our own heavy-handed entertainment rather than engaging a new audience.
Engaging in the pop culture arena doesn't necessarily mean embracing the delivery or intended message, but the medium. Conservatives often dismiss shows like "Girls" and"Sex and the City" because the characters are promiscuous, shallow caricatures of the modern woman. We must stop looking at the shows as models, but rather as mirrors and conversation starters. Who could watch "Girls" and "Sex and the City" and surmise that these women are happy in non-committal, hook-up relationships? Or ignore that "Sex and the City" ended with all four women getting traditional, fairy-tale endings? Last year, Kurt Schlichter, columnist and author of Conservative Insurgency, wrote about "Girls" and why we shouldn't ignore it. He wrote:
You can’t talk about Girls at the water cooler with the rest of the office if you haven’t watched it, and if you aren’t part of the discussion you aren’t injecting and modeling the conservative ideas and values that we need to advance. You can't criticize and critique if you’re AWOL from pop culture. ... You need to occasionally – not always, not all the time – acquaint yourself with pop culture sufficiently to participate in the discussion it sparks. Girls poses hard questions about young people, their aimlessness, their lack of morality, their crushing unhappiness – and conservatism has answers.Conservatives have tried to make movies with an underlying or even overt conservative or libertarian message. More often than not, it just doesn't work. Hollywood is still better, not just in communicating their liberal message, but also in communicating conservative messages. There's the Hunger Games series, Dallas Buyers Club, and, out this Friday, The Giver. These movies, like "Girls," give us opportunities to teach conservative lessons. Yet, how many conservatives dismissed Dallas Buyers Club because it was a movie about AIDS and had a transexual character? Cato Institute's Dave Boaz wrote it's "a terrific movie with a strong libertarian message about self-help, entrepreneurship, overbearing and even lethal regulation, and social tolerance."
Thankfully, it appears that conservatives are embracing The Giver. To their credit, The Heritage Foundation recently had a screening and several conservatives have written in support of it. The Giver is not a "conservative" movie. It has mainstream actors like Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges, Katie Holmes and Alexander Skarsgaard. Kira Davis of IJ Review wrote, "It’s worth noting that the best conservative tales in Hollywood these days are being told by hardcore, dyed-in-the-wool liberals (in this case, the Weinstein brothers who are outspoken Hollywood liberals). The Giver is just one example... These are stories conservatives should be proud to support, and should be telling more of themselves."
So, why are they better at conveying our message? For good filmmakers, the story comes before the message. Conservatives seem to want immediate returns on their investment in culture. Rather than be left with questions, we want people to finish a book or a film as a convert. Liberals, on the other hand, are more likely to plant a seed that can be nurtured. For example, I have several friends who have told me that Shawshank Redemption changed their mind on the death penalty, yet it doesn't hit viewers over the head with an anti-death penalty message.
America is facing a plethora of economic, spiritual and security problems. We have the answers and should be confident in them. We don't need to hit readers and viewers over the head with our viewpoints. It's enough to leave them with questions and plant that seed of doubt of the liberal worldview. The only way we can have any credibility to answer those questions is by participating in the conversation. We don't have to watch every episode of "Girls "or see every Weinstein movie, but we should communicate an opinion other than "Everything coming out of Hollywood is trash."
Often we talk about the liberal or Hollywood bubble where people are insulated from the real world and views other than their own. Improving the culture and the country can only happen if we bust out of our own bubble.
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