Movie Criticism 101

A few years ago I watched Ratatouille, a film with a decidedly pro-market, pro-individualist point of view. Even more startling was how clear-cut it was in defense of the individual’s right and duty to work hard to achieve his or her dreams, and how negative it was towards those who survived by mooching or looting off of the genius of others. Now, Iron Man 2 has been released, and although it is at first glance a simple action movie with plenty of flashy special effects for kids from age 10 to 80, it also has a truly Randian message about the individual’s right to his own property, and the responsibilities that come with freedom.

American critics have been divided, of course, and left-wingers criticize the movie full on. Conservative and libertarian critics, as well as objectivists, give the movie a thumbs up and analyze the themes and messages. Both sides are at least willing to take on the challenge presented by the protagonist towards the intrusion of government into the lives of its citizens, and its often unwanted habit of assuming direct control of virtually anything and everything it thinks useful. The movie has an impressive 74% fresh rate on Rotten Tomatoes.

Swedish critics, unfortunately, are nowhere near as enlightened or nuanced. It is hard to tell if the gag reflex most of them spontaneously exhibit towards the themes presented is due to their brains subconsciously shying away from conflicting world views a la James Taggart, or if the critics are perceptive and educated enough to see the themes for what they are and then purposefully neglecting them. My money is on the first alternative, but either way, the response has been disappointing yet predictable: they either deny (like in Ratatouille) themes of Objectivist nature exist, or trivialize them.

I mentioned Ratatouille for two reasons. First that it is exceedingly rare that a movie appears on the mainstream market which doesn’t feature the corporate world as the automatic villain. This, to make a rhetorical detour, is rather surprising considering the deaths caused by nation states number in the hundreds of millions if not billions, yet the deaths caused by Sony, SKF or ABB hardly warrant the fanatical rage and paranoia offered them. Secondly, and back to the point, at the end of the movie the rat chef genius manages to convert a bitter, cynical critic who makes the following statement:

In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new.

In many ways, defense of the free market is something new, and something radical, in Sweden. Only sycophants and conformists support the left wing, though this shouldn’t be surprising since the entire socialist ideology is built on conforming collective blocks of humans. “You’re an electrician? You must join this union, vote for this party, have taken this high school program, and conform to the following X characteristics.” are sentences going through the head of any and all leftists when they see someone fiddling with wires. My electrician, I should add, is quite the opposite, and a fan of free markets and free minds. A person favoring individual liberty without a few million in the bank is a frightening and confusing prospect to these intellectual throwbacks. Then again, if you don’t even have a purpose or meaning in your own life, seeing anyone else reject a government solution for everything must seem like utter madness! If we are so banal as to fall back on the numbers, the left has dominated this country for over 60 of the past 73 years. Siding with the government is about as nuanced and creative in Sweden as drinking a glass of water, but not nearly as healthy or necessary.

To give our critics a chance, however, I’ll refrain from asking too much. I won’t ask for equal treatment. After all, we already know that left-wing propaganda by sub-standard yet pretentious directors focusing on social themes dear to bleeding hearts will automatically be cheered, as will any attempt at ridiculing or villainizing capitalists, Christians, libertarians, and conservatives. And the USA, of course. What I do ask for, however, is to at least admit that the themes are there, and be intellectually honest enough to confront them. Admit freely and openly that you’re a socialist, and decry the themes of individual liberty point by point, if possible. At least then the debate will be an honest one, instead of a series of ad hominem and straw man rhetorical dead ends, all with the explicit goal of avoiding said debate.

‘Course, that might be the point after all. Andrew Klavan proclaims that the main argument of the left is, simply, “shut up”. Insult the themes you disagree with, or remain stoically stone-faced and silent, with just the right dash of fashionable condescension. Then again, if you only disagree out of fear of said themes, unable to offer worthwhile counter-arguments in return, perhaps that strategy is as valid as it comes. And perhaps that’s why the reviews of Iron Man 2 are what they are. “Shut up.”

For those who aren’t interested in bowing to collectivism and shutting up, however, I recommend Reason Magazine’s analysis.

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~ by Escaping Perdition on May 10, 2010.

3 Responses to “Movie Criticism 101”

  1. Jag vet inte riktigt om du redan har sett den men jag måste bara rekommendera tv serien firefly. Jag vet inte du kanske har tröttnat på folk som rekommenderar den men jag anser att det är bland det mest libertiniska populärkultur som har gjorts på senaste tiden.

    Förresten är det inte en slump att filmer baserade på serietidningar har ett frihetligt budskap väldigt många serietidningar har ett mycket individualistiskt och frihetligt budskap.

    • Jag älskar Firefly. Har den på blu-ray! Nathan Fillion är en riktigt bra skådis, detsamma går för många av de andra. Dessutom brukar ju Whedon ofta göra bra saker, Dollhouse som den stora rosa elefanten i rummet, tyvärr.

      Tusen gånger bättre än den överskattade Battlestar Galactica, i min mening. 🙂

  2. Nu tycker jag att du är lite väl elak mot dollhouse även den har ett antal riktigt duktiga skådespelare (Olivia Williams, Enver Gjokaj och Dichen Lachman). Jag håller med dig om att den inte alltid håller hög klass men det är lite så med det Joss Whedon gör i bland är det riktigt bra men ibland är det verkligen inte det. Det är lätt att glömma att en hel del utav Buffy är riktigt dåligt men det är så. Om man ska njuta av det Joss gör måste man njuta av det han gör bra och ignorera resten.

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