The Real World is Poisoning My Movies

Probably the worst, strangest aftereffect of the rancorous 2004 Presidential election is the fact that I am no longer able to watch a movie without discerning political undertones, even if they’re not really there.

Take, for instance, the 2004 version of Around the World in 80 Days; instead of a gentleman’s wager setting the titular journey in motion, the wager is made as a blow against a repressive, reified scientific establishment which feels “there is nothing left to discover”. Of course, I immediately saw the bleeding-heart liberals (in the person of Phileas Fogg) versus the current administration’s roadblocking of science. Stem cells were never mentioned, but that was unnecessary. Curse those confounded Hollywood socialists!

Speaking of which, Turner Classic Movies showed the 1933 Gabriel Over the White House Saturday night, a movie I had often read about but never seen. Dropping by the IMDb, I find the flick blasted as “Lame leftist propaganda” and “a love song for fascism”. It’s definitely the latter, but I’m bemused by the former.

Walter Huston plays a puppet President who, after a near-fatal accident, gets “divine inspiration” and starts shaking things up. He tackles the racketeer problem by turning the US Army into The Federal Police and sending tanks in to bust up the bootleggers. The gangsters are not subjected to a trial, but a court martial – which ends up with them on the wrong side of a firing squad. Apparently they were prisoners of war, and thus didn’t have Constitutional rights.

Stop me if this is sounding familiar.

Huston’s next feat is to settle Europe’s war debts by threatening them. “America won’t stand for a war!” Huston is told. If I hadn’t been so ill, I might have guffawed at that.

It is, indeed, four square a love song for fascism, and I saw far too much that was familiar in it. And this is coming from a person with fascist leanings. Yes, I’ll pick up the tar brush and paint myself a liberal, but I also believe in a strong central government; I realize only too well how, therefore, horrible things could be done for “the common good”.

Now if, when I eventually see The Incredibles and Episode III, I am still perceiving this crap, I give up.

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