I’ve been struggling all morning to think of the last time I thought ‘That Movie was Great!’ and the movie in question was actively promoting collectivism or statism – And I am including the entire adult period of my life when I read ‘The Guardian’, declared myself to be a Marxist, and worked within the British Labour party.
However, there are plenty of what you might call ‘Individualist’ or ‘Libertarian’ themed movies to which the above phrase applies.
For instance; The Matrix, Avatar, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Serenity, Casablanca, Dirty Harry, Pitch Black, Jason Bourne, The Great Escape, The Simpsons Movie, and many, many more.
But what great ‘statist’ movies are there? The Harry Potter franchise is interesting because it was created by a statist. But even though J.K.Rowling is a supporter of Gordon Brown with her conscious mind, her unconscious mind keeps creating great anti-state memes, with constant criticism of ‘The Ministry of Magic’, the ease with which the ‘Death Eaters’ took it over in the final book, and with bureaucrats such as Dolores Umbridge coming in for particularly caustic opprobrium (as does the idea of compulsory state education, under Voldemort, which is a particularly significant meme in the last book).
I suppose that there are three major movie ‘genres’ where statism is at least in some kind of ‘generally-good’ background. This includes spy films, war films, and future human empire films. But even examining these three genres, James Bond is inescapably individualist in his approach to life, and even though he works for the state, he is usually working against an even greater state (of either the Marxist or the Theocratic kind).
The same can be said for Jack Bauer, a sorts of American ersatz version of James Bond, usually compressed into 24 hours. He may be a torturing neocon militarist in his actions, but he is indisputably an individualist who is usually the victim of horrific state stupidity at the hands of his CIA/NSA/CTU handlers. And the U.S. state is continuously shown on Jack Bauer shows as being rotten to the core and filled with innumerable bad apples who are just in it for what they can get out of it, with often Jack Bauer and the President being the only two people in the entire American government who you could actually trust – and we’re never really that sure about the President – indeed at least one of them has quite believably behaved even worse than Richard Nixon, in the TV series. (Yes, I’m jumping the gun on the 24 movie, but I’m sure it’s coming.)
Which takes us to war films, particularly those covering WWII. But even here, we are usually witnessing individualist heroes doing their individual best to bring down a more powerful state than their own, usually in the guise of Nazi Germany. Whatever we like about war films, it is generally the individualism of the characters involved and their fight to retain a shred of freedom from some greater tyranny that inspires us.
We’ve even had Tom Cruise recently, as a German, fighting to assassinate Hitler, in Valkyrie, to free the German people from this tyrant. (No, not a great movie, but still one worth discussing.)
Even in Downfall, we have the banalities and the stupidities of the state constantly on view, with Hitler as a raving mad man, and yet with the full machinery of the national socialist government still under his full control until his dying day, with not a single bureaucrat capable of pulling out a Luger and finishing the idiot off, and with none of them daring to risk the ire of this vegetarian anti-smoking nut by lighting up a cigarette within his presence.
Which brings us finally to ‘future human empire’ films, like Star Trek. Here, the background is of a benevolent Galaxy-wide government. But once again, it is riven with contradictions. In the original Star Trek series, it is always ‘Star Command’ which is filled with inept careerist corrupt Admiral bureaucrats, constantly trying to ruin the life of James T. Kirk with their stupid selfish decisions. And the ‘Greater State’ of the Klingons is generally the enemy against which the heroes fight, or the ‘Greater Romulan’ state. And once again it is individualism which is promoted (indeed, with the main space ship being named ‘Enterprise’, it is hard to get around this). Charlton Heston in Planet of Apes, is another example of our love of the individual against the state. He may have been a Nasa man, but it was his fight against the gorillas in government which wins our empathy, not his Nasa badge, and the most enduring image of the film is Heston’s own idea of this astronaut falling to his knees in rage when he realises that the world’s states blew up humanity’s home thousands of years previously, in their bid to wrest power from one another.
Even Asimov films, which I’m sure will eventually get around to his ‘Foundation’ novels, see the Galactic Empire as a big corrupt mess, with poor enslaved robots usually bearing the brunt of oppressive human direction and human individuals (as usually played by Will Smith) having to fight against corrupt government and mercantilist interest to right wrongs. Yes, this is usually handled as ‘corrupt big business’, but what exactly is corrupt big business? It is business which has bought enough politicians to not have to face the real market anymore. So who are the baddies? The corrupt businessmen or the corrupt politicians? You can’t be a corrupt businessman without a corrupt politician, so the causative agency of immorality is still always the government, no matter how the statist Hollywood glitterati try to spin it.
The problem for the statists, even the majority statists in Hollywood, is that statism is really boring and what really motivates audiences is the individual fighting back against the greater mass of corrupt statist collectivism (whether this is communism, nazim, theocratism, mercantilism, or whatever). I’m sure most of the Californian makers of Star Trek, both of the long-running TV franchise and the movies, were and are statist Democrat voters. But what is the most enduring image they created in the last 20 years? Yep, ‘The Borg’, the perfect symbolisation of the perfect welfare/warfare state and the very picture of where modern government is trying to take us. These statist producers are thus embedded within the J.K.Rowling trap.
Their conscious minds are statist and anti-individual. However, their unconscious creative minds are rebelliously anti-state and pro-individual.
Which brings us to another question. If the only really motivational movies that anyone can remember are always ‘pro’ the individual, why are there still so many statists around?
I think the answer lies within the heart of the Serenity movie, where all those poor children are sitting around being indoctrinated by the state-loving teacher. The state controls the education system, therefore to control the proles it is constantly pouring pro-state messages into the receptive heads of children to try to form them into tax-paying obedient serfs. And it is only with this continuous gargantuan effort that they manage to keep the game going, with a high human cost in the large numbers of children who rebel against this poison, usually becoming self-destructive as a consequence.
So that tells us what we need to do if we want to free the world from the noxious hydra of democratic collectivism.
We need to get the state out of education. Once we have succeeded in doing that, then the human condition (as shown by all the great movies that all of us actually like) will take care of the rest.
This is why I applaud the creation of the Mises Institute’s new education programmes to help with this process. Good work, everyone in Auburn, Alabama. You really are doing humanity proud.
UPDATE: Men in Black? Hmmmm…. it’s a possibility. But is this really a subtle attack on the power of the state, with the agents literally impersonating the agents in The Matrix? So on the surface, there is the patina of the ‘benevolent state’ looking after us mere proles. However, underneath we are continually having our minds blanked to prevent us from knowing what’s bad for us, at the whim of the agents, and our societies are being filled with aliens by the state, without our agreement or with our knowledge. With ‘Men in Black’ being a comedy, it is hard to say what is serious and what is not serious. Indeed, it really is a ‘black’ comedy, which must draw upon the baser aspects of human society to get a laugh out of us. It’s certainly not a motivational film of the kind I’m looking for, like The Simpsons Movie, which makes you get up out of your chair at the end and want to get rid of the idiots who are always trying to trap us in glass domes, for their own benefit.
I suppose too we have ‘Asteroid’ films and ‘Alien Invasion’ films. But these are only good if Will Smith or Bruce Willis are in them playing them for laughs, and they’re usually riven with anti-state feelings too, with most governments of the world locking themselves into bunkers they made the rest of us pay for, and leaving the rest of us to fend for ourselves.
There is still nothing I can really think of where we think, ‘Whew, isn’t it great that we have the state, so they can save us from asteroids,’ or ‘I’m glad I live in a democracy, because the President is standing by ready to save me from the aliens.’ The state can hardly evacuate New Orleans after a predictable hurricane. Saving us from malevolent aliens or rogue asteroids is something I think most of us realise is a mere pipe dream.