Sunday, February 3, 2013

Monty Python destroyed England?

Do you remember when the 1989 Batman came out and we all were talking about how it was an allegory for the '88 presidential election, with George H. W. Bush as Bruce Wayne and Dukakis as Robert Wuhl's character?

Actually, no, I don't think that happened. But fast forward twenty years and suddenly we're discussing whether The Dark Knight supports torture as a means to get information out of the Joker; and whether Bane may be more like the Occupy movement on the left or the ultra-capitalist Romney on the right. Part of this, I think, has to do with a current in the conservative movement which goes something like this: "everyone thinks we're uncool because the commie leftists own Hollywood and we need to take back culture."

And I support that movement: it's about time that conservatives looked at art and said, "I want to express myself too," rather than follow the usual anti-National Endowment argument that says art isn't good for anything and we shouldn't spend any tax money on that.

But as with all nascent movements, there's going to be some missteps and growing pains; for example, the hilarious mess the National Review made all over itself when it tried to gather a list of 25 great conservative movies.

I was reminded recently of how far this current within conservatism has to go to become intelligent discourse (instead of "rar, my guy good, your guy bad") when conservative blogger Kathy Shaidle wrote about her mixed feelings about Monty Python. On one hand, their sketches are funny. But on the other hand, according to Shaidle, Monty Python "unwittingly (or not) destroyed England in a way the Luftwaffe could have only dreamed of." What the what?

See, in Shaidle's mind, Monty Python (along with the Beatles and the rest of the '60s/70s counterculture) used satire against authority in a bad way, which has led to a terrible hash of multicultural leftist junkie thuggery or something. (Amazingly, that was exactly what the Luftwaffe was trying to do.) And the Pythons, by and large, turned out to be leftist traitors of culture.

So why does Shaidle still enjoy them? To salve her political conscience, Shaidle looks at three sketches which she calls the best (but not necessarily the funniest) and kinda, sorta, maybe intimates how they support her conservative views, so she can go on liking them.

I realize that the purpose of a blog post like Shaidle's is less to convince outsiders than to rile up people either for or against you. (Say something provocative to get people talking about you! Have people say mean things about you so you can send a fund-raising letter to the base explaining your victimization!) But, to me, it honestly seems like Shaidle is trying to work through a mismatch between her politics and her sense of humor. I think this is a good project--maybe examining her own interest in anti-authoritarian humor will change her relation with authoritarians-on-the-right. Maybe she'll come to accept the humor and humanity of people who don't hold her politics? Or maybe she'll just come up with some reason why the things she likes all fit within a well-policed category called "conservatism" that accepts Bush's warrantless wiretapping but freaks out over Obama's interest in passing laws banning high-capacity magazines.

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