Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Marshall McLuhan and Socialist Teddy Bears

The only thing worse than inane political analysis and obtuse cultural criticism is combining the two. John Cole of Balloon Juice finds this stunning example of "Bad Punditry":

If indications hold true, voters Tuesday will deliver a powerful rebuke to the Obama administration and its plans to transform America. Also, “Toy Story 3” will come out on DVD. These two events are not unrelated.

The piece goes downhill from there, in a Dante's descent-into-the-Inferno sorta way. The author is Andrew Klavan, the same odious dipshit who tried to steal The Dark Knight's popularity to praise Bush and claim vindication for war, surveillance and torture. Backtrack through the Balloon Juice post and you can read the Klavan piece – then solace yourself with it being savagely mocked in the BJ thread. (Some of the commentators at the LA Times, where Klavan's piece appeared, also make short work of it.)

For his analysis of The Dark Knight, Klavan had to ignore key aspects of the actual movie, of course, but that's standard for "conservative" film reviewers these days. His Toy Story 3 piece does the same, but I'd say it's even worse for several reasons. The key one is that Pixar makes truly wonderful movies, and they deserve better than this hack and dolt trying to purloin their work, and crapping all over it in the process. Pixar also deliberately tries to avoid politics in their films (the subject has come up in interviews). This is in part because they're making films suitable for young kids (as well as adults), but also because good storytelling tends to be multifaceted in a way that agitprop isn't. And come on, if the Pixar crew were going to push a political message, it would tend to be liberal-minded, like their neighbors in San Francisco and Berkeley, or like most of the film industry in very liberal (and extremely capitalist) Hollywood. Does Klavan really think Pixar is run by closet right-wingers? Lastly, the analysis itself is extremely dumb, without even the saving grace of some wit or an all-in-good-fun wink for its ridiculously counterintuitive, counter-textual reading. Klavan's "analysis" is reductive, making the film less fun, less moving, less rich. You would have to be an ideological zealot, an inept propagandist or a fucking moron to write that piece. I leave it to discriminating readers to decide the exact nature and composition of Klavan's latest little turd.

This isn't the first time poor Pixar has suffered this sort of Konservetkult abuse. When the fantastic WALL-E came out, conservatives first strongly attacked it because of its environmental themes... but then later, some decided to try to appropriate it as a conservative indictment of the nanny-state. Oh, the humanity. It's a sad waste of life to approach the arts in this way, and I've got much more on this whole mindset in a long post on the most "conservative" films (which also covers Klavan's take on The Dark Knight in more depth). If, for instance, conservative Danielle Crittenden loves Pride and Prejudice, great, and perhaps we can have a pleasant conversation about it. But it's silly and pitiable to insist that Pride and Prejudice is a great "conservative" love story, as if it can only be safely enjoyed after being stamped with the conservative imprimatur, and certified free of thought-crime. Good art is often ambiguous and multilayered, and it's to be enjoyed, shared, reflected upon and discussed, not conquered and enslaved.

That said, I think we need one more response to Klavan, and I happen to have Lee Unkrich, director of Toy Story 3, right here:


Mark Prime said...

Also, “The Waking Dead” will come out on DVD. These two events are, strangely enough, related.

libhom said...

I couldn't even get past that first boxed quote. It made my head hurt.