The GOP needs Tony Stark
Think of the last movie you saw that featured a major environmental catastrophe due to global warming, or the fight against those who would destroy a forest or a river.
How about one in which the cosmopolitan protagonist can’t decide whether to sleep with Vince or Vinny, and realizes wait–she can have both.
Or perhaps a sci-fi thriller featuring the perfect green energy source?
Or a TV father who openly encourages and commiserates with his son’s ubiquitous presence in the local bars, and the search for a new woman each weekend?
A few days ago I had a quick Twitter exchange with Chris Loesch, husband to Dana Loesch of The Dana Show. Chris wrote and produced the music for the recently released and quite deliciously poignant documentary Hating Breitbart. The exchange was sparked by his statement that we conservatives need to drastically improve our art.
What I believe Loesch meant by this, and what many of us on the Right know, is that conservative messages have suffered both severe underrepresentation and bad marketing in American film and television genres. This includes mainstream media (for obvious reasons) and Hollywood (where conservatives are routinely blacklisted).
Try now to think of the last movie you saw that left you with a deep conviction to see welfare end as a lifestyle in America.
Now a film that championed the plight of a small business against an overbearing and greedy government.
Now a story in which a man fights the temptation to cheat on his wife–and wins.
Finding this a bit difficult?
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Many thought Iron Man 2, released in 2010, was a pale reimage of its predecessor. It was more sensational and slightly less realistic (as much as a superhero movie can be so), with fewer concrete ties to real-life situations like the war in Afghanistan, which was incorporated well into the first film. But it did have one beautifully unique feature. It hit a subtle and scathing blow to the liberal mindset.
The scene in which Tony Stark is brought before the Senate for a hearing on the national security implications of the Iron Man suit is brilliantly conceived, and is the realest moment in the film. Here the owner of a megabusiness–a weapons developer, no less–holds a device that has outdone the U.S. military at its job. Built by Stark Industries, the Iron Man suit, with Tony piloting it, has proceeded to destroy terrorist installations across the globe, and with none of the mess and fuss of government paperwork.
So naturally, the government wants it.
After forcing Lt. Col. James Rhodes, Stark’s best friend, to read out-of-context excerpts from his report on the Iron Man suit, and after a series of failed attempts to paint the suit as a threat due to copycat attempts by other countries (during which Stark Tech proves its mastery over Government work), Senator Stern demands that Stark hand it over to the U.S. government. Tony, in his trademark fashion, refuses.
“You want my property? You can’t have it!
“But I did you a big favor! I’ve successfully privatized world peace.”
In real life national defense is one of the few purviews of the Federal Government, but this scene claws at big-G Government. It’s simple, and shows the struggle of innovator versus bureaucrat. Anyone watching it would automatically root for Tony Stark against The Man.
Then, after the credits rolled, many would head to dinner and passionately engage in conversation with their friends over the greatness of Obamacare.
For sixty years the Left has had an all-of-the-above strategy in the culture war, the vanguard of which is now television and film. While we wait on the battlefield, its actors and musicians go straight to the taverns and squares, winning over the people so that by the time the battle begins, the people are ready to surrender happily to a new ruler.
The GOP needs Tony Stark.
It’s characters like him that can resurrect conservative ideas and endear them to the public. Think he’s a bad spokesperson? Consider his attributes. He’s a genius. He runs his own company–until he makes a woman CEO. He fights the government to keep his business running and his property his own. He’s (over)confident, well dressed, and has a wit to outmatch any politician. Does he have flaws? Of course: any good character does. But in a nation where many see conservatives as back-woods, uptight simpletons, a few suave characters are well needed. A few more genius billionaire playboy philanthropists (minus, perhaps, the playboy).
Conservatives wishing for philosophical consistency might abhor the attachment of such flair to our brand. Doesn’t it contradict our principles of simple, honest family life, and reinforce the corruption so evident in our media? Sticking to our principles and going for substance is the right thing to do, but in doing so we neglect or even willfully omit the bravado. Perhaps we’re afraid we’ll corrupt others (or ourselves); or simply that we won’t be as good at it as our liberal counterparts. But all effective messages benefit from bravado–from flash, color, wit. We rely too heavily on politicians to offer it. It’s time to start looking at artists. Including some sensationalism does not automatically degrade the message or mislead the audience; the right amount intermixes itself with the message, and the salt betters the stew.
As we recognize that conservatives are, for now, losing the media battle, we must not fail to note that more and more exceptional conservative artists are emerging. While reading the questions above, you might have thought of the Atlas Shrugged films. In the realm of documentaries, we have thoughtful and even-handed pieces like Dinesh D’Souza’s 2016: Obama’s America, along with the unabashed unmasking of the bully liberal media in Hating Breitbart. Though Christopher Nolan’s messages in The Dark Knight Rises officially remain politically ambiguous, the film warned of the dangers of an Occupy-esque anarchist movement (did you catch the Illinois-style Gotham license plate?). These are harbingers. Liberty is alive and well in art, but to many it has been tranquilized by a narcotic called entitlement–one well administered via the small and big screens.
Conservatives offer the antidote. Internet has made us all producers now, and New Media has made its first home there. Millions on Twitter and their blogs stand with Right-leaning Hollywood actors like Jon Voigt and Adam Baldwin, and comedians like Steven Crowder. Many others are now finding their political voices. We are flooding Twitter, Facebook, and websites with our presence. Now it’s time to focus that presence into a coherent message.
Politicians and artists must collaborate on the same level as those on the Left do. Choose three issues, and hone them into messages directly challenging the bad premises of the Left. Make them ideas people will jump to (for instance, on taxes: “It’s your money” ). Appeal to emotion, to the senses, to a healthy defensiveness. Stir up a passion for people to resist Government encroachment into their money, their families, their businesses.
Ronald Reagan kept this mantra close to him: “It can be done.”
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An afterword: As we engage in art, we must be careful not to emulate the baseness of the Left. The perverse humor, assumed premises of infidelity and vice, and downright meanness are not our way. We can put on brass knuckles, but they don’t need spikes in them.
…Oh, I’m sorry. Were them fightin’ words?
23 November 2012: This post has been updated to correct Chris Loesch’s role in the making of Hating Breitbart.