About Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Another "liberal" bias goes the way of the dodo...

A.O. Scott in the New York Times points out that yet another "liberal bias" myth has clearly been exposed by now for what it is, a myth. After the surge of right-wing radio shows, and of course the rise to prominence of trash-news channels like Fox News, it is now clear that not only there is no such thing as a liberal media bias, but that that other alleged bastion of liberalism, Hollywood, is in fact no threat to conservative America.

Scott's case hinges on the release of more or less overtly right-wing biased movies in recent seasons, beginning of course with the mother of them all, Mel Gibson's Passion (which, however, was independently financed). Scott begins by pointing out the Ayn Rand libertarianism underlying last fall's "The Incredibles," the not very subtle satire of left-wing celebrity activism in "Team America," and of course the right-wing propaganda use of the admittedly neutral documentary "March of the Penguins."

The currently available crop includes two recently released features, both of which opened as a box office success: "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" and "Just Like Heaven." In the latter, could it be by chance, asks Scott, that the main female character (an independent working woman) is in fact sad and unfulfilled, while her stay-at-home-mom sister is happy? And of course, the climax of the movie feels like a rehearsal of the Terry Schiavo case of a few months ago.

In the case of "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" the anti-science, the-devil-is-out-to-get-us theme is overt, as in many horror movies (and not just horror: one of the reasons I never liked the X-Files was because the skeptic there was obviously an idiot, insisting in denying the obvious even when it was paraded in front of her eyes at every single episode).

Of course, right-wind conservatives can find an equal number of flicks to complain abouty, but the point I'm trying to make is that "Hollywood" is not a monolith with a particular agenda, other than to make money by appealing to the largest possible number of people. If the general polical climate in the nation goes left, so does Hollywood; if it turns to the Right, the movie industry will follow. If one wants truly vanguard stuff one has to turn to independent movies, not expect it from the lumbering giant.

However, contrary to fundamentalist right-wingers (and some of my colleagues on the left), I don't mind at all the release of movies that I clearly don't wish to see. All I need to do is precisely that: don't go see them. Of course, that's OK as long as one still has a choice of features that cater to all shades of the political and social spectrum (and, frankly, of movies that leave politics and religion out entirely). But at least at the moment I see as much danger of Hollywood becoming a mouthpiece for Bush as that it was a mouthpiece for communists during the McCarthy era. Then again, I've always been an optimist...


  1. Steve Sailer, a conservative whose writing I always find very interesting (even though I don't agree with many of his conclusions) wrote an interesting article with a similar theme.

    It's called Hollywood's Skin-Deep Leftism.

  2. I had posted a comment on EvolutionBlog pointing out that not everyone saw The Exorcism of Emily Rose as being a the-devil-is-out-to-get-us theme flick, but rather as deliberately ambiguous.

    Relevant EvolutionBlog post, with comments


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