Friday, January 09, 2009

Big Hollywood, Big Mistake

I've been following the debut of Big Hollywood, an internet destination that creator Andrew Breitbart envisions as a sort of conservative answer to the Huffington Post. Breitbart appeared on Red Eye earlier in the week to promote the site and more importantly in terms of my interest, a number of the Reason writers are supposed to be contributing a libertarian perspective to the site. So having checked in several times so far, I feel safe in saying that, thus far, the site is a literal internet abortion. Rather than trying to be interesting, most of the pieces just drench themselves in traditional politics, so much so that there's really nothing new being said.

Take this piece by Ben Shapiro on the top 5 conservative characters on Lost. As a Lost fanatic, it drew my attention, but I was quickly disappointed. Here's Shapiro's take on Sawyer:

Josh Holloway’s Southern con man, James “Sawyer” Ford, is the best conservative character on television, bar none. Sure he sleeps around – what con man worth his salt doesn’t? But he votes Republican – in Episode 16 of Season 1, Outlaws, Sawyer admits that he has never voted Democrat. He’s a proud gun-toter, carrying rifles and pistols with equal authority. He’s a true capitalist, buying and selling like Warren Buffet at a flea market. And he hates communism. When one female character suggests that everyone share a cache of food, Sawyer sneers, “Oh sure, Moonbeam, and then maybe we can all do Trust Falls and sing Kumbaiya.” Sawyer is the first to engage in racial profiling – he labels fellow crash survivor Sayid a terror suspect in Episode 1, Season 1 – but he also develops a deep friendship with Sayid as the show progresses. And boy is he tough. In Season 2, he rips a bullet out of his shoulder with his bare hands. Ask Al Franken to do that.

So Sawyer is the best conservative character on television because he votes Republican, he's good with guns, he doesn't believe in sharing, he engages in racial profiling, and he can pull a bullet out of his shoulder with his bare hands. I suppose now I finally know what real conservatism is all about. It doesn't get any better either. John Locke is conservative because he's a man of faith and he's tough. Benjamin Linus is a conservative because he's a bad ass. Mr. Eko is a conservative because he was a drug dealer who found God. And Charlie and Claire and conservative because of the whole redemption thing again and because Claire didn't abort her baby. So if I had to simplify this all down to it's bare essentials, conservatives kick ass first, take names second, and believe in God. And they don't kill babies.

Forgetting for a minute that Mr. Shapiro is ruining Lost for all of us who just think it's a damn good show, let me just point out that Mr. Shapiro's biggest mistake is reading politics into his characters in the first place. Characters may have political opinions or occasionally take politically charged action (like keeping a baby versus aborting it), but I'd challenge anyone to determine what characteristics make an individual conservative, or for that matter liberal or libertarian. You can't do it because political philosophies are about our world view, not about each and every single trait and characteristic that make us who we are. You could be a God-fearing liberal who kicks ass first, then takes names, and never aborts your babies.

There's a difference between themes and character traits and I'm just amazed Mr. Shapiro (who graduated from Harvard law apparently, and has columns appearing in countless publications) can't tell the difference. When looking at the show as a whole, I'm sort of at a loss to describe Lost as political in any way. Because the show isn't really about how our survivors actually survive, there's little to be said about how the survivors organize their community, other than that it seems to be a mix of sharing and people keeping things for themselves.

If this is what young conservatives really think about conservatism, it's no wonder conservatives are trouble. Just as an example, here's a conservative themes on television. 24 is an obvious choice, not because Jack Bauer's such a bad ass, but because the program showcases a world where America has very deadly enemies and national security is all-important. As a libertarian, I enjoy pointing out the moments in popular media where individuals are crushed by government bureaucracy, or where government is simply and realistically ineffectual. There are libertarians who loved the Wire for it's critique of the effects of the drug war on all our societal institutions and libertarians who loved Deadwood for it's portrayal of a functional society operating outside the traditional reins of government. Libertarians may support drug legalization, but that doesn't mean Charlie on Lost was a libertarian character who became a conservative character when he gave up drugs and started looking for God.

I'm sure the intention of Big Hollywood was to be clever- perhaps to point out the various instances where liberal Hollywood has actually championed conservative values. But this is just asinine. Thanks Mr. Shapiro, for raising the level of discourse by pointing out that Al Franken would have never pulled a bullet out of his shoulder the way your favorite tv character did.


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