You hated a movie's politics/morals; can you still like the movie?

Or television show, novel, play, or other work of narrative or dramatic art, for that matter.

In another current thread, talking about movies in which the ostensible hero of the movie turns out to be responsible for the mayhem on screen, someone mentioned the movie Hero from a few years back, which tells a myth about the unification of China 2000 years ago. I mentioned that I find Hero’s politics abhorrent–it’s basically an apologia for totalitarianism—even though I love the movie; I find its cinematography so gorgeous that I can forgive the repellent message. In another thread people are arguing about 24 and whether it’s overal message is liberal or conservative, with a consensus that, if it became too strongly one way or the other, it would sacrifice its audience.

Allof which brings me to the point of THIS thread: have you ever liked a movie/book/etc but hated the politics or morals behind it? How important is it that a work of fiction or drama support your political POV?

Well, my politics resemble Al Franken’s and Natalie Maines’s, but I prefer the work of PJ O’Rourke and Toby Keith. At some level, I prefer an artist who challenges my convictions to someone who preaches to the choir. But it’s a small part of what I decide to like about an artist.

It all depends on the careful interplay between the quality of the movie, and how hard the movie bashes the viewer over the head with it’s “moral.” Hell, it even depends on how well it bashes the viewer over the head with the moral. If they use some really clever, kickass way of doing it, I imagine can admire the craftmanship enough to enjoy the movie because of the head-bashing. If, however, it’s clumsy and badly done, or if the message itself is really unforgivably rotten, then the best I can do is watch whatever it is for cheap laughs. Like an Ed Wood movie.

Plus, I’ve got screwy ethics to begin with, so I’ve really had to learn to be flexible and not too serious when it comes to my entertainment. Or else everything would leave me so indignant that I’d be stuck only watching technical documentaries.

The most extreme example that comes to mind, ie a work guided by the most loathsome politics which still remains a classic of the art of propaganda, is Der ewige Jude , directed by Fritz Hippler.

I love the music of Wagner but couldn’t have spent five minutes in the same room with him without punching him in the nose. Hard.

Another example. There was a recent case in England of a famous children’s author, William Mayne , busted for molesting pre-pubescent girls. He’d written over 100 books for children, to general acclaim and wide sales.

Now we get many reactions like the following one, from Michele Elliott, director of Kidscape, a child safety group who is herself a children’s author.

"I wouldn’t touch his (Mayne’s) books with a barge pole. Books are the sum of you as a person. To divorce the writings of an author from the author himself is impossible.”

Frankly, I think this is nonsense. I have a 10-year old daughter. As it happens, she’s never read any of Mayne’s books, but I certainly wouldn’t prevent her from doing so if she chose. If the books were harmless before his bust (which they clearly were) then they’re harmless now.

If we start subjecting authors, composers, etc to some kind of character/politics/ethics test before we approach their works, we’re going to find ourselves going down a road with a very dubious destination.

The West Wing is one of my favorite shows ever, but their “all guns are bad” and “let’s spend some more money and make the world a better place” politics is way contrary to mine. I usually don’t pay any attention to it and focus more on the characters and their interactions and enjoy the show. A friend of mine, though, almost couldn’t watch the show because she’d end up grinding her teeth at the politics.

That’s not quite what I had in mind, though. I agree that an author’s personal morality should have little to do with how we evaluate his work. But the politics and/or morals propounded in that work is another matter.

Another poster has mentioned The West Wing. I too found Aaron Sorkin’s knee-jerk dismissal of guns, for instance, to be, well, stupid, but that didn’t stop me from appreciating his work. (Of course I dont’ acknowledge that the show existed after the fourth season, but that’s a matter for another thread.) In that case, the extraordinarily well-done dialogue and acting overcame the weakness of its poorly-thought out (in this area) politics. But if Sorkin had written just as brilliantly and with the same compelling characters, all of whom were promoting NAMBLA’s agenda, that would have been another ball of wax.

Gone with the Wind- both book and Film- has been criticized because of alleged romantasizing of slavery and the KKK.

And…um…did you have something to say on the subject? :confused:

Do you agree that GWTW romanticizes slavery and still like it??

Are you prevented from appreciating GWTW because of its attitude towards slavery?

I personally believe that GI Jane would have been more successful had the message been one held by the viewers. And in general I do think that if a movie or book is particularly arguing for a certain set of politics, the people who like or dislike it will be the ones who agree or disagree with the sentiment respectively.

For instance Cradle Will Rock was about as close to a call for socialism as I’ve ever seen since the fall of the USSR, and I would personally bet that anyone who didn’t walk into the movie pro-Commy is going to walk out anything but bored and dumbfounded.

Hmm…not necessarily. I might agree with Bruce Tinsley on a lot of things, for instance, but Mallard Fillmore leaves me cold, as he always forgets to bring the funny. Contrariwise, Aaron McGruder is way to the left of me, but Boondocks is hilarious IMO.

I’ve never seen GI Jane; what was its message?

Well that someone gets into issues of skill and level of disagreement. I can disagree with someone about whether you are better to put milk in your tea first or after, but still we’re both drinking tea. If however I am in disagreement about whether you are better to revert women to commodities for reproduction and personal enjoyment, I’m doubting any comic strip arguing that side is going to hit my top ten.

I’ve never seen GI Jane; what was its message?

Women in Combat = Their (Damn) Right

Birth of a Nation was beautiful to me. Some of the shots, like this one particular shot of a forest, was so super fantastic. However, I had a hard time enjoying it, for obvious reasons. Still, amazing cinematography, especially historically speaking.

The American President, like The West Wing, was rabidly anti-gun, but is one of my favorite political movies. I just tune out President Shepherd when he launches into his gun-rant.

Not a movie, but similiar: I’m in the midst of reading “Insatiable”, tales from the life of restaurant critic Gael Greene, and I don’t think I’m going to finish it. She just seems… icky. It’s painful for me to read because the overall impression of her is that she’s someone that I just flat out wouldn’t ever want to be around.

Maybe she’s lovely in real life, but her book really makes me dislike her. I’m having a hard time separating the read from the person, so I’m not enjoying the book very much at all.

I have similar feelings about Lewis Carrol. As nauseating as his affections towards young girls was, I think he produced some of the finest childrens’ literature in the English Language. For all its nonsense, The Jabberwocky is one of my favorite poems!

But as the father of two young girls, I recognize the dilemma of raving over Carrol’s writing, which would likely give my daughters an impression later in life that I held a child molestor in unusually high esteem.

I’m sure there’s some “happy medium” where I can appreciate the works and disparage the actions of the writer, and still not utterly confuse my kids, but I haven’t found it yet.

This has always fascinated me. I’m generally not concerned about an artistic creator’s personal beliefs (unless they want me to be…) I try to judge a work on its own merits.

I’ve always been astounded by people who say they don’t like movies like Pulp Fiction or The Godfather because it depicts characters who are less than moral standouts. It makes me wonder if these people are familiar with the concept of “fiction”. I also wonder what kind of entertainment these people enjoy; without some form of conflict or moral depravity most stories are sort of bland, no? And I suppose that some people are not familiar or comfortable with the concept of an “antihero”. Just because a main character is patently evil does not mean the author is holding him up for adulation. Further, a reader or viewer can identify with elements of a violent or evil character without approving of the character’s morality.

Pulp Fiction for example. Take Vincent Vega. Do I think it’s morally acceptable to be a heroin addicted, terminally shallow hitman? No, of course not. Was it fun to watch him do his thing? Sure was.

Or try an example from the other end of the spectrum: John Wayne. Do I agree with John Wayne’s politics or the political/moral message of some (most?) of his movies? Nope. Do I still enjoy watching them? Yep.

I’m a big fan of Star Wars. Say what you will about Lucas - and you’ll probably be right - he does entertain.

But if I had to live in that galaxy, I’d prefer working for the Empire over the Jedi or the rebels, no question about it. The Empire got things done - the Jedi were paleotraditionalist prissy poseurs prancing around the galaxy in designer bathrobes, and the rebels were likely the greatest mass-murderers in the history of stuff.

But I enjoy (most of) the movies nonetheless.

White Nights caused a lot of eye rolling for me when I saw it at the theatre when it was released back in the 80s. That said, I went to it because of Mikhail Baryshnikov, and the scenes where he danced, either by himself or with Gregory Hines made the rest of it worthwhile.

Lewis Carrol was a child molestor?

I knew he liked to take pictures of girls, in poses which (I am told–I’ve never seen the pictures) make modern viewers uncomfortable.

But I had heard that these pictures were just pretty normal back then. Which maybe means everyone was lusting after children, or maybe means the pictures didn’t mean to them what they mean to us today.

I think I recall as well that he wanted to marry the real world Alice, though I don’t think it was that he wanted to marry her at age 12, but rather, that he wanted her parents to promise he’d have “first dibs” so to speak once she was of pursuable age. I might be remembering wrong. But the situation I just described, as much as I don’t like it, is pretty normal in way-old-fashioned courtship rituals.

But anyway, back to my main point–I didn’t know he was an actual child molestor! Where did you read about this?


Did you roll your eyes because of its anti-Communist, pro-American message, or something else?

I’ve always been a huge fan of Breaker Morant, about Australian soldiers charged with war crimes during the Boer War. The author of the book and play on which it’s based has since changed his mind, after seeing previously-secret UK Ministy of Defence documents, and decided that Morant and his codefendants were probably guilty after all. I still like the movie, though, and probably still rationalize on some level that maybe the author got it right the first time…