Why conservatives can’t do pop culture very well

Yes, somebody actually painted this. And no, I don’t think it’s satire. You have to sort of love the rooster, though. He’s as free as a bird now.

The question is: where’s Waldo?

You see this is why conservatives are failing when it comes to waging the culture war in the arts, and why they at once turn to political means rather than cultural means to wage that war. It’s also why we see so many conservatives devolve into self-victimization.

Conservatives have a hard time making conservative films or television shows – though occasionally you’ll find a show like 24 which espouses some conservative ideas about war and national security. I think the success of 24 was in weaving some conservative ideals into a show that focuses mostly on the action.

You rarely hear conservative music outside of Nashville. Country is one of the few successes at transposing conservative culture war politics into pop culture.

We do see plenty of sexism and other illiberal views in our  mainstream pop culture, of course. See Alyssa Rosenberg’s deconstruction of the Superbowl ads for one example.

But for some reason, conservative attempts at pop culture simply don’t pan out for the most part. So we get complaints about liberal media or liberal Hollywood or whatever. But it’s not liberal Hollywood’s fault that conservatives can’t do art. (Nor is it entirely obvious that Hollywood is liberal, but that’s another story for another time.)

And it’s not as though no good conservative art or literature has ever been produced. It’s just that today’s conservatives have lost any sense of proportion or subtext. Everything is so overt and over-stated. I think that The Lord of the Rings is a basically conservative text. It’s just not explicitly conservative and doesn’t say anything nasty about Obama.

Today’s conservative pop culture is reactionary, which is fitting I suppose. There was a mockumentary conservatives made a couple years ago that attempted to not very cleverly spoof Michael Moore. But an attempt to beat Moore at his own game is probably going to fail, if only because it’s little more than preaching to the choir (and this isn’t even to say that Moore isn’t deserving of his own criticism – the left is actually very good at leveling its own critique at Moore.) It’s the same in politics: conservatives aren’t so much interested with their own ideas about governance as they are about responding to and obstructing the ideas of their opponents.

And perhaps that’s the crux of the issue. Conservative art mimics conservative politics rather than the other way around. And so it can never really be art.


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