View Full Version : Understanding where we are at or Right wing won the culture war.

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5/24/2011 5:20pm,
http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:aXeqpvxmErwJ:www.inthesetimes.com/article/3805/in_defense_of_the_60s/+the+denigration+of+the+sixties&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&source=www.google.com http://fdlbooksalon.com/2011/03/19/fdl-book-salon-welcomes-david-sirota-back-to-our-future/

my thanks to David Sirota and his book, How the 1980s Explain The World We Live In Now — Our Culture, Our Politics, Our Everything

There was a political battle in the 1980s to redefine the concepts of “The Fifties” and “The Sixties.” Specifically, Reaganites used revivalist themes to suggest that “The Fifties” was a time we should want to go back to and “The Sixties” was some awful time that had ruined the country. This came from Reagan himself, who as California governor railing on Berkeley hippies was a key backlash figure in the 1960s – and it came from the conservative movement as a whole.

So in the 1980s, you had the creation of “The Fifties” (ie. the image of national unity, harmony, family values...) as distinct from the actual 1950s (ie. an era of lynch mobs, government assassinations, and religious bigotry, and institutional male chauvinism, anti-miscegenation laws [in most of the US it was against the law to marry outside your race] to name a few things), and you had the creation of “The Sixties” (ie. chaos, political assassinations, radicalism, etc.) as distinct from the actual 1960s (which while including some of that, was also a time of great civil rights progress). Again, this was amplified by marketers, Reaganites and, of course, pop culture (movies like Back to the Future which idealized the 1950s, movies like The Big Chill which denigrated the 1960s, movies like Forest Gump, a right wing conservative propaganda film disguised as a heartwarming family film that glorifies corporate greed, trivializes both Vietnam and the peace movement, and demonizes and lampoons anyone who tries to shake up the system.

This is how nostalgia was manipulated and this battle between the 1980s version of “The Fifties” and the 1980s version of “The Sixties” still very much defines our politics today. A progressive talk show host praised President Obama for backing war in Libya not because it was the right or moral thing to do, but because it “makes Obama look like a hawk” – the idea being that that’s a good thing. This, again, is right out of the 1980s – at the beginning of the 1980s, polls showed America didn’t want overly hawkish/militaristic government – but by the end of the Reagan era, those numbers had reversed, where they stay today. Now, we’re at the point where it’s considered an assumed virtue on both sides of the political debate for a president to be an overt militarist.

5/24/2011 5:28pm,
an essay by Sirota

Five ’80s Flicks That Explain How the ’80s Still Define Our World by David Sirota

1. Ghostbusters (1984): Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz, Egon Spengler, and Winston Zeddmore seem like happy-go-lucky guys, but these are cold, hard military contractors. Between evading the Environmental Protection Agency, charging exorbitant rates for apparition captures, and summoning a Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, the merry band shows a Zoul-haunted New York that their for-profit services are far more reliable than those of the Big Apple’s wholly inept government. At the same time, the Ghostbusters were providing 1980s audiences with a cinematic version of what would later become the very real Blackwater--and what would be the anti-government, privatize-everything narrative of the twenty-first century.

2. Die Hard (1988): Though the 1980s was setting the stage for the rise of anti-government politics today, it was also creating the Palin-esque “rogue” to conveniently explain the good things government undeniably accomplishes. Hitting the silver screen just a few years after Ollie North’s rogue triumphalism, John McClane became the ’80s most famous of this “rogue” archetype--a government employee who becomes a hero specifically by defying his police superiors and rescuing hostages from the twin threat of terrorism and his boss’s bureaucratic clumsiness. This message is so clear in Die Hard, that in one memorable scene, McClane is yelling at one police lieutenant that the government has become “part of the problem.” Die Hard, like almost every national politician today, says government can only work if it gets out of the way of the rogues, mavericks, and rule-breakers within its own midst.

3. Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985): “Sir, do we get to win this time?” So begins the second--and most culturally important--installment of the Rambo series. The question was a direct rip-off of Ronald Reagan’s insistence that when it came to the loss in Vietnam, America had been too “afraid to let them win”--them, of course, being the troops. The theory embedded in this refrain is simple: If only meddling politicians and a weak-kneed public had deferred to the Pentagon, then we would have won the conflict in Southeast Asia. Repeated ad nauseum since the 1980s, the “let them win” idea now defines our modern discussion of war. If only we let the Pentagon’s Rambos do whatever they want with no question or oversight whatsoever, then we can decisively conclude the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan…and we can win the neverending “War on Terror.”

4. Rocky III (1982): Before the 2008 presidential campaign devolved into cartoonish media portrayals of the palatable “post-racial” Barack Obama and his allegedly unpalatable “overly racial” pastor Jeremiah Wright, there was Rocky III more explicitly outlining this binary and bigoted portrayal of African Americans. Here was Rocky Balboa as the determined but slightly ignorant stand-in for White Middle America. Surveying the diverse landscape, the Italian Stallion could see only two kinds of black people—on one side the suave, smooth, post-racial Apollo Creed, and on the other side the enraged, animalistic Clubber Lang. Rocky thus gravitated to the former, and reflexively feared the latter, essentially summarizing twenty-first-century White America’s often over-simplistic and bigoted attitudes toward the black community today.

5. The Big Chill (1983): This college reunion flick from Lawrence Kasdan is hilarious, morose, and seemingly nostalgic for the halcyon days of the past; but powerfully propagandistic in its negative framing of the 1960s. Over the course of the film’s weekend, character after character berates the 1960s as an overly decadent age that may have been rooted in idealism, but was fundamentally destined to fail. Sound familiar? Of course it does. The 1980s-created narrative of the Bad Sixties can still be found in everything from national Tea Party protests to never-ending culture-war battles on local school boards. The message is always the same: If only America can emulate the Big Chillers and get past its Sixties immaturity and liberalism, everything will be A-okay.

5/24/2011 5:34pm,
Trust a lefite to go and be a massive ***** ****** and try and ruin a bunch of awesome films with politics.

Ghostbusters were providing 1980s audiences with a cinematic version of what would later become the very real Blackwater
Seriously, what a bellend.

5/24/2011 5:50pm,
Conservatives are usually a-historical. It helps them keep their beliefs to be ignorant.

I haven't yet found a consevative that can understand simple historical theories such as the US created the radical muslim movement. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the CIA and the Savak have to be studied some to understand what is going on now. Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán and Patrice Lumumba have to be studied in order to know wtf the Guatemalan Civil War/genocide was about and wtf has been going on in the Congo.

Birth of a Nation was a very popular movie in it's day:

5/24/2011 5:57pm,
Trust a lefite to go and be a massive ***** ****** and try and ruin a bunch of awesome films with politics.

Seriously, what a bellend. I take it a bellend isn't exactly a generously favorable term? Anyhow, too bad that you are so close-minded. How about Red Dawn? US gets invaded by Russian commies because of the betreyal by Europeans and a weak liberal president. I'm not saying Reagun made the film, it's more subtle than that.

And way to ignore the entire argument on the perceptions of the 60s being determined by the actions and culture of the 80s. Good job being a tool.


5/24/2011 6:13pm,
I take it a bellend isn't exactly a generously favorable term? Anyhow, too bad that you are so close-minded. How about Red Dawn? US gets invaded by Russian commies because of the betreyal by Europeans and a weak liberal president. I'm not saying Reagun made the film, it's more subtle than that.

And way to ignore the entire argument on the perceptions of the 60s being determined by the actions and culture of the 80s. Good job being a tool.

Close minded is a pretty weak ad hominem in comparison to me calling your guy a bellend.

I don't believe that ghostbusters made the American people more ameniable to Blackwater and I think anyone who does needs to take a good hard look at themselves.

What I find interesting is the theoretical frameworks that have led to this guy's conclusion a combination of the Marxist-Lukacs paradigm and Foucauldian notions of the formulation of the episteme and discourse.

Its a crude interpretation and cheapening of the values of those theories to dilute those interesting and highly complex explorations of the formulation of systems of knowledge to such a simple dynamic as Ghostbusters = Blackwater.

I think he's right that discourse were created about the 50s and 60s that aren't accurate potrayals of the period. However, that doesn't validate wild theorising and drawing tenuous links between 80s films and the current state of American politics.

Those same films were shown worldwide and were very popular across Europe and the English speaking world. However, it seems only in the US did those films cause the left to lose the argument.

That suggest a number of things:
1. Americans are exceptionally stupid and sheep like in that they absorb any and all subtle political messages from films that they will only understand 20 years in the future.
2. Films don't really have much effect on the balance of political arguments.
3. Despite the films the left in Europe were able to succesfully marshall their arguments to overcome the malicious influences of the films.
4. The left in America were unable to marshall their arguments and didn't have anything of value, ideologically, to offer the american people.

5/24/2011 6:32pm,
Wow dude I knew you were weird but you think that this crap has any real social relevance?

You're right in the idea that there was never really a "golden era" as people perceive, but your movie idea is way off. What do shows like Dexter reveal? That the media wants us to be ok with Serial Killers? How about Pokemon as a PETA/Facist subplot to make us not want to hurt our fuzzy friends?

Seriously, if it quacks like a duck, walks like a duck, it's probably not a Pterodactyl. Take things at face value, Ghostbusters was about a group of misfits using goofy tech to catch a giant marshmellow.


Hiro Protagonist
5/24/2011 7:31pm,
Mmmh... Well, look at "24". If you take it at face value,
it's like a wish-fulfillment dream of Cheney security politics.

If you look at Pokemon, it's basically the mother of cross-franchising,
transporting a message of strong social conformism.

And about US Western or action heroes, it's always about the indiviual against the constitution. - Because Liberty Valance HAS to be shot, you know, because the law is too weak to deal with him.

However, I am against taking extreme positions when it comes to that:

Movies, like literature, are always a product of their age, and in case of Hollywood cinema, usually transporting messages that go very much with the social consensus.

And that the main discourse in ALL of US popular culture is always constitutionalism against maverick behavior should not come as that much of a surprise.


What's the difference between Hawkeye and Major Duncan Hayward? (sp?)
Or, Jack Sparrow and Will Turner?
Or, Detective Riggs and Detetctive Murtaugh?
Or, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo?

See a pattern there, folks? :)

Not really discussion-worty, and no topic for hysteria.

Maybe read David Halberstam's "The Fifties", that one really was an eye-opener in terms of how history is present in, well, the present.

5/24/2011 7:42pm,
Y'all need to read some books about how history is created.

Foucault's The Order of Things

Said's Orientalism

Hobsbawm's and Ranger's Invention of Tradition

They'll set you straight.

Hiro Protagonist
5/24/2011 7:50pm,

:D :D :D

5/24/2011 7:52pm,
I thought that too when I started studying history at uni. Turns out, its a fuckload more complicated than that.

5/24/2011 8:09pm,
Trust a lefite to go and be a massive ***** ****** and try and ruin a bunch of awesome films with politics.

Trust a Rightie to think he's got the better of any analysis with one sentence of homophobic, sexist slurs. You've sure got a point there and don't at all look like a reactionary fratboy!

5/24/2011 8:20pm,
So you have no criticisms of crudely applied Marxist-Lucakcian threory being muddled up with distorted intepretations of Foucauldian notions of discourse?

5/24/2011 8:30pm,
Its ok, I'll give you time to google those things so that you can pretend to understand them.

5/24/2011 8:49pm,
i know what bellend means. it's the head of a penis, right?
(sorry if i missed a previous definition in the thread)

anyway, ghostbusters was an awesome comedy about a bunch of guys that were spraying for bugs, but the bugs were actually ghosts and ****. that's it.

rambo first blood part 2 (most confusing movie title in the 80s) was definitely right wing propaganda. i remember this time in american history. the vietnam vets were finally starting to get a commuted sentence from the court of public opinion and hollywood capitalized on it (as did many politicians). that's when all the POW/MIA patches and flags got popular.

back to the future idealized the 50s, but that was the popular conception due to leave it to beaver, father knows best, the dick van dyke show, and the andy griffith show. i don't see any political agenda to that movie (****, they did the same thing in part 2 and 3, just took the popular culture idea of what the future and the old west were like/going to be like)

forest gump is right wing propagada? please spare me! the book (which is markedly different) was written about a handicapped southern guy. the movie reflected the attitudes of the south over the course of the 50s to the 80s. also, i don't think they trivialized the vietnam war, as the plot includes forest getting the medal of honor after watching his best friend die in his arms and his commanding officer having his legs amputated.

die hard, can't comment on, never saw it. but the sequels were ok.

rocky 3 showed that a white man and a black man with oiled muscles can wear nylon shorty shorts and prance around in the surf of a california beach and still go home and **** hot women.

keep in mind, i'm as left wing as you get. socialist. i'm also an athiest. and, finally, i think regan ruined america.

but, i'm more pissed at hollywood for convincing the childhood me that ninjas were real and that i could be one than i am about stupid action movies (a genre that is going to lean to the right no matter when it was made)

5/24/2011 9:38pm,
Made it though the sex, drugs and the rock and roll of the 70's. 60's hippie **** had fairly died out. Utopia just didn't happen as planned. Remnants are best seen now as university professors. **** up the next generation if you will.

Fairly conservative now. Family to raise and all that ****.

This country is facing a crisis. Extreme division between the left and right viewpoints cannot even lead to civil discussion on differences of opinion. This thread is indicative of what's wrong. We can't meet in the middle and try to find saneness when continuing to do same is like watching a two-train wreck.

Just don't see it your way Pat. Your bus has left the station.


.... and you're still in the terminal.