Just as so many 1980s pop culture products reflected the spirit of the Reagan Revolution’s conservative backlash, we are now seeing two blockbuster, genre-shaping products not-so-subtly reflect the Tea Party’s rhetorical backlash to the powerful Occupy Wall Street zeitgeist. In the same way Republican leaders have caricatured the “99 percent” idea as a menacing “attack upon freedom” or a “mob,” “Call of Duty” is essentially equating the “99 percent” idea with terrorism, chaos and violence.
Likewise, in “Dark Knight Rises,” though there has been some effort to use the villain’s name to portray him as a stand-in for Mitt Romney, the Los Angeles Times is right to flag the true “Occupy Wall Street vibe” of the bad guys. And though it’s possible that the film will ultimately provide a more nuanced portrayal of such populist outrage than “Call of Duty” seems intent on presenting, the problem remains the same: when villainous motives and psychopathy is televisually ascribed to mass popular outrage against the economic status quo, it suggests to the audience that only crazy people would sympathize with such outrage.
Knowing the teenage audience is right now forming the next generation’s vision of good and bad, it’s a message that the 1 percent must love.
Roy Edroso has a recurring theme where he talks about “The Children of Zhdanov“, though he tends to restrict his focus to stellar examples on the right wing. Lest you think, however, that only reactionaries insist on reducing art and pop culture to parables of propaganda, idiots like Sirota (and others) are doing their equal part to make sure that no aspect of the personal is separate from the political.
Again, in case you need reminding, I am a confirmed misanthrope. I do not have a generally high opinion of my fellow hairless apes. But, you know, I came of age during the glory days of the P.M.R.C., and I can tell you that my fellow metalhead teens and I alternated between raucous laughter and indignant disbelief as we listened to the Tipper Gores of America recite lyrics as if they were appliance user guides, while insisting that we were blank slates, too stupid to think even slightly critically about the messages and images we were receiving through our music, and thus in need of incessant preaching and supervision. Yet needless to say, the overwhelming majority of us did not commit suicide, become violent felons or hardcore drug addicts, dabble in devil worship, or court our girlfriends and wives with all the subtle romance of Mötley Crüe lyrics. Somehow, even without insufferable busybodies there to instruct our thinking every step of the way, we made our way to adulthood, no more damaged or antisocial than anyone else. Somehow, I think today’s teenagers will be just as capable of eventually forming political opinions independent of whichever movie they last saw.