The Death of Debate: how the lie about politics in film was just the start of a worrying trend.
Politics and art go hand in hand. It has always been this way, even if you don’t want to admit it. So, then, this extends to film. Film is political. Like it or not, it just is. The truth is that the reason you feel, as you’ve gotten older, that movies and television shows are somehow more political now than they were isn’t because they are, it’s just that you’re more aware. I could point to countless “classic” films that delve into politics in one way or another. Whether it be Star Wars and its deliberate use of Nazi iconography in its depiction of the Empire through to far more obvious and overt examples like, say, John Carpenter’s They Live, which is so anti-capitalist and anti-establishment that even as a youngster you’d probably didn’t miss it.
I’ve spoken before about the fact that I believe when people become frustrated at films and their politics, really what they’re frustrated at is the marketing. Movie marketing has become more political, even if the movies themselves haven’t. But, honestly, I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate anymore. While there is certainly a case to be made for the perceived politicization of movie marketing (take a look at the newest iteration of Black Christmas, for example), actually I think the frustrations of people shouting about it on social media is slightly less complex, and slightly more primal.
Really, I think, it’s nothing to do with the perceived politicization at all, and it’s everything to do with the fact that they just don’t like it. Likely because they see it as being anti “their side”. This idea of politics in film being a new thing was just the start of a worrying trend. And it’s here, in the concept of “their side” that I think we find the real issue with politics today.
You see, it shouldn’t really be about sides, it should be about policies. I would consider myself a leftie. I have, in the past, been told I’m a “woke SJW” or a “leftard” or any other number of inventive insults grabbed from the headlines of The Daily Mail, but today I find myself agreeing with Nigel Farage when he tweeted; “If the Government can subsidize Eat Out to Help Out, not being seen to give poor kids lunch in the school holidays looks mean and is wrong”. I also find myself holding a certain level of respect for former Tory MP Caroline Ansell, who quit the Government over their refusal to extend school meals for the poorest children in society.
Now, neither Farage nor Ansell have actually made a move over to “my side” (if we have to call it that), it’s just that on this occasion they happen to be, in my opinion at least, right. And I reckon you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who, if they were being honest about it, actually thinks feeding hungry children is somehow a bad thing. The problem is, however, people have gone tribal. It isn’t about the policies really, it’s about the party. And I know it isn’t about supporting policies because, well, if it was then Brexit – which has gone from a deal to no deal to an oven-ready deal to breaking international law - would literally have collapsed already, because if you actually supported any single one of the many things Brexit purports to be then you, um… well, you wouldn’t support Brexit.
This is a problem, because if we have people willing to ignore or even change their own ideology based solely on the actions of their chosen mouthpiece (I’m reluctant to use the word leader since we seem to have a devastating lack of them at the moment), then how can you ever really fight for or enforce an actual, reasonable, and fair system?
When Boris Johnson and his Government U-turned on Free School Meals over the summer holidays, Conservative support was awash with praise for footballer Marcus Rashford, who had run a successful campaign, and was all gushy over their great messiah BoJo for listening to what the people had to say and doing the right thing. But now, of course, since the Tories are no longer willing to do the thing they already did (yep! That’s how much sense this makes), Rashford is a footballer who needs to stay in his lane, opposition parties are playing politics with hungry kids, and even Nigel f**king Farage is being unreasonable (seriously, go look at the comments on the aforementioned tweet).
This kind of hypocrisy in support can be seen elsewhere too. Look at, for example, Greater Manchester. When Rishi Sunak delivered the Furlough scheme earlier this year he was praised by pretty much everyone (moving aside for a minute the fact that he left thousands of people out and lied about it), but now Manchester must go into the same kind of lockdown that meant there was a requirement for the Furlough scheme, it’s unreasonable to ask for such a thing. Now there’s no money, even if there was a couple of months ago. Even if they can keep funneling billions into failed Test and Trace schemes, non-existent PPE, and propaganda Hospitals that don’t actually seem to exist.
It doesn’t make sense. You can’t have it both ways. And the biggest problem here is that any time someone tries to speak up and make a point they wind up sidetracked having to explain why it’s hypocritical and, before you know it, you’ve wasted all your time and energy arguing about a thing that wasn’t even the point in the first place.
It's a lie. It's a distraction. It exists solely to get you arguing about a thing that's, in truth, unrelated to the point. No one really believes Brexit meant a lorry park in Kent, a border in the Irish Sea, and breaking international law. They don't. They just say they do so you can waste time trying to disprove that rather than deal with the actual problem. And we see this in film and TV all the time. While you're busy proving that, actually, The Animaniacs were always doing political satire, they've already convinced a hundred other people not to watch it, and not because they actually do believe The Animaniacs weren't making political jokes before, but because they don't want actually want political jokes made at all if it's at the expense of "their side". See the problem?
So, how do we deal with it? Do we go on trying to point to examples of movies from the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and so on that so blatantly are political that it makes the entire idea of movies becoming political being a recent thing collapse in on itself like a bridge in London, or do we accept that when some w*nker with a pride complex comes along and claims they’re ruining Ghostbusters – the movie in which a small business must fend off against the evil Government agencies – because they’ve cast some women in the lead roles, that actually that person isn’t only full of crap but is also just not worth the effort of talking to?
When you have a situation where one side is not only willing but happy to totally shift their stance on an issue just to match up with what those at the top are saying is there any point in even engaging in the debate? I don’t see one, because that wouldn’t be a debate, it would just be one side making a point and the other side flip-flopping around, hurling insults, and being inconsistent.
And look, before the enviable tirade of angry right-wingers comes my way; I don’t care anymore, guys. I’m not interested in what you’ve got to say, or what you think because what you think is so inconsistent and ever-changing depending on what thing makes you look like you’re in the right this week that it’s meaningless. You may as well just stand facing a wall singing “Happy Birthday” for all the worth it actually has now.
People will often refer to debate as the cornerstone of democracy. Well… debate is dead. It died with rational argument, truth, and the concept of a United Kingdom. There is no debate when there are no clear policies on which to debate. There is no debate when one side is arguing “we should feed hungry kids” and the other side is arguing “we should feed hungry kids but not in that way! In a different, undefined way that’ll change in a couple of months… maybe. But also, not.”
So, where do we go from here? Honestly, I don’t know. This really was just me venting my frustrations out onto a blank page. I have no answers. I have no plan. I have nothing. I guess I just want to know if there is anyone else out there feeling the same way?