Our de-aspirational society; or, a society aiming for victimization and tawdriness

More than a hundred years ago, writing in a deeply religious era, Robert Browning observed “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”  Perhaps it’s no surprise that today, in a society with a pop and media culture dominated by secularists who have abandoned entirely the notion of heaven, our young people are encouraged, not to reach for the stars, but to engage in base behavior, bounded by the lowest possible common denominator of victim identification.

Any0ne over thirty (or, maybe, forty) will no doubt agree with me that our popular culture has changed dramatically in terms of the goals it sets for young people.  Certainly there is nothing today that compares to The Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conservation, a guidebook written by Jesuit scholars back in the late 16th century that George Washington  studied with regularity and reverence.  Fast forward approximately one and a half centuries, and you have Harry Truman, reading over and over again a book entitled Great Men and Famous Women.  These were aspirational books that had as their purpose teaching young people to abide by moral principles and to think big, whether in personal interactions or in lifetime goals.

Literature generally, right up until my childhood, aimed high.  Every American child, myself included, must have read Parson Weems’ highly fictionalized The Life of Washington.  If you read that, you knew that you too could be president if you were incredibly hard-working, brave and honest.

In the 19th Century, young boys were nourished on a steady diet of Horatio Alger books.  While Horatio Alger’s private predilections may have been unsavory (there were strong indications that he was a little too fond of young boys), none of that came through in his popular works.  Instead, in book after book after book, young boys were told that if they were honest, hard-working, good-natured, and brave, they could slowly, but surely, ascend America’s social and economic ladder.  Girls got exactly the same message from Louisa May Alcott’s delightful works.

Whether in works by these iconic authors, both of whom dominated American popular culture for decades, or in books by all the other writers targeting American children, for the better part of a century the goal was always the same:  children should aspire, not necessarily to fame or fortune, but to a rock-solid middle class lifestyle, marked by a high moral tone.  The message was remarkably egalitarian:  all who embraced America’s moral and work ethics could achieve this goal.

These works were by no means great literature.  Indeed, Horatio Alger is a dreadful writer, but there’s something charmingly earnest and inspiring about his plots.  In the 20th century, the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books, for example, were churned out by the dozens using a factory scheme, but the message never varied:  diligence, bravery, good cheer and honesty were the tickets to success.

Books nowadays are another story entirely.  Every week, after a trip to the library, I sort through the books my 13 year old daughter wants to check out, and am horrified by what our nice suburban library has on the teen shelf.  The most innocuous books merely give the teenage protagonists permission to be whiny, self-absorbed and manipulative.  No matter the issue, the answer is “feelings, nothing more than feelings….”  The more troubling books seek to inform the children’s sexuality, whether by encouraging early sexual behavior or by messing with gender constructs.  And while there are a few uplifting books hidden amongst this pile of dreck, the vast majority of offerings are remarkably self-involved and devoid of any antiquated notions such as generosity of spirit, self-sacrifice, bravery, or core moral absolutes.

One sees precisely the same pattern with non-print media.  When it came to early and mid-twentieth century movies and TV shows, there was certainly a lot of stuff that had no moral message at all, but the available family fare didn’t carry a bad message either.  Children who watched I Love Lucy may not have been thinking in terms of diligence or self-sacrifice, but they also weren’t mastering the arts of snark and disrespect.  Those shows aimed specifically at children during the thirty year period from the 1950s through the 1970s, while admittedly bland or foolish, were innocuous or tried in an entertaining way to enforce core societal values.  Watching the Brady Bunch or Leave It To Beaver taught me about honesty, reliability, and respect for my elders.  The tone towards adults was always respectful.

As with the books, the values in these shows were also egalitarian.  No matter who you were, if you behaved the Brady way, or the Beaver Cleaver way, you’d do okay.  (And if you behaved the Gilligan way, i.e. foolishly, you end up wet and pummeled by coconuts.)  It was all very clear.

Fast forward to the 21st century, and we get a remarkably different pop culture vision for children’s moral and social development.  Whether one thinks of books or television shows or movies, the message is always the same:  being disrespectful to your peers and to adults is attractive; adults are buffoons; men are useless; clever manipulation often trumps honesty; and, at the end of the day, what really counts is your feelings.  If any given episode of Miley Cyrus or I Carly or Suite Life of Zack and Cody actually carries a so-called moral, that moral isn’t that a specific behavior is wrong, but that the bad behavior might hurt someone else’s feelings.  In other words, in the world our media hands to our children, all ethical questions are resolved by a quick glance at ones own navel.

Aside from a moral vacuum, today’s media also offers an aspirational vacuum.  The heroes it sells to our children are athletes or movie stars.  While I may appreciate an athlete’s skills or a movie star’s pleasant screen persona, neither has distinguished himself (or herself) by willingly making a huge sacrifice, perhaps the ultimate sacrifice, on behalf of someone else.  A-Rod may show superb self-discipline when it comes to honing his skills, but he’s doing it to be rich and famous (and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that), not for the betterment of mankind.  This is not a hero by any traditional standard.

Sleazy behavior is also normative.  As any parent of a little girl can tell you, Miley Cyrus morphed from snarkily wholesome to unutterably sleazy.  That’s bad enough, but what’s even worse is the excuse pop culture offers her:  she’s just growing up.  In this moral vacuum, growing up doesn’t mean taking on responsibility or displaying elan, class and sophistication.  Instead, the only thing growing up means is to engage in tawdry acts of public sexuality.  As a mother, it’s a great challenge to explain to ones children that becoming a sleaze-monger is not the normative external sign of maturity.

Worse, when the media is confronted by real heroes — by people who willingly put their safety and even their own lives at stake to advance a cause greater than themselves — it assiduously ignores those people.  I’m speaking, of course, of our troops.  As often as not, when the media pays attention to a service person, it is someone who, in an almost passive way, suffered horrific injuries.  I don’t mean to denigrate these men.  Merely by enlisting, they showed a rare moral courage, and their bravery in coping with terrible injuries is always inspiring. Still, they are only one side of the warrior equation.

The other side, the side the media ignores, is the men who actively leap into the breach.  Outside of the military press and the conservative blogosphere, you’ll be hard pressed to find stories celebrating the truly heroic exploits of such men as Sal Giunta, Bradley Kasal, Marco Martinez, Michael Murphy, Michael Mansoor or Marcus Luttrell.  If the media notes them at all, these stores are forced upon them by the fact that some of those men, whether dead or alive, have had the Medal of Honor bestowed upon them.  As a parent and a patriot, I resent that the media ignores people who triumph over their enemies and focuses only on those who triumph only over their own injuries.  Both should be celebrated, not just the latter.

If the materials made available to American children do tell stories of people actively triumphing over circumstances, those triumphs are very identity specific, and are tightly tied to someone’s victim status.  Thus, in contrast to the egalitarian message of old, that saw all hard working, brave, moral people rise up in the world, my white children are exposed to an endless stream of stories that, with few extremes, trumpet the triumphs only of those people who fall within PC victim parameters.

The problem with these stories is that the emphasis isn’t on virtuous behavior, but on victim status.  Whether in textbooks, required reading, “news” magazines, or movies shown in classrooms, the “value” being advanced is is being black, or being gay, or being Hispanic, or being female. These presentations then go on to say, almost coincidentally, that if one digs deep into the life story of these carefully classified people, one will find some abstract, overarching virtues as well. “He’s gay and — wow! — he’s brave, too.” “She’s black and — this is so cool — she’s compassionate.”

Well, I’m sorry, but being black is not a value. Being Hispanic is not a virtue. Being gay is not an ethic. Each of these is simply a label to help classify a person, because classification seems to be an innate human — and certainly and innate Leftist — need. None of these labels, however, touch upon conduct, morals, goals, bravery or any of the other abstract virtues that can reside in all people.

I’m happy to hear about heroic, brilliant, compassionate, important blacks, gays, women, Hispanics, etc., and I want my children to hear about them too. The focus, though, should be on the “heroic, brilliant, compassionate” parts, which are universal values we want to see all children learn. Only then should we go to the subset idea, which is that, no matter the label you give yourself (or that is given to you), you can aspire to these over-arching values, virtues and ethics.

The ne plus ultra of our de-aspirational society is our President, of course.  Although he’s almost exactly my age, because he grew up as a child of the Left, while I had a steady diet of virtue, he had an equally steady diet of cultural denigration.  Small wonder than that he travels the world, rigorously applying often imaginary virtues to cultures based upon their otherness, with no regard whatsoever for the abstract values that should define all moral societies.  And small wonder, too, that, to the extent he can periodically rouse himself to say something nice about America, that niceness is always tied to the elevation of some victim group.

Our youth can succeed only if they are taught that there is something beyond self-involvement, victim identity, and sex.  Because our popular culture refuses to recognize the abstract virtues of honor, bravery, patriotism, respect, honesty, etc., it is up to us to celebrate those virtues and to tell our children the tales of those who embody them.

Cross-posted in Right Wing News

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  • Danny Lemieux

    Book, I can tell that you are a fantastic mother to your children.
    Take heart in the fact that all over America there are families that face the same struggle of inculcating strong values in their children while girding them with the spiritual armor with which to resist the bad influences of society. It is a walk on the razor’s edge: you want to protect, but you don’t want to be over-protective so that they are not prepared to deal with the “real” world. You may not see the final work product until your kids are in the 20s.
    And so many kids do well, as you well know every time that you cite the quality of those who serve in the armed forces. These kids come from all walks of life and they will be tomorrow’s leaders. Many of the other kids may be slimed by the dominant culture but, they too, will wake up. Sadly, though, many kids will be victimized by the culture, the very culture that celebrate victimhood.
    Maybe it will be up to our kids to lead our nation to its next transformation to a higher ideal and standard of behavior, as they see the damage that our generation has done to them. I am confident that they’ll get it. It has happened before.

  • http://theinterface.blogtownhall.com The Interface

    But really…tell us how you feeeel…!


    Well said and right on the money!  Our daughters are young adults now and at least for the visual media (TV and videos), we always watched with them and engaged them with a verbal discussion of what they were seeing.  This helps train critical thinking skills which in turn helps innoculate them against liberal ideas that have no basis in reality.

    A work I wish had more exposure in the culture is Neil Postman’s book, Amusing Ourselves to Death.  He tracks the transition in communication from the printed word to the visual image and the consequent development of the emphasis on emotional impact as opposed to cognitive content.  At the risk of being self-aggrandizing, I summarized his content in a lengthy series of posts that start here:


    You can skip my verbiage and buy the book using the information in the first post.

  • suek

    You’re right Danny.  And it’s parents like Book that the Lefties have in mind when they recognize that they need to destroy the family.  You simply can’t have Citizens of the State instilled with values like that.  The State will decide what’s good and what isn’t.
    By the way…I think you’ll enjoy this article:

  • suek

    Not exactly on topic, but in line with my comment, and – actually – also with “Interface”‘s comment as well.  It’s a very long article, and I didn’t read all of it – the first page was enough.  Enough, because we need to be prepared for the next phase – recognize it so that we can counter it.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    “As a mother, it’s a great challenge to explain to ones children that becoming a sleaze-monger is not the normative external sign of maturity.”
    Hollywood makes people into a whore precisely because they can get more money out of her that way. A new brand, you could say.
    And people wish to aspire to become slaves of Hollywood? Is that really something children should dream of becoming, the tools of Hollywood? I, at least, think not.

  • jj

    The response, I think, is simple.  Given the intelligence of the parents in this case – you and your husband – get your 13 year old out of the teen shelves.  At 13 she should be getting into Dickens, Kipling, Galsworthy, RL Stevenson, Twain, Bromfield – you know; writers.  Okay – I was privately educated, but in the seventh grade we read The Spy – Cooper; The Man of Property – Galsworthy; and A Death in the Family – Agee.  I don’t actually remember how old you are in the seventh grade, but it must be about 13, right?  So I mention my own education not to say how swell private education is, but to use it as proof that it’s entirely possible for someone that age to read to a pretty good adult level, and tackle some actual literature.  (As opposed to actual offal.)  The hell with what’s on the idiot “teen” shelf at the local library – get her into David Copperfield for Christmas!

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    Everyone is rewarded for their behaviors good, bad or indifferent. You’re a winner, there are no losers in the synthetic, iPod, iPad, tweet, Facebook, me, me, me, self entitlement, where’s mine, shrug, whatever world.
    It’s a tough road to hoe – parenting. Tougher today than yesterday and demanding of parents, who cannot or will not invest the time in mentoring. It’s a career choice, for lack of a better choice of words, not just to raise children but let them rise. Pull the dough too late, it falls flat – pull it too early and it doesn’t expand to it’s full potential. Each child is his own batter and judging the quality and capacity of the batter is…well, it’s impossible.  It demands everything from us with no guarantees – will they be a loaf of sliced white bread or hand made challah.
    Bookworm, keep up the fine role and keep a bag of raisins nearby to sweeten it all.

  • Mike Devx

    What you’ve outlined in such depressing detail, Book, is why I’ve been saying that the fiscal conservative movement *needs* the social conservative movement, and must not split from them.

    In everything that you’ve outlined, there is nothing that the Tea Party movement would address.  Social conservatism is the vehicle for these concerns.

    To all of you: Your sons and daughters are on the receiving end of this 24-7 mental programming.  I’m working out of town with a co-worker who watches a fair amount of TV, so I’m getting exposed to that programming again.  Book is right:  All of the messages are about feelings, and victimization.  In the past, the message used to be about behaving well, behaving honorably.  All that is simply gone.

    When I was growing up, yes, we had the Brady Bunch, Leave It To Beaver, I Love Lucy, etc.  We even had the Flintstones and the Munsters, which in their own way also included the positive lessons.

    I read the Hardy Boys, all of em, and Nancy Drew, all of em.  I also had the very, very good Three Investigators series.  The Trixie Belden books were full of great messages.  The Jim Kjelgaard books, about life in or near the wilderness, were beyond wonderful.  And you look at what our society is offering the children now…

    Don’t forget “Highlights” and its offering of Goofus and Gallant…  We were trained to sneer at such things from the mid 60’s onward.  We’ve been trained to sneer at ‘The Sound of Music’.  We’d like to vomit on it, we hate that kind of ‘decency’ so much.

    Make no mistake: The kids are being trained in the new media toward the new message.  But they are also being trained to HATE and DESPISE the old, traditional messages.  We are all, in fact, being trained that way.

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  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    young boys were told that if they were honest, hard-working, good-natured, and brave, they could slowly, but surely, ascend America’s social and economic ladder.  Girls got exactly the same message from Louisa May Alcott’s delightful works.
    One of the reasons I particularly favor Japanese entertainment is precisely because they still have that element in a lot of their stories. And I mean a lot. There are 4 tv seasons in a year for Japanese tv and each season often has around a dozen or so “new” shows they put out that last the entire season. Some have been running for years, like popular series, but others have 1-2 seasons and then have an actual end.
    A lot of variety and chances to find some “good stuff”, regardless of what people are interested in.

  • suek

    >>What you’ve outlined in such depressing detail, Book, is why I’ve been saying that the fiscal conservative movement *needs* the social conservative movement, and must not split from them.>>
    I don’t really disagree with you, Mike, but as bad as the fiscal situation is, the return to conservative social values is going to be much tougher.  The fiscal situation will either turn around in the next 10 years or it won’t at all.  The social values thing is going to take a generation at least, and will be upstream all the way.  I’m in favor of starting with the fiscal program because it’s measurable and hopefully doable.  The social program???  we need to begin, but it’s going to be tough.

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  • Turkeyhead

    Bookie, Scott D and I want to congratulate you on your terrific post (actually, on your whole blog).  You described the situation perfectly, gave great examples and insights, and did it very eloquently.  We also want to say a heartfelt thank you for even considering nominating a post from The American Front to the Watcher’s Council.  To be mentioned in the same breath as the other fine blogs on the list is an honor, and to be recognized by the Council in its weekly contest is something special.  Thanks again!   

  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm



    I couldn’t get that post out of my mind.  For one thing, you wrote it really well, so it had a great narrative flow.  I especially liked when you said of the iconic picture “Notice, that despite his wounds, 1st Sergeant Kasal (center) is still in the fight, pistol and combat knife in hand.”  To me, that line pretty much summed up everything there was to know about the man and his complete and utter commitment to the situation in which he found himself.

    I also found the post riveting because of Kasal himself.  Despite 40 years of Leftist education, it shows that, while you can apparently take the warrior out of most men, you can’t (thankfully) take it out of all men.  It’s comforting to know that men will still be men and that, in America, they’ll often bend those male energies to higher, not lower, causes.  I’m sure he’s capable of all the usual guy stuff (foul language, boorish behavior, leaving the toilet seat up) but, when push comes to shove, men such as Kasal are living reminders of our country’s best values.

  • Turkeyhead

    Well thank you for the compliment, it means a lot to me.  I read about the good Sergeant Major in an early 2005 issue of “Soldier of Fortune” magazine, less than six months after his experience in Fallujah.  The story and that picture really struck a chord, and even though I’ve never met him, my respect for him grows each time I read something about him or see that picture.  I hesitate to use this rather cliche’ line, but, “I’m glad he’s on our side.”

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    “The social program???”
    Social problems took the Left generations to create. The fiscal disaster only a few short years. It also helps that social problems don’t suddenly balloon. It is easier for the MSM to hide such. Less easy to hide a crashing stock market or housing market.
    It is also a fact that financial solutions either work or don’t work in a very short amount of time. But social solutions take generations before you see its effects. That makes it much harder for conservatives to “figure out” how to counteract the Leftist plague.

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  • http://northstarmartialarts.com/blog1 Scott in SF

    Dear Book, I probably wouldn’t be writing this if you didn’t just win praise and an award for it, because most of the time your stuff is great.
    I found this post really annoying, for the life of me I have no idea what you are talking about?  I think you were sheltered then and I think, on this issue, you are sheltered now.
    I happen to be quite familiar with literature for young women, I grew up with sisters who read a lot (one of them went to school with you and was a bit of a sex pot, she is successful and moral), and now I have something on the order of 10 nieces and such.  Are you suggesting that because I read “Slow Death” comics, listened to punk music, or watched horror movies that I lacked opportunities to develop morally?  Absurd.
    Are you aware of the renewed interest in Greek Myths?  What about Stephen King?  Twilight?  What, Harry Potter isn’t moral or courageous?  He saves the world!  Anne Rice?  The City of Bone series? In any event all of it is subordinate to the greatest epic work of fiction of the last 30 years, Buffy the Vampire Slayer!  (As punishment for writing this naive drivel, I challenge you to watch all 7 seasons!)
    To achieve your goals of gender clarity, yes we could force women back into the home and be done with strong assertive, even combative, women.  But that would be a sad failure.  A stronger sign of victimhood than any you’ve described.
    As an aside, I think it is possible that our greater understanding of the endocrine system and hormones may be influencing how we think about emotion and self awareness.  But I wouldn’t give it too much thought…ha, ha.
    Anyway, so much modern narrative is now derivative of Buffy, if you haven’t steeped yourself in it you are really just looking at the core text of our time through inferrior imitations.  And nothing you have said rings true of Buffy save one issue.  Buffy has no future other than killing and death, and yet she has to live with and care for people who are more vulnerable they she, people with a future, people with dreams and aspirations she can not share.  Like Superman, she treats people as equals despite the obvious discrepency in ability.  She works with a team, she keeps her sense of humor, and really, as metaphors go, she is America.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    What does Buffy have to do with taxation, representation, and Leftists unions in San Fran.
    People are letting their personal biases cloud their vision on what the rest of the world is like, apart from their favorite stories and neighborhoods.
    “Are you aware of the renewed interest in Greek Myths?  What about Stephen King?  Twilight?  What, Harry Potter isn’t moral or courageous?  He saves the world!  Anne Rice?  The City of Bone series?”
    None of them will or has had the impact of the Tea Party or MoveOn on modern day politics. What, did you think that because you liked such stories that this would automatically mean everybody else in the state or the nation will be affected the same? There are far broader influences at work than that.
    Twilight is not a novel popularly liked by a super majority of women. Just as there are legions of fans for that kind of romance, there are just as many legions of females who keep listing that as their worst recent read novel due to character and plot issues. Anne Rice skips around with religions and trends. She has no solid philosophical foundation as of yet. Harry Potter is a fairy tale, an English fairy tale at that. It is not a realistic assessment of the world or how one person can much improve upon it. The day to day troubles of the average teen are not seen in such epic story telling. Inspiration is not to be confused with practicality. And it is the practicality of immorality that is particularly favored by Progressive trends.
    You’re going to have to come up with more powerful examples than popular fiction if you want to get into the big league of social engineering. That is a kind of scale that dwarfs the Harry Potter works. If only because if such had the requisite impact, then JK Rowling’s home region of Britain would be in a much better state than it currently now is. Illusion is not actuality. Inspiration is not practicality.
    P.S. Joss Whedon created, essentially, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He’s not a normal progressive product of Hollywood and he went on to do Firefly, the sort of Tea Party classic Sci fi western. Which was canceled after one season. Just because people “like” something doesn’t change the reality of the world, Scott. The corollary is also true. Just because you have a negative reaction to something, doesn’t mean it is drivel. One of the fundamental problems of progressive utopia and state building is that they believe simple faith and belief will change human nature and the fundamental building blocks that make up this world. Not so.

  • Mike Devx

    Scott says,
    > Are you suggesting that because I read “Slow Death” comics, listened to punk music, or watched horror movies that I lacked opportunities to develop morally?  Absurd.

    On my part, no.  I would suggest that you were immersed in a culture – which you could not avoid, no matter how hard you tried – that gave you messages promoting honor, decency, responsibility, truth-telling, etc.  I’d suggest that you were *not* immersed in stories that trashed those values deliberately.

    You raise a good question, long-debated, whether reading and watching “trash” ruins the mind or the morals.  I think that if you are immersed in it, culturally, the answer is yes.  Even if you went out of your way to only read those lurid detective magazines that were available back in our day, and supplemented that with a steady diet of King’s favorite example, the monster mags, you’d still have been influenced more by all the steadier, more inspiring messages that permeated TV, the movies, and the other books and magazines.

    Actually, when I say “you”, I mean the vast majority of people.  There are always statistical outliers – people who grow up for years in a severely alcoholic home who nevertheless turn out perfectly fine and unharmed psychologically, for example – but they’re the exception, not the norm.    Similarly, by far most people seem to require a community and/or culture steeped in religion and spirituality to behave well; however there are those who develop a finely honed sense of morality and ethics even if raised in a milieu of complete secular degradation – but again I would not call them the norm.  If this makes me an elitist when it comes to my beliefs about human nature, then that’s what I am.

    Similarly, you could have a person raised by the very best of parents and surrounded by nothing but positive messages, who turns out to be a human monster, or depraved or simply wicked; I would call them a statistical outlier and not a part of the norm too.

    > In any event all of it is subordinate to the greatest epic work of fiction of the last 30 years, Buffy the Vampire Slayer!

    Buffy actually receives praise from a number of serious conservative thinkers.  (I haven’t researched it – just remembering what I’ve read about Buffy over the years.)   I never paid much attention to it, but from what I understand, the show was chock full of positive messages.

    I’d point not to Buffy, but to Judy Blume’s “Are You There, God?  It’s Me, Margaret”, as a more telling turning point. It’s far more representative of what’s changed than Buffy is.  Lauded at the time for its “unconventional” tone, it was a rarity for its time.   These days most literature for kids emulates it, and is far more poorly-written.   Very similar, by way of comparison, to Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” – rare, powerful and influential, inspiring a massive shift in movie tone – and succeeded by an endless series of inferior imitators.  And the subsequent Tarantino output shows just how soulless Pulp Fiction really was.  At the time it was considered “a breath of fresh air”.  But I bet there’s little argument in retrospect that for all its artistic aplomb it really is, metaphysically, horrid trash.

    If I’m right about what I’ve read concerning Buffy, no one would say that of Buffy.  Her creator, Joss Whedon, seems solidly concerned with positive messages and, in truth, quite a few conservative values.  His subsequent output, unlike that of Tarantino, continued in similar vein, with Firefly, Serenity, and others.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    Joss Whedon is, of course an outlier. In the culture of today, being an outlier like Cosby or Juan Williams can be hazardous in the long term.

  • http://northstarmartialarts.com/blog1 Scott in SF

    Good responses.  But isn’t that the point, that to be a voice in the wilderness, a beacon to all nations, we must be (in Trey Parkers words) “people not sheeple!”  Greatness has the power to cut through the drip and dross of unconscionable blandness, to smack-down the all consuming or pervasive.  Has there ever been a time or a place with more outliers than now?
    Did not H D Thoreau cover all this, and is he not still on the most require reading list for high school students?  Must we lament the always so?

  • Mike Devx

    Thoreau remains on the reading list – if he does – not out of any reverence for traiditional values, but rather solely because he spent a night in jail for civil disobedience.  And wrote the treatise on it.  Fitting right in with the narrative of the mid-60’s onward.
    Stephen King was an interesting example.  His books have become much more liberal as he’s aged.  But two of his earliest, Salem’s Lot and The Shining, are examples to me of pure good vs pure evil, among the best that I’ve ever read, and they’re cracking good reads.
    Anne Rice could hardly be called traditional, in ANY way.
    The Harry Potter books sneak in due to a traditional focus on good vs evil, but its camouflaged in liberal trappings.  The same might be said of Buffy – good values that sneak through the liberal veto filter due to superficial trappings that hide the value beneath.
    I’d bring up ‘The Wizard Of Oz’ with its fantasy oddities but a pure depiction of good vs evil; and even that wasn’t good enough; these days, “Wicked”, in which the Good and Bad Witches are switched and everything is distorted, is far more popular among the liberal “in” crowd.  And I have complained mightily through the years about the complete perversion that is the Jim Carrey movie “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”, a monstrous perversion of the original that destroys – deliberately – every ounce of meaning in the original story, replacing it with utter PC nonsense of the worst sort.
    I could provide example after example of the unending assault.

  • http://northstarmartialarts.com/blog1 Scott in SF

    Ha, ha, perhaps you are right that Thoreau is on the list for the wrong reasons.  So clumsiness is sometimes a virtue?  lol.
    Thoreau was surrounded by PC non-sense, atleast he claimed he was, do you really suppose that we have it worse?  I mean it was so bad he went to the woods right?  But when he read John Brown’s execution confession he defied the PC do gooders and convincingly demanded that we attack the South at once!  It was the South’s version of PC that blinded it to the power of John Browns confession, they printed it thinking it would be a sort of triumph over abolitionists.  Clumsy.
    Yeah I hated “Wicked.”
    I guess what so offends me is the assumption that art would be in service to politics at all.  Emma Goldman had that right at least.

  • Mike Devx

    Scott says,

    > Thoreau was surrounded by PC non-sense, atleast he claimed he was, do you really suppose that we have it worse?  I mean it was so bad he went to the woods right?

    Well, the Nature essay was a different essay from that on Civil Disobedience; though the two essays are often presented together in a single volume.  Do we have it worse?  Absolutely.

    But you’re right, he did flee to the woods for that long experiment that he wrote about.  I don’t remember how it turned out.  At least he didn’t befriend the bears and then get eaten by them.

    > I guess what so offends me is the assumption that art would be in service to politics at all.

    I’m all in agreement with you.  Let’s end government funding of the arts, as the use of taxes to fund art makes art political.  There’s no escaping that.  No getting around it. 

    If art is worthwhile let it find its benefactors.  In particular, let “Piss Christ” find its benefactors, or “Elephant Dung Mary.”  George Soros has quite a lot of money he seems willing to throw around.  Oops, I mean, *invest*.  He can take those two exhibits on a Soros National Tour.

    (And it sure does seem to me that most leftist art these days – or perhaps only the government-funded parts – appears to consist mostly of political protest and assaults against traditional religious values.)

  • http://northstarmartialarts.com/blog1 Scott in SF

    I know a lot of artists.  A common attitude is, if the government is stupid enough to give money to me, I’ll take it.  But it’s not a bad idea to have artists working, teaching and performing in the schools as long as they are professional about it.  The Unions don’t like it of course.  And the funding usually comes partly from PTA and other outside groups.  Also, I think public art is important and sometimes there is a logic to publicly funding it, but I’d say we are in the era of art with the theme:  modesty and compromise.  Ha, ha.
    Public funding of art in San Francisco seems to have the effect of insulating artists from what the public actually appreciates.  If the ticket price is subsidized, then we don’t see the value of the art.  I wonder what cutting all funding to theater and dance would do to housing prices and restaurant prices?
    The argument for Fedral Art is tougher to make, but memorials are important and so are other historic commemorations.  According to doctor Laura the Army offers classes in martial arts and dance as recreation, but of course these are art classes.

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