Have Conservatives Lost the Culture War?

Have Conservatives Lost the Culture War?
Morning sunrise on the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles, Calif., on Feb. 6, 2020. (Mike Blake/Reuters)
Bob Zeidman

For about a year, I’ve been considering writing a follow-up to my dystopian novel, “Good Intentions,” about progressive ideas gone crazy, resulting in the ultimate nanny state.

During the pandemic, I’ve spent many mornings swimming and plotting the new novel. I thought of many stories and characters, and a few times put pen to paper, but eventually the futility would sink in. There’s no point warning people of an upcoming storm when they’re already in the middle of it.

People have called my novel “prescient” for all the things I described that eventually came true. But that’s depressing, because my novel was supposed to be satire, taking things to a ridiculous extreme.

I get depressed thinking that these utterly absurd things are now being enacted. It’s like watching a horror movie, or a superhero movie, or even a slapstick comedy. These things are fun when you’re sitting safely in the theater or in your living room, munching on popcorn, but if they actually happened, you’d be frightened out of your mind. Right now, I’m frightened.

And recently, the Academy of Motion Pictures changed its rules for the Oscars, and I worry that popular culture, the medium where people expressed ideas to and for the masses, has changed permanently and for the worse.

Life Lessons

I’ve loved movies and television all my life. I had a good, but mostly unexciting childhood. We had lots of love but not much money; movies and TV were my inexpensive escape. They were also a bonding experience with my dad. He and I would lie about 2 feet from the screen, his arm around me, sometimes sharing a carton of ice cream or bag of pretzels. There was a permanent indentation in the carpet (my dad was a big guy).

He took every opportunity, sometimes to my annoyance, to make each episode or movie into some kind of lesson. I learned about war and medicine from “M*A*S*H,” including his own stories about World War II. I learned how to tell a funny story from the entire Friday night lineup of the “Mary Tyler Moore Show,” the “Bob Newhart Show,” and the “Carol Burnett Show.” I learned about love from “Love, American Style.”

My dad gave me a fun but seemingly out-of-the-blue lesson in meteorology and hurricanes on the way to see the movie “Marooned” where it turned out to be a key plot point. I learned about global politics from the movie “Fail Safe,” which became my favorite movie, so much so that I searched the TV guide for years to find every time it played again, always after midnight, when I would huddle around the TV, think of the consequences of nuclear war, and listen anxiously for overhead jets or distant sirens announcing its start.

We watched “All in the Family” and “Blazing Saddles” and talked about racism and prejudice while laughing at it. Movies became such an obsession that I could give you a plot summary of any movie since the beginning of the industry, whether I had seen it or not.

Best of Culture

The Academy Awards were always a celebration of the best of popular culture. I didn’t always agree with the Academy’s choices, but more often than not, great works and great performances won out over the choices of the progressive elite—those who choose to enforce their vision, taste, and ideology and punish those who don’t agree.

For example, “Rocky” won the Oscar in 1976, but critics condemned the award, saying it should have gone to “Taxi Driver,” a movie about a psychopathic pedophile. I saw both movies. “Rocky” was the embodiment of the American dream and gave me the encouragement that an unknown Philly boy like me could “take a shot” to become a champion. In times of despair, I would play the soundtrack at full blast and shadow box in my bedroom and later my dorm room at college. “Taxi Driver” was depressing and, try as I might, I got no message out of it, uplifting or otherwise.

There were occasional signs that the progressive elite were making progress. In 1996, the Oscar went to “The English Patient,” a finely acted movie that no one I knew could stay awake throughout. What surprised and disturbed me more was the 1999 Oscar to “American Beauty,” a story about infidelity, drug use, violence, and a philandering pedophile.

I don’t think movies have to be uplifting, but if not, they should provide a warning or at least give insight into the human condition. They should not be a justification of unethical or immoral behavior. I found that “American Beauty” just highlighted disturbing behavior and seemed to normalize it, possibly an attempt to excuse the behavior that we now know infiltrated Hollywood from those days through today.

Two years ago, following the #OscarsSoWhite protest that too many movie actors, directors, and crew members were white, Hollywood elites decided to toss a screenwriting Oscar to the movie “Get Out” about white people taking over black people’s bodies. A metaphor? If so, not a very sophisticated one. But more importantly, it was a fairly simple, uninteresting, low budget movie that was not nearly funny enough to be a comedy or scary enough to be a horror flick or deep enough to be a commentary on society. It was mundane, but the progressive elite knew that they had to award a movie about blacks and by blacks, and that was the sole candidate. It was virtually assured an Oscar.

The members of the Academy still generally honor quality work when they give out awards, because more than just the rich celebrities vote on these awards. For example, Gary Oldman won the 2018 Best Actor Oscar for his fantastic performance as Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour,” a movie whose conservative message is that a leader can be a blunt, insulting, flawed person and still save Western civilization.

The fact that the progressive elite were not happy with Oldman’s win was apparent when at the award ceremony he thanked America for giving him his opportunities, the entire auditorium was deafeningly silent.

New Criteria

This week, in a “historic move,” the progressive elite of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided to codify what they had started doing surreptitiously by creating new criteria for the Academy Award.

The 2020 Best Picture is required to have on the screen and on the crew a quota of women, people of color (not necessarily minorities), LGBTQ+ people, and people with disabilities.

I wonder now if movies will ever be the same. Will studios be more concerned about meeting their quotas, avoiding boycotts, and creating “equitable productions” rather than soaring visions, uplifting stories, important messages, and excellent productions? And how will the Academy confirm their quotas. Will film crews and cast be required to pass DNA tests to determine their ethnic makeup? Will crew members be required to give details about their sex lives before being hired? These things sound funny, but so did my novel several years ago. Now they sound frightening.

And will audiences care? Maybe not. Superhero movies still bring in big bucks and rarely offer anything Oscar-worthy. But surprisingly, movie studios and Hollywood stars, whom we think about as money-driven, are perhaps even more ideology driven, at least after they’ve made their fortunes. Remember that the studios turned down “The Passion of the Christ,” which became one of the highest grossing films of all time. Yet they continue to peddle titillation disguised as art and unapologetic child soft porn like “Cuties.”

Time will tell, but conservatives must fight back, not by creating conservative movies but by creating great works of art. In fact, we must commit to doing everything we do as well as possible and reward others for doing great things, regardless of their background, ethnicity, religion, skin color, or private behaviors.

In other words, to fight the progressive elites and destroy their ideologies, we must commit to the American ideals and support the American dream.

Bob Zeidman has a Bachelor of Art and a Bachelor of Science from Cornell University. He is an inventor and the founder of successful high-tech Silicon Valley firms including Zeidman Consulting and Software Analysis and Forensic Engineering. He also writes novels; his latest is the political satire “Good Intentions.”
Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Bob Zeidman is the creator of the field of software forensics and the founder of several successful high-tech Silicon Valley firms including Zeidman Consulting and Software Analysis and Forensic Engineering. His latest venture is Good Beat Poker, a new way to play and watch poker online. He is the author of textbooks on engineering and intellectual property as well as screenplays and novels. His latest novel is the political satire "Animal Lab," a modern sequel to George Orwell’s classic "Animal Farm."
Related Topics