I’m tired of subjecting myself to awful films. But more than that, I’m tired of subjecting myself to the increasingly common, terribly done political-brainwashing in films.
Case in point: “An American Carol,” which I just saw this weekend. No, it’s not another leftist “documentary” a la “Sicko.” Instead, it’s a conservative satire on Michael Moore and the ultra-liberal sentiments he embodies.
Wait…what? A conservative Hollywood satire? Can it be true?
I know, I know. I was shocked too. But the film really does exist. It’s structured like Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol,” having the Moore-inspired character, Michael Malone (played by Chris Farley’s younger brother, Kevin), be visited by three spirits who show him the errors of his anti-American ways. All of this, by the way, is completely un-ironic.
It’s hard to explain just how pathetic this film is — and this is coming from someone who enjoys pretty much anything that makes fun of the left. I’ll even admit that going into this, I half-expected there to be some kind of catch. There was no way, I thought, that a Hollywood film could be so boldly conservative. Surely “American Carol” had to have a more subtle agenda, much like Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s “Team America: World Police,” which, in between lots of vicious (and hilarious) jokes about liberal Hollywood, subtly satirized the right’s often-boneheaded patriotism (“America! Fuck yeah!”).
When the film began, I was convinced this was the case. The first scene is a July 4 barbeque — and it’s like something out of a political campaign ad. Children are tossing Frisbees, men and women are cheerfully grilling hot dogs and the green lawns are so green they look radioactive. Red, white and blue paraphernalia is displayed triumphantly.
My first thought was that there was no way this film was taking all this seriously. The satire, I assumed, was already coming thick and fast.
“Good,” I said, with a sigh of relief. “This film isn’t as stupid as I feared.”
An hour later, any semblance of hope had dissipated. When Bill O’Reilly showed up as himself for a five-minute cameo, I knew I’d been wrong. Not only was this film stupid, it was brainless. “American Carol” had no intentions of being subversive or even remotely thought-provoking; all it was, in fact, was an extended inside joke made by conservatives, for conservatives. It’s no surprise to me, then, that the film was shown at the Republican National Convention last month. I’m sure it brought the house down.
Propaganda has been a part of the cinematic lexicon since the early days of the art form’s conception. Some of the greatest films ever made are blatant propaganda pieces. But recently, we’ve been seeing some of the most pitiful excuses for Hollywood indoctrination imaginable — another case in point being this summer’s “Swing Vote,” which, humorously enough, features two of the cast members of “American Carol”: Kelsey Grammer and Dennis Hopper.
But what really disturbs me — besides the fact that this is the second consecutive column I’ve written that has to do with Michael Moore — is the sheer callousness of this new trend. “Swing Vote” and “American Carol” are not works of art and shouldn’t even be mistaken for them. I can deal with propaganda as long as it’s done artfully, but the makers of the aforementioned films had no artistic ambitions whatsoever. These films are not subversive, nor are they radical in any way. They’re comfort food. They’re manufactured with the purpose of feeding a certain target audience — in this case, conservatives — and, yes, making money. This is propaganda of the most cynical kind.
To be fair, what the conservatives have done with “American Carol” is no different from what many liberal filmmakers have been doing for years — just look at Bill Maher’s “Religulous,” a film tailor-made for pretentious Ann Arbornites to laugh at the human race while sipping their lattes. And, indeed, “American Carol” is the obvious answer to Michael Moore’s countless cinematic assaults on the right. It’s just too bad the makers of the film don’t understand the craft half as well as their opponents.
On one hand, I want to commend the right for at least getting in on the fight. It’s about time self-indulgent conservative humor was forced upon a hapless public, just as self-indulgent liberal humor has been for the past few decades or so. But, really, it makes me kind of angry as well. These preposterous, single-minded and only faintly intelligent pieces of cinematic indoctrination belong under the auspices of the left.
Besides, all it means for us is yet more disposable films to have to wade through. Finding good movies is already hard enough.