I’ve said for years that the central characteristic of progressive “art” is its arid, gray, tedious self-importance. I’m talking about movies and TV mainly, but also books and popular culture in general. When you strip away (1) the technological wizardry, (2) the cliché-ridden malefaction, (3) the de rigueur heretic trope, (4) the involuntary kowtowing to moral edginess, and (5) the obsession with a deeply ambivalent cosmic structure, you are left with something like Will Smith’s new movie, “After Earth.”
The reviews of the movie are clustered at the soporific boundary separating meaningless and phlegmatic. As Joe Morgenstern writes, “It…is…all…very…mysterious…and…deeply…dreary.”
I often have a sinking feeling even when watching cinematic blockbusters like the “Bourne” series or “Mission Impossible.” The question keeps occurring to me: ‘if these people inhabit such a nihilistic universe, why does any one of them care what happens to any of the others? Why haven’t they all committed suicide? Why all of this fervent chasing and killing of one another?’ This is what you come to, I suppose, when you empty reality of its spiritual and moral texture. Purposeless activity by good-looking droids on behalf of people and causes nobody believes in.
Much the same could be said about most of the passions and crusades that occupy our metrosexual culture. It is all…so boring.
Don’t get me wrong. There are good movies and books. “The Lord of the Rings” or either version of “True Grit” come to mind. Tom Clancy and Vince Flynn still write gripping stories. Don Delillo and Tom Wolfe write great literature. They just don’t contain liberal themes. Movies and books may be written or produced by liberals, but nobody, not even a liberal, will sit through a movie that adheres to an unrelenting progressive narrative.
Liberals, who don’t believe in their own sin, find it an indispensable component of their entertainment. They hold to no recognizable version of religion, but for them ontological evil is everywhere. They insist we adhere to their etiolated worldview when they themselves can’t and don’t.
On those occasions when liberalism is pursued consistently, you end up with a Jim Leach, former director of the National Endowment for the Arts. Leach was Mr. Rogers without the dash and charisma, whose platitudes and truisms were the stuff of sidelong parody. What’s worse, he really believed in his own earnest banality, in a way that diversity officers and climate change communicants believe in their own earnest banality.
So, if you want gesture without motion, noise without speech, gravity without gravitas (Morgenstern), by all means go see “After Earth.” If you want something you can live by, read Jane Eyre.