Sunday, November 27, 2011

Frank Miller and the Conan Doctrine

We've been having some fun (okay, a lot of fun) with comic creator Frank Miller lately, what with his rampant Islamophobia and his hilarious, Walt Kowalski-esque response to Occupy Wall Street. But two pieces I read recently -- one about Miller and one not -- unintentionally piggybacked off one another to help paint a very revealing portrait of the Manichean views that drive Miller and his ideological fellow travelers, and also how such thinking has hogtied the Republican primary process thanks to the expectations of today's GOP voters.

In digging into Miller's Occupy comments, Rick Moody at The Guardian argues (as I and others have previously) that anyone who's taken a real look at Miller's work over the years shouldn't be too surprised by their viciousness, nor the fact that he made them. Moody then goes one further and argues that the entire machinery of mainstream filmmaking (here in the States, anyway) is geared towards fostering and perpetuating similar such simplistic appraisals of complex issues:
Miller's hard-right, pro-military point of view is not only accounted for in his own work, but in the larger project of mainstream Hollywood cinema. American movies, in the main, often agree with Frank Miller, that endless war against a ruthless enemy is good, and military service is good, that killing makes you a man, that capitalism must prevail, that if you would just get a job (preferably a corporate job, for all honest work is corporate) you would quit complaining. American movies say these things, but they are more polite about it, lest they should offend.
Moody goes on to show that he's got no love for the superhero movie genre, and obviously that's grist for a further conversation down the line, but meanwhile, in a completely unrelated piece that's eerily simpatico with this thesis, Kevin Drum refers to the very worldview elucidated above in his discussion of the Tea Party crowd, labeling it the Conan Doctrine (that's Conan as in "Barbarian," not "O'Brien") for how it can be encapsulated entirely by the Ah-nuld's proclamation in 1982's Conan the Barbarian that the best thing in life is, "To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women."

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