July 16, 2006

"I really, honestly, believe that the more creative you are, the more likely you are to be a liberal."

So says Charles E. Sellier Jr. And he's not doing that thing where you think that the people who agree with you are finer, better, truer, more beautiful, more talented, more all-around wonderful than those slimy rats who don't. He's a righty director.
What [three right-leaning filmmakers] acknowledge... is that something besides liberal bias is responsible for the striking shortage of conservative nonfiction cinema at a time when filmmakers on the other end of the spectrum are flooding screens with messages about global warming, the war in Iraq and the downside of Wal-Mart.
If it were a left-wing agenda, it wouldn't be traceable to the studios. They don't deal in documentaries. It could be the film festival programmers. But left-wing politics might be inherent in the nature of filmmaking. Here, the theory is that "the very nature of conservatism runs counter to the rebellious impulses that make a good film... that a critique like Robert Greenwald’s 'Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price' is inherently more exciting than a defense like Ron Galloway’s 'Why Wal-Mart Works.'"
“The origin of the word conservative is about not changing, accepting what is,” said the director Wash Westmoreland, who is not a conservative. “And that’s never a very interesting thing to make a film about. The thing that drives you to make a documentary is seeing it as a way to social change. Societies with little conflict tend not to make interesting art.”
And yet, lefty critiques usually follow a predictable pattern. And it actually isn't the slightest bit innovative to display rebelliousness. It's a huge Hollywood tradition, going back to the silent era. So are we really talking about creativity?


altoids1306 said...

Societies with little conflict tend not to make interesting art.

Yes, which exactly why the art powerhouses of the 21st century have been the Middle East and Africa.

Pogo said...

The key is when ellier remarks, "there’s definitely a reason conservatives tend to shun the arts".

He seems to know little history, at least as evidenced by his comments in the article. He fails to consider the myriad possibilities behind liberal bias in film and theater, and settles on a post hoc ergo propter hoc sort of argument. That is, he conflates correlation with causation.

If, as Sellier himself experienced, getting a conservative film requires a philanthropist, where liberal films get government arts funding, which do you think would be made more often?

It's the same lame argument behind why univesity professors tend to be liberal. The unthinking answer: "because they're smarter", instead of "because they control who gets hired."

Sellier has instead added to the list of anti-conservative thought:
Conservatives are stupid, uncreative reactionaries.
So what about conservativism does he *like*? Sheesh.

A Menken Moment said...

To the extent that artists are iconoclasts, they would tend to be progressives; but when the reigning orthodoxy is "liberal," the protest itself becomes the icon and cliche. There is as much resistance among the clerisy of Hollywood today against conservatives as there was when D.W. Griffith was attacked for filming Birth of a Nation.

Paddy O. said...

There's a bit of truth to this. The greatest art has been, it seems, produced during some of the more conservative times. These artists were liberals for their ages, however, and certainly did either through their art or their lives critique the society.

However, liberals aren't all the same. A liberal from one era can have a great cause, a worthy cause, and their art rises to the level of this potent force.

Is there great art being created by contemporary liberals? Are there great causes which lift the soul up from our lowest levels and point upwards into the heavens?

Can we look at the art of our era and say it is great? Is anything resonating past our present foibles and into the future so that coming generations will learn and look at the capacity of our collective souls?

The mere making of films does not prove a point. Such things are YouTube flicks with $100 million budgets.

Is great art that which can never get beyond critique? Is great artistic creativity that which insists on wallowing in the worst of humanities sins?

Is great art by nature negativity displayed with colors and forms and words?

I don't think so. Great art critiques but it also points to what it higher and better and fuller. It critiques not by juvenile insult but by insightful psychology.

Ultimately it is not the spirit of great art which I see present liberals exhibiting but the spirit of the age.

For the most part. There are exceptions but these exceptions are not any more common on the liberal than on the conservative side. Liberals simply embrace the title without displaying the content.

It is the era of branding not the era of contribution.

Buddy Larsen said...

If the break is along the line of optimism about human nature, the conventional left/right distinction gets scrambled a bit.

tjl said...

Sellier's comments do contain more than a grain of truth.

Unless you grow up in a wealthy, indulgent, or arts-oriented family, your upbringing will focus on preparing you for some practical career. It takes some rebellious, contrarian streak (hopefully combined with talent) to disregard the parental conditioning. For proof, just compare the look and behavior of a typical art student with a typical law student.

Jim said...

What is a "liberal"? Does he mean a libertarian that votes to spend other peoples' money for society's "good"?

Pogo said...

I think Sellier really means to refer to the rather narrow finding that in modern Western society, the creative class tends to lean left. To argue further that this is somehow a natural state of affairs would, if accepted, suggest its corollary, that the creative class is too ethereal to form stable governments and therefore shouldn't vote or run for elected office.

PatCA said...

I rememer what Ken Burns said in an American Masters program about Eugene O'Neill. American theater was quite cheerful and patriotic until O'Neill burst upon the scene with his Irish melancholy and family dysfunction themes. He ushered in a new era in theater, which continues today in film as well.

But this very successful genre, like every genre, is playing itself out, while new genres will arise. You can see it in animation films like The Incredibles.

So I don't know that rebellion is the theme of liberal arts--more like disintegration versus integration.

AJ Lynch said...

To see if his theory is true, I suggest we look at some truly innovative films of recent years and determine who were the real creative forces behind them? I don't mean the producers (they are just liberals with a lotta money generally). I mean the artists and writers.

For instance, the movie Toy Story was innovative and very entertaining to me and I was over 45 when I saw it. Or Stephen Colbert, he and his show are genius quality.

Or people like Howard Hughes- was he a liberal? Or Thomas Edison? Or the Duponts (perfected munitions?) Or is Ellier narrowly defining "creative" and thus excluding fantastic inventions, extraordinary businesses (like Ann's blog and the railroads of the 1900's) and fabulous architecture, bridges, and cities?

Joe said...

If patriotism is a "conservative" virtue, Hollywood managed to be much more patriotic in WWII than they are now, and that was the spectrum, from producers to actors.

chuckR said...

Creativity and non-fiction cinema? Why not objectivity and non-fiction cinema? I won't hold my breathe.

Like AJ Lynch, I strongly believe that what happens in cinema or more generally in the arts doesn't begin to compass creativity. You may be profoundly affected by (insert favorite film/artwork here), but you are here to do so because of the more prosaic creativity of individuals like Drs Lister and Salk. Thirty years ago Al Gore may have been flogging a documentary on Ehrlich's world starvation theories. We are not daily bombarded by news of the latter as a result of the creative Green Revolution work of Dr Norman Borlaug, among others. To the third world, Borlaug may be the single most important American of the 20th century. It sure wouldn't be anyone from Hollywood. Borlaug's creativity stands outside simplistic liberal/conservative categorization.

ATMX said...

I think people who think of themselves as "creative" in the entertainment world tend to be flaky, and flaky people tend to be leftists. And today's "liberals/progessives" are leftists, so the "creatives" classify themselves as liberal.

the pooka said...

I tend to think that we're creative before we're political, and that the correlation between liberal and creative is about the relative receptivity of the conservative and liberal communities to creative types. A bit like what tjl said: If you're creative, and you hang around with conservatives, you're likely to have that creativity squashed out of you. So, creative folks gravitate toward associations with liberals.

To my mind, the line in the article about "cheap sci-fi" and "forced abortions" is the real killer: it suggests that lots of conservatively-themed movies are just...bad.

I also liked: “(A) lot of movies that were like two-hour speeches. It might be important to someone who’s making it, but it doesn’t engage anyone else.”

Shades of this.

P. Froward said...

Who would want to be an artist, a musician, an actor, a writer of fiction, or a filmmaker? The hours are terrible, for 99.9% of them the pay is at or near starvation, there's no health insurance, most of the people you work with are narcissistic freaks, work is irregular, and even if you succeed, you are forever haunted by the likelihood that whatever it is that enabled you to succeed may evaporate without warning.

Who'd sign up for that?

A flake, that's who. A real three-alarm dingbat. People in the "arts" have always been weirdos on the fringes of society. That's okay: It's nice to have them around, and possibly even necessary. We don't need them in the center, though. If Donatello ever lectured the Medici about how to run Florence, they laughed.

Creativity in engineering and science are different. But this guy doesn't seem to be aware that there is such a thing.

Editor Theorist said...

This is quite a deep question, and there are several ways of answering.

The liberal-conservative division is more about attitudes to the state, than about radicalism. Margaret Thatcher was _by far_ the most radical UK leader of the past 50 years - but she was not liberal.

In the past, high art was supported by the aristocracy, but nowadays it is more supported by the state and educational institutions.

It seems likely that liberals are essentially 'the mandarins' (in Weber's definition, more or less) - who are the cultural experts in a society. These are the teachers, the senior public administrators, and the artist-intellectuals (but not the technocrats). Mandarins are orientated toward the state, because they ultimately rely on the state as guardian of culture - and this seems to apply whether that state is monarchial, dictatorial or republican.

Also, liberals have the aristocratic idea of elite entitlement to rule (but a ruling elite defined by their cultivated morality rather than by birth). This is justified by the idea that the population as a whole tend to act against their own interests. (eg many leftists distrust democracy and deny the legitimacy of popular votes; because they feel that too many voters vote against their own interests).

I would no longer frame the contrast in terms of liberal versus conservative - I think the main cleavage nowadays is pro- or anti-modernization. For example, here in the UK there is an anti-modernization political party called the "Respect" group which unites radical Islam with Marxist old-left. These would seem to have little in common except their anti-modernization agenda.

Within both left and right there are pro- anti modernization divisions. Traditional conservatives are very much in favour of high culture (and are isolationist nationalists by instinct) and tradition anti-modernization, whereas "centre-right" conservatives are keen on modernization (eg economic growth, scientific growth, globalization etc.)

Simon said...

Another possibility to think about:

Is it also worth considering the possibility that very few conservative filmmakers get noticed for the same reason that most campuses are a left-wing playground? If the committee that decides if you get hired or gets tenure regards George Bush as satan and thus you, the conservative professor, as satan's minion, then you are less likely to get hired than the prof who does fit their agenda. Likewise, if the studios that decide if your script gets made, your movie gets distributed and promoted, etc., is staffed by a bunch of lefties who regard George Bush as satan and thus you, the conservative filmmaker, as satan's minion, then you are less likely to get hired than the filmmaker who does fit their proclivities.

Why are there so few conservative movies? Maybe it's for the same reason that there aren't many biblical epics any more: because the studios have no interest in making those movies, either because they don't like them or because they don't think they'll sell.

Simon said...

"The liberal-conservative division is more about attitudes to the state, than about radicalism. Margaret Thatcher was _by far_ the most radical UK leader of the past 50 years - but she was not liberal."

Technically, she was - she was a 19th century liberal (rather than the 20th Century American sense of the term), with an authoritarian streak a mile wide.

Stephen said...

"Interesting hypothesis. Is it testable? Do you have any evidence?"

Exhibit A here would be depictions of conservatives on camera. If there's a movie that portrays a Republican, without the name of the film or knowing anything about it-I could make a pretty good guess at how he/she's going to be portrayed (and, come on, so can you - it's a well ingrained cliche). You're going to get a cartoonish character representing a redneck hick or the Monopoly guy.

Do conservatives do the same thing?

We have our stereotypes of liberals.

I'd just be hardpressed to come up with enough conservative examples in art to establish a pattern. A major Republican leaning movie happens, at most, what? One every two years? I think we don't do it as much as liberals just because it's a lot harder to be both a conservative and not be familiar with the different intracacies of the Democratic Party. If you're a righty, you're going to be introduced to that throughout your time in school and whenever you watch or read the news.

If you're a liberal - it's a lot easier to exclude yourself from the other side. Every new aspect of the Republican Party that the media finds out about always seems to be treated as some sort of scientific discovery.

And, yeah, at least in the last hundred years the majority of major artists were liberals.

The Blue Square said...

I agree with that director to some extent, actually. The same could be said for writing and journalism.

Johnny Nucleo said...

I think the guy is right. Keep in mind though that just because you are creative does not mean you create well. It just means you are "artistic". If we're talking about "good artists" as opposed to "artists in general," things aren't so clear.

But in general, the artistic tend to be unable or unwilling to deal with the world as it is, as opposed to how they wish it were. They tend to be fundamentally dissatisfied with reality. They tend to be dreamy, romantic, unconservative.

Artists, especially in Hollywood, tend to think the reason they are how they are is because of insight, enlightenment, worldliness, or a more developed sense of justice. Sometimes this is the case, but usually it is self-serving nonsense. For the most part, artists are how they are because of psychology.

P. Froward is correct. No one in their right mind would choose to be an artist. Artists do not choose. Artists are compelled.

J said...

I really, honestly, believe that the more creative you think you are, the more likely you are to be a liberal.

You can substitute "smarter" for "more creative" too.

CCMCornell said...

This reminds me of a famous Althouse comment.

knoxgirl said...

"what happens in cinema or more generally in the arts doesn't begin to compass creativity"

I agree here... I think we tend to define "creativity" very narrowly and, within those constraints, most creative types are unquestionably liberal.

I strongly disagree with the contention that conservatism equals resistance to change. Every dynamic policy proposal--welfare reform, privatising social security, radical tax cuts (no pun intended) and the war on terror--is a conservative one. Liberals are the ones who now want to preserve some artificially safe status quo: with their repressive environmental restrictions that plague both space and energy exploration; their failed economic ones that pull the reins on creative innovators in the business world; and most especially, with their foreign non-policies which are coherent only in their opposition to anything Bush does and would have us treading water in the face of the biggest threat to civilization since the soviets.

I have worked with a lot of liberals in my field, and, as Ann's post alluded, they are every bit as conventional and predictable in the opinions they spew as the stodgiest Buckley you could dream up.

Joe said...

I went back to that Althouse comment linked to by Cornell and it reflects that another left/right dichotomy is that between collectivism and individuality.

Ann Althouse said...

CCMCornell: Thanks for linking to that old comment of mine -- for which I've been called a complete idiot in the lefty blogosphere. In fact, lefty bloggers will often link to that comment when they object to something else I've said and they want to bolster their assertion that I'm an idiot.

Johnny Nucleo (and others): A lot of what you say is true of the artist is true of the blogger (or at least the subset of bloggers that I belong in).

Johnny Nucleo said...

I consider blogging - particularly the type of blogging you do - to be an art form. I think good artists don't think about politics when they make art. That is, though the art may reflect a political point of view, this is a side-effect, not the purpose of the art. The good artist does the art for the sake of the art. The agenda is the creation of good art.

And I think you're on to something regarding the conservative nature of great art. After all, if Truth and Beauty are real, and if art is ultimately about Truth and Beauty, what is more conservative, more unchanging, than Truth and Beauty?

To my liberal friends: I'm not saying Liberalism is False and Ugly and Conservatism is True and Beautiful. Art is beyond politics. But as the wackos who called Ann wacko prove, some people don't get that.

Ed said...

It isn't so much that creative people tend to be on the left; instead, those creative people on the left are much better at getting publicity than the creative people on the right. On the left, for instance, you get creative people who play "let's pretend" for a living (actors, directors, screenwriters etc). On the right you get creative people who go into engineering or mathematics or physics. Of those, it is only a rare few like Burt Rutan that get any publicity.

SteveWe said...

Even in the realm of cinema -- where Ann's post begins -- there are many examples of conservative themed films. Just consider the films based on the works of Jane Austen, Charles Dikens, Tom Wolfe, Evelyn Waugh, V. Nabokov, Tom Clancy, Milan Kundera, and others. Most of those authors wrote about change and conflict and the films based upon their works did make "interesting art."

In rebuttle to Wash Westmoreland's claim that conservatives "never [have] a very interesting thing to make a film about", I'll offer Lionel Trilling's 1950 assertion that the literary immagination of liberals is bankrupt.

Steven said...

The origin of the word conservative is about not changing, accepting what is

Well, yes, which is why the labels are so lousy.

What, after all, is the current name for the political position that wants to completely overhaul the tax code, radically alter Social Security, overthrow repressive governments on the hope something better can be set up in their place, and expose our economy most fully to the disruptive "creative destruction" of capitalism?

So let's stop with the word-root nonsense, okay?

Craig Ranapia said...

I really, honestly believe that there are some folks who really don't understand that there's a whole world beyond Hollywood and Manhattan. I could reel off a list of highly creative people who are - or were - social or political conservatives, but why bother? To quote the late Sir Kingsley Amis, "importance isn't important, good writing is." The utter mediocrity of the arts is more disturbing to me, than the sad spectacle of the culture warriors who just won't lie down and die.

P. Froward said...


Intelligence (defined as "high standardized test scores" — if you've got a better, non-circular, definition, let's hear it) correlates broadly to higher incomes. Higher incomes broadly correlate with more conservative views. Bush thoroughly trounced Kerry among voters above 50k/year in 2004. The Democrats are absolutely dependent on the votes of union members and people on public assistance. In fact, union members for many decades were on public assistance for all intents and purposes, because the government protected them from fair competition in the marketplace.

Nice try.


Not all American conservatives have a very great commitment to classical liberalism. People with at least a minimal grasp of economics are not a dominant force in modern US conservatism. Of course, they (barring the honesty-impaired) are very rare indeed across the aisle.

Maxine Weiss said...

Marc Cherry, creator of Desperate Housewives is conservative Republican.

Maybe Desperate Housewives doesn't count. Too pop-culture?

The definition of classical liberal has changed, art hasn't changed. Well, maybe it has.

Mrs. Reagan had some very eccentric, artsy friends. Ali Nazimova, Zasu Pitts etc... I'm assuming that whole crowd was Republican.

Peace, Maxine

AJ Lynch said...

How about this for the most creative movie in the last five years...The Last Passion of Christ?? Anyone disagree? Is Gibson liberal?

Do I even have the movie title correct? I did not see the movie.

GSH said...

Lol, Passion of the Christ as a creative movie. That's amusing. Seriously, pretty much the only creative part was the devil at Gethsemani (and possibly that bit with the table). The rest of it was *straight* from the Bible.

It was a good film, mind you. But hardly a creative one.

The article applies solely to documentaries though. You could make a argument that most other movies are conservative in nature, hitting themes like hard work, individual responsibility, and the need to use force of arms/fight back against evil.

P. Froward said...

A number of high-profile science fiction writers tend toward libertarian conservatism or outright libertarianism: Heinlein, Niven, Pournelle, Vance, "Doc" Smith, Orson Scott Card.


The recent remake of War of the Worlds was for the most part a sermon on the virtue of impotence.

P. Froward said...

...but that's only one movie, of course.

J said...

"Intelligence (defined as "high standardized test scores" — if you've got a better, non-circular, definition, let's hear it) correlates broadly to higher incomes. Higher incomes broadly correlate with more conservative views.

...Nice try."

P - go back and read my comment again, specifically the first sentence. Hint - I added two words to the title of the post.

Wickedpinto said...

That Fools premise in believing that "The more creative you are, the more likely you are to be liberal." I Actually agree with.

The PROBLEM! is that he is only thinking of "creative arts" which are as real and measurable as Ice Dancing.

The More Creative engineers, physicists, biologists, mathematicians and programmers, who are members of MEASURABLE "arts" tend to be Republicans.

Not because they think that republicans are right, it's hard to PROVE a thing true, but it's VERY EASY to know that a thing is false. Most falsity is easily identified without any effort to be wrong.

So, while the LEFT loves to say that the right hates science (only in terms of creation, and evolution, or the sad weak compromise of intelligent design, or other variations there-of) The Left, wants to invalidate REAL science in exchange for the POWER OF THE MIND! The left FEELS good about embryonic stem cells (no proof as yet) and wants federal funding for it, but ignores Adult Stem Cells, which IS proven, and they think that that is a waist of time?

This is not an argument of policy, tell the truth, I think if the theology of abortion were taken out of embryonic stem cells, then their might be REAL advances, just as their have been in adult stem cell replacement. "NO SUBSIDIES" is my opinion, that will take the politics out of it.

Support the research of embryonic (which is legal, but not funded by the fed) stem cells, and treat them just like adult stem cells (which is legal, AND affective, and not funded by the federal government) I don't really see why an inneffect method, should be treated like welfare, I really don't. If Embryonic stem-cells are so promising, why don't the private companies, corporations or hospitals resarch on their own, as they did with ADULT stem-cells?

This Stem-cell "ban" is a lie, it's just that the FED will not PAY for embryonic stem cell research. But for the semi-literate, self serving, socialist, welfare left, no money from the fed = a ban. It's not.

I haven't gotten any money from the fed, other than when i was in the Marine Corps, that doesn't meen that the fed is Banning my existence.

GSH said...

The recent remake of War of the Worlds was for the most part a sermon on the virtue of impotence.

True, but to be fair, that was the point of the book as well.

Kathy said...

Seriously, pretty much the only creative part was the devil at Gethsemani (and possibly that bit with the table). The rest of it was *straight* from the Bible.

I won't argue the artistic merits of The Passion because I lack expertise in that area, but you are mistaken if you think that the rest of that movie came straight from the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the biblical account, I might suggest you pick up a copy of the New Testament and read through one or all four of the Gospels (that would be the first four books in the New Testament).

Gibson included much content that was from Catholic tradition, not from the Bible. I'm not bothered by that; he is Catholic, after all. But I do take exception to characterizing the movie's plot as coming straight from the Bible. Plus, the events and dialogue may come straight from a text, but there's a lot of art involved in deciding how to translate that to the screen, or so I hear. :-)

SMGalbraith said...

To complicate this even further by looking at another profession, don't we consider entrepreneurs - business men and women - "conservative"? They generally vote Republican and again, generally, are more to the right on both economic and social issues.

And yet aren't they the most innovative class in the country and practitioners of Schumpeter's "creative destructionism"? Nothing staid or orthodox in their thinking.

The entire liberal/conservative political yardstick, it seems to me, just doesn't really fit when we measure people outside of the political arena. Yes, we can make broad sweeping generalization; but they don't really hold up to closer examination.


-Peder said...

I think you find this same thing happening even on a local level. If you were to go to a community Ed art class, you'd be much more likely to find majority liberal crowd. The same thing is true of community theater. Don't really know why this is, but the easy answers like practicality, ability or rebellion don't really ring true to me. My theory is that liberals find being in touch with emotional things more important than conservatives do. They tend to see art as an emotional demonstration.
BTW, this may fit with Ann's remark. Great, longlasting art probably has more to do with eternal themes. Conservatives are more comfortable there.

AJ Lynch said...

Kathy quickly and I might say expertly volleyed a couple aces past GSH (on my behalf re The Passion of the Christ's creativity) and GSH has yet to return.

Thank you Kathy- I'll try to return the favor one day.

ignacio said...

Edgar Allan Poe back in the 1830s railed against the notion, taken for granted in the New England literary salons, that literature ought to be "uplifting."

In the 1930s, your work was judged by whether it contributed to "the struggle" or not.

In the 1990s, after the reign of the minimalists (Ann Beattie, Raymond Carver, Bret Easton Ellis, Amy Hempel), multiculturalism became all the range. A Macarthur "genius" award went to Leslie Marmon Silko, for instance, based more on her forebears than on any present accomplishment.

When Toni Morrison did not receive a National Book Award she felt she was owed, Henry Louis Gates, Cornel West etc organized a campaign against the decision, clling it racist, and in a panic the literary establishment gave her every award they could think of from then on.

I was guilty of such thinking too. I picked out a story by a lesbian and pushed for her to win a short story, simply because she was a lesbian. Such a choice still, at that point, seemed "original" to me.

Certainly for the last 15 or 20 years you'd have to be out of your mind to expect to win any grants or awards when presenting any work of a recognizably conservative bent.

Your only recourse is the market, and access to that may be tough.

"Art for art's sake" is a concept that has never been popular, when overtly stated, in the USA. It's seen as aristocratic. So too is aesthetic pleasure.

GSH said...

Kathy, what parts would you say aren't in the Bible? All I can recall is having Mary as an observer for most of the movie, and a couple lines involving her. And she is present at the cruxifiction itself, so it's not like being an observer at the other events is a huge stretch from the source material.

Plus, the events and dialogue may come straight from a text, but there's a lot of art involved in deciding how to translate that to the screen, or so I hear.

Yes, and Gibson was extremely literal with everything, which is not exactly creative.

It was a really good movie, and I liked it a lot. But to me 'creative' implies something new, a new way of looking at things, or displaying or visualizing things. And Passion didn't have anything new. It was expertly crafted, and told the story well, but didn't really add anything to the story/experience. That's why I don't really consider it a 'creative' movie, much less "the most creative movie in the last five years." (Also, shouldn't you at least see the movie before claiming such a thing, aj lynch?)

To take this argument away from religion, consider the Harry Potter movies (an extreme shift, I know :). HP I and II are literal translations of the book to the movie, and I don't regard them as creative movies. In contrast, Prisoner of Azkhaban is not *just* a movie version of the book, and as such, displays far more creativity.

Albatross said...

I tire of the left/right argument. Most of us are a bit liberal in some aspects of our lives and a bit conservative in others. The way these bits come together make us unique individuals, but very few of us are completely left/liberal or completely right/conservative. And many of us are creative despite that.

Slocum said...

Someday people will look back at this era as the great age of animated satire and all the leading examples (South Park, The Simpsons, Beavis and Butthead) have taken more delight in skewering the liberal orthodoxy than in skewering conservatives.

I would say that great artists tend to be more libertarian than lefty simply because artists worth anything can't abide orthodoxies and right now, lefty orthodoxies offer a bigger target (which orthodoxies are, themselves, an expression of the conservative impulse just as orthodox marxists were conservative in temperment).

Those French students demonstrating against 'precarite' (and for lifetime government-guaranteed sinecures) are nominally left-wing in their politics but conservative to the bone in temperment. And what artists worth anything would demonstrate against 'precarite' in life?

Sure, there are a lot of lefty 'artists' out there, but they tend to produce academic, bureacratic, peer-reviewed, grant-supported, risk-averse (but 'transgressive') dreck.

Ann Althouse said...

Ignacio: ""Art for art's sake" is a concept that has never been popular, when overtly stated, in the USA. It's seen as aristocratic. So too is aesthetic pleasure."

In "The Substance of Style," Virginia Postrel makes a great argument against the position that beauty for it's own sake is aristocratic.

ignacio said...

Thanks Ann, I'll look that up. I know I've read at least a post or two by Virginia Postrel (probably thanks to Glenn).

Elaine Scarry has in her book "Beauty and the Just" claimed that exposure to beauty will make one more inclined to exercise justice, a thesis which has been disputed by Todd Gitlin to name but one.

The first argument which comes to mind is Nazis running concentration camps while listening to Mozart, but in an interview in Slate Scarry said she had disposed of that long ago.

somefeller said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
somefeller said...

I suspect the reason that most American artists / cultural creative types (whether at the highest levels of the culture industry or at your local community college art class) consider themselves to be "liberals" at this time in history is primarily the result of the dominance of religious and social conservatives in the conservative movement (and therefore, the GOP) and the corresponding rejection of cultural / social liberalism by most self-described movement conservatives. I spend a lot of time with artists and arts administrators, and while they almost all consider themselves to be "liberals", they often don't hold particularly left-wing views on economics, if they even think about such things, and their worldview can often be described as more libertarian than anything else. Social liberalism is the main thing they really care about in their politics (other than support for government funding for the arts, which doesn't make them different from people in any industry that seeks government support of one kind or another), and since right now there is only one major party that supports social liberalism, that party gets their vote. It may well be that in that alternate universe where William Weld is President and George W. Bush is an obscure Major League Baseball owner (in other words, the universe Somefeller wishes he lived in), US creative types split up more evenly between Democrats and Republicans.

It would be interesting to see whether artists in cultures that don't have a big social / religious conservative movement always side overwhelmingly with the more left-wing of the mainstream political parties. I personally don't see any conflict between cultural modernism and French Gaullism, for example, and if memory serves, in the UK a nontrivial amount of elite artists (Sir Tom Stoppard, Gilbert and George, for example) have come out for the Tories from time to time.

Ann Althouse said...

Ignacio: Postrel shows that poor people throughout history, around the world, have cared about aesthetics. For example, people would put effort into embroidery, which is purely for decoration.

37383938393839383938383 said...

Here, the theory is that "the very nature of conservatism runs counter to the rebellious impulses that make a good film... Societies with little conflict tend not to make interesting art.”

Hegel was very creative and a conservative. Certainly many films have been made in the service of power or traditional forms of life. Indeed, most works of art exalt middle-class values or scenes of ordinary existence, devoid of any political thrust. Museums are cluttered with still lifes and potraits of wealthy patrons who commissioned a wart-free potrait. Lastly, the Minoans made much better art before they were overtaken by the Myceneans.

While one could argue that film has a special nexus with the left, because of agitprop, once revolutionaries become the state, what once was agitprop is now a paean to the status quo, so films have been conservative at least since Russians started making them.

Casey said...

I think artist are attracted to what is labled liberal for its place in the western tradition. What is labled liberal however has changed. What was called liberal in the Twentieth Century was once considered the conservative approach of big goverment in the Nineteenth Century while libertarian Reagan type conservatism was considered the liberal approach. I think what is considered liberal and conservative today is slowly changing and so what artists preach will change eventually. I think, crossing my fingers, that we are returning to a more nineteenth century understanding of liberal and conservative. Howard Dean was one of the most reactionary of major canidates to come along the pike in a long time, liberal my foot.

SippicanCottage said...
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knoxgirl said...

I'd like to hear what Palladian has to say on this one...

Kathy said...

Kathy, what parts would you say aren't in the Bible? All I can recall is having Mary as an observer for most of the movie, and a couple lines involving her.

Well, there are the bits with the mopping of the blood and the flashbacks to Jesus' childhood, off the top of my head. But since it's been quite awhile since I saw it, I'll send you to this beliefnet article discussing how it differs from scripture:

As to whether or not it was creative, well, I still think it was, because I've seen several movie versions of the life of Christ, all "literal" renditions, and this one was quite different from all of them. It's a creativity that is constrained by the text of course. But I accept that I have no qualifications for making such a judgment, so I won't argue the point.

Elizabeth said...

Just anecdotally, my sister is a hardcore fundamentalist Christian. She, her husband, and two of her four children are rabidly conservative. And they all do musical theater. She's been the director of a small Texas town's community theater for more than a decade (shades of Guffman!)