Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Never underestimate the patriotism of Republicans

Remember on Friday when I talked about Marvel's "possible miscalculation" in releasing Captain America on Comic-Con weekend? Like the opening weekend of the movie could depend on the money the geeks would not be spending on the movie, because they'd be otherwise occupied?

Yeah, so much for that.

I was mostly just making a humorous observation, but my basic thesis was something I believed in: that the movie would need all the help it could get.

But there were plenty of others out there who were more than willing to provide that help.

While I assumed that many people shared my "eh, so what" attitude toward the movie, I wasn't considering the number of other people who love any opportunity to celebrate the role of America as a force for international justice. I'm speaking of Republicans here.

Captain America made $65 million on its opening weekend, making it seem awfully likely to end up as a hit. That's got to be the biggest non-sequel opening in, like, forever. That $65 million knocked record-setting Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 out of the #1 spot at the U.S. box office in only its second weekend. In fact, it beat Potter by a whole $17 million. (Wow, I'm really out of it. I just looked and saw that Green Lantern made $70 million in its opening weekend before tailing off. But I think my point still stands.)

While on the one hand I am happy for Captain America, on the other hand I am a bit scared by that "silent majority" out there that turned out to see a metaphor for America kicking ass. These are the people who usually turn their noses up at the movies I'm looking forward to. These are the people who are giving the Republican party confidence as it tries to derail our economy.

I'm not saying you had to be a conservative flag-waver to buy a ticket to Captain America this weekend. But I do think there wasn't much buzz about this movie among my friends, who I consider to be a representative sample of moderately liberal movie lovers out there. Captain America seemed like the umpteenth movie in an absolute binge of superhero movies, a trend I have hoped is kind of petering out, lest it makes a total mockery of itself.

But not for this "silent majority," whose display of support for Captain America scares me the way many people were scared when they watched the awesome display of machine-like synchronicity demonstrated by the Chinese during the opening ceremony for the 2008 summer Olympics. Republicans don't get together to support a movie very often, but when they do, the results can be staggering. Remember The Passion of the Christ?

Well, here's hoping I just misinterpreted the level of excitement that existed about this movie. Because if this many Americans want a human personification of America's most arrogant philosophies about its role on the world stage, then Barack Obama's going to have to watch his back the end of next year.

I'm sure that's not what Captain America is really about -- it would have to be more sly, subtle and liberal-minded than that, wouldn't it? If only because Hollywood is liberal, and most products that come out of it represent that mindset to some degree.

But the people who paid the money didn't care what it was about, probably -- they just liked the idea of a bio-engineered super-soldier running through the battlefield with an American flag emblazoned on his chest.

And I guess there will always be people like that. I'm just glad I don't know too many of them.


Mark said...

Vance -
I'll preface my comment by acknowledging that I'm a comic book guy, and that may color my feelings here, but I'm not with you on this one. I think you are miles and miles off the mark.

I'm a hard-core liberal (and a professor, for heaven's sake) and patriotic as hell. There are plenty of liberal flag wavers out there; the ideas of liberalism and patriotism aren't mutually exclusive. I'm positive you don't mean to suggest that, but your post reads that way a little.

I think you might not have lent enough credence to how many people out there, yourself included, like a good period adventure story. This film has a few things in common with Raiders — maybe ticket buyers are looking to recapture some of that magic, maybe they are suckers for the nostalgia of WWII America or movies where the little guy gets his big chance. I plan to see the movie for all of those reasons, and some patriotism too.

Vancetastic said...


Totally fair charge. I wrote this one quickly and probably without considering closely enough the wide generalizations I was making.

However, I do think that patriotism tends to take a different form for liberals and conservatives, and the conservative form tends to appear in more symbolic, visual ways, including a heavy reliance on the image of the American flag. I think many liberals who are patriotic go about it in a way of trying to improve the country to make it the version of this country that jives with their own views on the world, whereas (again painting in broad strokes) conservatives tend to equate patriotism with saying "America, love it or leave it." I think I am also implying that conservatives are baited by more simplistic forms of patriotism on display, whereas liberals tend to view such things skeptically.

Of course, this whole discussion has nothing to do with the movie Captain America, whose plot I do not know at all. Someone at work told me it was great, and now I want to see it too.

I think I was also probably assuming that my readers had read my July 4th "Good patriotism, bad patriotism," in which I discuss the films that tap into my own sense of patriotism, muted though it may be in comparison to these imaginary conservative punching bags I've conjured for the purposes of this argument. You should check that out, because I struggle with my ideas on patriotism in general in that post.

Thanks for the comment!

Mark said...

Well said!

Daddy Geek Boy said...

Mark beat me to it.

As for the movie...it's worth seeing.