Book Review: Let’s make a deal


A new deal for a new America:

back cover blurb:

Health insurance that offers knee surgery in Bangalore and rehab at the Mustang Ranch, a smart, simple, single-rate carbon tax that replaces reams of clumsy, costly government regulations and the clumsy, costly bureaucrats who write them, a paid day-off for every American every year that Congress balances the budget, firing the President when he effs up and spends too much, shrinking the size of government by making it 50% bigger, immediate amnesty for illegal aliens that ends illegal immigration forever.

Advancing social justice by repealing the income tax. Instituting a libertarian meritocracy with cradle-to-grave healthcare.

Fleecing the idle rich by repealing the inheritance tax, balancing the budget on the butts of the poor, cheerfully going one-on-two with the ruling weasels and the new “robber” barons. Plus lots and lots of shameless, effusive pandering.

Is this the pilot script from a rejected Comedy Central reality series called Wonks Gone Wild or a sane, serious plan for a second American Century?

With an eye on the clock and a finger in the wind, Let’s Make a Deal calls the only play left and throws a Hail Mary pass to get America off the bench and back in the game.

Much Ado about the obvious

I consulted the strictest moralists to learn how to appear, philosophers to find out what to think, and novelists to see what I could get away with, and in the end, I distilled everything to one wonderfully simple principle: win or die.

Marquise de Merteuil, Dangerous Liaisons

Much ado is being made of “Primetime Propaganda” by Ben Shapiro that “reveals” that Hollywood and the entertainment industry is liberal and has an agenda. To the author, who seems to be expecting that he has uncovered some vast secret conspiracy, to the conservative people in society who feel shocked and manipulated, and to all people who are experiencing shock; I say “well, duh, what do you think writers do?”

Writers are not story tellers, well, not exactly. Writers have an agenda to reflect the world and to say something about how the world should be and they use story telling to achieve that. Because to directly lecture has a smaller audience who is already amendable to the topic – so story telling is the way to get a larger audience than you draw by lectures or essays that are attended or read by people who are confirming their bias; or, in plain speak, to preach to more than the choir.

I have participated in several online writer’s groups and have read more than 300 unproduced feature screenplays – the very few that were production worthy, had a message embedded in the story – and the majority were just a story that feel short of the mark, because the message was muddy or unclear or unformed because the writer was trying too hard to just tell a story, often about their own life, but they were resisting or unwilling to see the bigger picture meaning, so the story fell flat and was pointless.

There is a difference between the plot and the theme of a work, and it seems that many cannot distinguish that the plot is what happens and the theme is what the story is about. The confusion worsens when you consider character vs action driven plots.

The movies with messages are character driven – the character’s personality or goal motivates their actions and interactions and other character’s respond. The best comedy, pathos, drama, tragedies come from character driven stories – while action, thriller, mystery and suspense is more action, what the character does is more important than who the character is.

So why are most writers liberal? Because writers are seeking to make a change in the world – and conservatives are about resisting change, about upholding tradition and structure – and are often the ones who are financially funding and benefitting from the liberal entertainment.

If you think about it, Fox news is extremely right wing, for lack of a better word, nonfiction and unscripted (but a conservative reality, not real reality) and the Fox network is extremely left wing fiction and scripted programs that aren’t reality either, but engage in a complete mocking of conservative values and upholding liberal values as ideal.

Art serves to both reflect realty and comment on it – the people most likely to comment are those who seek change – and change is progress and is liberal by essentially definition.

This is why conservative art works tend towards flat, one dimensional, starch and static and strident. They seek to reinforce the status quo or reflect an idealized family values version of it, which only appeals to those confirmation bias seekers aka choir members.

Whereas, liberal creators of art – books, movies, TV shows – can reach a broader audience, the messages are hidden in the nuanced and raucous stories – which liberal leaning people watch for confirmation bias and conservative leaning people watch to feel morally superior to.

Seriously, that’s pretty much the only reason to watch daytime talk shows, to feel superior to the reality impaired participants who are so unaware of what a sub-sub culture that they belong to, that they expect to be validated for their extremely non-mainstream life choices and the cheap theatrics.

When I was reading screenplays, I often asked the writer “What is the coffee shop talk about?” What is it that you want the audience members to mull over and talk about after seeing the movie. If the answer isn’t in the script, then it needs a rewrite.

At the script stage, you can’t respond with the great action scenes or special effects, because there aren’t any. No hot eye candy actors either. The coffee shop talk isn’t about the plot but it could be about the unique character or the problem the character faced, it could be strong quotable lines.

But mostly, it’s about what the story meant – what’s the take away thought – and for many writers, especially starting out writers with not a lot of life experience or exposure to the big ideas that humans struggle with – there is no point, it’s a popcorn flick to be consumed and forgotten as soon as the empty popcorn tub hits the garbage can.

There’s nothing wrong with competent hack films and book that just churn out a good yarn. After all, there’s tens of thousands of Harlequin romance books and other Bodice Rippers – and there’s plenty of Zipper Gripper western stories set in both the wild west and outer space.

Aside: Bodice Ripper is a commonplace term for romance novels which are predicated on a poor girl raised by a spinster aunt or confirmed bachelor uncle who is raped, or soft peddled as forcible seduction, by a man of a higher socio-economic bracket whom she hates, but later redeems and marries.

Zipper Gripper is my own term for the male counterpart story of any lone male/boy adventurer who is a social outcast and keeper or revealer of some kind of truth, often challenging authority and exposing corruption, generally overly macho, charismatic, misunderstood and capable of meeting every challenge or task and always gets the girl and discards her if she doesn’t get killed to free him up for the next adventure.

But competent hack written movies are time fillers, date flicks, nothing to resonant or spent a lot of thought on afterwards – they are merely setting a tone for later.

Consider the 1970’s All In The Family. Everyone watches that show, the characters were common people and the patriarch, Archie Bunker was unapologetic in his bigotry. He loved his family and had difficulty expressing it and was at odds with all the characters at some or all points in the show. He was refreshing because he was true to his beliefs and he was a voice for all bigots everywhere. But, Archie was never seen to be right, he was always proven wrong in his blanket assessment of individuals as being representative of their group and slowly the message worked through the audience, being bigoted is funny for a TV character, but not for real people to really mean it.

What a change from the family sitcoms of the 50’s and 60’s, where Father knew best and had all the answers to Father knows jack, to the family sitcoms where Dad is often an impediment to the family functioning, Dad from the nucleolus of the nuclear family to being a marginalized parasite. Or worse, wholly beside the point. It’s no wonder why so many men feel put out like the Flintstone’s cat.

On one hand, it seems only fair that the entertainment industry is liberal, since the world of politics is so conservative. In fact, the world of politics can’t become liberal until there’s a strong enough pull and push from the voters – who are either pulled by religion to the right or entertainment to the left – with the political world being pulled down the middle by the reality world of the voters.

Voters who sadly are voting not from their own material interests, but by their idealized interests – which is why religion is dangerous to mix with politics.

Prior to Ronald Regan, the south was democratic, loyal to FDR’s New Deal that resulted in job creation through public works projects.

Aside: Which is why ancient cultures engaged in huge temple and city massive public works, to keep the population busy so they didn’t start thinking about getting above their social station and overthrow the government when they realized that the accident of birth is too fragile a basis for governing over education, ability, fairness and rule of law.

Post Reagan and the rise of the so called “Moral Majority” – a loud minority with no claim to actual moral conduct – the south began to vote conservative – against the city liberals who cared more about spotted owls than forestry and farm workers – and for the corporate CEOs who cared more about stockholders than forestry and farm workers.

Because somehow Big Corporations were connected to whatever Family Values are supposed to mean. Like you can support your family in an environment wrecked by Big Corporations who hold stockholders and profit margins above all else.

Religion and Entertainment, ying and yang – there’s some moderate left religions in a sea of right wing conservative religion, and there’s some right wing entertainment in a sea of progressive liberal programming.

Both are social forces to promote tradition and to promote change – so that entertainment is doing it’s job, should be no surprise or shock to anyone. The liberal bias in entertainment was never hidden, it’s in all the how to write textbooks and manuals, available in any brick or online book store.

But I guess, that for conservatives, with their preference to burning and censoring books instead of reading them, maybe it was a shock, maybe it’s even the shock that they need – to learn that not everyone shares their values.

This is their greatest fear – why they don’t want their children to even know that there are gay people or atheists – for even knowing that there are other options makes their gender restricted family values less appealing and less likely to be passed along and obeyed.

Conservatives after all, are largely about blind worship of authority and the social revolutions that saw the end of slavery, women’s rights and right to vote for women and ethnic minorities, the cultural revolution personified by Elvis Presley that ended the ethnic barrier and made sex a public matter, the social revolution of the 60’s that saw civil rights advance and a collective rejection of automatic support for the government to engage in war uncontestedly, to the 1980’s rise of environmentalism and gay civil rights and the achievement of these rights throughout the western democratic world and the mainstream normalization of environmentalism.

Aside: in the 1970’s, if you recycled, you were a hippie freak and in the 1990’s, if you didn’t, you were an earth hating jerk.

Conservatives need the wake up call that there are not only not the only values, but many people find them sub-par and unrealistic and impractical and not at all workable in the real world of single moms, same gender couples with or without kids, polyamourous groups (as opposed to religious polygamy) – for the liberal progress of society, there must be the periodic seismic shift and re-adjustment.

The pull and push of the liberal social agenda eventually has to move the conservatives to a new normal – and the conservative social agenda is to resist as long as possible. But, the shift is occurring nonetheless.

It is unthinkable for the vast majority of people, even bigoted people, to consider owning slaves and it is not at all remarkable that women vote or drive. In most places, mixed ethnic or mixed religious  couples with families are not remarkable, we’ve moved beyond  that for the most part.

In Canada, gay marriage has become unremarkable in only a few short years since 2003 when it became the law. Amazing when you consider that until 1992, it was legal to discriminate against gays and lesbians in housing and employment.

Much was made of Obama being the first black man to run for and become President of the United States – but he is not a black man, he is mixed, he is the true American son, born of white and black parents, he is the political inheritor of the cultural legacy of Elvis Presley, the white man who sang black, but who sang authentically as black, as he was born to the same low socio-economic status as black people – Elvis was a sharecroppers son who sang black music as country and country music as black blues and delivered the songs with a southern gospel fervor and he culturally shattered the ethnic barriers and set the stage for the civil rights that results in Obama’s mixed heritage and elevated socio-economic status and election as president.

The next liberal shift will be more non-white men and women in the halls of power and that promise of equality, proclaimed by Abraham Lincoln, will occur when it is no more remarkable that a non-white man or woman runs for office than it is that a white man or woman does.

The only people to whom this appears a sinister agenda, are conservatives who resist social change, because they benefit from the status quo and, in the simplest terms, they do not work and play well with others.