Skip to main content

Cognitive Dissonance or Pop Culture Appropriation?

(A note of front: Usually I don't get political, but this particular post does dip a toe in politics. If you are upset by someone having political ideas that differ from your own, you should probably just skip this one. I know many just simply can't handle that.)

People love to take popular movies and make memes of them to support their political beliefs. One thing I have noticed lately though, a lot of times they are using movies that directly contradict the beliefs they are trying to push. In fact, it's become so widespread that it is hard to write it off as not understanding the movie and begins to look more like hijacking the movie in order to change the message people think it has. And while I am sure (like most behaviors) examples can be found on both sides, this seems to be mostly prevalent on the political right. For example there are the anti-gun control memes that use images from the western Tombstone:

If you're not familiar Tombstone is the story of Wyatt Earp, his brothers and Doc Holliday who got involved in a shootout and feud when they took over the law enforcement of Tombstone Arizona. The famous shootout at the OK Corral happened when Holliday and the Earps were enforcing the local gun control laws. 

Then there are the right wing, and especially anti-trans, memes that use The Matrix for their template. These are especially popular as right wingers have also co-opted the phrase red pilled to refer to breaking free of liberal thinking.
Of course I think most people now know that The Matrix was meant in part as an allegory for being trans. While it's otherwise not explicitly liberal, this alone is enough to put it at odds with most of the right wingers who use it several times a day on social media to make their "points".

Another favorite are the memes using John Carpenter's They Live to imply that liberal politicians are evil and using mind control to take over the nation, and that the media is complicit.
This may be the most egregious, because Carpenter has stated explicitly that this movie is about how Republicans are evil aliens living amongst us. Not Democrats. Not politicians in general or the elite. He specifically says Republicans. 

Now some might try to make the argument that they have to twist left wing movies because all Hollywood is left wing. But that's just not true. Not only are there conservative actors, directors and writers working in Hollywood movies, there have been plenty of right leaning movies especially in the era when They Live came out. Most of the right leaning movies were more pro-military and light on other conservative messaging, sure. So one might wonder why they choose left wing movies.

It's not a new phenomenon. Sometimes it may be through misunderstanding, like when Reagan used Born in the USA for his campaign. More often I think it is done through an attempt to coopt popular left wing media and spin the message to something more palatable for the right. An example is how everyone these days knows that 1984 and Animal Farm are anti-socialism. Except they are not. George Orwell was himself a socialist, and said that everything he wrote was against totalitarianism and in favor of democratic socialism. 

So I don't think it is actually a lack of self-awareness or even ignorance that drives this coopting of left wing pop culture to push right wing narratives. They don't use the right wing pop culture because it already preaches the message they want to get out. By using left wing pop culture instead they not only amplify their message but nullify the opposing message to a certain degree if they can convince everyone that the piece in question says the things they are claiming it does. That's why you'll see things like the George Orwell example from above, or people claiming that Starship Troopers (which was a parody of George W Bush's war on terror) is a right wing movie. That's why even though it may seem unimportant I think we should push back on these appropriations. I would be equally against left wingers using a John Wayne movie to push a message for civil rights, by the way, so you can save your "well what if the shoe was on the other foot" arguments. I can enjoy a John Wayne movie while acknowledging that I may disagree with some points that it might be trying to make.


Popular posts from this blog

Movies With My Dad

I have already talked about my first movie experience  with my dad  so I won't repeat it here. Like many memories of my dad it is a mixed bag of good and bad. But that wasn't the only memory of him I have involving movies. He didn't talk about movies a whole lot except to say he loved westerns and wished they would make more of them. But one non-western that came up was Rebel Without a Cause. He found out it was coming on t.v. and raved about it. He told me how much he loved it, and what a great movie it was. He insisted that I had to watch it when it came on. I watched it and let him know. He asked me what I thought of it and I told him I liked it. And that was it. There was no further discussion of the movie and it was never brought up again. But I still think of him whenever I see the movie or anything referencing it. I know it must have been an important movie to him for him to react the way he did, seeing as he rarely talked about movies at all. When I was a little bit

Who Loves You and Who Do You Love

The following post was submitted by Jennifer Lewis. You can find her on Facebook here . There are a lot of cultural icons we can all cite who have impacted our lives, including but not limited to The Beatles, Steven Spielberg, James Dean, John Williams, Marilyn Monroe, George Lucas, Elvis, Harrison Ford, and so on.  With that being said, I want to recognize someone who had star power back in his day, but never rose to the heights of fame as those mentioned, although he has certainly impacted my life.  Richard Dawson (1932-2012).  Richard Dawson’s presence throughout my life is undeniable.  It’s hard to say when and how he first came onto my cultural radar, but I’ll focus on his career and impact chronologically.  Richard Dawson was one of the loveable and heroic members of Hogan’s Heroes, playing British Corporal Newkirk.  His charisma, charm, and good looks in the role won me over, and he was my favorite on Hogan’s Heroes.  I have several memories of watching Hogan’s Heroes with my bi

My Heavy Metal Journey

With most kids, the first music they become familiar with is the music their parents listen to. For me this meant mainly country music and 50's era rock and roll. I knew about KISS as they were the biggest band around when I was a little kid. I had heard Nazareth and Queen, but not much. My musical world was mostly Waylon Jennings and Elvis Presley.  Then my parents got me my own radio. I was about 9. Up to that point I had mostly listened to their record collection. But now I had access to all the things being played on local radio stations. Now, this was a small town so that didn't mean as much as it might have in a more urban area. R&B was not getting played on the radio where I grew up. But among the religious stations and country stations there were one Top 40 station and one rock station. I can still remember finding the rock station. I was dialing across and heard the beginning of a song. It was something different than anything I had really heard before. Even the KI