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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.


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