Friday, June 17, 2011

The sheer tediousness of Ben Shapiro's anti-Hollywood crusade

Ben Shapiro
Over at National Review, professional grievance-monger Ben Shapiro documents Hollywood's relentless anti-father agenda by highlighting 10 sitcom dads over the decades. It's a list full of proclamations like this:
Ross Gellar (Friends, 1994-2004) What is Ross doing on this list? He’s here because he represents the left’s next step: the absentee father who simply doesn’t matter to his son’s life. Ross impregnates his lesbian wife, has a kid, and then takes care of the kid once every blue moon between his affairs and antics. His son, Ben, never feels any ill effects. Welcome to the liberal paradise, where dads are completely superfluous.
This is just ... so ... tedious. And it also reflects why Shapiro and his ilk don't do very well in advancing a conservative agenda through popular entertainment: He's concerned exclusively about the agenda, and almost not at all about the entertainment.

The Friends example is probably the most revealing of this mindset. Was Friends a show about family or parenthood? Nope. It was about a group of ... Friends. Young, attractive people who had the freedom to do wacky things and live in New York apartments far beyond their likely incomes. Was Ross a father in the show? Sure. But the reason we didn't see Ross parenting much is because the show wasn't about that. The relationship with his son served as fodder for an episode or two, and that's all it was designed to do: be an excuse for an occasional story. In Shaprio's hands, Friends would've either become a family sitcom like Leave It To Beaver—and not been the show it was, but some other show entirely—or else Ross's son Ben would've descended into a life of drugs, crime, and despair. That would've been a great sitcom!

If you look at Shapiro's list of dads, only three—Archie Bunker, Cliff Huxtable, and Cameron/Mitchell from Modern Family—can plausibly be claimed to be serving somebody's political agenda. But Shapiro sees all of them, in every show, through the lens of ideology, can only conceive of entertainment as agitprop, and does not conceive of a world where the main agenda is getting a good laugh or telling a rollicking yarn.

And it's really, really, excruciatingly tedious.

If you want a contrast, check out Alyssa Rosenberg's culture blog at Think Progress. Rosenberg frequently views popular culture through liberal, feminist lenses. But sometimes she just enjoys a good book, or a good movie, or a good show, all without getting hung up on whether it's liberal enough. It makes one wish that Shapiro could stock up on junk food, head to the basement, and spend a weekend in his underwear watching so-bad-they're-good movies from the 1980s.

Do liberals run Hollyood? Maybe. But on the evidence of Shapiro's perpetual whining, that's the way I prefer it. Ideology or no, liberals—in the storytelling realm, at least—are way, way more fun.

1 comment:

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Have you managed to get through his book? My new thesis: any book with the word "how" in the title is begging the question, and one should approach with extreme caution.

(word verification = "monyeeks", which is probably what I'll have a good case of once I get the post-research-trip visa bill.)