Several years ago I attended a three-day seminar about writing in general and screenplays in particular. My interest was more about how to tell an interesting story. So much of public policy is dry and boring. I thought I could benefit from some expert storytelling.
The seminar was presented by famed Hollywood screenwriter Robert McKee – if you saw the movie Adaptation you’ve heard of Robert McKee. When his book, titled Story, was published nearly 20 years ago, he then claimed that his students had won 18 Academy Awards, 107 Emmy Awards, 19 Writers Guild of America Awards and 16 Directors Guild of America Awards. For my experience with him, it was the toughest seminar I’ve ever sat through – 12 hours each day with rare breaks.
On the last day of the seminar, I bought his book and asked him if he would sign it for me. He wrote, “Dear Paul, write the truth, Robert McKee.” I’m quite sure that is what he wrote in every book he signed but that admonition – write the truth – struck a deep chord with me. It not only has inspired me in my political writing, it’s helped me to better understand the liberal psyche.
To understand how liberals view the truth you need only understand momentary realities in the human condition. This is why we love movies so much. We relate to or connect with the experiences in the stories. There’s a reason why my two favorite movies are To Kill a Mockingbird and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner – both movies hit a nerve with me. In both cases, the movies touched my heart and mind about justice and human dignity.
It’s no wonder Hollywood actors get so passionate about social and political causes. They live these causes through the roles they play. They become these causes. But most of these actors are liberal for a deeper reason than mere character projection. Their sense of cause and justice is incomplete. They live in a moment of self-awareness and swear they see eternity’s truth.
Hollywood often accurately reflects the human condition only to get the moment right but the journey wrong. Hollywood’s biggest problem, leading to its general liberal psyche, is that it derives the “ought” from the “is.” A movie can accurately portray victims and perpetrators of domestic violence in all of their tragedy and still come to completely erroneous conclusions about domestic violence. For instance, some advocates against domestic violence blame traditional family structures (they call it “patriarchy”). The truth is that most serious domestic violence, such as the kind leading to death, is committed outside of traditional family structures.
We can see the same story patterns in sex-obsessed Hollywood or war-obsessed Hollywood or environment-obsessed Hollywood. In almost every case, Hollywood takes a moment in time – a first date, a new military recruit, an environmental problem – and projects a view of the general human condition on that moment alone. Not only are all first dates disasters filled with promiscuity but those moments become the expectation for the human condition. The “is” becomes the “ought.” The reality that war is hell becomes a utopian expectation of no more wars. A malfunction at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant renders all nuclear power a threat to civilization. The moment described in the movie becomes a point of ideological doctrine for all time.
The reason Hollywood liberals didn’t care for the recent movie American Sniper wasn’t because the moment was inaccurately portrayed. They hated it because the movie didn’t conclude that the moment portrayed was reason alone to disparage the Iraq war.
The conflation of the “is” and the “ought” has plagued Hollywood liberals for years and has, in turn, spread this plague throughout the general culture. Writing and portraying the truth should always separate the two – not that a moment in time can’t define an issue, just that we shouldn’t assume that one moment always does.
Originally posted at KVNU for the people. Reposted with permission.