Today, we continue counting down the Top Five Movies You Didn’t Know Were Conservative. Yesterday, we looked at two comedies (and one sequel), one that dramatized recent rhetoric from the religious right, and the other reflective of the distrust of government made popular in the Reagan era. Here are today’s picks:
3. “Knocked Up”
At first glance, a Seth Rogan vehicle by comedy-juggernaut Judd Apatow seems an unlikely candidate for this list, but in “Knocked Up,” Rogen’s character, Ben Stone, serves as the perfect stereotype of the left as seen by the right – an unproductive member of society and engages in numerous activities that conservatives would like to outlaw. He is a habitual drug user (War on Drugs). He has no job and lives off payments from an old court settlement – he sued the city when a garbage truck ran over his foot (tort reform). He is trying to create a pornographic web site (Rick Santorum). But Ben’s life changes when when he impregnates entertainment news reporter Alison during a one-night stand. Much like in another 2007 film, “Juno,” the idea of getting an abortion is raised immediately then dispatched with just as quickly. In both films, what might be an agonizing decision takes all of one scene.
The rest of the film exists to prove that Ben and Alison’s decision was the correct one. Ben grows up and ditches his hedonistic ways, while Alison’s faith in Ben is rewarded, and the movie’s end finds them as a happy family. But one sequence early on, when each of them tell their parents about the unplanned pregnancy, perfectly encapsulates the film’s pro-life position. Alison’s mother responds to news by encouraging Alison to “have it taken care of.” She is depicted as cold, unsupportive, and uncaring. Ben’s dad, on the other hand, reacts with glee and gives Ben a warm and fuzzy pro-life speech. He tells his son that “life doesn’t care about your visions. Stuff happens, and you just gotta deal with it.” Not the most eloquent pro-life argument, but an effective one. Ben’s dad comes off as a mensch, while Alison’s mom seems more like a bitch. As a matter of likeability, pro-life beats pro-choice.
2. “Forrest Gump”
Much of the political language developed by conservatives in the 1980s drew from the anti-hippie rhetoric of the 1960s (see David Sirota’s insightful book, “Back to Our Future,” for more on this). While “Gump” was released in 1994, it was adapted from a book published in 1986, during the boom of the Reagan years, and it contains one of the most conservative portrayals of the 1960s ever seen in a mainstream film. Gump, a religious Southerner, is involved in every major event of the era, but, because he is not burdened with intellect, he survives them with his moral compass intact. He serves his country dutifully in Vietnam, never questioning the war’s aim, and becomes a successful entrepreneur with his own small business. After he leaves the shrimping business, he wisely re-invests his profits, making a fortune while helping another small business (Apple Computers) grow and prosper.
But his girlfriend Jenny takes a different path. She succumbs to the counter-culture and follows her dreams of being a famous folk singer. Even though it is Forrest who goes to war, Jenny goes to an even darker place. Her singing career leads only to a go-go bar, where she sings naked while being groped by unenlightened men. The film’s portrayal of the protest movement takes a hit when Jenny dates a Black Panther who physically abuses her; Forrest, expertly dressed in his military uniform, steps in and corrects the situation. And in the end, it is the free love movement itself that kills Jenny. She contracts AIDS, but Forrest – whose sense of forgiveness has not been corrupted – takes her in, and she dies peacefully in his antebellum mansion.
Check back tomorrow for the most conservative movie of all time!