Monday, August 10, 2009

Apatow and social conservatism

Like some other liberals, I found Ross Douthat's column today to be pretty good, though I think that it's entirely wrong to say that Knocked Up made the pro-life case. The film, quite reasonably, sidestepped the issue altogether. It didn't make the case that abortion is morally wrong--about the only thing that could be argued about that particular decision was that it was opaque because Katherine Heigl's character wasn't developed enough. Conservatives also said the same thing about Juno, and again, the claim was overwrought. Neither film is a pro-life film, both are the creation of presumably pro-choice writers, and while both involve not getting an abortion, in both films the matter is considered without prejudice. That the choice is made to go through with having a kid isn't a pro-life message, it's a pro-choice message because it concedes that a choice is to be made. Had Juno never even considered having an abortion because it was immoral, that would be a pro-life argument. But that wasn't the argument the film made.

This said, I agree with this sentiment:

More than most Westerners, Americans believe — deeply, madly, truly — in the sanctity of marriage. But we also have some of the most liberal divorce laws in the developed world, and one of the highest divorce rates. We sentimentalize the family, but boast one of the highest rates of unwed births. We’re more pro-life than Europeans, but we tolerate a much more permissive abortion regime than countries like Germany or France. We wring our hands over stem cell research, but our fertility clinics are among the least regulated in the world.

In other words, we’re conservative right up until the moment that it costs us.

Of course, being more conservative than Europeans doesn't mean conservative in the Douthatian sense, but one thing I think needs to be stated here is that, at this point, there is more or less an across-the-aisle consensus on the social side of the political equation, on the big issues at least. Liberals might well be more inclined to accept divorces in difficult marriages than conservatives, but both sides fundamentally believe in the traditional nuclear family as the prevailing societal unit. I'm not sure if it was ever any different--perhaps among the long-dead anarchist left--but one of the big liberal issues at this point is expanding marital privileges for gays and lesbians. And I've never read a liberal pundit enthuse over the high divorce rate. All in all, the liberal and conservative visions of society really aren't too different, when you get down to it. It's the getting there that's difficult to envision.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.