Friday, September 30, 2005

Go See Serenity Now

And then go read Julian's excellent review, chockfull of spoilers, libertarian perspective, and existential philosophy.

Here's my previous post, written during the giddy aftermath of Monday's screening.

I suppose I'll finally say something about the film's libertarian themes, even though so many others have done so already. Here's the big question: why has Joss Whedon, who's as liberal as the next Hollywood denizen, created a libertarian epic? Here's the money quote:
"I'm not trying to make a polemic and it's definitely not a partisan film in the sense that Mal is, if not a Republican, certainly a libertarian, he's certainly a less-government kinda guy. He's the opposite of me in many ways," Whedon says.

"But at the same time, when a great superpower, however benevolent they may be, meddles in the affairs of a world they don't really understand — and sometimes they end up helping — but they destroy a lot of things in the process and sometimes they end up not helping at all and the fact that that's what's currently happening ... Let's put it this way: When I wrote it, it was topical and I hoped by the time I filmed it, it wouldn't be."
That comes off like a swipe against Bush's Iraq War, or perhaps the Bush Administration more generally. And it is. But here's the key: Whedon still has a huge streak of liberal distrust for big government, even when the government's trying to do the right thing. No spoilers; I'll just say that the film's "big reveal" speaks for itself in this regard.

Once upon a time, back in the day when libertarians felt comfortable saying things like, "libertarians are usually liberal on social issues and conservative on economic issues," wariness of concentrated power provided common ground for liberals and libertarians. Sadly, in the very same phase of history in which conservatives stopped caring (or proved they never really cared to begin with) about fiscal responsibility, many liberals have gradually lost their distrust of the nanny state. A government that coerces its citizens for their moral well-being is bad; but a government that coerces its citizens for their own physical and mental health is good. That liberals should wish to entrust government with greater responsibility now is ironic, since the Bush Administration's shenanigans should have convinced them of the inherent danger of concentrated power. Unfortunately, too many liberals cling to the belief that government really works if we can just get the right people with the right intentions in power. (Deftly palm the coin, as my dad would say.) Whedon's perspective is refreshing because it fully recognizes the fallibility of government -- a fallibility that applies to social engineering as much as to the conduct of war.

[Cross-posted on The Agitator.]

1 comment:

Gil said...

Saw it. Loved it.

I guess I'm not so fond of absurdity that I fully appreciated everything that happens, but I enjoyed the movie tremendously and expect to buy the DVD.