Monday, July 5, 2010

Atlas Shrugged: The movie

I am currently in the process of re-reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, and for some reason got the brain wave that this is a novel that should be turned into a movie.

Then I looked on the Internet Movie Database and found that they already ARE making it as a movie.

After finding that there already is a movie of the book in the works, I realized just what a bad idea that might be, but not because of what this guy says:

I believe that if this project actually sees the light of day, we could be in for some turbulence up ahead. A movie version of Atlas Shrugged isn’t just destined for failure- it could turn out to be one of the biggest mistakes Hollywood could ever make.
Now, I look at the making of this movie, in the wrong hands, as something that could horribly damage that particular point of view for years to come. Given that Hollywood is filled with people who do not agree with this point of view means that there is a good chance that the movie DOES end up in the wrong hands. I'm comforted that it is an independant, privately funded movie and thus may actually be out of the hands of those who may do the message harm.

But really, back to this piece of work. Why does he think that a movie like this is going to be a mistake? I'll let him tell you himself:

First of all, the ideology espoused here is extremely radical. Making a movie based on the work of Ayn Rand would be akin to making a movie about Stalin and his version of communism. Sure, I’d love to see a biopic about Stalin be made. The difference here is that ATLAS SHRUGGED would bathe this radical philosophy in a positive light. Imagine the uproar if a movie were to hit theaters that made Mussolini out to be a hero, a savior, a prophet.

Second, so long as this ideology has been contained to a hulking piece of literature, the movement and its followers have been confined to a relatively small group. Generally, those who get wrapped up in Atlas Shrugged are those who are frustrated with mediocrity in society. They see themselves as much better than the average man.

What’s so scary is the possibility that Ayn Rand’s words would spread to a much larger audience. People without the intellectual capacity or willpower to slug through the book would be exposed to this extremely enticing philosophy. Understand this- I spent about a year of my life under Rand’s spell. It’s an extremely alluring premise- live up to your full potential, care only about yourself, succeed, work hard, don’t let anyone take what’s rightfully yours. It sounds so great!

Were the troglodytes of society to venture to their local cinema and fall prey to the mystique of an ATLAS SHRUGGED movie, we’d be in a world without rules. It’s a scary thought, but I honestly worry that a single movie could have this much effect. Will it? Probably not. But it definitely could pan out this way. I’d argue the same for a movie on the far left, such as an affirming adaptation of The Communist Manifesto.

So, if I may paraphrase - he thinks that painting self-reliance in a positive light is a bad thing for today's society, and worries that most of the people who watch the movie aren't intelligent enough to understand why self-reliance is necessarily a bad thing. He cites that this is radical ideology while simultaneously pointing out that nary a Tea Party (the fastest growing political movement in America today) gathering goes by without some part of Atlas Shrugged being cited. He also points out that a similar movie about the Communist Manifesto would be bad for a similar reason.... except that it's not a book nor even a story... more of a catechism for those inclined to believe it.

I would submit, after reading his entry, that Mr. Schiffelbein really didn't understand the novel or Ms. Rand's message in the novel. Her message wasn't of selfishness, but of self-reliance. Her message was that society will advance further faster if the government stops trying to hold back those who are successful from their endeavours, and stops trying to legislate "fairness" in everything they do. Her message is that the government does nothing as well as an individual with a stake in the results. In essence, Ms. Rand's text is about the rising tide lifting all boats - a truism which holds up today. I would also submit that Mr. Schiffelbein has embodied one of the characters in the novel - Bertram Scudder - with his use of weasel words and innuendo to get his point across.

In essence, what Mr. Schiffelbein is fearful of is that too many people may be exposed - and latch onto - a message that isn't good for socialism in America and abroad. A message that states that the government should be limited in what it does and how it does it. That the government should take caution in what it tries to regulate and why. That the government should stop trying to redistribute wealth lest the productive in society reach their breaking point and finally say "Enough".

I hope for all of our sakes that Mr. Schiffelbein is correct about this movie's reach and influence. It's obvious that those who view Ms. Rand's world view with derision will not be affected by the movie, but then they aren't the people this movie is for. This movie is for the 80% of Americans who self-identify as conservative or moderate and will be open to the idea that self-reliance is better than relying on a government that may or may not be bankrupt.

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