Friday, April 15, 2011

Tea Party Movie

As if Tax Day weren't painful enough, it brings the premiere of "Atlas Shrugged: Part I," a film 50 years in the making that, from reviews, seems almost as long to sit through.

Nonetheless, Paul Ryan, Rand Paul and Tea Party members will be on the edge of their seats watching Ayn Rand's epic of how "men are slave to society and government, and destruction of the profit motive leads to the collapse of society" as a parable for their current struggle to save America.

But there are critics. On the Daily Show, Jon Stewart invokes the prophetess by showing a giant Paul Ryan robot crushing senior citizens with a copy of her other doorstop epic, "The Fountainhead," required reading for Ryan's staff members.

Less hilarious is Paul Krugman, calling the Ryan plan "a sick joke. The only real things in it were savage cuts in aid to the needy and the uninsured, huge tax cuts for corporations and the rich, and Medicare privatization. All the alleged cost savings were pure fantasy."

Yet the Ayn Rand fantasy lives, not only in the hearts of Tea Party politicians but even an online dating service for Objectivists, who can find selfish soulmates and get together to watch the movie, munch popcorn and mutter about the moochers who are stealing their hard-earned wealth.

Meanwhile, even the review of conservative P. J. O'Rourke in the Wall Street Journal is headed "Atlas Shrugged. And So Did I," complaining that the movie "treats its source material with such formal, reverent ceremoniousness that the uninitiated will feel they’ve wandered without a guide into the midst of the elaborate and interminable rituals of some obscure exotic tribe."

But in Washington, the tribe is far from obscure, fueling a debate on the nation's economy with ideas from tracts that were considering loony nonsense by conservatives and liberals in the last century but are being celebrated on hundreds of movie screens now.

Update: One of the kinder reviews (on the Atlantic blog) says "the movie seems less like a story than a sort of visual concordance...Each element is religiously mentioned, but very little of it is adequately explained, much less dramatized. I suspect that for people who haven't read the book, the result is incomprehensible. What remains is a bunch of self-impressed windbags boring each other over drinks. I live in Washington DC. At least around here, that sort of thing is a live event, not movie material."

If you can call Washington "live."

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