the foggiest notion of wliat a popularrnculture should be. They have no suchrnnotion because the “visions” by whichrnthev have entranced themselves have nornroom for culture, and since no one else inrnthe I’nited States knows what a culture isrnor ought to be either, we are left with thernmorbid concoctions of Hollywood andrnthe crippled musical droppings of SnooprnDoggy Dog. ^rnMr. Dole’s cultural preferences arernevident in the films of which he expressedrnapproval. While he condemnedrnOliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers andrnQuentin Tarantino’s True Romance asrn”films that revel in mindless violencernand loxelcss sex,” a characterizationrnmanifestlv not true about the latter film,rnhe praised such masterpieces as Disney’srnThe Lion King, intended as a children’srnmoic but capable of providing morallyrnsalubrious entertainment for senators,rnand True Lies, a virtually unwatchablcrnchase movie that has the strappingrnArnold Schwarzenegger massacring peoplernfar more mindlessly than WoodyrnI larrelson and Juliette Lewis in Stone’srnrepulsie but carefully made film aboutrntwo serial murderers. To be fair, Mr.rnDole admitted later that he hadn’t seenrnam of the films he was talking about. Itrnmight have helped if he had. Thenrnagain, it might not have.rnWhat is really frightening aboutrnAmerican culture is that the films Mr.rnDole praised are in no way preferable tornthose he damned. The only objection hernor anvonc else on the American right everrnraises to any film is that it “glorifies sexrnand violence,” though even such bloodsoakedrnepics as Natural Born Killers andrnThe Godfather, which also drew a goodrndeal of preachy wind from the rightrnwhen it appeared in the 1970’s, clearlyrndo not. What far less bloody films thatrnno one on the right pays much attentionrnto often say about the nature of man, soeietv,rnand the universe is often far morerndegraded and dangerous than a fewrnscenes of improbable shootouts andrnbedroom wrestling matches. Mr. Dolernpraised Forrest Gump, a pleasant and sentimentalrntale about a wise moron playedrnb Tom I lanks, but it never occurred tornhim to mention Hanks’ performance inrnPhiladelphia, a nonviolent and superficiallvrndecent film that is a protracted propagandarnpiece for the normalization ofrnhomosexuality. Mr. Dole expressed disgustrnfor 2 Live Crew, but John I .ennon’srncuddlv lyrics in “hnagine” about a worldrnwithout coLiiitrv, propcrt), or religion arernfar more subversive and far more influential.rnLennon’s fantasies of a one-worldrnUtopian communism are in fact thernessence of what both the left and thernneoconservative right believe today.rnIf it’s really evil films you want, however,rnthe “slasher flicks” popularized in thern1980’s and intended to appeal to preteensrnand adolescents—Wes Craven’srninterminable Nightmare on Elm Streetrnseries is typical—are perhaps the mostrnevil ever made. Their persistent theme,rncemented throughout numberless sequels,rnis that evil is stronger than good,rnthat the monster that appears to havernbeen destroyed at the end of the last installmentrnis really indestructible, andrnthat there is nothing anyone can dornabout it. This theme is in fact the corernidea of Satanism, but I recall no onernamong conservatives or the religiousrnright remarking on this. For that matter,rneven downright wholesome movies likernthe Star Wars series never clearly distinguishedrnthe moral character of thernheroes from that of the villains. The formerrnare physically attractive, while thernbad guys wear helmets and uniformsrnvaguely reminiscent of stormtroopers,rnbut there is no clear explanation of whyrnone side is good and the other bad.rnIn fact, the most violent films Hollywoodrnhas produced in recent decadesrnsometimes offer the clearest moral distinctions.rnNo director was more notoriousrnfor depicting graphic violence thanrnthe late Sam Peckinpah, but in The WildrnBwich, The Getaway, Pat Garrett and Billyrnthe Kid, and a host of other films, herndrew sharp distinctions between goodrncharacters able and willing to assume responsibilityrnfor each other and bad charactersrnwho recognize no bonds or loyaltiesrnbeyond their own greed and lust.rnFor Peekinpah’s heroes, it is the socialrnbond—of an outlaw band, friendship,rnhusband and wife—that makes themrnhuman, while for his villains, it is the denialrnor betrayal of such bonds that makesrnthem evil. The same is true in Tarantino’srnTrue Romance, where the heroicrncharacters are those willing to take risksrnand even lose their lives for wife, husband,rnor son, while everyone else, drivenrnby greed, winds up literally killing eachrnother. Of course, there’s no reason whyrnchildren should be allowed to sec such arnfilm, but Republicans might learn somethingrnfrom watching it.rnBut they probably wouldn’t, and neitherrnwould the religious right, because inrnthe United States the “official right” hasrnlittle interest in anything that doesn’trnaffect politics and the pocketbook.rnImmersed in an essentially hedonisticrnand economic worldview that recognizesrnnothing more important than materialrnself-interest, the right is unable to formrnor even comment intelligently upon arnculture, a normative way of life that transcendsrnand shapes the pursuit of bothrnpower and money rather than beingrnshaped by them. Hence, all that thernright, religious or Republican, wantsrnfrom culture is for it not to offend whateverrnhabitual prejudices and tastes theyrnhappen to retain. The best kind of culturernfor them is what they think prevailedrnin the I950’s, when Pat Boone andrnFabian crooned nothing that disturbedrntheir affluent slumbers and Lucy andrnThe Beaver reconfirmed every week therneternal virtues of an already crumblingrnnuclear family where the father figurernwas an object of ridicule whose authorityrnwas to be evaded and undermined.rnMr. Dole concluded his speech byrnquoting approvingly the words of MarkrnCanton, president of Universal Pictures.rn”Any smart business person can see whatrnwe must do,” Mr. Canton remarked,rn”make more TC rated films.” But a culturernconsisting of nothing but children’srnmovies is no more a real culture than TupacrnShakur is a real artist. What reallyrnsmart “business persons” ought to bernable to see is that when we ask nothingrnmore of our culture than to be left alonernto make money and run for President,rnwhat we will wind up with is exactly whatrnwe have now. ?rnLEARNING THE CLASSICSrnBoxer Mike Tyson on how he spent hisrntime in the hoosegow, from the Aprilrn10 issue of Sports Illustrated:rn”‘I read a guy by the name of Homer,’rnTyson said in a television interviewrnlast May. ‘And he wrote about a guy,rnAchilles, and another guy, Hector.rnAnd he wrote about that war.’ If itrnhadn’t been for the Iliad, the cxchamprnsuggested, prison life wouldrnhave been hopelessly ‘mundane.'”rnSEPTEMBER 1995/9rnrnrn