In his memoirs, Russian rocket developer Boris Chertok (previously excerpted in my post here) tells of his experiences while he was in Germany with Soviet occupation troops, right after the war. One of his friends was an officer, Oleg, who was also a talented poet. Irrespective of his military talents, Oleg’s prospects for promotion were not viewed as favorable, because his poetry was “very unsettling to the political department.”
And why was Oleg’s poetry looked upon with disfavor? It was not because the Red Army had any dislike of poets. Nor was it even because his poetry contained criticisms of the regime–there were no such criticisms. No, the objection was because of what the poetry didn’t contain. As another friend of Chertok’s, Mira, explained the situation:
The political workers consider his poems to be demoralizing and decadent. Not once does he mention the Party or Stalin in them.
Of course, something like that could never happen in the US…we are not a society where someone could have their career opportunities gravely limited because of their failure to engage in expected political cheerleading. Right?
I was reminded of the above Chertok comments by Stuart Schneiderman’s post here. Apparently, the book/movie “Gone Girl” (which I’ve neither seen nor read), has a female protagonist who is a rather nasty piece of work, attempting to get revenge against men in her life by making two false charges of rape and one false charge of murder. The film has been denounced by certain critics for portraying such a woman. For example, Rebecca Traister of the New Republic told Financial Times that the movie’s depiction of “our little sexual monsters” traded “on very, very old ideas about the power that women have to sexually, emotionally manipulate men. When you boil women down to only that, it’s troubling.” Apparently, in Ms Traiser’s view, there must not be even one character is one book or movie who departs from the image of womanhood that Traister and her like-thinkers believe should be standardized.
Remarkably enough, Maureen Dowd (yes, Maureen Dowd!) comes out in this case against the witch-hunters and in favor of artistic integrity:
Given my choice between allowing portrayals of women who are sexually manipulative, erotically aggressive, fearless in a deranged kind of way, completely true to their own temperament, desperately vital, or the alternative — wallowing in feminist propaganda and succumbing to the niceness plague — I’ll take the former.
The idea that every portrait of a woman should be an ideal woman, meant to stand for all of womanhood, is an enemy of art — not to mention wickedly delicious Joan Crawford and Bette Davis movies. Art is meant to explore all the unattractive inner realities as well as to recommend glittering ideals. It is not meant to provide uplift or confirm people’s prior ideological assumptions. Art says “Think,” not “You’re right.”
After the 1917 revolution, the Bolsheviks pushed Socialist Realism, creating the Proletkult to ensure that art served ideology. Must we now have a Gynokult to ensure Feminist Unrealism?
The politicization of American society has gone very far–see for example the comments from playwright David Mamet, cited in my earlier Life in the Fully Politicized Society post–and it is good to see even such a creature of the Left as Maureen Dowd starting to push back a little.
7 thoughts on “Life in the Fully Politicized Society, continued”
I read the book because of the big flurry of interest and before I planned to see the movie.
I did not like the book, as shown by my review.
There is no likable character in it. I am not the right sort for these books about jerks. I like at least one person I can identify with.
I have not seen the movie.
“it is good to see even such a creature of the Left as Maureen Dowd starting to push back a little”: has she Found Lurv late in life?
>>There is no likable character in it.
I find that to be true a lot these days. I tried, for example, to watch Mad Men. Couldn’t get through one episode. I don’t mind characters who are flawed, but I’d like at least one that’s basically decent that I can sympathize or identify with.
Dexter, by contrast, has lots of flawed characters who are in the basically decent category, doing their best in a thankless job in a screwed up world. Well written and complex story lines too. I liked Dexter a lot.
I did a book talk, about my books, to a book club in Fredericksburg last month, who had read Gone Girl as one of their selections last year, and they hated it – and hated the movie even more. Characters who are flawed, but basically decent enough that I can sympathize with them – as Michael H said – that’s OK. Nasty, vicious characters being nasty and manipulative and altogether horrible is interesting in the sense of watching two ant colonies destroy each other.
I enjoyed Gone Girl. But I have a somewhat warped sense of humor and viewed that blissful union as the Marriage From Hell.
Political Cheerleading – I like that term.
Hollywood is rife with that requirement.
When Doud is complaining about it now maybe there is hope.
Feminism’s closest intellectual relatives are Nazism and Communism. It portrayed itself and was accepted as otherwise, but its masque slowly wears away. Judgment will not be found until common knowledge holds feminism to be another totalitarianism of the 20th century.
I do not recall the author — possibly Max Hastings? — but he writes of a Soviet officer being punished for “borgeois humanitarianism” because he tried to get his men to quit raping every female in sight when they marched into Germany at the end of the Second World War.
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