Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Last "Good" War?

Gloria Steinem graces the digital pages of Huffpo with this little rant about "chick flicks" of all things. Not about the flicks themselves, but rather about the label, which she predictably finds objectionable. How does Steinem define the "chick flick"? Well:

So what exactly is a "chick flick?" I think you and I could probably agree that it has more dialogue than special effects, more relationships than violence, and relies for its suspense on how people live instead of how they die.

Well, if nothing else, Steinem is still good at loading the dice. Your average Meg Ryan vehicle has about as much to do with the way people actually live as Terminator III. "Chick flicks" aren't just about relationships and dialogue; they are stylized dramas designed to create a certain type of emotional catharsis in the audience. We call them "chick flicks" because the type of catharsis which they they create is enjoyed mostly by women.

Steinem wants a new category of movie:

If the "chick flick" label helps you to avoid the movies you don't like, why is there no label to guide you to the ones you do like?

Just as there are "novelists" and then "women novelists," there are "movies" and then "chick flicks." Whoever is in power takes over the noun -- and the norm -- while the less powerful get an adjective. Thus, we read about "African American doctors" but not "European American doctors," "Hispanic leaders" but not "Anglo leaders," "gay soldiers" but not "heterosexual soldiers," and so on.

That's also why you're left with only half a guide. As usual, bias punishes everyone. Therefore I propose, as the opposite of "chick flick" and an adjective of your very own, "prick flick."

Very funny. Steinem, is factually wrong when she says there are "movies' and then there are "chick flicks." In fact, we have a label for the sort of film which she derides: we call them "action movies." Granted, it's a stupid label -- nearly all movies contain action, presumably including Andy Warhol's Sleep (which for the record I have not seen). But it does convey, even if partially, in that in an action movie the main conflict is physical not emotional.

Whereas in your average Meg Ryan vehicle, it's about falling in love and overcoming (usually artificial) obstacles to being with one's beloved. Given the fact that a group of typical little boys will spend hours building buildings out of blocks and then destroying them, while a group of typical little girls will spend hours figuring out who is whose best friend, it is hardly surprising that men prefer movies about doing stuff, while women prefer, well, chick flicks. This seems to be yet another byproduct of human sexual dimorphism. Of course Steinem can't say that, because she has spent the last umpteen years denying the fact of human sexual dimorphism while at the same time bashing men. And her new label is great for that purpose, as it allows her to call a guy a prick if he likes movies that don't appeal to her.

So much for her bit of cultural exegesis. If that were it, Steinem's post would be barely worth noticing. What really stuck in my craw was almost an aside. In discussing World War II movies, she says almost offhand: "After all, World War II was the last war in which this country was clearly right."


You can argue the merits of certain wars -- the current Iraq War, Vietnam, the Grenada invasion. But she isn't doing that. She said that World War II was the last war in which the United States was clearly right. Contrary to her casual assertion, the United States was clearly correct in at least three of the wars it's fought since World War II: Korea, the first Gulf War, and Afghanistan.

The Korean War was a war of aggression launched by North Korean communists in an attempt to establish a communist dictatorship in the entire country. While, as the Wikipedia article on the North Korean human rights record indicates, it's hard to get a full picture of what goes on in North Korea, it's clear that it ain't good. They have no civil rights -- no right to criticize the government, or practice religion, or do any of the basic things all of us -- including Ms. Steinem -- take for granted. Their management of their economy is worse than the usual communist average, which is very bad indeed. People starve to death in North Korea. It is one of the most bizarre, brutal, despotic dictatorships in the entire history of the human race -- and that's saying something. But Steinem thinks we weren't "clearly right" in preventing the whole country from being like that.

While Saddam Hussein wasn't as brutal as Kim Il-sung and his son Kim Jong-il, he was still a piece of work. His invasion of Kuwait was an unprovoked war of aggression -- pure brigandage. He apparently thought we were just going to let him get away with it. The fact that Saddam's WMD program turned out to be, well, less than advertised this time around, but as Ross Douthat recently observed, we were shocked in 1991 to discover how far advanced it had been. Given the current mess in Iraq, many are tempted to act as if Saddam Hussein was always nothing but a bad joke. The fact is that a nuclear-armed Saddam Hussein who controlled Iraq's and Kuwait's oil would have been a menace. Again, the United States and its allies were clearly right to kick him out and end his nuclear program.

Finally, Afghanistan. If the United States isn't clearly right in responding to an actual physical attack on our nation, then we can never be right. I mean, by implication she is saying that the war in Afghanistan was not justified. While you can take issue with how it was waged, it was clearly a response to a direct physical attack. I'm speechless.

The "Blame America First" left: still at it.

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