Yesterday I read something that fascinated me. Alyssa Rosenberg at Think Progress wrote an article that sounded like a conservative should have written it – but sadly, it took someone from the Left to notice. Have conservatives been blinded by their prejudice against Hollywood? I think so.
It’s common practice to lash out at “liberal” Hollywood or an immoral entertainment industry. Unfortunately, in doing so, we can easily miss the underlying conservative themes that prevail – the themes that actually prove those values are still cherished by most people.
Rosenberg’s piece, “At the Grammy’s, Beyonce and Jay-Z Made the Case for Marriage that Conservatives Can’t” is a rebuttal to conservative writer Ross Douthat’s piece on marriage. She argues that Douthat completely misses the value of marriage that is portrayed in the entertainment industry all the time, citing Jay-Z and Beyonce’s flirty, married performance at the Grammy’s as the prime example.
“Sure, American popular culture involves a lot of depiction of sex out of wedlock. But it also remains deeply invested in the idea that marriage is a desirable end goal, a dream that exerts an almost gravitational pull on participants.”
I was immediately pulled in – really? The Hollywood that depicts Republicans as greedy philanderers? The Hollywood that comes out by the hundreds to support lefty politicians and policies? Yep, that’s the one – and the examples are numerous. . Rosenberg did the hard work by breaking out some of these examples for us:
In The 40-Year-Old Virgin, the titular sexual novice starts out simply trying to find a one-night stand and ends up waiting to have sex until he gets married to a fantastic woman that he meets along the way. The recent crop of middle-class-women-deciding-to-have-babies-on-their-own movies exhibits a similar trend: in Baby Mama (2008), The Switch (2010), The Back-Up Plan (also 2010), all the women who are trying to have children by themselves end up engaged or married by the ends of the film, and the sour indie on the same theme, Friends With Kids (2011), ends with its upper-middle-class participants at least contemplating a stable partnership.
Television characters have more sex for the sake of drama, but even the small screen’s most notorious bachelor, Barney Stinson (the gay and engaged Neil Patrick Harris, one might note), is tying the knot on How I Met Your Mother. Happy marriages abound on television, ranging from the upper-middle-class ones on Modern Family, to the very funny one that also serves as a model for co-parenting after divorce on Trophy Wife, to the partnership between a domestic and a landscaper in Raising Hope. In fact, it’s a landscape that’s increasingly counter to the world that makes Douthat so anxious, a world in which marriage is for everyone, rather than a luxury good or a lifestyle choice.
Wow, those are pretty good, aren’t they? And there are even more. Consider the popularity of “The Bachelor,”a show whose entire premise is based on getting married. Most recently, Sean Lowe and Catherine Giudici tied the knot this week and the emphasis of the live, televised wedding was the fact that they had waited for marriage to have sex. Even for young conservatives these days, waiting until marriage is a rare practice.
Consider a couple other Hollywood marriages – Matt Damon and his wife, Luciana, have four children and always look googily in love. Same with Matthew McConaughey, and Mark Wahlberg.
One reason some conservative groups fail to see the value behind Beyonce and Jay-Z is because they refuse to accept marriage unless it’s just as they see fit. If that’s the case, they won’t be winning any culture wars any time soon.
Beyonce’s lyrics to “Drunk in Love” are very risqué and sexual, her performance pretty much the same, but hello?! She’s singing with and about her husband – the one she married and had a baby with after they were married.
I’ve heard it time and again – it’s the CULTURE and much of the Right (not all –and it’s getting better) has a hard time getting a handle on it. Well, embrace it people – embrace it in the sexuality within hip, healthy marriages and highlight to good things Hollywood does do to promote the principles we already support. Maybe they are a little buried but unpack them, notice them and pat Hollywood on the back for delivering.
The problem with Douthat’s column isn’t that he’s wrong – it’s that like most on the Right, he relies solely on numbers, polls, research and policy talk. Where are the real life examples that everyday people are interested in and can relate to their own lives? Non-existent.
Rosenberg finishes this thought better than I could:
“But if conservatives want to sell Americans on marriage, maybe they have to talk more about the bliss half of wedded bliss, to think about the desire part of making marriage desirable. And maybe the entertainment industry that Douthat’s singled out as the enemy of marriage has something to add to the case for marital happiness. If marriage is a product that conservatives desperately want to sell, the smartest thing they could do right now is to hire Beyoncé and Jay-Z as a product spokescouple.”
Hear hear. Let’s start paying attention to what the culture IS doing right and celebrate it. Numbers and policy talk are good – but tangible examples that pique the interest of entertainment-obsessed Americans are even better.
Drunk in love? More conservatives should strive for this goal.