Blame Kevin Kline? - Macleans.ca

Blame Kevin Kline?

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Not really, but I was reading Felix Salmon on the foolishness of equating government finances with a single family’s finances (the “families tighten their belts and so should the government” thing, which you hear politicians say a lot regardless of ideology, and which doesn’t even apply to actual families). He half-seriously places the blame on the Ivan Reitman movie Dave, one of those inspiring Capraesque comedies about how we could solve our problems if Those Clowns in The Capital would get together and use some Common Sense. (Reitman’s Canadian, so we can’t even blame this idea on the Americans alone.) It’s an idea that’s so wrong in so many ways, but it forms the basis of most movies about politics – that there is some kind of Common Sense solution that both sides could agree on if they’d just stop posturing.

The idea that there are serious differences about politics is not very popular in movies and TV; even the serious, dark ones tend to lean toward the idea that there are no real differences between parties, which is not that different from the idea that partisan politics are getting in the way of common goals. So what we get is Dave and lines like “if I ran my business this way, I’d be out of business.”

This whole Common Sense fallacy is, ironically, one of the few things that is genuinely bipartisan, since the mantle of Common Sense is claimed by people on all points on the political spectrum. But it’s especially popular in Hollywood.

Anyway, I don’t think (and Salmon doesn’t either, I’m sure) Dave is to blame for people thinking that a government can be run like any other business, but it certainly was part of a trend in ’90s movies, a longing for someone like Dave or Forrest Gump or The American President to come along and fix everything through simple, transcendent values and beliefs. It never works out.

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