Random note on politics in Meyer's films  

wiloma 47M
3 posts
1/17/2006 11:39 am

Last Read:
3/5/2006 9:27 pm

Random note on politics in Meyer's films

At first, it might seem odd that Russ Meyer was a lifelong, dyed-in-the-wool Democrat. But this is more a statement about the sorry state of the Democratic party than it is about Russ Meyer. Sure, Meyer believed deeply in the Horatio Alger myth of a tiny, insignificant man who "pulls himself up by his own bootstraps" and becomes a respectable (and usually wealthy) hero. Sure he held firm opinions about the evils of drugs. Many of his films feature the rural redneck, like Mudhoney, Lorna, and Beneath the Valley of the Ultravixens. He thought that being in the Army in World War Two was the best time of his life. Vixen pretty clearly shows Meyer's anti-communist stance, wherein the protagonist draft-dodger returns to the US as a renewed patriot.

But I wonder: why does that necessarily seem "conservative"? Perhaps it's not. Perhaps the real failing is that the Democratic party has completely written off the rural blue-collar types and has essentially sold itself off to an urban liberalism that has no real relevance to the lives that rural citizens live. If so, it is not the fault of the farmer, or the truck driver, or construction worker that they are out of touch with the Democrats. Rather, the Democrats themselves are out of touch.

The forces of evil, such as they are, in Meyer's films are Nazis, preachers, cops and Moral Majority types: hypocrites who want to tell people how to live, what to think, how full of sin they are, and how they must be delivered from the evil of having money they haven't tithed to the Church. If you add in multinational corporations, the list of enemies against mankind would resemble my own, and I'm hardly a Republican. These are also not necessarily "conservative" enemies; I'm sure Meyer could add militant feminists to the genre without any change in the satire. Meyer's point is, I think, simply to be wary of anything that impinges on your freedom, whether government or private interests be involved. Too often this becomes a partisan argument: only decry the people that might not donate to your campaign.

There is, I think, a deeper America that has been lost in the partisan argument, and which Meyer represents. Even though the settings of his films is bucolic, it is so in the sense of Li'l Abner's Dogpatch. The small town setting is simply a convenient locale to satirize all of modern life through the eyes of quaint, ingenuous folk. It is no secret, and no surprise, that Meyer loved Al Capp, and Meyer is in some senses the cinematic translation of Capp. The naive belief in an America where everyone can succeed if they just work hard enough, an America where anyone can be President, and an America where freedom is prized above all does not stand much scrutiny by urban cynics. Yet it is a deep-seated and, I think, a valuable belief. It is a naivete that expresses a great optimism about our country, and I think that optimism has a real value.

rm_phoundrx7 39M
340 posts
1/17/2006 12:35 pm

Very well put. It is optimism that will save the day. It is only a matter of timing.

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