Arthur Penn died, the director of Bonnie & Clyde (1967). Who besides me remembers when that came out? It was a good movie, but it set some things in motion that resonate in Hollywood to this day. For one thing, since it flagrantly flouted the Production Code (Hollywood’s self-policing limits on sex, violence, bad language, and immoral themes), that code was replaced the very next year with today’s permissive rating system.
Ed Driscoll resurrects an interview that leftwing journalist Rick Perlstein did for Reason magazine in 2008. Perstein hails Bonnie & Clyde as a key “text” of the New Left.
Reason: You like to mix cultural history with political history. Bonnie and Clyde is one of the central texts in the book.
Perlstein: My theory is that Bonnie and Clyde was the most important text of the New Left, much more important than anything written by Paul Goodman or C. Wright Mills or Regis Debray. It made an argument about vitality and virtue vs. staidness and morality that was completely new, that resonated with young people in a way that made no sense to old people. Just the idea that the outlaws were the good guys and the bourgeois householders were the bad guys—you cannot underestimate [sic] how strange and fresh that was.
Notice that, to this advocate of the movement, the agenda of the New Left was not economic (like the old left) or even political (like the New Deal liberals). Rather, it is precisely moral and cultural.