When I watch movies or television, I tend to divide them into RedState and BlueState. The two viewpoints speak to more than just political voting patterns. They’re ways of looking at the world. Mostly secular, mostly urban Blue Staters look through one metaphoric window while often religious, often suburban or rural Red Staters are looking through a completely different one.
It’s all about the level of tolerance for irony and/or sincerity. RedState, in extreme, will tend toward saccharine while BlueState, in extreme, will veer into nihilism.
Here are the films that, in their mindset, most reflect RedState and BlueState sensibilities. To clarify: It’s not about quality. All these films are well made and entertaining to various degrees. It’s about the assumptions the filmmakers make in the world they create.
What do you think? Do you agree? Any movies I neglected to include?
Red State Movies
Blue State Movies
All about bulging muscles, fast cars, and faster racing, this movie unapologetically guzzles gas and fights the bad guys.
It’s not smart. It’s not conflicted. It’s just fun.
Earnings: $209,837,675 *
*Earnings reports are Domestic Gross via BoxOfficeMojo.com
Midwestern insurance salespeople meet every year for a convention in Cedar Rapids, a banal bacchanalia of petty rivalries, overdrinking in hotel bars, and sad affairs.
It has its funny moments, to be sure, but the ultimate meaninglessness of life and love in the Midwest makes it very cynical.
When Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), the manager of the Oakland A’s, applies Yale economic principles to his selection of team players, he rewrites the way the game is played. With excellent acting and an interesting story, this is a good movie.
The thing that makes it RedState is that it’s all about innovation. Whether in business or sport (or MLB, which is both), if things aren’t working right, the smart find a way to innovate. They find an edge that beats the competition. Some people (in this case, traditional talent scouts) whine that it’s not the way things are done and that they’re being left behind, but innovation ultimately makes everyone more successful.
Do you want to win or are you happy with losing? It’s that simple.
Innovation and hard work made our country great. This film was a refreshing tribute to them. More of this, please, Hollywood!
In the future, time has replaced money as currency. You use minutes to buy coffee, days to pay rent. The poor live on a margin of only a few hours while the rich have millenia in the bank. When you run out, you die.
Although there is “plenty of time to go around,” the rich control it all. They go even further: They arbitrarily raise prices to kill off the have-nots in the ghettos. Timberlake and Seyfried play Robin Hood meets Bonnie and Clyde, robbing the rich and spreading the wealth around.
This movie is the perfect rallying call for Occupy Wall Street. The basic economic principles of supply and demand don’t exist here. It’s tick-tock communism. Only by equalizing income can we find justice. The poor work hard for very little while the rich don’t work at all. Innovation, sacrifice, and hard work mean nothing here because there is no opportunity. Review here.
When nasty, murderous aliens invade Santa Monica, who takes a stand against them?
The boys and girls of the United States Marine Corps, that’s who.
They don’t stop to apologize. They just get out their big guns and blow the aliens away.
Roger Ebert called it “noisy, violent, ugly and stupid.” It has a 35% ranking on Rotten Tomatoes. My review is here. I’m not saying it’s Oscar material. The script is weak. However, I suspect some of the negative reaction on the part of BlueState critics is due to the complete lack of irony, the refusal of the soldiers to be conflicted about killing their enemies, their unabashed (and sometimes corny) patriotism and nobility, and the gleeful use of big guns.
It’s the epitome of peace through strength.
Cameron Diaz plays a teacher completely uninterested in her job, so much so that she plays movies during class and does drugs in the parking lot while undermining the earnest and annoyingly cheerful good teacher across the hall.
The movie is a showcase of cynicism. It sits in the back of the class and laughs at all the goodie two-shoes who actually care about what they do or about the world around them.
The film is totally committed to the character, never really showing her reforming or beginning to care. That’s where it draws its humor (along with R-rated shocks), and it is quite funny at times.
The bad teacher is the opposite of Battle: Los Angeles’s Marines who nobly (and a bit cornily) do their jobs. She would never do anything noble. What a joke.
Two estranged brothers compete in the same Ultimate Fight Club championship, with their newly sober father coaching one of them. It’s an almost Shakespearean story of a family fighting their way back together, literally.
The blue collar nature of the film and unapologetic testosterone make it RedState. The men don’t show their feelings through their words, but punch out their feelings in the ring. Plus, one brother is a US Marine back from Afghanistan, a tour that is thorny but treated with respect.
This movie is number two on our List of Best movies of 2011.
Kirsten Dunst plays Justine, a woman so depressed she cannot function in life. She sees no point in love, in family, in work, in anything really. Life is just a cosmic mistake and all these things are just ways we distract ourselves from this truth.
Fortunately for her, but not for everyone else, a planet is on a collision course with Earth, just to prove her right. As human extinction nears, Justine welcomes it as one welcomes a lover.
The universe means nothing.
This Lars von Trier film is gorgeous in its imagery and cinematography, fantastic in its acting, powerful in its message, and occasionally darkly funny. It is also the ultimate expression of a secular scientific mindset.
The Margaret Thatcher biopic (review here), coming January 13, allows Thatcher to be Thatcher. And, of course, the former British Prime Minister stood on her principles of a free enterprise system, hard work, and military might. The movie approaches its subject carefully a-politically, but Thatcher’s words are stirring.
People must work for their place in life, she believes. If you consider yourself to be right, she argues, compromise is a mistake. Stand on your principles or you will not stand at all.
Sounds RedState to me. I wonder what British for “RedState” is.
This movie is number four on our List of Best Movies of 2011.
Also about the political world, this film about a presidential primary stars George Clooney and Ryan Gosling. Whereas “The Iron Lady” glories in sticking to principle, this movie is about the loss of principle.
The politician (Clooney) in whom the young staffer (Gosling) believes so passionately, has feet of clay. In order to serve the ideas in which he believes, Gosling must choose whether or not to sacrifice principle. In the high stakes world of presidential politics, no one is a friend or trustworthy. Review here.
Loss of innocence, conflicted motives, deep irony, and a whiff of cynicism. So very BlueState.