Ayn Rand on the Big Screen

From Dangerous Minds, I see that a movie based on Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is scheduled to hit theaters in April. This is the first movie of a projected trilogy.

Now that both The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged are going to be movie trilogies, it seems a good time to remember the words of John Rogers:

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.


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  • dutchhobbit

    Orcs, you got to have orcs.

  • http://malvond.wordpress.com/ Malvond

    I haven’t read it, so maybe my judgment is unfair, but as a purely cinematic piece that movie looks TERRIBLE.

    • I Go Pogp

      I have read it (in adolescence) and as a cinematic piece the movie looks TERRIBLE.

  • George

    I wonder. After the first movie doesn’t end up making any money, will they bother with the next two?

    • http://ohmatron.wordpress.com/ Custador

      Nothing is so easily parted as a credulous theist and their money…

      • Elemenope

        The irony is that Ayn Rand had no patience or respect whatsoever for theism. Say what you will about her (and I could say a lot, not much of it good), but her veneration by religious zealots would not have been reciprocated.

        • drax

          I love how the right wing love to trot out Ayn Rand as a champion of capitalism, but they never mention her atheism. Also, I’m pretty sure she accepted social security and medicaire when her health began to fail.

    • JohnMWhite

      While they are not exactly related, I think it would be interesting to see if this movie succeeds in breeding a trilogy where His Dark Materials failed. I’m quite sure it will largely be the god-botherers who tried their level best to put The Golden Compass off course who will lap this one up.

      • Siberia

        Well, The Golden Compass failed pretty epically as a movie… but that might be just sheer incompetence, since the books are pretty sweet.

        • http://itiswritan.blogspot.com/ elivent

          I don’t think it was incompetance so much as the fact that, as far as I can remember, the studio caved to pressure from religious protesters and sanitized it of…well, everything. Chris Weitz (the director) refused to talk about it, but the consensus was that he was actually pretty heartbroken over the whole thing.

          • Siberia

            Mrh, perhaps. I wouldn’t doubt that, considering they’d probably never, ever get to do the third book anyway. Whatever remained of the film was (to me) a nonsensical jumble of scenes from the book, so…

      • trj

        There has no doubt been pressure from religious factions, but let’s face it – that movie wasn’t very good. Crappy CGI, bad editing, main characters with no depth.

  • elivent

    Agree with @Malvond. This looks really, seriously bad.

  • LRA

    Hahaha! I read “Atlas Shrugged” when I was in my early 20′s and I just HATED it! What a gawd-awful book!

    And now we have a Tea Party senator named after that foolishness whose father may make a bid for president.


    • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com Geds

      Hey, hey. He wasn’t named after Ayn Rand. His name is really Randy, but his wife called him Rand. I mean, who would seriously name their kid after Ayn Rand. That’s crazy talk.

      And that cover story is, like, totally believable. Because everyone knows that when your wife gives you a pet name you are required to then use it on your resume and in every aspect of your professional life. That’s why I currently work with a guy named Honey Bear Jones and another dude named You Cheating Bastard Smith…

      • Robert Jase

        You have no idea how glad I was that after my divorce I no longer had to use Fucking-Asshole as my legal first name.

  • Zinn

    The fact that they apparently couldn’t attract any other than B-list actors to the project is the first clue that it could be as bad as the movie they made of The Fountainhead.

    I’ll admit I got a bit swept up in Rand around the time I was 18 and read pretty much everything she ever wrote. Then, at some point, I became an adult.

    There is some old footage of her on the Donahue show not long befroe her death where she comes off as rather sad, bitter, and pathetic-


    • George

      “I’ll admit I got a bit swept up in Rand around the time I was 18 and read pretty much everything she ever wrote. Then, at some point, I became an adult.”

      That’s exactly my story, except I started reading her crap probably around age 16. It’s amazing how drawn to her “philosophy” the adolescent mind can be. Unfortunately, some people never grow out of it.

    • RedCarnage

      This is a serious question. What is your beef with Ayn Rand? I looked into Objectivism and it is not for me but I do agree with the spirit of what she advocates.
      I know here movement seems cultish but as far as I can tell she is a Atheist and a Capitalist. I do not have a problem with either on of those.

      So please enlighten me.

      • http://lydiafromtexas.wordpress.com/ LRA
        • RedCarnage

          Thanks for replying. I have read the article and I have problems with it. The numbers refer to his ten reasons.

          1) A pure Laissez-Faire capitalism is probably bad. But that is not what Alan Greenspan implemented. I do believe in capitalism with some government involvement but we have had to much government involvement not less.

          2) I think everyone here that reads Unreasonable Faith would have a problem with what the author of the article is saying here. I believe reason is the only way to solve our problems.

          3) Whatever flaws she has personally still does not negate the value of her philosophy.
          This seems like a ad hominem attack.

          4) I agree we are all in this together, so every man for himself philosophy, I believe does not work. But I think Ayn Rand is saying that forced charity does not work either. I think all charity so be private.

          5) This is just like 2.

          6) I haven’t read the book so I can’t comment on this point.

          7) I think here again FACTS do trump feelings. I think we all can agree on this.

          8) In a real sense yes he does, I think you should do what is right for yourself as long it doesn’t conflict with the rights of others.

          9) This might be true but still is does not say anything about the truthfulness of her philosophy

          10) What is wrong with CEO’s. There are good ones and bad ones. Let the market sort them out.

          After reading the article I think what people have a problem is with how her ideas are implemented. I like the core ideas and to equate it with Marxism and Absolute Monarchy is not correct.

          The people that are involved in Objectivism might be bad but I still think there is something to the core principles.

          I think Reason and Capitalism are good foundations for a society. The devil is all in the details and implementation.

          • http://lydiafromtexas.wordpress.com/ LRA

            Ayn Rand is not a philosopher. She is considered laughable in serious scholarly circles. Marx is at least taken as a serious philosophers.

            My personal disgust of her stems from her “greed is good” ideology. Sorry, but greed is not now, nor has it ever, been good.

            • RedCarnage

              I want to clarify I am not defending Ayn Rand. But what I am defending is the overall idea, that reason and free markets can solve a lot of problems.
              ‘Greed is good’ sounds a little simplistic. But allowing people to create whatever they want with minimal obstructions sounds like a good thing. If they create something that is not good it should be allowed to fail.

            • http://lydiafromtexas.wordpress.com/ LRA

              The problem is the consolidation of power by the corporations who then crush their competition. How is that a free market?

              So what “libertarians” are advocating for isn’t really a free market. A free market would allow the little guy an actual fighting chance.

            • Elemenope

              The problem is the consolidation of power by the corporations who then crush their competition. How is that a free market?

              There is a serious argument to be had that such conglomerates and monstrous corporations are only possible because, due to the fact that the government is injected into the marketplace, it is available to be manipulated for unequal gain circumventing the market. The paradigmatic idea is when a company becomes powerful and corrupts a lawmaker to pass a law interfering in the market by disabling its competitors.

              Now, there are also serious discussions to be had about the persistence of market failure in some industries and under some circumstances. But to lay the problem of corporate corruption and monopolization at the feet of the free market is to misunderstand the argument being forwarded by the other side.

            • Francesc

              Uhm… free markets don’t solve problems. This theory is based in a lot of assumptions about markets and consumer reactions that everyday are proved wrong.

            • Revyloution

              Francesc, free markets solve one very important problem:
              How to set value.

              Command economies always fail. They can’t predict if there will be a shortage. When shortages occur, demand out strips production. With no increased price pressure, you get hoarders who increase the shortage problem. Then a black market opens up and sells the items at a price much higher than the free market would have set.

              We don’t have an economic theory that is more efficient at setting an accurate price than the free market.

              That said, it needs to be very tightly regulated and managed to avoid it’s inherent excesses.

            • http://ohmatron.wordpress.com/ Custador

              The diamond market is a good example of this; it’s effectively controlled by a cartel of corporations who take the vast majority of diamonds mined and put them in storage. A tiny fraction are released for sale. The result? Diamond prices are massively hiked due to perceived rarity value which they do not, in fact, have. “Free market” is a massively comlpicated term thanks to the number of different definitions people have for it.

            • trj

              Free markets, ie. capitalism, is overall a superior system. However, the thing to keep in mind is that it is ideally based on certain premises (transparency, fair competition, non-subsidisation or equal subsidisation, easily interchangable products, equal access to market, etc).

              What the right-wing proponents of laissez-faire capitalism tend to conveniently overlook is that these ideal conditions are seldom present in real life. Even ignoring that many companies are willing to break the law, there are lots of political interests, subsidisation and tax issues, oligopolistic control over resources, etc etc, which disrupt the free market mechanics. To dismiss these issues by saying the market can regulate itself is naïve and dishonest.

              Capitalism works, but a certain level of regulation will always be necessary. Unregulated capitalism tends to produce types like Rockefeller who get rich off their monopolies and their political connections.

            • Francesc

              Revylution, the example you are giving here has some problems…

              1.- Free markets doesn’t predict shortage more than a planned economy do -of course, depending on the abilities of the people taking decisions.
              2.- What free markets do is increase the price of the product from the moment they see the future shortage. They don’t produce more. The only thing they can do is import the product if there are excedents somewhere. A planned economy could do that too.
              3.- In case of food shortage free markets allow rich people to keep living too well while poor people simply dies, often in a different country so you don’t have to see them.
              4.- Black market is illegal and pursued -when politicians aren’t too corrupt. Your example is like saying that free market is bad because microsoft don’t allow the competence to do their jobs. No, it shouldn’t be possible.

            • Revyloution

              1- Free markets increase price based on supply and demand. When supply goes down, prices go up. As prices increase, demand decreases. That’s how markets deal with shortages.

              2. A planned economy could increase the price, but they typically move much slower than the free market. First, they need to identify the shortage, then ascribe a new price, then make sure that everyone in the nation is selling at the new price. History shows us that this system works far too slowly. It’s far more efficient to allow the vendor to set the price based on local conditions.

              3. Absolutely true. That’s why you need government funded welfare programs. These safety nets are essential to keeping the poorest citizens from suffering.

              4. No nation anywhere has ever eliminated the black market. Look at the failed ‘War on Drugs’ in the USA. They have fought an aggressive campaign against narcotics for over 30 years. The imprison more people than any other modern nation. Yet you can still buy any drug you want on every street corner in the nation. Like Princess Leia said “The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.”

            • Francesc

              My point in 1 & 2 was that free markets really can’t prevent shortage, what they do is lower the demand by raising the prices. That doesn’t solve the problem, only disguises it.

              3.- The safety net is essential to keep the work force docil, and to mantain enough work force for the employers. Desperated people are dangerous.

              4.- I agree. No nation has ever eliminated black market. No nation has ever eliminated corruption, no political party can do their job without economic fundings from corporations, and still you are theoretically considering that “free market” is not involved in the political power. Does “free market” has anything to do with Iraq war?

            • http://lydiafromtexas.wordpress.com/ LRA

              btw, while reason is definitely a good thing, to believe that it is not informed by emotion is clearly wrong.

              Moral decisions, for example, are underpinned by emotions (or as Hume called it, moral “sense”).

              Rand advocates that compassion is actually an “evil.” In reality, people who lack compassion for others are called “sociopaths”.

              That’s what Rand is to me… a sociopath.

            • Elemenope

              Well, no, what she actually argued was that *compulsory* compassion was an evil. I agree that that emphasis often gets lost (perhaps because she personally was sociopathic), but in her arguments themselves she only ever excoriates the notion that we have an enforceable obligation to others. The idea that a person can, of their own will, care for or have compassion for another is not criticized.

            • RedCarnage

              I agree she is wrong on that. Compassion for others is not evil. The objections to her seem to be based on her as a person. I want to discuss the core values, which seem to have merit but her implementation could be all wrong.

              Feelings should inform decisions but reason should override everything. Because if feelings override reason you have Religion

            • http://lydiafromtexas.wordpress.com/ LRA

              Well, it says in the SEP (and let me tell you that I’m shocked that she’s even there!):

              “As a moral code, altruism is impractical, because its requirements are contrary to the requirements of life and happiness, both the agent’s and other people’s. As such, it is also profoundly immoral.As such, it is also profoundly immoral. Like Kant’s deontology, altruism leave us without any moral guidance in our everyday lives and gives morality a bad name.

              What, then, is the psychological explanation for the widespread equation of altruism with morality? Rand suggests various explanations reminiscent of Nietzsche’s analysis of the psychology of altruism. The theorists and preachers of altruism are motivated largely by a desire to control and manipulate others by playing on their guilt. Those who accept their teachings typically do so either because of guilt over their own superior achievements, or because, lacking any “intellectual integrity, love of truth…or a passionate dedication to an idea,” they have nothing much worth saving, and so do not mind sacrificing it (“Selfishness Without a Self,” 1973b; 1982a). Some altruists are altruists because their mentalities are still frozen in a tribal past when survival required the sacrifice of some for the sake of others (1973b).”


              So, clearly, she thinks of altruism (which I called compassion) as wrong.

            • Elemenope

              So, clearly, she thinks of altruism (which I called compassion) as wrong.

              That’s where you get into trouble. Rand, like most philosophers with bad habits, means something highly technical when she uses some seemingly common words. When she says “altruism” in her works, she is clearly using the term in a specialized way to refer to an enforced ethic of selflessness, and not the more widely used sense of compassion. It is a mistake to read Rand when she writes “altruism” and read “compassion”.

            • http://lydiafromtexas.wordpress.com/ LRA

              Even so, I think what is so disturbing about her notion that altruism is bad is that it flies in the face of multiple moral systems that developed all over the world– the notion of the “golden” or “silver” rules are common ideas in both Eastern and Western ethical systems. Moreover, science is beginning to study underlying emotive processes that lead people to act in moral ways based on both their feelings about a morally questionable situation and their reasonings for justifying actions that they make in that situation.

              Of course, I’m not arguing that just because a bunch of people think compassion/ altruism is good that it is actually good. Rather, I’m arguing that compassion/ altruism is good because compassionate/ altruistic acts, when thoughtfully implemented, has the potential to greatly relieve people’s sufferings and that an organized system (like a government) that is dedicated to this thoughtful implementation to relieve suffering is also good. In my view (as a person concerned with social justice in addition personal liberty), public welfare is good– not only because it has the potential to help people, but because when it is properly funded it *does* help people.

            • http://lydiafromtexas.wordpress.com/ LRA

              I guess what I’m trying to say is that Ayn Rand disgusts me because she doesn’t care one iota about the deep suffering of unfortunate people.

          • Duke York

            10) What is wrong with CEO’s. There are good ones and bad ones. Let the market sort them out.

            The problem is that when the market sorts out the CEOs, it reliably promotes the bad and consigns the good to irrelevance.

            • RedCarnage

              I do not think that is true in general. I think Steve Jobs is a good CEO and he has been rewarded by having very successful companies. The market had everything to do with that success.
              I contend that the bad CEO’s stay in place because the government has subsidized the company in some way and has rewarded the bad behavior.

            • Yoav

              It depends on your definition of a good CEO. Would you consider the CEO of BP (and other oil companies), who increased profits for years by cutting corners on safety and not investing in development of spill response technology, a good CEO? Is a good CEO one who increase profit at all costs or one who acts responsibly and is willing to have a reduced revenue in the short term in exchange for long term sustainability?

            • Francesc

              It is a good CEO from markets point of view, so he is going to be rewarded.

              Anyway, a bad CEO is like a bad coach, he will be fired and become CEO of an other company.

        • Elemenope

          Meh. I have a problem with a few of those criticisms. 3 and 10 may be true, but have precious little to do with whether Rand was “right” in any sense. 4 is not an entirely accurate description of the role of gratitude in Objectivism. 5 is just nonsense (and a more pointed criticism of Objectivism would be that objective reality is not readily prehensible by observation, not that it doesn’t exist). 8 gives short shrift to the complexities of the tension between individual and society, a case where Rand of all people might have thought upon more carefully than this particular critic. 9 verges on anti-intellectual discouragement of exploring challenging ideas (even wrong ones, as I believe Rand’s tend to be) and is clearly not true in most cases anyway; a person can easily read Rand and not be transmuted into an “instant jackass”.

          1, 2, 6, and 7 are fairly on point.

          The real problem with Rand was that she was a derivative and poor philosopher who did not grasp the nuances of thought of those from whom she borrowed nor the consequences of her pronouncements for the integrity of other ideas she held dear. And she was a BAAAAAAAAD writer, just awfully self-indulgent and verging on self-parody.

  • nullefide

    Only thing I know about Atlas Shrugged is that (I believe) Bioshock had a lot of basis on the book’s ideas, and I love Bioshock. Not a big fan of the “everyone for themselves” ideals, but I do love reading fiction/playing games/watching movies about the fall out and consequences of such ideas.

    Why couldn’t they make a Bioshock movie instead of this really uninteresting looking movie? I’d probably pay money to go see a Bioshock movie. I won’t waste a dime on this train nonsense.

    • Yabo

      Last I heard someone was in the process of getting a Bioshock movie in the works.

      And yes, Objectivism is a huge part of Andrew Ryan’s goal of Rapture.

      I am a Bioshock freak.

      • Twin-Skies


        Ah, then would you help me confirm my suspicions regarding the ideologies that Bioshock 2 and Bioshock Infinite are taking stabs at? :)

        Bioshock 2 = Communism
        Bioshock Infinite = Western Imperialism

        • Yabo

          You are correct sir!

  • Zinn

    “There is a serious argument to be had that such conglomerates and monstrous corporations are only possible because, due to the fact that the government is injected into the marketplace, it is available to be manipulated for unequal gain circumventing the market.”

    And an equally serious one that says that monstrous corporations (which are little more than a contrived fiction to evade taxes and liability, made possible only by governmental collusion) left to themselves think and act mostly in the short term and for the few, with little concern for society as a whole, or for simple things most desire like justice.

    Rivers have to literally catch on fire, entire species extinguished, entire ecosystems poisoned for generations, before a corporation will do anything about it and then only minimally and with the short term in mind without being compelled to do otherwise by the people via the government. The more the market is “free”, the more disasters like this occur and harm is done to the environment, i.e. *us*. The “free” market can do far too much lasting damage before it will self-correct.

    They will also, without the restrictions of law, use whatever means possible, ethical or not, to increase market share including but not limited to selling below cost (for a time) to destroy competitors who might otherwise, with a compulsory level playing field, been given a chance to try new ideas, technologies, etc. that are better for society as a whole, and not just better at enriching the few.

    The “free” market is a utopian fantasy. Capitalism isn’t entirely evil, but it must be heavily regulated to bring the best outcomes. This is a messy, imperfect business but it’s the best we have for now.

    • http://ohmatron.wordpress.com/ Custador

      For example: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-12460333

      Of course, if it was a comparitively minor act of negligent polution by a foreign corporation in American territory, there’d be hell to pay – But Chevron can fuck-over anybody they like for a buck. I sincerely doubt they’ll ever pay a red cent of that fine, either. Bastards.

    • Elemenope

      Free competition has nothing to do with environmental regulation. The government (who, as you point out, creates the necessary but kludgey legal fiction of corporations in the first place) set the ground rules by which all must abide, which can include what environmental standards must be met. The problem becomes that when government is engaged in forming ground rules, the process of setting those rules is a ripe target for manipulation. There are also problems of liability and enforcement that are made worse by being amenable to corruption. These structural problems, too, have little to do with free competition.

      It seems like your real beef is that government doesn’t act appropriately to discourage abuses by levying actual liability or enforcing its existing regulations. Those are real problems. Don’t lay them at the wrong feet.

      • Zinn

        Environmental issues are just one way in which the problems inherent in Rand’s capitalist dogma manifest themselves. At the core, really, is a Utopian ideal and over-simplification of human behavior that doesn’t jibe with humanity and/or human psychology as we experience it in the real, observable world.

        She exalts laissez-faire capitalism as inherently a morally superior system without, IMO, convincing support. Achievement, striving for excellence, bold new ideas, are one side and avarice, greed, favoring personal material wealth over the good of humanity, are on the other side of the coin which is capitallism. All can be found in the same person, but to Rand there are only two types of people. By not coming to terms with the other side of the coin, Rand’s ideas crumble into dogma.

        It was mentioned earlier that emotion over reason is religion. But dogma based on a myopic, incomplete, nuance-less pretense of reason can become a religion just the same.

        • RedCarnage

          Your last point is a very good one. I think the real answer is somewhere in the middle.
          We need free markets with some government regulation, esp to prevent monopolies. But it is the free market jobs to innovate and create value. Government cannot do that.

          So the things I like about Objectivism is that there is a reality out there, reason can deduce it and the role of government should be small.

  • Revyloution

    Ouch. I was one of those bookish 14 year olds.

    I have to admit that reading Rand crippled me until my 30′s. I think it was learning that all railroads in the world needed government assistance to get started, and regularly needed government subsidies to keep running, that started the death of my Objectivism. Suddenly, Dagny Taggart was just another fat corporate opportunist getting rich from government subsidies. It just snowballed from there until I landed as a liberal progressive.

    I think I need to make a video explaining how to convert a libertarian or an objectivist.

  • lil_abner

    Maybe Alan Greenspan will see it 200 million times.

  • Mieu

    I only got to read her books like 2-3 years ago.

    I like Ayn Rand and her books (non-fiction; the novels put me to sleep), her way of writing quite influenced me, but I can’t help but sense some problems amongst her reasoning because it makes too many assumptions and overall just too idealistic to be possible.

    Guess it is just too much like what I grew up with (a localized version of Marxist philosophy? Now you know where I came from :D) only on the other side of the coin. But that’s still good because true rational people need to read everything possible and decide for herself. :)

  • Eleanor

    Ha, I read Atlas Shrugged because I was fascinated with the references in Bioshock. I suppose I was extremely lucky that I read it just before learning my American history. And while her Objectivism changed my views on a lot of things, it lasted only a few days. I’m not too quick to attack Rand or the novel because I -am- still a bookish teenager, and enjoyed the book… as fiction. Not as a life-changing code.