The “culture wars” have been a feature of American politics for almost a century, but recently a number of commentators have declared their end. Conservatives have lost, swept aside by a wave of enthusiasm for marriage equality and sexualized mass culture, and so liberals, the reasoning goes, must have won. But conflating the lessons of a winner-take-all political system and the state of pop culture obscures an important point: in television, movies, and music, just because conservative ideals are receding does not mean that liberalism has won.
“Liberal social values are deeply embedded in our culture, from pretty much everything on TV outside the Christian channels at the fringe of the channel lineup, to any movie of note,” Markos Moulitsas wrote on April 14. “ ‘Captain America’ has grossed nearly half a billion in 10 days, with its overtly civil-libertarian and anti-neocon message. I mean, Captain America is saying that a fear-based (read: Republican) foreign policy is not the ‘American Way.’ For a crowd that flinches at any notion of sex, it’s gotta be impossible to escape sexual imagery, from advertising to media to Miley Cyrus’ latest whatever-the-hell she is doing.”
In New York Magazine, Jonathan Chait made a similar argument:
“You don’t have to be an especially devoted consumer of film or television (I’m not) to detect a pervasive, if not total, liberalism. Americans for Responsible Television and Christian Leaders for Responsible Television would be flipping out over the modern family in “Modern Family,” not to mention the girls of “Girls” and the gays of “Glee,” except that those groups went defunct long ago. The liberal analysis of the economic crisis has been widely reflected.”
, even blatantly so, in movies like “Margin Call,” “Too Big to Fail,” and the “Wall Street” sequel. . . . The muscular Rambo patriotism that briefly surged in the eighties, and seemed poised to return after 9/11, has disappeared.”