Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Patriotism Preps for a Comeback

From James Poulos, at Heat Street, "Making Patriotism Cool Again":
If Donald Trump is right about one thing, it’s that America doesn’t win enough. But aside from the obvious issue that we don’t want to live in a loser nation, there’s a follow-on problem even worse than the first. So many elites seem so phony and venal that patriotism has started to feel that way too. Exhibit A? Marco Rubio’s cheerful, red-blooded campaign tanked in the polls, even after he tried to spice it up with smackdowns. It goes downhill from there—as Trump himself makes painfully clear.

Fortunately, there’s good news. Even though Rubio’s fresh face was a false dawn, today’s rising generations are poised to do something even more important than making America great again. They’re going to make patriotism cooler—and more authentic in the bargain.

Now, there’s no doubt that trying to hype up classic and serious principles can lead to disaster. Everyone’s eyes roll when elites take a “hey, kids!” approach to citizenship, the Constitution, even the bare minimum of voting. Patriotically minded institutions can’t just save themselves.

Yet one of the many lines that has blurred away in our shadowy and uncertain times is the once-sturdy barrier between authentic cool and intentional cool. For Gen-Xers, that’s a bit of a shock. Even five years ago, it’s easy to guess, a musical theater production about the Revolutionary era would not have made anyone “down” with the Founders. Today, however, Hamilton is a runaway hit—precisely because it celebrates America in a deep way with a sharp edge, at a time when we’re all so hungry for that.

Of course, you can make a trend out of just about anything that sells, so get ready for hotshot director Zack Snyder to make good on his plans for a Washington movie in the kinetic, comic-book style of 300.

But Snyder’s scheme isn’t another one-off or part of a fleeting trend. It wasn’t so long ago that his lowbrow style would be seen as a hopeless mismatch with such highbrow material. For all the justifiable mockery aimed at our glut of superhero franchises, the flourishing graphic-novel trend that spawned them has actually done the culture a massive service: finding a way back to the sweet spot of middlebrow, which at its height—hello, Mad Max—can be as gripping, and potent a piece of art as opera or Shakespeare...
Keep reading.