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Politics in Fiction

Banes at 12:00AM, July 19, 2018

There was recently a Provincial Election in the part of Canada where I live, and there's a Federal Election coming up in about a year.

With the brouhaha going on in the world these days about politics and the divisions between many people that are resulting from it, I figured it's a subject worth raising.

What interests me specifically is the inclusion of real world Politics in movies. This is a subject that has exploded online in recent months.

We've talked on the Quackcast about movies like Elysium as being preachy and annoying, regardless of our beliefs on the themes of that film - but real Politics in movies seemed to really accelerate with the remake of Ghostbusters in 2016, and then Star Wars The Last Jedi at the end of 2017.

(see? I told you I could wring a few Newsposts out of this Star Wars stuff!)

Oddly enough, Star Wars seems to be a bigger deal as far as outrage and Political fights, even though it was Ghostbusters creatives that got themselves more involved with the 2016 US Election, the director claiming the movie endorsed one candidate over the other (to the chagrin of Sony Pictures, the studio behind the movie). The bigger battle over Star Wars is probably because Star Wars is a bigger deal than Ghostbusters, with a larger fanbase.

Among other criticisms, people “protesting” Star Wars are saying that the injection of real life, current-year Politics into the movie have no place in this kind of entertainment. Defenders say that Star Wars has had Political storylines in the past - and the counter argument is that the similarities to the real world were more thematic and at least somewhat vague in previous movies, while the issues in The Last Jedi are preachy and have been shoehorned in to the detriment of telling a good story.

Genre fiction has often played a role in expressing Political ideas in a powerful way that can sometimes not be explored in other ways - but is it always appropriate? Can it be done “wrong” as well?

Do you put Politics, either real world or fictional, into your stories? Is it a bad idea to do so…or do you prefer to see Politics in your fiction?

I cast my vote for you to have a fine Thursday!


p.s. For a twisted version of Politics and Entertainment:

I just read about a new game show called “Paid Off” where the prize is the contestant's student loans being paid off.

This is bizarre to me - the student debt crisis is massive in the U.S. and Canada and all over, and this seems…only a few steps away from The Hunger Games or The Running Man. I'm not sure if this is exploitative, or if it's a way to call attention to a huge problem in society.

Crazy times.



bravo1102 at 1:44PM, July 20, 2018

@banes: the splitting image stuff holds up because even if you don't know the caricature the plots and scenes are still funny. The original Monty Python flying circus was full of topical references and political jokes but so much else holds up even if the names are lost on you. Then you learn the names and it's even more funny.

Banes at 10:23AM, July 20, 2018

@bravo - I've read how Carson was pretty adamant about keeping his public politics neutral and even though people would see him on TV every night, they wouldn't be able to tell where he stood politically.

Banes at 10:20AM, July 20, 2018

@ozone - For sure. I wonder how the Genesis video "land of confusion" holds up? I used to love those puppets of the Regans, Thatcher, etc...

Banes at 10:17AM, July 20, 2018

@Gunwallace - that's a powerful statement about how art can be seen in so many different ways as time goes by. Amazing! Kick-butt song, too.

bravo1102 at 10:13AM, July 20, 2018

I do use politics but I try to keep to universal themes. A reader remarked that a particular character acts like a current politician. I agreed but admitted the script was written in 2009 before that figure was elected.

bravo1102 at 10:10AM, July 20, 2018

Allegory and satire are better tools for presenting criticisms of current events. It's not names or specifics bashing but the universal ridiculous nature of politics. The musical 1776 was critical of Nixon, but you'd never guess (one number and several lines were cut at his request. They've since been restored) Johnny Carson's political humor was the same broad themes as Bob Hope or even back to Will Rodgers.

Ozoneocean at 8:52PM, July 19, 2018

A well done "political" message like "War", "1984", "The Charge of the Light Brigade", "Guernica" etc transcend the politics of the day. Those are rare though unfortunately, most creative efforts that have political content just litter pop-culture history like so much compost... look at all the 1980s stuff that addresses Thatcher or Regan for example, it doesn't really translate to the present day. You can understand where it's coming from but it's a historical artifcat not a current, living artwork.

Gunwallace at 5:41PM, July 19, 2018

Read an interview with Edwin Starr, the singer of 'War', many moons ago and at the time of the interview he was being booed when he sang it because of the political climate of the time. He said the song had gone through periods of much love, then indifference, then love again, indifference, then hate, and it was already turning back into a song people wanted to hear and sing along to when he died in 2003. He just kept singing it, no matter what was going on in the world, taking the good reactions with the bad. (At least that's how I remember the article.)

Banes at 3:18PM, July 19, 2018

Word. I have no idea what they want or why they fought for those horrendous ideas. It falls outside of regular mistakes that are made in blockbuster filmmaking; the decisions were so obviously bad and counter to common sense. It boggles the mind.

El Cid at 2:58PM, July 19, 2018

Audiences aren't dumb; they know when they're being pandered to. There are, unfortunately, some segments out there who do want to be pandered to, and there are genres which already cater to them. But injecting contemporary identity politics themes into an epic sci fi fantasy universe with an expansive history and broad fanbase... I don't see how anyone thought that would be a good idea.

Banes at 1:12PM, July 19, 2018

@El Cid - Well said! ...and while they exploit part of the audience, as KimLuster mentioned, they alienate the other half!

El Cid at 10:47AM, July 19, 2018

Genre fiction especially can be great for political messages, as in 'Nineteen Eighty-Four,' 'Fahrenheit 451,' and the like. But the difference between what you see in those masterworks and what happened to Star Wars, is that those former works used the medium to reveal social realities in an engaging and deeply thoughtful way, whereas Star Wars tried to force a shallow political point of view down your throat while you're trying to enjoy what's supposed to be a timeless and apolitical movie. It's political graffiti, and it does nothing to explore the realities of gender or race relations whatsoever. The message isn't so much what's in the film, but rather that what's in the film was ever able to come into existence in the first place. I think it's great if you want to use your work to reveal something meaningful about society and politics, but if you're just going to burn straw men and wink at certain demographics, all you're doing is exploiting your audience and cheapening your art.

Banes at 7:12AM, July 19, 2018

@KimLuster - Agreed! I think if individual characters have different opinions, and there's some nuance to it...and if the politics make sense in the story being told, most folks will probably be okay with it!'s the theory, at least...xD

Banes at 7:09AM, July 19, 2018

@usedbooks - Dangit, that would have been so much better!

KimLuster at 6:34AM, July 19, 2018

With the heated divide in politics these days, if you include politics, and seem to lean to toward 'one side', you're guaranteeing pissing off half your viewers lol!! With the Godstrain, I made 'nods' toward certain political issues but tried avoid taking major stances, but with the new comic Godstrands, and Kimber Lee's new place in the world, it's not gonna be realistic to avoid it forever... So I will include it at some point!! Maybe everything in RL will be more peaceful by then!! *rolls eyes* :D

usedbooks at 5:55AM, July 19, 2018

Kinda disappointed this newspost wasn't about fictional badass presidents fighting aliens and organizing against zombie attacks.

Banes at 4:37AM, July 19, 2018

@MOrgan - Yeah, those are the ones xD

Banes at 4:37AM, July 19, 2018

@ozoneocean - haha!

MOrgan at 3:33AM, July 19, 2018

"Defenders say that Star Wars has had Political storylines in the past". You mean the dull, boring scenes in the prequels that were slightly better than the cringy "romantic" scenes between Anakin and Padme?

Ozoneocean at 3:06AM, July 19, 2018

Generally those sorts of things make me more interested to see or read something to see what the fuss is about but StarWars is been so crappy for so long that I don't really care :D

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