Former National Review editor and journalist extroardinaire John O’Sullivan has frequently offered his maxim that every organization that is not already on the left tends to move steadily toward it.
He’s right, of course, and that’s even true of TV channels that show old movies, which one might think a natural province of nerdy fuddy-duddies nostalgic about the way movies used to be and relatively critical of today’s offerings.
One would be wrong. Ever since it fired its movie hosts a few years ago, American Movie Classics has been showing original programming presenting thoroughly antinomian points of view on movies and culture.
Turner Classic Movies, which shows movies of the entire past century, commercial-free, has icnreasingly been doing the same sort of thing in the past couple of years.
The introductions to the films have been increasingly politicized as host Robert Osborne takes every opportunity to pour scorn on the political and social attitudes of the past, although doing so with an eerily avuncular delivery.
Openly left-wing films get thoroughly sympathetic treatment in Osborne’s introductions, of course, and the channel is increasingly showing "underground" "classics" such as dreadful Russ Meyer films and other 1960s and early ’70s low-rent pix.
Showing such films has historical value, of course, and is in fact a good addition to the
station’s lineup, but the introductions and promos tend to reflect a devaluation of all values approach that characterizes the ideas and aesthetics of these films as much, much better than they are.
Farther down that same road is this month’s big feature, "Screened Out: Gay Images in Film." TCM says the series is "inspired by the Richard Barrios book Screened Out: Playing Gay in Hollywood from Edison to Stonewall" and "covers roughly the same territory as the book." The promos openly refer to the subject matter as "Hollywood homophobia." Every Monday and Wednesday night the channel is devoted to finding characters in old movies who can be seen as homosexual, with comments from host Robert Osborne (who himself is pretty evidently homosexual) and others telling us how unattractively Hollywood movies presented homosexuality back in the Dark Ages of the pre-Stonewall era. Duh.
In addition, clips presenting comments by homosexuals about images of homosexuality in old movies are running in the interestices between movie showings the rest of the time.
It’s as close as the channel can come to being all gay all the time.
Of course, it’s a subject that’s well worth looking at, but TCM’s treatment is thoroughly one-sided and politicized: every single comment I’ve seen on the channel so far has been aggressively pro-homosexual. Given that most people are highly uncomfortable about homosexuality and don’t like it, TCM is not serving its customers well in giving such a terribly biased presentation of the issue.
On a happier note: Sunday nights this summer, TCM is going to be doing something very good, however. On the Funday Night Movies series, Tom Kenny (voice of Spongebob Squarepants) introduces kids (and their parents) to classic films and explains what makes them so good. It premieres this Sunday, and sounds like a fine idea. The series premieres this Sunday night, and films to be shown include The Wizard of Oz (of course), Bringing Up Baby (great choice!), Sounder, and Abbott and Costello Meet Franknenstein.
We’ll see how long it takes for this series to become toxic and evil, but for now it’s a very good thing.