With the release of Marley and Me today on DVD and Blu-Ray, it’s quite timely that the Acton Institute has just published S. T. Karnick’s essay "Busting a Pop Culture Illusion" in their thought-provoking Religion and Liberty magazine. Here are some brief excerpts to encourage you to read the essay in its entirety, which is available online as well as in the printed version:
For the past several decades, American popular culture has frequently promulgated an idea central to modern liberalism: the idea of a life without limits, that we can have everything we want with out having to make hard choices. That assumption is especially evident in Walt Disney movies, and not only in recent ones. Fortunately, the makers of some pop culture products see the absurdity and danger of that notion. . . .
Though largely French in origin, the myth of a life without limits is characteristically American and, in fact, typical of adolescents the world over. It involves the idea that freedom means doing whatever you want, not simply having a choice among whatever options life makes available. Instead, the American fantasy is that both individuals and society as a whole can overcome every obstacle to our numerous desires, provided we only wish strongly enough and get our friends on our side. . . .
The reality, of course, is that everybody’s life does have limits, and that we often have to make hard choices between imperfect alternatives. In fact, the longing for perfect freedom must ultimately be a tyrannical and consuming desire for god-like power. And that is why modern liberalism is so strongly based on coercion. . . .
Recognizing this reality and making it vividly apparent in the narrative, the recent movie Marley and Me is very much the anti-Disney film for children. It identifies and clearly criticizes the notion of a life without limits. Whereas Disney films say that you can do anything you want and have anything you want if you only want it badly enough (Disney films have said so since the studio started making feature films, not just in recent years), Marley and Me shows how adolescent and unrealistic this longing for perfect freedom really is. . . .
Recent films as varied as Milk, Kung Fu Panda, and Step Brothers all convey the Disney myth that we can overcome life’s limits by wanting it badly enough, but a significant number of films present a more realistic appraisal of the limits of human autonomy and power: movies such as The Dark Knight, Defiance, Gran Torino, The Wrestler, No Country for Old Men, Slumdog Millionaire, Fireproof, and In Bruges. Marley and Me is particularly interesting in accomplishing this through comedy, and in a film that will appeal to children. . . .
Read the full essay here.