Thursday, February 28, 2013

Broken City: Modern Noir in Liberal Sepia Tones

As a movie, for all its flaws, I liked the drama of Broken City.  But many things about the script seemed to cross the line into propaganda.

Some of the things I noticed directly about Broken City:  Pro-law-and-order incumbent NY mayor is facing an idealistic challenger.  The challenger seems honest and passionate; he's against the corporations and for the little guy. The mayor is corrupt and is all about wealth and cronyism and being in the big corporations' pockets.  And he doesn't like the NY Times but rather the Post.  Seeing any patterns yet?

Here and here the corrupt mayor who is favored for having cleaned up the town is described as "Giuliani-esque."  And here the challenger is described as the "rich, liberal, and inexplicably honest councilman."  Almost as inexplicably honest as our rich, liberal Chicago politician-turned-President.

We knew the Man from Illinois was the one honest politician from the totally corrupt Blagovichian Chicago scene even if he did win his state senatorial bid by having his opponent disqualified. Why, just look at that honest little punim. And a man who "oozes sincerity" (think "Slick Willie") such that he can sell a ketchup popsicle to an Eskimo in white gloves is much preferred to anyone that actually tells us what we don't want to hear: e.g., that there's no way that the party can go on simply by sending the bill to "all those rich folks."

But I digress.  This review is even more enlightening about the film's narrative.  It describes the mayoral debate as "a baseball-bat-to-the-head invocation of current political schisms."  The challenger Valliant (Valliant? what is this, an allegory? seriously?) is described as "the idealistic liberal." But here is <<spoiler alert>> the crux of the story:  
What’s interesting is the way Broken City plays as a parable of American conservatism reckoning with its own sins. Taggart is a conservative everyman – uncomfortable around the cultural upper class, wedded to traditional gender norms, rough-hewn, and simple. He’s loyal to Hostetler, at least initially, and his trial calls up shades of white resentment against minorities who question the needs of law and order. Hostetler’s glittering wife, presumably unfaithful, stumps for gay rights causes, and the liberal Valliant is an oily ivy-league alien. In short, the movie begins rooted in right-wing sympathies and assumptions. 
By the conclusion, they have all been inverted. In Broken City’s most quietly moving scene, Taggart sits in a car with a gay man who recounts his feelings for the lover he’s just lost. You can sense the gears turning in Taggart’s head, as the demands of common human decency brook no respect for his cultural comfort zones. The final scene suggests the “liberal elite” is at least trying to do the right thing, which is more than can be said for the other side, and that whatever its intentions were, it’s time for conservatism to own up to the damage it’s caused.
Dang, it is an allegory.  "[C]ommon human decency" versus "cultural comfort zones."  There's the strawman! I missed you most of all, Scarecrow.   

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