Hollyweird Takes a Crack at Objectivism

Jason Clark previews the Atlas Shrugged film and wonders whether it will manage to translate Objectivism to the silver screen.

So it looks like Hollyweird is making a film version of Atlas Shrugged (1957).

The trailer of what is supposed to be the first part in a trilogy looks awesome. Now my issue is, can they make this not only true to the message that government has as much place in a free-market economy as a fox in the chicken house, but can they make it a lot less boring than the novel?

I’d like to state at this point that I have a love/hate relationship with the works of Ayn Rand. I do happen to love the smaller government, “get the hell off my lawn” sentiment of her works. It is almost enough to overcome the preachiness of Atlas Shrugged and the questionable definition of “capital o” Objectivism. Which one to take on first? Well, who is John Galt? Let me try to answer the one I can in as few words as possible to begin with.

My philosophy is a bit complex. Some would say it is flexible, others would say my philosophy is cobbled together with chewing gum and a sledgehammer. I would say I waiver between objectivism (note the lowercase “o”) and utilitarianism in that being what I do in my best interest and what I do to make myself happy. My ethics professor would say I’m an objectivist. Mostly in that if there is a way to make more money I’ll take it, and this is by and large true.

Here is my issue with what Ayn Rand calls Objectivism: Let’s say there is a charity drive. I think it’s for a good cause and it will actually help some poor slob. I would want to give some money to this charity. Giving would make me feel good and feeling good is in my interest. According to the “lower case o” objectivist, what I’m doing is objectively right. A “capital o” Objectivist would state that giving money to the charity has no clear material gain to myself so what I’m going is objectively wrong.

That’s where I disagree. By feeling better about myself, I can without hesitation go after the moneymaking opportunities that may present themselves to me because the nagging voice has been bound, gagged and beat over the head several times. Mind you, the voice wouldn’t be there in the first place, regardless of whether I’d given to charity or not.

This is of course given to you by someone who has at best one semester of philosophy under his belt.

As for my longer answer, it comes down to this: I don’t like being preached to. It is why I can’t sit through an entire episode of Rush Limbaugh’s or Glenn Beck’s. I know quite well that I’m right. It’s the same with people on the other side of the aisle. You’re wasting your time and mine telling me that I’m the cause of the world’s problems because I’m white and born to the middle class. Sorry buddy, I never owned a slave and I never beat or killed a Native American for no other reason than his race. There is no guilt here. Try around the corner.

All right, back on target. I don’t need to be told the way I think is right. I have a deep down dislike for socialism and a burning hate of communism. And it is a matter of detail. I just seriously don’t want the government involved in my life be it personal or fiscal. I know that either one will tell me that they have no interest in my personal life, but once you have one you will get the other.

I once listened to an audio version of Atlas Shrugged. It seemed not a single character could go without a page of philosophical diatribe.

Don’t take this as me not liking Ayn Rand however. She also made things I didn’t hate or really disagree with. Her interview with Phil Donahue for example, that was a fun thing to watch as Donahue was trying to fight way above his intellectual class. It was like watching a 4’2″ drunk picking a fight with an in his prime Mike Tyson.

And I loved The Fountainhead (1947) with Gary Cooper. One of the best movies I’ve seen. Since it was Rand herself who wrote the screenplay for the film, she is certainly capable of making something I like.

And that is what I’m hoping from this movie — that it will be well made and faithful to the spirit of the book. I hope it will be entertaining as well as engaging and I hope that it will make people wonder, “Do we really need to have the government in our business?”

I hope it but I doubt it. The chance of the film staying true to the novel is handicapped by the fact that Rand died in 1982 and therefore couldn’t write the screenplay. This makes me wonder if the screenwriter Brian Patrick O’Toole is up for the challenge. I haven’t seen anything written by him before but he was a co-producer of Dog Soldiers (2002) which I have seen and liked. It might have been a werewolf flick but it was a very well done werewolf flick.

I guess we’ll see on April 15, Tax Day in America, if this film is up to snuff. I expect reviews to be mixed and moviegoers to be divided based on their personal views. But if the film is as grand as the trailers then I shall be overjoyed. If it isn’t, I’ll always have The Incredibles (2004). It’s like Atlas Shrugged for five year olds.