Mark Steyn on the totalitarianism of the Now


The appeal of “old” stories used to be that their truths were so enduring you didn’t mind the crinolines and powdered wigs: When I read bedtime stories to my little girl – Anne of Green Gables, Little House on the Prairie, Black Beauty – she did not have an adult’s conception of time and so was too young to know or to care that all these people lived years before she was born and were all now dead. She was simply engaged by their quandaries. The endurance of Shakespeare is, as the cliché has it, that he “understands human nature” and so you cut him some slack on the doublet and hose.

But the hyper-present-tense of our own culture has more or less inverted that: We don’t mind the doublet and hose, it’s the “human nature” that’s the problem. So, when today’s movies do the period stuff, we impose our values on their times – hence, all the “f*cks” and lesbo sub-plots in recent Miss Marples, or the ghastly boorishness of Robert Downey Jr’s outings as Sherlock Holmes. Their times, our values. And because we are, in fact, engaged in overthrowing and remaking “human nature”, the past’s eternal verities are a particular affront. More.

Reality check: Wars on human nature usually involve mass murder.

See also: Mark Steyn on the Deep State coup against Trump

  • Malcolm Y

    “Wars on human nature usually involve mass murder.”

    In parallel with the “Gods of the Copy Book Headings”:
    Paraphrasing when one believes: “Fire does not burn”
    The gods come back with a brutal vengeance.

  • Alain

    I always find it more than a little iratating when watching a movie from a past period to find this rubbish inserted. Even replacing the word ‘sex’ with ‘gender’ is unacceptable when you know that misuse did not exist at the time, especially when even I recall when it didn’t in my own time.

  • Brett McS

    The Cohen Brothers seem to take delight in upending this wretched, boring practice of projecting current values into past characters. They really try to portray attitudes and culture as it was at the time. A particularly good example is one of their more recent efforts, Hail, Caesar!, which is delightful.

    • canminuteman

      The Cohen Brothers are probably my favourite film makers.

  • bargogx1

    Is that The Upper Crust?

  • In order for leftists to understand human nature, they would have to be realistic.

    That is something they refuse to do.

  • Hard Little Machine

    Old stories can be used for the now though. Sergei Eisenstein propagandized the story of Alexander Nevsky’s battle with the League of Teutonic Knights, on Lake Peipus to good effect to rouse the populace against the German menace 3 years BEFORE the invasion in 1941.

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