Published September 30, 2022
As a Rorschach test you might rewatch two prehistoric black-and-white movies—“Captain Blood” (1935) and “The Grapes of Wrath” (1940)—paying attention to the themes of law and government, of oppression and what to do about it. One is a swashbuckling 17th-century pirate’s tale, starring Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland; the other is a quasi-documentary melodrama, starring Henry Fonda, heartless bankers, vicious fruit growers and the Dust Bowl. Consider the two movies to be allegories that explore the difference between MAGA and Woke.
“Captain Blood” captures the essence of MAGA—or, anyway, of MAGA’s slightly piratical idea of itself. “The Grapes of Wrath” is a masterpiece of what might be called sentimental realism, heavily laden with Christian and socialist formulations. Ask yourself which of the movies speaks to your heart. The exercise—a visit to American fantasies from the time before Donald Trump and Joe Biden were born—might be interesting preparation for deciding how to vote in the November elections.
Lance Morrow is the Henry Grunwald Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. His work focuses on the moral and ethical dimensions of public events, including developments in regard to freedom of speech, freedom of thought, and political correctness on American campuses, with a view to the future consequences of such suppressions.