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Why Liberals Should See (and Like) Atlas Shrugged Part 1

Posted: 04/27/11 10:39 PM ET

Yesterday a liberal friend of mine told me (in response to my query) that he would never go see the film Atlas Shrugged Part 1 because he read a review in the Los Angeles Times that was critical, and that in any case the author of the novel on which the film is based, Ayn Rand, is a fascist beloved by conservatives because she justifies their greed and selfishness.

In response I made a comment about allowing a newspaper to dictate your opinions (that went unnoticed), but his response is, in fact, not uncommon among those who have never read Atlas Shrugged (or anything else by Ayn Rand) and just go by what they've heard. Okay, well hear it here: go see Atlas Shrugged Part 1, read the novel, and judge for yourself because, in fact, liberals will find much to respect and admire in Ayn Rand, who was a champion of individual rights, was outspoken against racism and bigotry and discrimination against minorities, and most notably was way ahead of her time in championing women's rights and demonstrating through her novels (and now the film) that women are as smart as men, as clever as men, as hard working as men, as ambitious as men, as moral as men (well, okay, more moral than men), and can accomplish any task, achieve any goal, and even run an industrial enterprise as good as if not better than men. What's not to like about that?

Yes, yes, I know, it's not a $100 million production with mega-hit stars, but who cares? Liberals believe that Ideas matter more than eye-candy and that content trumps color (although, for my money, Atlas delivers on both in spades), and in any case the producers should be congratulated for making the equivalent of a $50 million film for only $20 million. So don't let that aspect of the reviews stop you. They're wrong.

There's another reason for liberals to see Atlas Shrugged. The week after the film was released a study was published showing that Hollywood still discriminates against women when it comes to roles in films, the number and length of speaking parts, and the continued blatant sexuality in which women are still viewed (literally) as sexual objects, showing far more skin than men but speaking far less.

The star of Atlas Shrugged (book and film) is Dagny Taggart (played by Taylor Schilling), who is not only the lead character, but she has the most speaking roles (while showing no more skin than one would expect from a current CEO), runs her own transcontinental railroad enterprise, has no problem dealing with hard-nosed titans of industry who happen to be men, and embodies all the courage and character of a hero deserving of respect and admiration from women and men, liberals and conservatives. In fact, Dagny Taggart is one of the strongest female protagonists in all of Western literature.

From the original text, here is Dagny on running a railroad:

"[Dagny Taggart} was fifteen when it occurred to her for the first time that women did not run railroads and that people might object. To hell with that, she thought- and never worried about it again." (p. 51)

Here is Dagny on thinking for yourself:

"You don't have to see through the eyes of others, hold onto yours, stand on your own judgment, you know that what is, is-say it aloud, like the holiest of prayers, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise." (p. 892)

Here is Dagny the principled optimist:

"I cannot bring myself to abandon to destruction all the greatness of the world, all that which was mine and yours, which was made by us and is still ours by right - because I cannot believe that men can refuse to see....So long as men desire to live, I cannot lose my battle." (p. 809)

Here is Dagny on sex (reflecting on missing her first love, Francisco D'Anconia):

"In the many months of his absence, she never wondered whether he was true to her or not; she knew he was. She knew, even though she was too young to know the reason, that indiscriminate desire and unselective indulgence were possible only to those who regarded sex and themselves as evil." (p. 109)

And contrary to what liberals think about Ayn Rand's attitudes about capitalism, here is Dagny on the morality of free trade:

"If ever the pleasure of one has to be bought by the pain of the other, there better be no trade. A trade by which one gains and the other loses is a fraud." (p. 425)

As for Ayn Rand herself, here is the author on individual rights:

"Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities (and the smallest minority on earth is the individual)."

Here is Rand on slaves and masters:

"It only stands to reason that where there's sacrifice, there's someone collecting the sacrificial offerings. Where there's service, there is someone being served. The man who speaks to you of sacrifice is speaking of slaves and masters, and intends to be the master."

Here is Rand on racism:

"Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man's genetic lineage--the notion that a man's intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry. Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors."

Here is Rand on racial discrimination during the civil rights movement:

"The policy of the Southern states toward Negroes was and is a shameful contradiction of this country's basic principles. Racial discrimination, imposed and enforced by law, is so blatantly inexcusable an infringement of individual rights that the racist statutes of the South should have been declared unconstitutional long ago."

Here is Rand on women and work:

"What is proper for a man is proper for a woman. The basic principles are the same. I would not attempt to prescribe what kind of work a man should do, and I would not attempt it in regard to women. There is no particular work which is specifically feminine. Women can choose their work according to their own purpose and premises in the same manner as men do."

So...liberals, conservatives, progressives, libertarians, Tea Partiers, and politicos of all stripes -- ignore the reviews and go see Atlas Shrugged for yourself and tell me what you think. Ayn Rand is not who you've heard she is. Read her works, watch the film, and judge for yourself.

 
 
 

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