Siegel’s Screed Of Solecism Against Suburbia

December 29, 2008

suburbs(At least, that’s what he claims, anyway – trying to improve my word power, as they say…).

You really have to hand it to the Murdoch Street Journal; on what is, for the most part, a slow news period except for the Israeli/Hamas missile attacks (nice to see that those talks in Annapolis turned out to be so constructive) and the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (the other major stories seem to be in a bit of a “holding pattern” for now), you can always count on them to serve up some truly outrageous posting material.

One such item is this review by Lee Siegel of the new movie “Revolutionary Road” starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet; as nearly as I can tell from Siegel’s steaming heap of nonsense, the movie (and book upon which it was based) has to do with a marriage in decline. And this gives Siegel the feeblest of pretexts to say stuff like the following…

The cultural chasm between liberals and conservatives that first appeared in the ’60s was largely one between the city and the suburbs. The liberal “idealism” that had created the catastrophe in Vietnam now got blamed, unfairly or not, for failing economic and social policies.

On the matter of supposed liberal “idealism” that led to our involvement, it should be noted from this Wikipedia article (and please help them with a donation if you can, by the way) that “Military advisors arrived (in Southeast Asia) beginning in 1950. U.S. involvement escalated in the early 1960s and combat units were deployed beginning in 1965. Involvement peaked in 1968 at the time of the Tet Offensive.”

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the period from 1950 to 1968 spans the terms of four presidents, including one Republican, Dwight Eisenhower. Is Siegel seriously calling Ike a “lib” here?


For marginalized conservatives, the suburbs were living refutation of the crumbling ethos that had guided the crime-ridden, decaying urban centers. For embattled liberals, people leaving the cities for safer and cleaner outlying towns were racists and cowards who had no respect for shared public space.

Oh, and here’s more from Siegel…

…life’s complexity and surprise follow you everywhere, even over the city-line, across the river and into the suburban trees. You wonder why the creators of the film “Revolutionary Road” are blind to such an obvious fact of human existence. But, then, Hollywood is the most illusion-soaked, soul-hardened and materialistic suburb in the world.

If you wish to endure more of this propaganda from Siegel by reading his column, be my guest; he manages to name every single movie in at least the last ten years that maligns the suburbs (including “American Beauty,” which pretty much erased the line between reality and parody, thought I personally thought it was good; Siegel, however, seems to have missed the ultra-creepy “Arlington Road” with Tim Robbins and Jeff Bridges) as proof of Hollywood’s alleged moral bankruptcy.

However, I thought this post from The Smirking Chimp made some good points in response, including…

…(the claim that liberals hate the suburbs) is just a variation on a theme that is the hallmark of Fox News. That is, that the smarties, who really aren’t so smart, hate normal people. Now let me stipulate that life is what you make it. People can have just as fine lives in the ‘burbs as anywhere else. But the truth is, it just takes more work. The phenomenon of suburban despair won’t be dispelled by conservatives taking a scalpel to liberal conceits, if they are conceits. The fact is that commuting in cars is an artificial condition, which no amount of wholesome childrearing going on at home is going to compensate for. The hours people spend getting to their suburban homes are intimately related to the poisonous success of talk-radio. That goes for left as well as right, but the right is worse and more successful at it than the left. What is bizarre about the Journal’s contention is that movies seem so thoroughly dedicated to reinforcing suburban ideals as to seem strict about it. For every sardonic look, there are hundreds of street scenes with basically good folks going about there (sic) lives. Of course there is some truth to it. But how much? And there is the rub.

Besides, you want to talk about movies celebrating suburbia? Try “E.T.,” “Honey, I Shrunk The Kids” (and its sequels), “Gremlins” (and at least one sequel, I believe), “Edward Scissorhands” (yes, some of the characters are a bit neurotic, but it looks like a nice place), “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Sixteen Candles,” “Fun With Dick And Jane” (the ‘70s version with George Segal; I never saw the Jim Carrey remake) – need I go on? And that’s pretty standard Hollywood fare, people; not too many “Sundance Film Festival” or IFC nominees in THAT bunch (and I left out the depiction of the suburbs in animated movies of the last few years).

I realize this post won’t stop the Lee Siegels of the world (to say nothing of the Michael Medveds) from continuing to resurrect this whole “liberals are bad because they hate the suburbs” blather, but every now and then, I feel like I just have to take a shot at calling them on their idiocy.

And I should let you know that movies are on my mind a bit at the moment since the young one and I saw “Marley and Me” yesterday based on the book by former Philadelphia Inquirer columnist John Grogan, and it was well done (hard to admit that since I have a low tolerance for Jennifer Aniston, but she and Owen Wilson were both good; the only part that left me scratching my head was the fact that the two of them, after living in what appears to be a bungalow in Miami in a neighborhood with incidents of crime, could somehow afford a Chester Springs, PA farmhouse on only his salary when they move to this area near the end of the film).

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