The Power Of The Liberal Narrative

2113 words - 8 pages

Trudging through the mountains of facts, studies, and opinions relevant to social and political issues creates a daunting task for political strategists, leaving them to decide what information is relevant and essential for the voting public to know, in order to rally the voters to support a certain candidate. However, these mountains of facts and opinions can turn off voters, and scare away many potential supporters, forcing political strategists to also engage the emotional lives of the populace: enter the role of cultural narratives- tales of adventure, sacrifice, defeat, and victory grabbing hold of the emotional lives of the audience, and as George Lakoff points out, “…politics is about the narratives of our culture and our circumstances make available to all of us to live” (35). The key to the liberal narrative is empathy; not solely feeling empathy, but acting on this empathy. George W. Bush and his campaign staff knew this and employed it very successfully in the 2000 election with his slogan “the compassionate conservative.” And while John Kerry and the Democratic Party may have forgotten this essential point of politics, Hollywood remembers vividly the formula of the classic liberal narrative and this has led to the creation of many films which are the quintessence of the liberal tale.
The liberal narrative existed in the heyday of the Hollywood silver screen, and no better example exists than John Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath. Ford’s classic tale, based on John Steinbeck’s novel of the same title, immediately begins its liberal narrative. Early in the film when Henry Fonda’s character Tom Joad asks a truck driver for a ride, which is not allowed by the driver’s boss indicated by a sticker saying “no riders allowed/instructions of owner,” he says “a good guy don’t pay no attention to what some heel makes him stick on his truck,” and from this inciting incident of the anti-corporate liberal message only grows in strength as Tom Joad and his family move closer and closer to California. The message next takes on a more subtle tone of character and costuming with the entrance of the banker: a man in a clean suit, with a shiny car, and a big cigar, a perfect juxtaposition of the dirty, tattered farmers, a man very well off forcing those struggling and fighting in their day to day lives off the land which they used to create a meager living. Having been forced off their land and with nowhere else to turn, Tom Joad, his family, and John Casey head to California with dreams of a better life, only to have these dreams smashed upon the rocks of corporate greed. The Joad family arrives to find the worker camps destitute and hungry, with no food even for the children of the camp, and with the works not allowed in town. It seems as though no area of California will present better options, for when the Joad family arrives at the first farm with work available there is a throng of workers on strike outside the farm because the wealthy ranch owners...

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