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Monday, April 18, 2011

Media Monday - Atlas Shrugged

This year on tax day in the US the movie Atlas Shrugged, part one, was released. As one person commented on-line – watch the movie, read the book, trust no one. I agree, go see the movie, even if you hate it, it will make you think.  Unless of course you think that thinking is bad for you. . .

The movie is based on the first part of Ayn Rand’s longest novel (of the same name) first published in 1957.  In this book Rand explores her philosophical theme of Objectivism and its different facets - the advocacy of reason, individualism, the market economy and the failure of government coercion.  The main theme is that civilization cannot exit if men are not free to create but are instead slaves to society and government, and that extermination of the motive for profit leads to the collapse of society.  It should not be surprising that in the wake of the current recession sales of Atlas Shrugged have sharply increased.

If you haven’t heard of Ayn Rand, be warned you will either love her or you will hate her, there doesn’t seem to be a middle ground.  A Survey of Lifetime Reading Habits, conducted [fall 1991] for the Book-of-the-Month Club and the Library of Congress' Center for the Book ranks Atlas Shrugged as the second most influential after the Bible. 

I read most of her works while I was in high school, no recollection who or what led me to the first book, or which one it was.  Maybe it was her first book – We the Living, which is about living in Soviet Russia.  I can probably remember less then 10 of the titles of the books that I read in high school and 3 of them are by Ayn Rand.

I bet that the majority of the population had not heard of Atlas Shrugged or Ayn Rand before the movie came out, let alone read this 1000+ page tome.  Of course since the movie has a limited release, maybe the majority still doesn’t know about it! I know that no one that I talked to at work had heard of it, though one person remembered seeing the trailer.

It’s not a ‘flashy’ story; there are no car chases or gunfights, no mysterious dead bodies, it’s about a society that is crumbling, it’s about fundamental values of our culture.  The main protagonist is Dagny Taggart who struggles to save her family business while society collapses around her, despite her brother’s efforts, the increasing control of the government and the mysterious disappearances of society's most productive citizens, who leave behind the question – Who is John Galt?  Hank Rearden, a self-made man and inventor of ‘Rearden’ metal helps her while he fights to keep his invention from being buried or taken over by others as the government strips him of his businesses. Of course there is more – but you need to go see the movie and read the book!

Did I mention that Ayn Rand wrote strong women characters, in the 1940’s and 50’s?  Imagine watching Leave It to Beaver and finding that it is followed by Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The Saturday morning after the movie was released the book was #4 on Amazon’s best sellers rank (it was #102 before.)  That is pretty good for a book that was originally published over 50 years ago.  How many people are getting the book because they want to read it before they saw the movie, and how many are getting it because they saw the movie?

Who is John Galt?

Are we ready for this story?  Will enough people see it? Will it be a tipping point? Are we going to be willing participants in ‘shared sacrifice’?  (If you think that ‘shared sacrifice’ comes from the book or the movie you might want to Google it.)  Do we value our individual and economic liberty enough that we will wake up and fight for it? 

Who is John Galt?

I was prepared not to like the movie.  I was tired; I loved the book, though it has been, umm well let’s just say a while since I read it.  I was not bored; I was not looking around the theater to see where the exits were. I enjoyed it. I was surprised.

I admit that I was under whelmed at first by Grant Bowler as Hank Rearden but not for long, he was perfect (this was before the scenes where we see him without his shirt.)  Taylor Schilling I think was great as Dagny. (And to the critic that compared her to Barbie - don’t knock Barbie, she’s over 50 and still going strong!)  Do I care that the actors weren’t Brad Pritt or whoever?  No. Do I care about any of the other details that the critics are picking on? No.  I got my $10 of entertainment and then some. I am planning on going to see it again – just because ‘they’ all are saying bad things about it.

I dare you to go see the movie and decide for yourself.

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