Tuesday, September 25, 2007

"The jaunty nipples of collectivism"

Yesterday, I took a look at Kim Jong-Il's insane plan to use kidnapping to improve North Korea's dismal propaganda movie industry. If you've ever wondered why any dictator would think anyone would sit through a three hour long socialist parable featuring a cheap Godzilla knock off, you're not alone. Pulgasari: Legendary Monster obviously represents the low end of the communist propaganda arts spectrum, but that's not to say that The Party didn't occasionally dabble in more substantial fare.

The late Chinese dictator, Mao Zedong, declared that art becomes useless unless it has become wedded to politics, and that politics, naturally, are useless unless they are in the service "of the people". Art for art's sake? That, my friends, is decadent, and bourgeois! After the revolution, everything becomes political, don't you know?

Looking back, perhaps The Chairman didn't understand that "the people", broadly speaking, were not inclined to confuse political propaganda with art. The well known notion that the arts tend to slip away from ideological yokes when given half a chance also appears to have been ignored. Still, just as Kim Jong-Il couldn't wait to try his hand at the movies, Mao Zedong couldn't wait to tamper with his particular favorite art form: Chinese opera.

And so, courtesy of Jim Lileks, an analysis of the Maoist opera masterpiece "The Red Detachment of Women".

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