dimanche 20 janvier 2013

Ayn and Arnie

Last week, this movie poster for Schwarzenegger's latest opus has appeared about everywhere in Parisian metro stations, in the streets of the city, in newspapers etc. And once again I wondered what was the origin of that specific Hollywood genre of cinema based on the notion of the last one, the survivor, the last cop, the last soldier, the last hero etc.

The Last Stand is translated into Le Dernier Rempart in French, but it has to be "the last" something yet.

As a matter of fact, I already had a post on this subject exactly 5 years to this day because of a flick with Will Smith that was just being shown in France by then. I am Legend was the title with the slogan : The last man on earth is not alone

I tentatively proposed an explanation which I knew was a partial answer to my questioning. Besides, I wasn't too assertive about it.

But now, I realise why I failed to fully understand this phenomena 5 years ago, when I still hadn't been introduced to Ayn Rand by Ned. 

For what I've understood, Rand's philosophy is a modernised version of Nietzsche's concept of the Übermensch, an apology of individualism and self reliance as well as an overall distrust of the State and the collectivity. "Trust yourself and nobody else" seems to be the core of the teaching.

I still am flabbergasted to observe what a considerable influence the thesis of Rand have yielded among the American audience and then in America's psyche but apparently, this is a proven fact and all the American visitors I dealt with when I was a street hawker were familiar with Ayn Rand and many of them had read Atlas Shrugged which I had never heard of at that time.

I can't think of any national cinema with a similar genre based on the last something theme, be it in the French, Italian, German, or Korean  movie industries, but then it makes sense since only America has been exposed on an industrial scale to the message Rand brought to Americans. 

Ayn Rand, who apparently was a wise fox, told Americans what they wanted to hear and which, seemingly, was in line with the story of her country of adoption.

What I now realise is that all these last cop, last hero, last soldier, last commander, Last Stand whatever, are reiterated embodiments of John Galt and it certainly plays well with a certain segment of the American audience since Hollywood money makers keep on cashing in with this genre.

And they will until said genre will have ceased to garner money which apparently isn't to happen in the next future, so deep Ayn Rand's influence has penetrated into the American ways of thinking. 

13 commentaires:

Flocon a dit…

To be sure, Nietzsche's concept of the Übermensch is somewhat easy to misinterpret and misuse like the Nazis did.

Basically, Nietzsche created his concept in reaction to Schopenhauer's (who he initially recognized as his master) tragic view of the world.

In a nutshell, Schopenhauer would say no to existence to which Nietzsche opposed a firm and resounding yes.

Nietzsche's Übermensch is the one who says yes to life and is ready and willing and striving to live life again and again against all odds. He is an absolute positive figure and he is an übermensch because he accepts the possibility of the eternal return of all things, contrary to the Buddhists whose ultimate goal is to escape the cycle of reincarnations.

Ayn Rand's interpretation of the übermensch notion isn't far from the Nazis' one.

Anijo a dit…

This is a good analysis Flocon. I had a debate about gun control with a guy who's a leftist liberal American, and he had this response:

Counties without a freedom to carry fire arms have less crime related deaths.
That said I come down on the side of freedom and the idea that a little revolution is good from time to time and that governments should fear their people and people should not fear their governments.

Freedom is dangerous and freedom to carry weapons is particularly dangerous.

As the movie public enemy recently reminded me. Police agencies have often in our history acted more like gangs then public servants and often regualr people have sided with street gangs over the police because they were more protective of regular people.

Law enforcement have improved by leaps and bounds in the last 60 years but could still side with the powerful over the powerless and for that very reason our founding fathers wanted the public to have the ability to form militias and protect themselves when needed.

Ned Ludd a dit…

A couple of things. First, do you remember Luc Besson's first film, Le Dernier Combat? I thought it was awful, but it has a cult status. I vaguely remember other Besson films that had implicitly some sort of last hero.

Secondly, I agree with you about Nietzsche saying "yes" to existence, and to enjoy it. But many now mistakenly call him a nihilist when in fact his idea of the nihilist was the Christian who rejected the real world for "a pie in the sky".

Ned Ludd a dit…

Anijo, perhaps you are too young to remember the Black Panther Party. In the 60's they took advantage of California law which allowed carrying loaded weapons in public. They did so at the state house and in following the Oakland police whom they thought were persecuting their communities, which they were.

So California Republicans voted for the strictest gun control law in the country and it was signed by the governor, their St. Ronald Reagan.

If it had been a bunch of white guys, I wonder if there would have been that reaction. Though I don't think that the 2nd Amendment allows private militias, the Black Panthers were as close to a "well regulated militia" as you could get and they were definitely defending themselves and their community from the government.

Furthermore, up to the seventies, the NRA actually supported strong gun control laws. A good article about the times is in The Atlantic I think it is also a book by Adam Winkler.

Ned Ludd a dit…

Flocon, I have seen public interviews and speeches by religious rightwingers like ex-VP candidate Paul Rand where they express the influence Ayn had on their thinking. Unfortunately, no one asked them if that extended to her atheism which they seem to have conveniently forgotten.

Anijo a dit…

Thanks for the link to the article in the Atlantic.

Flocon a dit…

Je n'avais pas pensé à Luc Besson, bien vu.

Je crois que j'ai vu le début du film que tu évoques just to get out of the theater after 15 minutes or so, so much I had quickly understood I was wasting my time watching that kind of crap. I was no longer 15 and even at 15, I wasn't interested in this sort of demagogic succession of clichés.

Flocon a dit…


À propos firearms, I've noticed for a very long time now how many Hollywood productions use firearms, guns and assault submachine and all sort of weapons on their promotion posters. And not only for the "Last out turns the light off" kind of movies.

Flocon a dit…

As pertains Rand being an atheist while insisting that she's a Jew.

I can understand any believer stating one's faith in Allah, Christ, Yahweh, Vishnu etc. since it is their faith that defines their religious identity, other than that they don't posit they're different from any other human beings by virtue of their sheer nature.

Apparently the Jews consider themselves different by nature (that is Mother Nature) from the rest of humanity. So where does their claimed difference stem from if not their very flesh and bones and blood?

"Thank God I wasn't born a Gentile" (that is 99,9% of humanity) is a Jewish prayer.

How is it to be understood but as the very affirmation that racism lies at the core of the Jewish faith? The chosen people... Et les autres then? Well they can go to hell


Les hommes supérieurs que Rand présentent comme les piliers de la société (qui ne les mérite pas) n'est qu'une reprise de la fable des abeilles de Saint Simon, the French harbinger of socialism.

Flocon a dit…

La Fable des abeilles est de Mandeville bien sûr, Saint simon est l'auteur de la Parabole des frelons qu'a reprise Rand.

Le lecteur aura corrigé de lui-même...

Ned Ludd a dit…

Above I meant Paul Ryan of course. Rand's novels like "The Fountain Head" and "Atlas Shrugged" are exciting for adolescents who are looking for self-affirmation and want to see themselves as heroes. A bit like reading super-hero comic books. At that age, I liked them myself.

Mostly they learn better in their twenties, but some don't.

As to being Jewish, I have told those friends that I don't consider them Jewish if they don't follow the religious dogma, and they are all atheists. The religious can be very dangerous, just ask the Amalek "Haman, like all Amalekites, does not believe that there is a G-d in the world. He thinks that everything occurs by happenstance. Yet we know that the truth is quite different" I doubt that you can read through the crazy Rabbi's entire crazy text, just browse through it to get an idea. Today, such religious Jews consider the Palestinians to be Amalek. In an inherently contradictory passage, "thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget [it]." How can you "blot out the remembrance" and yet "not forget". In other passages "blot out" is more explicit meaning killing all men, women, and children--even killing the animals. This is an apology written by a Rabbi.

Flocon a dit…

When I corrected my wrong attribution of the Fable of the Bees to saint Simon, I looked again at what is said on the French page about that book, only to read that Ayn Rand was inspired by Mandeville's text, particularly in her Virtue of Selfishness.

Oh, really? So, as the professional blogger I am, I looked at the English page where I couldn't find mention of Mandeville but, from the very few that I know about Rand's ideas, it certainly makes sense. All the more since this fable of the XVIIIth century is a famous text in the history of economic theories.

So I decided to look further and eventually landed on the page dedicated to Rand's objectivism philosophy. And what do I read here:

"Objectivism's central tenets are that reality exists independent of consciousness".

Eh? Of course it reminded me of the conversation we had on the Two slits on my head post last September, where I presented Kant's idealism according which the existence of the world is dependent on the existence of consciousness.

My presentation was met with a strong opposition which surprised me because it all seemed so obvious to me.

Stating that the world exists independantly from a perceiving consciousness is a spontaneous, naive view of things, comparable to the affirmation that the earth if flat and that the Sun revolves around the sun.

At least, that is Rand's axiom and I didn't know there were still people who would defend that representation of things.

Well, Rand may have been an interesting novelist but the more I look at her philosophy, the more I think she gave an opportunity to people with no serious education, the feeling they had a firm grip on reality and that what they spontaneoulsy thought was right and had some uncontroversial foundation in real philosophy and that scholars and intellectuals were disconnected from reality.

Under the disguise of successful and entertaining novels as well as down on earth philosophy, Ayn Rand actually played the anti intellectual card and it played particularly well with the general audience in the post WWII U.S.

Flocon a dit…

It should have been the Sun revolves around the earth of course.


I've retrieved this article published in le Monde 6 months ago, à propos a critic of Rand By Tymothy Snider.

Without debating the pros and cons re A. Rand, I find it tale telling that it took over half a century before Atlas Shrugged be translated into French. And yet, French publishers are always on the watch and ready to publish whatever interesting novel is printed in the U.S


Selon une étude conduite par la Library of Congress américaine et par Book of the Month Club (« le club du livre du mois ») dans les années 1990, Atlas Shrugged est le livre le plus influent après la Bible aux États-Unis

Comme il n'est pas possible que les éditeurs aient ignoré l'existence de Rand (c'est leur métier) il est possible qu'ils aient jugé que toute sa production était vraiment "bizarre" et too typically American de ce point de vue.


Rand's novels like "The Fountain Head" and "Atlas Shrugged" are exciting for adolescents who are looking for self-affirmation and want to see themselves as heroes. A bit like reading super-hero comic books.

You're probably on something here Ned...


How can you "blot out the remembrance" and yet "not forget"

How about "not forget to blot out the remembrance"?


Blotting out like here?