Movies that Celebrate Liberty

by Sean Gangol
[email protected]

Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise

Idecided to write something a little lighter than the usual diatribe about our current political climate. This time I decided to write about movies with slight libertarian bents. I know that I am not the first one to write about this subject, since I have read several articles and blogs that discuss movies that have libertarian themes. There was even a book written about movies that have elements of libertarianism, titled Miss Liberty’s Guide to Film and Video: Movies for the Libertarian Millennium by Jon Osborne. [Now available as a web site. — ed.] Usually they discuss everything from Ghostbusters to Star Wars to V for Vendetta, so I am going to mention movies that are rarely mentioned in these discussions.

I could discuss movies such as Hunger Games and V for Vendetta, but it’s easy to point out the libertarian elements in dystopian movies where government officials are the villains. To me it’s much more interesting to discuss the rare occasion where you actually see capitalism portrayed in a good light, instead of the one-dimensional villains that we see movies such as Wall-Street or The Wolf of Wall-Street. There is the Howard Hughes biographical movie, The Aviator, which shows capitalism in a slightly better light than usual. Despite seeing our hero slowly making his descent into madness, he is portrayed as a brilliant businessman who not only risks everything for the ventures that he believes in, but he even heroically stands up to corrupt politicians and crony capitalists. This makes it even more tragic when he finally loses his sanity.

The one movie that has yet to get any mention from libertarians and movie buffs alike is Beauty Shop, staring Queen Latifah. Beauty Shop is actually a spin-off from the Barbershop film series, though I actually found it funnier and more engrossing. The story centers around a single mother who after feeling unappreciated at her job as a beautician decides to open her own beauty shop. Even though her meager income and lack of collateral can only afford her a small beauty shop located in a low-income area, she still does everything in her ability to keep her business afloat. One of her major obstacles is the harassment that she has to endure from an overzealous government inspector who at one point is even referred to as “The Oppressor” and conveniently shows up to issue fines for frivolous violations. We even see a little crony capitalism at play when it turns out that these surprise inspections were brought about when Latifah’s former boss bribes the inspector to harass her shop. It’s not exactly Atlas Shrugged, but it is one of those rare movies that are pro-entrepreneur.

I know that Ghostbusters is frequently mentioned when discussing libertarianism concepts in movies, though I rarely see the second installment mentioned. I know that many regard the sequel as inferior to the first, though not only do I think it’s relatively decent as far as sequels are concerned, but it does have its share of libertarian moments as the first one does. From the very beginning of the second installment we see that our protagonists are reduced to making appearances at birthday parties of underprivileged children because their business took a severe hit when they were sued and billed for the damages the city suffered in the first movie. Never mind that they prevented an apocalypse from happening in the middle of the city, which was partially caused by a government bureaucrat in the first place. Then we have an over-the-top judge who decides to issue an injunction against the Ghostbusters ever picking up a proton-pack because he doesn’t believe in ghosts. Apparently, this judge was on vacation when the world almost ended in his own backyard. The best form of justice was seeing the ghosts of the two brothers he sentenced to death come after him, while having Harold Ramis rub it in his face when he says “Why don’t you just tell them that you don’t believe in ghosts?” Then you have the Mayor’s right-hand man who has the Ghostbusters committed to a mental institution when they threaten to go to the press over the mayor refusing to do anything about another appending apocalypse. Yeah, why would he listen to these guys? They only saved the city and possibly the entire world in the last movie. It makes me wonder if every public official in this movie came down with amnesia. Some would sum this up as flawed writing, but since the government has proven time and time again that they can’t learn from their own mistakes, the writing doesn’t really come off all that far-fetched.

There is this one growing franchise, which is unintentionally libertarian. You may have heard of the Kingsman movies, the spy action/comedies which are reminiscent of the pre-Daniel Craig Bond movies. They also have the most pro-freedom storylines to ever be featured in a spy series. Though I think they are going to be addressed separately to fully discuss it.


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