BAYHAM: The Death Of Stalin And Chappaquiddick – A Conservative Double Feature At The Cinema

With the movie industry’s hard-left tendencies, it’s rare for conservatives to have good reason to make a trip out the local theater to see a production that doesn’t insult their faith, values, home region, and themselves.

Who would want to spend $12 a head to be insulted on the silver screen when such shabby treatment can be enjoyed gratis on any given late night show?

Many films, even ostensibly non-political movies, work in little jabs here and there at conservatives, the Republican Party, America’s traditions, and public figures on the right.  Sometimes they’ll drop a crack about those “troglodytes” who don’t buy into the latest talking points on the environment or slip in an unflattering reference about evangelicals or perhaps they’ll characterize a part of the country that doesn’t vote Democratic as full of physically ugly, ignorant people.

Rare are the occasions when Hollywood allows through the gate of Babylon a motion picture that engages in political heresy by criticizing the left and their pantheon of heroes.

This week is the exception as some theaters are running two films that should appeal to conservatives.

The dark comedy The Death of Stalin was released last year in Europe but just started to make the rounds of a limited number of domestic cinemas, mainly of the art house variety.  The film does not so much focus on the Georgian-born Soviet leader but the pack of jackals jockeying with each other to emerge as his successor.

The movie is one part Godfather, one part Three Stooges pie fight in the Kremlin and while billed as a comedy, it takes place before a backdrop of not so funny “Communist realism”- the paralyzing terror that was characteristic of Soviet society, the infamous late night “door knocks,” mass arrests, and summary executions.

Steve Buscemi plays Nikita Khrushchev, and while “Mr. Pink” in no way resembles the future Soviet leader, he does a great job playing the closest thing the movie has to a “good guy” opposite to the sadistic NKVD (KGB) chief Lavrentiy Beria.

The film makes reference to the crimes against humanity committed by all of Stalin’s underlings.   Nobody’s hands were clean as all of the ministers owned their individual share of the Red Terror purges that destroyed the lives of tens of millions of people in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe.

The only character in the movie that could be described as a hero is pianist Maria Yudina, a devout Orthodox Christian who engages in acts of defiance to Stalin and the Soviet regime.  In real life Yudina stubbornly embraced her Christian faith during a time when professing religious beliefs in the USSR was dangerous.

The film is a clever reminder that Ronald Reagan was dead right in his characterization of the Soviet Union as the Evil Empire and is recommended viewing especially for those born after the collapse of the Berlin Wall with no idea what the Cold War was all about.

The second movie, which just opened this week, is Chappaquiddick.  The movie is about the last Kennedy brother’s automobile accident that led to the death of a young campaign aide named Mary Jo Kopechne and threatened to derail the Massachusetts senator’s political career.

And while liberals have dismissed the movie as propaganda, there are facts related to Chappaquiddick that are irrefutable: 1) Kennedy left the scene of the accident and inexplicably waited ten hours before reporting the accident, 2) there was no autopsy performed on Kopechne despite the circumstances of her death, which led to speculation as to whether she had quickly drowned or had asphyxiated over a period of time, and 3) Kennedy assembled a Washington All-Star team of politicos to help him manufacture his version of the truth.

If the movie takes some liberties, it is because its makers were filling in the gaps left by the lone known witness (Kennedy) to what happened in Edgartown on the night of July 18, 1969.

And then there is the great unanswered question: how did Kennedy escape his submerged vehicle while Kopechne remained trapped inside?

Beyond the “manslaughter”, the movie brings to the forefront the “whitest” of “white privilege”, that being Kennedy privilege – the ability for a well-connected, wealthy political family to avoid facing any consequences of significance despite causing an incident that resulted in a death.

Furthermore Chappaquiddick reminds America that Mary Jo Kopechne is the original yet conveniently unsung “Me Too” girl, a victim of the actions of a man holding a high position of power who escaped accountability for his actions.

Any “mortal” would have been driven out of office and sent off to prison for what Kennedy did, yet he was able to remain in public office, make a competitive bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, and be lionized as some sort of great humanitarian through his service in the US Senate.

While nobody wants to have his or her life judged by their worst moment, very few people’s worst moments involve a dead body.

The political establishment rallied to Kennedy as his presidential brother’s top aides including former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara helped manage Kennedy’s crisis while the media dumped concrete over Kopechne’s grave by taking Kennedy at his carefully crafted word and letting the matter fade over time.

It’s understandable that the media would not publish positive reviews about the movie as the Fourth Estate was complicit in the Chappaquiddick coverup.

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