The Verso Books blog has posted online the complete text of Thom Andersen’s essay “Reagan at the Movies”. The article was originally written for Artforum magazine in 1984 but feels particularly pertinent to the current political climate. The essay remained unpublished until its recent inclusion in “Slow Writing: Thom Andersen on Cinema.” An excerpt is below, and the full article can now be read online at Verso Books.
“Some would say the problem isn’t that Ronald Reagan still likes movies, it’s the movies that he likes. But I think the commentators who find Reagan’s support of Rambo unbecoming have missed the point. Reagan’s special genius as a politician has been his ability to make ressentiment seem virtuous and respectable. People like him because he makes them feel good about their anger. This is no small achievement. He succeeds so well because the rage and frustration he expresses is felt sincerely. He managed to keep his own sense of ressentiment alive against all odds. At the height of his fame and fortune as a movie star, he was able to feel passionately and keenly the injustice of the progressive income tax (and his apparently quixotic forty-year crusade against it has finally ended in a remarkable victory — a happy ending more improbable than Jimmy Stewart’s triumph in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington). When he ranted about welfare chiselers, you knew he meant it. Her could count the dollars they were stealing from him.”
(Thom Andersen, Reagan at the Movies, 1984)