Last week in class I offered a reflection on how the rule of law often requires determined—nay, strictly speaking even extra-legal—displays of force to establish or vindicate the rule of law. The Declaration of Independence alone did not suffice to establish the United States: It took Washington’s army in the field—an extra-legal act of rebellion—to successfully vindicate the natural rights of man for self-rule that the Declaration proclaims. It then required the Union army in the 1860s to repeat the process. I added, since popular culture is often a good way to get through to students, that this lesson is perhaps dramatized best in the classic film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. (Yes, I know: very few of today’s students will have ever seen that film, but some of them now will see it, and take the right lesson from it.)
So it is a matter of some dismay I just now caught up with the news that Hollywood is thinking of remaking Liberty Valance. No. Please. Just say no. I can give my own reasons, but over at Acculturated, Jack Butler (identified only as “a writer in Washington,” but I know better) had the best and most thorough takedown of this bad idea a while ago:
If Hollywood wanted to remake Liberty Valance as a Western, it would be nearly impossible to match the caliber of the original cast and crew. Perhaps that’s why the remake will take place in “a relatively contemporary period, such as 1980s Western Pennsylvania amid the retrenchment of the steel and auto industries,” according to Variety. This change of setting suggests the producers might misunderstand the power of the original film.
My only quibble with young Jack is the phrase “might misunderstand” the power of the original film. It’s a near metaphysical certainty that Hollywood will misunderstand the original film. Probably on purpose.
Just for the fun of it, here’s the famous classroom scene with Rance Stoddard teaching the class about the Constitution and the rule of law. This was possible because back in those days Hollywood was actually pro-America. Notice, by the way, that his pupils are partly immigrants, being assimilated. (About 6 delightful minutes long.)
Second memo to Hollywood: If you want to do something useful in the remake department, why not go back and remake the three dreadful Star Wars prequels that George Lucas completely botched? That would be a major public service.