Doing Ayn Rand and “Atlas Shrugged” A Disservice
I say unfortunate title because I do not think Rand, who wrote extensively in support of rationality and reason, would be pleased to be called a prophet, which implies “divinely inspired revelations,” which Rand would categorically reject.
I realize that the selected title of the film was probably decided upon for marketing purposes, but I think a more accurate title would have been “Ayn Rand & The Reasoned Foresight of Atlas Shrugged.”
Well put, John. You know why there can’t be a reference to “reasoned foresight.” It might look too much like terrorism.
Actually, there is a method to the madness, here.
In her speech “Is Atlas Shrugging” (published in CAPITALISM: THE UNKNOWN IDEAL), the word “prophetic is used three times…Here’s HER answer on that front:
“...to put the question in a form which has often been more addressed to me: ‘is ATLAS SHRUGGED a prophetic novel—or a historical one?
“The second part of the question seems to answer the first: if some people believe that ATLAS SHRUGGED is a HISTORICAL nove, this means that it was a successful prophecy.
“The truth of the matter can be best expressed as follows: although the political aspects of ATLAS SHRUGGED are not its central theme nor its main purpose, my attitude torward thse aspects—during the years of writing the novel—was contained in a brief rule I had set for myself: ‘The purpose of this book is to prevent itself from becoming prophetic.’”
The speech goes on to list world events that were happening that cast ATLAS in a prophetic light…this was 1964. At the end, Rand quotes a fan who wrote to her: “We thought you said the novel was not prophetic.”Posted by Joe Maurone on 01/15 at 01:38 PM
Actually, there is a method to the madness, here.
Point taken, Joe. I still think it more a madness, if only because the vast majority of individuals will understand that word “prophecy” as meaning Rand is some type of Nostradamus type character.
Good to hear from you.Posted by John Venlet on 01/15 at 01:59 PM
Hi, John, and thanks.
I understand your point. I’m personally not so worried about that, but only because I already know Rand’s attitude own attitude towards and use of such words. She used religious terms often, partly to provoke, and partly to reclaim their implications in a secular context, yet those who pay attention realize that she’s, in fact, an atheist. (See the explanation for the title of ANTHEM for example.)
Yes, those not in the know could certainly take it for Nostradamus bunk, but, given Rand’s own entertainment of the word “prophecy,” I would hope that the filmmakers would address her comments and make it clear. (Not to mention that there’s a certain “P.T. Barnum” aspect here; those who know Rand will already know the context, but those lured in by the tabloid aspect will hopefully see the context, or be “suckered” and sorely disappointed. )
More, from the same essay, from Rand on “prophecy”:
“The purpose of my discussing this today was, not to ...leave you with the impression that I possess some mystical gift of prophecy, but to demonstrate the exact opposite: that the gift is NOT mystical….”
“There is only one power that determines the course of history, just as it determines the course of every individual life: the power of man’s rational faculty-the power of IDEAS. If you know a man’s convictions, you can predict his actions. If you understand the dominant philosophy of a society, you can predict its course….”
“There is no fatalistic, predetermined historical necessity. ATLAS SHRUGGED is not a prophecy of our unavoidable destruction, but a manifesto of our power to avoid it, if we choose to change our course.”
“Since men have free will, no one can predict with certainty the outcome of an IDEOLOGICAL conflict nor how long such a conflict will last….I can say only that if part of the purpose of ATLAS SHRUGGED was to prevent itself from becoming prophetic, there are many, many signs to indicate that it is succeeding in that purpose.”
Joe. Thanks for those additional thoughts of Rand’s. I appreciate you putting them here, as they apply quite decidely to the point of my post.Posted by John Venlet on 01/16 at 02:13 PM
I was invited to the film tonight, part of the free ticket promotion. Certainly geared for those already a fan, so the “prophecy” angle was treated metaphorically (even if the style of music and tone bordered on Nostradamus-styled bios)...) No real discussion of ideas, though, just cashing-in on the headlines…
We saw it last night. The film is an extended informercial for Atlas Shrugged, the-book-as-retail-product, that’s all. The Ayn Rand Institute’s fingerprints are all over it, although not explicitly and with no appearances by Pope Sneakoff. The quality is comparable to the Discovery channel—breathless documentary with lots of cool video transitions to camouflage the dearth of content. The project’s obvious purpose is to sell more copies of Atlas Shrugged at the full retail price. That’s it. From the experience, the inference I draw is that the Sneakoff claque just wants more free money to live on. Little Lenny has definitely lived up to his status as Ayn Rand’s Intellectual Error.Posted by Greg Swann on 01/18 at 12:58 PM
Joe and Greg. Thank you for posting your impressions of the film. I, too, had been offered complimentary tickets, but passed on the opportunity. Judging from both of your impressions, I don’t think I missed anything.Posted by John Venlet on 01/18 at 02:15 PM
I, too, saw it last night. I am in general agreement with Joe Maurone’s and Greg Swann’s comments (though I am not as critical of Peikoff, in general). The Al Ruddy segments were by far the most entertaining and enlightening (and contained the only content I didn’t already know). I’m sure the DVD will have worthwhile extra interview content, but the editing of the feature not only cut off some of the best interview content but presented it in a context that sometimes made it difficult to understand. The narration and organization are also poor (they spent copious time on “We the Living” and “The Fountainhead” but didn’t mention “Anthem”—the writer/director commented that it may have been on the cutting room floor but he couldn’t remember).Posted by Jeffrey Falk on 01/18 at 07:05 PM
Jeffrey. I appreciate you posting your input on the film. When it makes it to DVD, I’ll take it in myself, if only for the Ruddy segments, which both you and Joe found entertaining. Thanks again.Posted by John Venlet on 01/19 at 11:55 AM