My World of Flops (previously My Year of Flops) is one of my favorite A.V. Club features. Site writer Nathan Rabin examines films (and now television shows, music, and anything else that falls under the description of “pop culture”) that failed and tries to figure out why. Why did a film written and directed by one of Hollywood’s most bankable directors, featuring all manners of “cool” imagery barely make any money? Why did the latest Will Ferrell comedy about a show many people view fondly through nostalgia goggles turn into an embarrassment to the studio?
Rabin examines the events leading up to the release of the works in question, the cultural attitude about the stars, directors, writers, etc., and tries to determine just why audiences rejected the film. Sometimes, people just don’t get the fact that the movie is a satire (Josie and the Pussycats). Sometimes, the satire is a little TOO good, and has the unfortunate effect of driving away audiences (The Invention of Lying). And of course, many of the films are just BAD. From shameless rip-offs of beloved movies amounting to little more than 90 minutes advertisements (Mac and Me) to movies based on insultingly stupid premises and characters (I Hate Valentines Day), many of these movies failed for good reason. And then there are the “fiascos,” like Atlas Shrugged here. These are the movies that, as Nathan says, are “failures of mythic proportions.”
Atlas Shrugged, according to Rabin, goes spectacularly wrong because it imagines a world in which normal views on morality get upended, and selfishness and uncaring are seen as virtuous, while even the slightest act of altruism is a sin. Also, the actors are terrible and the dialogue is beyond stunted.
Another thing about the column worth mentioning is that it is probably the thing most directly responsible for getting me to watch HBO’s brilliant sketch show Mr. Show. In the Land of the Lost article (linked about), Rabin points out that the film’s poor attempts to lampoon the drug subtext in the works of Sid and Marty Krofft had already been superbly done in an episode of Mr. Show and embedded the skit. I’d known for years that Mr. Show was something worth checking out, and I’d seen an episode in college, but my tastes had not yet matured enough to appreciate it. Seeing the Krofft satire in the article, though, was just the thing to push the show from “something to see at some point” to “something I need to watch now.” Strangely enough, about half a year later, Rabin would swing back to Mr. Show by making the spin-off movie, Run Ronnie Run, the subject of an article.
As with Christian tribulation movies, there is no place for nuance or understatement in Atlas Shrugged: Part I. We are not being seduced; we’re being sold with the hardest sell imaginable. Both films depict peculiar persecution fantasies in which the dominant ideologies of the day—Christianity and capitalism—are hounded relentlessly by the one-world-government brigade and the nefarious forces of encroaching socialism, respectively. These movies give victors an opportunity to feel like victims. What do you give a demographic that has everything? The righteous opportunity to feel like they have nothing, and like what little they have is on the verge of being taken away.
My World Of Flops takes on Atlas Shrugged Part I.