One of my chief interests is the impact of political correctness and cultural marxism in general on popular culture. Most people think that popular culture reflects the society from which it springs, which of course it does. But popular culture also influences society. There’s a reason the cultural marxists have laboured so hard to bring popular culture under their control.
One of my passions is the detective story and it provides some useful examples.
The essence of the detective story is that a threat to society arises and the detective must remove that threat. If crime goes unpunished then eventually the system of law and order will decay. When that happens society will become unstable, and chaos will follow. When chaos reigns it’s the weak who suffer, not the strong. Civilisation exists as the only alternative to the law of the jungle.
It follows from this that the detective story can only thrive if people consider civilisation to be worth saving. It’s fair to say that most of the great writers of detective fiction up until the 1920s believed that it was worth saving.
The rise of the hard-boiled school in the US changed all that. This was a school of writing that attracted a great many people who did not consider civilisation to be worth saving. Of course not all the hard-boiled writers fell into this category but the cynicism that became a hallmark of the style nevertheless has a corrosive effect upon society.
It’s instructive to compare the two most famous practitioners of the hard-boiled style, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Hammett’s heroes believe in nothing except getting ahead. Even when they happen to be private detectives, like his two best-known characters, the Continental Op and Sam Spade, they have no real belief in law and order. For Sam Spade being a private detective provides opportunities to enrich himself by semi-illegal or morally dubious means, and to get away with it.
Chandler’s best-known character, Philip Marlowe, is very different. Marlowe is cynical, frequently disillusioned and angered by the corruption that he sees about him. The difference is that all this simply serves to increase Marlowe’s determination to see justice done. Marlowe would unquestionably like to see many aspects of American society reformed, but he certainly does not want to see that society destroyed. Marlowe understands only too well that social breakdown hurts the weak, and Marlowe’s sympathies are always with the weak.
It’s reasonably safe to assume that Chandler’s own views were not dissimilar to Marlowe’s. It’s also safe to assume that Hammett’s views were very different. Hammett would have been delighted to see American society destroyed. Both Hammett and his lover, the unspeakable and poisonous Lillian Hellman, were communists. If civilisation could be undermined sufficiently it would collapse, thus hastening the glorious socialist revolution. Everyone would then live happily ever after under the wise and benevolent rule of the party, just like they were now doing in Hellman’s beloved Soviet Union.
From the 1940s onwards the detective story started to be transformed in other ways. The intellectual puzzle variety that had flourished in the 1920s and 1930s during the so-called golden age of defective fiction fell out of favour. Psychological crime novels became the new vogue. That might not seem too alarming but increasingly authors became more interested in the psychology of the criminal rather than that of the detective. That naturally had the effect of encouraging the reader to see things from the criminal’s point of view. The result was, inevitably, crime fiction that was even more cynical and nihilistic.
Even when crime fiction did take the perspective of the detective it was more and more likely to do so in a negative fashion, emphasising corruption and brutality. There was also a very much increased tendency for crime fiction to show the criminal getting away with crime, or (perhaps even worse) to tempt the reader into hoping that he will.
Yet another development in crime fiction, one that started in the 1950s but really got into its stride in later decades, is the inclusion of more and more sex and (to an even greater extent) more and more graphic violence. The serial killer has become the favourite criminal, allowing authors to demoralise us with sickening sexual violence. Wallowing in the gutter has become the norm for crime writers, as it has become the norm for the rest of the arts.
Crime movies and television shows have followed the same trajectory.
In all these cases the end result is crime fiction that undermines society, and that undermines belief in the law. This is of course very welcome to the cultural marxists, that being precisely the type of crime fiction they like to see.
There are still writers of crime fiction who produce work somewhat in the style of the writers of the golden age (the writers of so-called cozy mysteries). These writers are usually ignored by critics who prefer to heap praise on crime novels set in the natural environment of the modern “creative artist” – the gutter.
These developments show no sign of slackening, yet another ominous sign for our beleaguered civilisation.