Southern Art and Design Doesn’t Matter…Unless You’re on the Left.

For as many years as I’ve been an artist, I’ve seen numerous Southerners, Christians, libertarians and other traditionalist-minded folks wring their hands over people subscribing to this or that tenant of leftist ideology, but then turn around and market their own ideas in just about the most boring manner possible. Because if there’s anything the left has done exceptionally well, it’s selling their flimsy ideas through compelling mediums – which conservatives sometimes really seem to struggle with. Frustrating? Absolutely. But trying to “sell” your ideas without an eye-catching or clever way to deliver them might be akin to pounding your head against a lump of coal, hoping to one day smash it into a diamond. It’s just not going to work. But time and time again, I’ve watched the painful attempts of talented economists, philosophers, political theorists, historians and more work like mad to sell a well-researched or really fascinating perspective on a particular subject – only to fail in reaching a very large audience.

And the fact of the matter is this: If you have a belief that you hold strongly too, and happen to find yourself in a situation where you want to persuade someone else as to why you believe this way – whether through a face-to-face interaction, a book or a piece of music – you’ve just entered into a realm of marketing and sales. How compelling you are in your presentation could be the difference between someone subscribing to what you’re sharing, holding onto it for thoughtful contemplation, or outright rejection and ridicule. It’s the same reason we dress up for a job interview, polish our resume and try to put our best foot forward for a potential employer. It’s even a little like when we go out for a date too. The goal in either case is to give a really great first impression, and hopefully convey to a potential employer (or the opposite sex) just how amazing we are. But the only way we can do that is by making certain we’re giving a great presentation in all the right areas.

To be fair, modern Southerners have certainly made solid attempts to tell great stories about our heroes and history, whether through movies like Copperhead or Gods and Generals. But how such movies resonated with younger and more impressionable audiences might be debatable. Especially when compared with revisionist historical hits like 2012’s Django Unchained, which grossed over $425 million worldwide and featured the story of a man as he violently murdered his way across a predictably “evil” South. Meanwhile, Spielberg’s highly acclaimed Lincoln was much praised for it’s depiction of a “saintly” Abraham Lincoln reigning over nearly a million men, women and children dead – and was nominated for 12 Academy Awards. And while the 2012 flick Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter may not have been well-funded or carefully crafted propaganda of the prior two movies, it still grossed around $115 million domestically and worldwide, and was probably best known for a portrayal of Lincoln once again saving the blessed Union…except this time from a monstrous and blood-thirsty South.

And we wonder why some people are tearing down our veterans monuments, and ironically censoring the beautiful art it represents.

Another area of huge influence over the hearts and minds of people is the interactive entertainment industry. Whether through console games, PC games, or games on the phone or tablet, Southern minded creatives unfortunately lag far behind in developing or designing powerful stories through this growing medium. For example, the critically acclaimed and award winning Bioshock Infinite, developed by Irrational Games and released in 2013, sold over 3.7 million retail copies and has since sold more than 11 million copies overall. The game, set in a 1912 alternate reality that features a gigantic steampunk floating city named “Columbia”, delivers a leftist-centric view on such important themes as immigration, tolerance, secession, American exceptionalism and racism.

In the article Bioshock Infinite makes great art from America’s racist past and political present, Ben Popper writes, “Beyond the aesthetics, what really stood our for me was the stark and intelligent treatment of deeper themes: racism, nationalism, and religion in America. The story may be set at the turn of the 20th century, but it forces the player to ponder the same questions about immigration and tolerance…” Popper notes, “In BioShock Infinite, the creators again present a funhouse mirror of American ideological history. Comstock the Prophet and the citizens of the floating city of Columbia meld strains of religious fervor, anti-government rhetoric, jingoistic nationalism, and a twisted worship of the founding fathers, all carefully lifted from historical events at the turn of the 20th century, but simultaneously satirizing the Tea Party movement that has roiled our politics for the last six years.” 

Meanwhile, Nick Hagger, co-founder of Robot Circus, an independent game studio based in Melbourne, Australia, writes about how combining progressivist views with real-world politics can actually improve interactive fiction. “In a video game landscape that is still dominated by square-jawed white men, you will always invite comment and interpretation when you centre your game around a dark-skinned, same-sex attracted woman.” Hagger writes about the company’s first original work, a sci-fi puzzle role-playing game named “Ticket to Earth”, which was released in 2017. “These fictional social structures and governments might be fanciful, but they always work best and feel most compelling when they feel believable, and internally consistent. The timeless science fiction classics have always been those that show us reflections of ourselves, that tell us something about the real world through a fantastic filter.” 

But all of this isn’t designed to get people to throw their hands up in the air and get all mopey and apathetic. Rather, it’s merely a way to get us all thinking about ways we can use art, creativity and maybe even a little bit of fun to help “sell” our messages (like the “Sherminator” and “Jeff Davis: Yankee Hunter” parody posters included with this article). Sure, money and lack of interest in certain types of subjects may always be a hurdle, especially when faced with heavy bias in the entertainment industry, governmental school system and institutions of higher learning. But the point is that while we may have the content, we don’t always have the aesthetic. Hollywood and other leftists have the aesthetic, but their content is usually garbage. Anyone seeking to communicate truth to a large audience needs to have both. And there really is no excuse, because we have the truth – as well as a LOT of talented people in our community. Southern musicians, artists, graphic designers, videographers, photographers, sculptors, game developers, poets, entrepreneurs and more are all more than likely ready and able to help out in trying to find ways to strategize and effectively get what’s true and valuable into our communities, and maybe even the world. So let’s network, roll up our sleeves and get to work! 

About Lewis Liberman

Lewis Liberman is a college graduate, professional graphic artist, writer, award winning illustrator, proud Southerner and totally awesome Generation Xer. When he’s not working as an educator, or poking a little fun at the lunacy of the left and the radicals in “Yankee-dom”, he enjoys reading, playing music, serving the Lord and spending time with family. Find him at libertopiacartoon.wordpress.com. More from Lewis Liberman

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