Would you like to see a movie in which Chris Matthews gets whacked?
I sure would, which is why I’m finishing a novel in which that very thing happens. The book is called Dead Line. And before you accuse me of being bloodthirsty or tasteless, let me add that I don’t think it’s a good thing that Matthews gets offed. As with other kinds of killing, from abortion to ill-advised wars, the evil tends to blow back on the perpetrators. (Though not always.) Furthermore, I believe in catharsis in fiction — that if you are mentally stable, it’s fun seeing the bad guys get gunned down on TV, the stage or the big screen. As one of my friends put it: “The best part of “Casino”? Alan King gets whacked. The worst part? Don Rickles does not.”
Dead Line is a conservative book, but that shouldn’t stop Hollywood from picking up the movie rights — and I recently had a meeting with a connection who works in La-La land and told me she thinks the idea is a good one and could sell, even if she’s liberal and not high enough on the chain to make those decisions.
To be sure, the movie business is honeycombed with liberals, but I think they are increasingly willing to put politics aside to tell a good story and make some money. And conservative movies have made money. Films like “300,” “Man of Steel” (a movie loaded with conservative themes), and “The Conjuring,” a classical horror story that insists on the reality of evil, and conservative crime author Andrew Klavan has had two books made into films.
For our part, conservatives need to just stop whining about the culture and start producing art, especially pop art. We need to start pitching ideas to movie people, and make the ideas better than a lot of what we’ve come up with. “An American Carol” isn’t art, and neither are the movies made by Kirk Cameron (though God bless him for trying). Like too many liberal movies, overtly conservative films often let politics or religion get in the way of the story. They tend to lecture instead of simply show. The film “300” said more about liberals making humans into messiahs and forcing their theology on the rest of humanity better than Dinesh D’Souza’s pedantic documentary “The Roots of Obama’s Rage” ever could. “The Conjuring” shows the tangible reality of the demonic, and does so in a very understated way.
The plot of Dead Line is straightforward, but also with enough subtlety and doubt to make audiences feel they’re not getting a lecture. A 25 year-old graduate student named Augustine, who is studying theology at a college in Washington, D.C., is humiliated when his mother, a politician, is embarrassed on Chris Matthews’ show “Hardball.” He tracks Matthews down, follows him, and during a confrontation accidentally kills Matthews. Before he can turn himself, in he is contacted by a member of a secretive organization, the Lepanto League. The Lepanto League wants to clean up America’s toxic and collapsing culture, and they think that the killing of Matthews was a good start. They hatch a plan to kill several more journalists, and promise to save Augustine from arrest if he will join them. He agrees, but with one catch: they must be given three chances before they die. The are allowed three mistakes on their broadcasts or in their copy; then they get it. The Lepanto League then puts up the messages announcing their intent on an untraceable website. (As an aside, the Lepanto League is named after the sea battle in 1571 near Greece in which a greatly outnumbered Christian force turned back the invading Ottomans. That would also make a great film.)
As you might imagine, when journalists discover they are being monitored and their lives may depend on their fairness and accuracy, panic ensues. Journalists who tend to do sloppy reporting or lazy commentary that sacrifices truth for politics are soon going over their copy very carefully. Rachel Maddow’s house becomes an armed bunker.
When I had my meeting with my Hollywood connection, she initially interpreted Dead Line as a conservative revenge fantasy against the liberal media — but she changed her tune once we spoke in person and she read the manuscript. As I said, demanding that people embrace a certain ideology or fictitiously offing them for making human errors can have unpleasant blowback — and Dead Line is partly about that (the Lepanto League may also not be exactly what they claim to be. Or they may be exactly what they claim to be. You’ll have to find out.) There are also some sex scenes for good measure. The point is, a stories have to acknowledge the complexities of identifying good and argue for mercy — in most cases.
It’s vital that conservatives stop giving up on Hollywood before trying to pitch our ideas to movie people, who will actually listen — they get paid to hear pitches every day, and while even some of the most worthwhile projects don’t get funded, it’s too defeatist to say that none of our ideas will break through. As I described Dead Line to my Hollywood contact, I saw her go from staring off into space to being completely locked in on the concept in a few seconds. Soon we were talking about plot points, and even how to shoot certain scenes (the Spielbergian tracking shot to zero in on a journalist realizing he had made a third mistake and his life is in mortal danger, etc). Forgetting any ideology, she was sold on the story.
My only concern is that she’ll suggest Rob Reiner direct.