Coulter on Character, Hollywood, and Evil

Ann Coulter - How to Talk to a LiberalI’ve read Ann Coulter’s first four books, now, having recently completed How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must): The World According to Ann Coulter. (Yeah, I know, I’m way behind.) If you’re unfamiliar with the book, it is a compilation of many of her columns through 2003 (or maybe early 2004). I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite book of hers. In fact, of the four I’ve read, it’s my least favorite. But, it still has some good columns, most with her characteristic bite. And, it was interesting to recall what was going on and being talked about back then — pre- and post-9/11, and the early days of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The one article I want to bring a little attention to, however, is one from the end of the book. It was originally commissioned by Good Housekeeping, then rejected for not being “personal” enough. I find Coulter’s observations, while perhaps not quite profound, still insightful and worth remembering.

“It’s hard enough to resist temptation — the one thing Oscar Wilde said he could not resist — without also feeling like you are the only person on earth being asked to engage in the Herculean task of not committing a mortal sin. When every fiber of your being wants to do something and the only thing stopping you is the knowledge that it would be wrong, it’s not going to make it easier to know that a lot of your friends apparently do not care that it is wrong. It’s especially not going to be easy if the ones who do not care seem no worse for the wear….”

This made me think of how children & teens will use the “everybody else is doing it” defense for doing something bad or, at least, of questionable wisdom. They need to be taught that a thing’s popularity does not make it OK to do, whether the activity is sniffing glue or mocking another child or playing video games that glorify breaking the law or… whatever. They also need to be encouraged to practice self-restraint when put in a situation where they could get away with it, and their friends don’t mind or probably do it themselves. Come to think of it, a lot of adults act this way and need to learn/practice self-restraint, as well. (No, I don’t just mean liberals, either.)

“Perhaps the greater disservice of Hollywood movies is their cartoonish villains. In real life, I promise you, the devil will look more like Julia Roberts than Snidely Whiplash. Evil does not arrive with a flashing neon sign: MEPHISTOPHELES! LUCIFER! SATAN! FOR ETERNAL DAMNATION, APPLY HERE. Evil arrives packaged as a winsome movie about a long-legged brunette who manages to marry a rich, handsome bachelor and live happily ever after — all by turning tricks on Hollywood Boulevard! There’s a reason Beelzebub is known as the prince of lies.

Snidely Whiplash

Snidely Whiplash

Evil presents itself like a beautiful banquet. That’s why Adam and Eve were tempted with a delicious-looking apple instead of a spoonful of castor oil. Satan takes the form of gorgeous actresses, successful politicians, and pop icons cavorting across the gossip columns, subliminally exhorting the reader: Be like me! Don’t be a prude! This is how the glamorous people live! But as in Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray, the sinner’s beauty conceals a soul growing uglier by the minute.”

Minor quibble: While people often refer to an apple when recounting the story of Eden, the Hebrew does not specify an apple, only a fruit.

Just to be clear, I am sure that Coulter does not believe that Satan himself actually, physically impersonates such celebrities. She was, of course, speaking metaphorically. And, I think her point is well-taken. We need to beware of the subtle ways in which Hollywood and the media influence us, such that we sometimes don’t realize we are subconsciously accepting a certain “worldly” message as OK and true. Seeing celebrities — or, the characters they play — smiling and thriving, popular and rich, makes it all seem hunky-dorey. Even when we hear/read about their relationship problems, substance abuse, struggles with depression, etc., somehow we shrug it off and don’t connect it to the often selfish, meaningless, hedonistic lifestyle that they practice and the associated worldview.

“People don’t commit acts of great evil or great courage out of thin air. Character is developed out of a lifetime of choices. Almost every decision you make, however small, will be a step closer to God or a step closer to the devil. When you are unkind to a clumsy shop clerk, you are taking a step closer to the devil. When you snap at your mother, you are taking a step closer to the devil. When you gossip enviously about a friend, you are taking a step closer to the devil. When you go along with the in crowd and don’t speak out against liars, against promiscuity, against abortion, you are taking a step closer to the devil. But it’s never too late to stop and begin taking steps toward God. It’s a lot easier to make that journey with companions who know the way.”

Without getting picky about theological details, let me just say, “Ain’t it the truth?”

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