Red Scare: Hopeless Left Aesthetics
So there was a Presidential election my sophomore year of college and I was part of the College Democrats for it. We put in a lot of work to get the Democrat elected and we went into election night pretty sure he would win. You know what? He totally did.
So that was gratifying.
And then on election night we had a little party in the basement of a bar. I don’t remember too much about it, but I do remember that one of the College Republicans showed up. This guy was notorious, one of the leaders, a real little troll of a man.
I was like: “Why are you here? This isn’t your team?” And he pointed at some girl in a very specific way and said, “You guys have more attractive women.”
It was undebatable. This is crass, I know, but it’s exactly what happened and it was him that pointed like that, not me — remember. But it did serve as an important lesson: Allure is one tactic for accumulating power. It’s not enough, but it does matter. Especially in America, where most citizens either sit out the political process entirely or don’t do anything more than vote.
Is it still true that the devotees on the left side of the aisle are more attractive? Are they more fun? Does the Left ever have any fun at all?
Like what do you picture today’s Lefties doing for fun? Sitting around finding ever more elaborate ways to apologize to each other for the circumstances of their birth? Is it even possible to have an aesthetically appealing Left?
On the Red Scare podcast subreddit right now they are having a discussion of which civil war had the best aesthetics. This might seem like a crass topic to some.
The Red Scare podcast isn’t for everyone. It took me a few tries to lock in with it, I confess, but so far in my survey of the coolmic brain internet, I have become convinced that they occupy an important place, particularly aesthetically.
All politics are emotional, and aesthetics are the means for communicating emotionally in an efficient manner. Generally people become politicized for aesthetic reasons, but then — who knows why? — the politicized person becomes embarrassed about aesthetics and intellectualizes their social concerns. The usefulness of Red Scare, particularly in this most recent episode (“Movie Night: Little Vera / Hardcore”), stems from the two very aesthetically compelling hosts expressing regret for the lackluster aesthetics of activists who have their sympathies.
Red Scare was founded by Dasha Nekrasova and Anna Khachiyan. It is a podcast where two immigrant products of the Soviet state discuss political and cultural topics while drinking and smoking and talking a lot of smack that folks shouldn’t take too seriously — sometimes with guests. It’s known for advocating a Leftism of economics without a lot of sympathy for the Left’s current identity-oriented priorities.
To level set non-podcast fans: They love Bernie.
Both of the hosts are artists independent of the show. Nekrasova was an actress who, as I write this, is nearly done editing her first feature film. Khachiyan is a writer of the classic type: She berates herself a lot for not writing. They both seem to have partied with a lot of artists, and they are both better looking than anyone at any College Republican party anywhere.
These facts are salient because aesthetics is our topic.
(Aside: For a discussion of the aesthetics of the show itself, listen to the first part of The Perfume Nationalist podcast where Anna Khachiyan guests. where the lead host (Jack?) breaks it down pretty well at the opening as he gushes about how much he loves Anna. )
On this new patron-only episode of the show (teaser here), where they discuss two films instead of their usual breakdown of the week’s news, they get into a little bit of a conversation about the lousy aesthetics of the American Left ca. 2020.
I have a feeling that that is what inspired the reddit conversation above.
So while talking about Vasili Pichul’s Little Vera (1988), they get into a conversation about how young Russians in the later years of the Soviet Union are allured by the glamor of American Capitalism (“blue jeans”) in part because everything was so drab in their own landscape.
This leads them to a conversation about young people in the U.S. put off by their crappy prospects eager to resist what’s known these days as “late Capitalism” (guess we’ll see, right?), but the natural alternative there is the Left and the Left is less fun than a workplace sexual harassment training.
If you doubt that the Left isn’t fun, then go watch some Netflix “comedy” specials of any comedian under the age of 35. They are more progressive church services than comedy and I’ve been to a lot of church services that were more fun.
Other than just being glamorous and languorous and cool, the ladies don’t precisely have a prescription for a Left aesthetics that might be appealing, but one might hope that by generally drawing an audience of people with better aesthetics and also people willing to talk about aesthetics without embarrassment or shame, then something could come together.
That’s a part of the role I think the show serves in this milieu, and this ep was a good entry in their aesthetic canon.
See it makes me think back at that Republican guy checking out the girl at the election night party. She was never even going to speak to him, let alone kiss him, so the truth is we would have needed several more levels of aesthetics than we had to recruit that guy to our side.
Like, it would have been nice if I could have said, “We also have better parties.” I actually think then we did have better parties but now? Does the Left have better parties.
I’m going to be honest: I’m pretty sure the Right has better parties these days, and that’s a bad look for the Left because all the good bands are on their side.
P.S. I didn’t actually watch Little Vera ahead of the show but I did watch the other film they discussed: Paul Schrader’s Hardcore (1979), and I’m with the ladies: That movie is amazing and underappreciated. In addition to their observations, the plotline of the Midwestern dad just working out a plan to find his daughter in seedy 70s L.A. without actually doing anything dirty should completely engage anyone. So it goes.