Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ayn Rand and The Fountainhead, the Movie


I had not read Ayn Rand in the past but since the selection of Paul Ryan, a devout follower of Rand’s, I figured it was time to see for myself a little of her work.  Initially I was going to read the novel but found that the library held a copy of the 1949 movie, starring Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal, on DVD format.  Sometimes movies don’t follow the book but since Ayn Rand also wrote the screen play, I figured it to be pretty accurate. 

Many of the comments I have read have been critical of Ryan as a follower of Rand’s “Individualism” as portrayed in the novel and some of her other work, ie. “Atlas Shrugged”.  Somehow this Individualism was taken by the modern Republican Party and or Tea Party to espouse less Government and more emphasis on the individual accomplishments of people.  Words and phrases that come to mind as I watched the movie were the mob, the masses, compromise is bad, don’t give in to mediocrity, standing up for your principles against all odds.  Used in the context of the movie or the book, these are all great ideals.  The hero Roark never waivers in his commitment to ensure that his architectural designs are used exactly as he laid them out.  He will never accept any changes to his designs and would not work and would deny the love of his life rather than succumb to any changes that might be more acceptable to less radical thoughts or more acceptable to the masses.  

As noted, these are great ideals but in my opinion, even great ideals taken to extreme can be bad.  For instance, if all writers and authors refused to allow any editing of their work, I doubt there would be very much written in major journals, magazines and a lot less novels written.  Unless you can write, print, market, distribute and collect all by yourself, you are pretty dependent upon an editor and work of a publishing company.  I dare say trying to do all that yourself would really limit your ability to write.  These entities then have a share in the risk and the rewards of getting your work published.  Along with that risk comes the right to edit your work.  If you don’t like it you just don’t get published, hence the need to negotiate and to compromise if you are going to get anything done. 

Actually I thought the movie and the ideals presented in it were applicable to Progressive people as well as Conservatives.  Towards the end the hero Roark made a presentation to a jury in defense against the charge that he destroyed a building that was built with changes to his design.  He said throughout history great things have been accomplished by people with vision and that this vision cannot be compromised to the lesser thoughts of the masses.  Not sure if I really got this exactly right but in general that is what I took from it.  Overall, in spite of the flat style of the 40’s movie dialog it was an ok entertainment for the evening and gave me a better understanding of the philosophy of Ayn Rand and Paul Ryan.  

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