Viewpoints in disguise: books and movies
December 28, 2016 8:10 AM   Subscribe

In the vein of The Education of Little Tree (as discussed on This American Life) I'm looking for books or movies that are typically understood as representing one moral/political point of view, but on closer look actually represent a different viewpoint altogether. The bigger the contrast in meaning between the two analyses, the better. Caveat: the "wrong" interpretation must be due to intentional misleading or obscuring by the work's author.

What I'm not looking for are mere "unreliable narrator"-type devices, or postmodernist takes that rely strictly on the reader's subjective interpretation rather the writer's intent. What I want are examples of an author consciously obscuring their moral or political values in their work, with the result being that the work is known for representing something different. I guess that would be achieved through things like subtext or symbolism, but I'm open to anything that fits the bill.
posted by Rykey to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Not sure if this is what you're looking for, but the first season of "Friday Night Lights" is pretty clearly anti-football.
posted by metasarah at 9:09 AM on December 28, 2016

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion might fit the bill, although at this point it is primarily known as "an antisemitic fabricated text".
posted by ewok_academy at 9:12 AM on December 28, 2016

Niccolo Machiavelli was a devout republican (in the small-r sense of the word, not the modern American sense) who was entirely against everything that we think of as 'Machiavellianism'; The Prince is generally thought of among scholars as having been written either as satire or inherently self-defeating, purposefully bad advice that unfortunately people happened to take seriously. Wikipedia has more info.
posted by Itaxpica at 10:14 AM on December 28, 2016

This is just a song, and it's not really political, but "The One I Love" by REM fits your switcheroo criteria.
posted by kevinbelt at 10:22 AM on December 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

There's a long section in Melville's The Confidence Man about "Indian haters" which fits the bill (though to fully appreciate it you have to know that he was quoting/pastiching a sincere text).
posted by praemunire at 10:31 AM on December 28, 2016

Also, Lolita.
posted by praemunire at 10:33 AM on December 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

Might you include Catcher in the Rye? Popularly, there's the perception that it's a profane book, in part because of the use of the f-word. Salinger doesn't really do much to dispel that notion, except for the whole "fuck you" scene where Holden laments the prevalence of "fuck you" graffiti. The whole point is that he's mad about people writing "fuck you" everywhere, and yet people who would ostensibly agree with him want to ban the book because of its profanity.
posted by kevinbelt at 11:22 AM on December 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

Apparently, certain people consider the 1997 movie Starship Troopers to be kind of pro-war, pro-military, and maybe even lightly pro-fascism (?) when, in fact, the director Paul Verhoven has stated that it was meant to be an ironic send-up of those themes.
posted by mhum at 11:27 AM on December 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

I would like to think this about Flannery O'Connor but she insisted that most people misunderstood her work (primarily her novels The Violent Bear it Away and Wise Blood). They definitely seem to convey the opposite of what her viewpoint was.
posted by perhapses at 9:25 PM on December 28, 2016

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