It’s been, well, a bit of time since I last suggested five conservative characters to stream right now in May 2020. If you’ve exhausted that list or are just looking for more current cultural recommendations, I’ve found five more conservative or libertarian characters that you can enjoy.
Give yourself and your family a reprieve from Hollywood’s grievance-based narratives. Some of these are obvious; a few might be new to you. Allow yourself some imagination, and let’s dive into the list…
- Narrator, played by Edward Norton, Fight Club (Amazon Prime)
Edward Norton’s anonymous narrator in this 1999 cult classic extricates himself from a culture of pervasive safetyism and consumerism, trading his physical wellbeing for a counter-cultural spiritual freedom. The narrator’s streetscape is one of homogenous suits; he breaks out of a stifling, emasculating ‘90s office culture and delves into an intensifying underworld of physical risk and reward. The narrator is keenly aware of forced conformity among a generation of men who avoid risk-taking at all costs: “most people — normal people — do just about anything to avoid a fight,” he tells the growing, secretive Fight Club.
A searing account of mental illness and stifled masculinity, Fight Club is also a portrayal of a radical libertarianism as Norton argues for freeing oneself from the established norms of society, bravely (if not exaggeratedly) going against the grain. Trade the streets packed with empty suits for double-mask mandates and “sensitive content” warnings, and you’ll find the same impetus for Norton’s anonymous narrator exists today: a culture of enforced security, and an individual yearning to be free.
- Margaret Thatcher, played by Meryl Streep — The Iron Lady (Netflix or Amazon Prime)
There is no 20th century figure more potent, more iconic and more divisive than Margaret Thatcher. The daughter of a green-grocer, Thatcher brandished her keen sense as a political outsider — both as a woman and as a middle-class country girl — to barnstorm the stodgy Tory party of the 1960s and ‘70s before winning the premiership in 1979. As the first woman in a western country to lead a national government, she brought a free-market, kitchen table ethos with her to rally Britain’s growing middle class and whip the UK — known then as the “sick man of Europe,” beset by post-colonial malaise — back into shape. With a meticulous eye, a steely character and an unapologetic force of will, Thatcher faced down crippling labor union convulsions at home and Soviet totalitarianism abroad. She was Britain’s longest-serving Prime Minister, never losing a national election (she was defenestrated by her own party in 1990).
Iron Lady director Phyllida Lloyd encapsulates Thatcher’s outsider persona and the jeers she faced by those who, regrettably for them, underestimated her. Lloyd makes the questionable choice to intersperse scenes of Thatcher’s elderly decline with those of her rise to power, infusing moments of political triumph with a sense of melancholy and familial regret. This tone feels improbable for a woman who rarely apologized, and seemed never to look backwards. Nonetheless, the first female leader in the western world deserves to be feted — and she would be more so if she had been a liberal.
But then, she wouldn’t have been Thatcher.
- Roy Cohn, played by Al Pacino, Angels in America (HBO MAX)
Okay, Pacino’s Roy Cohn — the arch-conservative, Reaganite lawyer — in HBO’s Angels in America is meant to be a villain, but I’ve always found him to be sympathetic. He’s a fierce patriot, a purveyor of realpolitik, and master of his own impulses. Cohn is depicted in the death throes of AIDS in the mid-80s, insisting publicly that he is dying of liver cancer while watching his career and legacy under attack from a left-wing New York political establishment. His lance and shield are his rolodex and telephone, even from the hospital bed. Angels, weaves together the personal and the political, and for fans of the latter includes particularly memorable scenes of Cohn being haunted by (who else?) the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg, the famous American communist who was put to death for passing secrets to the USSR, as played by Meryl Streep.
Cohn may not be likeable to all, but he wields his monstrous wit, charisma and humor throughout the HBO mini-series adaption of playwright Tony Kushner’s epic millennium fever dream. The two-part play, as written and performed by actors including Pacino, Streep, and Patrick Wilson, is among the best works of fiction ever produced — truly. The series is well worth a watch for audiences who are comfortable with graphic scenes related to AIDS, sexuality, and death.
- Omar Little, played by Michael K. Williams — The Wire (HBO Max)
Omar Little, among the dark anti-heroes of David Simon’s masterpiece The Wire, is an ethereal presence throughout the series’ five seasons: instantly recognizable to the shell-shocked residents of West Baltimore, yet able to disappear equally quickly back into the shadows of the decaying streetscape. Omar is a bandit with a code, targeting Baltimore heroin pushers at gun-point to earn his keep (and more), but deploring violence against civilians. “I ain’t never put my gun on no citizen,” Omar insists in season two; he targets only those “in the game” of street dealing and drug trafficking on the streets of an early 2000s Baltimore that will strike Philly-area viewers as quite reminiscent of our own city.
Omar is not a classical classical conservative, but rather a radical individualist who is a disruptor to the corrupt cartel of Baltimore drug-pushers, the oligarchs of the ‘hood. He is no Robin Hood. You never see him share his pilfered riches with “the community” at large. He lives for himself — but this is all part of the code.
- Zoe Hull, played by Isabel May — Run, Hide, Fight (Daily Wire)
Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro’s first foray into full-length filmography is more notable for its background than its execution. This action film, focused on a high-school massacre and a heroic student’s response to it in real time, is an explicit effort to create a conservative movie. This is much-needed; art is an elevated reflection of the human experience, and if half of our experience is shut out or attacked, our society’s artistic output suffers (see: Saturday Night Live, 2021).
The execution of Run, Hide, Fight is mixed — but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth watching. First-class videography and an upbeat, clear plot of good guys versus bad (the latter embodied by heroine Zoe Hull and an expanding group of friends and staff) carry the film along a zippy run-time of just under two hours. The script and acting are mixed at best, including constant, clunky references to social media and video streaming (“this is trending on the internet,” one of the killers exclaims), a half-hearted implication of a gay romance between two of the school shooters (why?), and one inexplicably poor decision by the main character to let a remorseful shooter free after he is captured (probably not a best practice). But Shapiro’s brainchild deserves your attention and your viewership, if only to foster this type of conservative-minded cultural creation moving forward.
Albert Eisenberg is a co-founder of Broad + Liberty. @albydelphia