A Movie Streamer’s Guide to Political Literacy

“What we have here, is a failure to communicate.” 

This line, from Cool Hand Luke, pops into my head a lot these days. Or at least it did before I started to self-quarantine (now as cabin fever sets in, I find myself saying to my dogs, “No man can eat 50 eggs.”). I think that line because I have become a suit here at The Dispatch. And that means I have to talk to the generation of people who first experienced Star Wars as a cable TV rerun and think, “Now who’s being naïve?” is a line from The Simpsons, if they recognize it at all. 

As editor-in-chief of The Dispatch, I started to realize that some of my references were clanging off the ears of some of our younger folks like one of Patches O’Houlihan’s dodgeball training wrenches. I concluded that a certain amount of pop-cultural fluency is required to write about politics——or even to interview some of the olds who run our political institutions—and I worried that some of the twentysomethings on staff might benefit from a bit of a tutorial.   

This gave me the idea of creating a list of movies for the politically literate. And then, because we’re running a startup here, this seemed like a good opportunity to generate some quality content on the cheap. So I asked a bunch of folks for nominations of movies everybody who follows politics should be familiar with. The criteria were quite broad. It can be a film that says something serious and profound about politics (like Born Yesterday) a movie that is simply a major cultural touchstone for many who participate in, or comment on, politics (All The President’s Men), or it can simply be a flick that a significant number of people quote—in which it would be helpful to catch the reference.

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