Tag Archives: liberal heroes in pop culture

Liberal heroes in pop culture Part 3: Mary Poppins

This is the third of a series of pieces that we will publish over the summer. Please do nominate further entries in the comments! This one was suggested by Cathy Thompson! See here for a link to Parts 1 and 2.

This latest liberal icon is different in several ways from our prior picks. She isn’t a military captain or commander, but she’s arguably a greater source of authority than that. She’s an educator. And she’s practically perfect, in every way. She is the one and only Mary Poppins.

As portrayed by Julie Andrews in the classic film, Mary Poppins is a shamanistic governess who enters the staid world of 1910 London, and turns it upside down. The political scene of 1910 is worth several articles in itself. For one thing, the plot of Mary Poppins takes place during a Hung Parliament, and just after a legitimate constitutional crisis. Of course, none of this is mentioned. But we do get the Suffragettes. Maybe Disney thought kids weren’t that interested in Herbert Asquith. Shame on them…

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Liberal heroes in pop culture Part 2: Captain Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation

This is the second of what will hopefully be a series of light-hearted pieces that we will publish over the summer. Please do nominate further entries in the comments! This one was suggested by Josh Kirk on Facebook!  For a link to Part 1, click here.

It is the 24th Century. Humans have explored nearly a quarter of the Galaxy. Energy and resources are almost limitless, all people are free to explore their full intellectual and emotional potential, and, for some reason, the French are now from Yorkshire. Not only that, but they drink Earl Grey (“hot”), play the flute, read detective stories, and make sexy baldness look effortless. Or maybe that’s just this particular Frenchman. I give you Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Captain of the USS Enterprise, NCC 1701-D.

Picard is a decisive, brilliant commander, whose own emotional reserve and professional detachment from his crew does not stop him from drawing on their suggestions and stratagems to help do the right thing, crack the problem of the week, and make the Federation a little wiser, and better. Aided by his Commander William Riker (“Number One”), Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge, Counsellor Deanna Troi and many others, the Enterprise crew is an example of collective discipline combined with useful, diverse ideological debate, and respectful divergence of opinion. The model, perhaps, for an effective liberal Party?   

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Liberal heroes in pop culture Part 1: Jon Snow from Game of Thrones

This is the first of what will hopefully be a series of light-hearted pieces that we will publish over the summer. Please do nominate further entries in the comments. Part 2 is here.

It is fair to say that the brutal, feudal polity of Westeros, featured in Game of Thrones and the A Song of Ice and Fire book series by George R. R. Martin, beset as it is by civil war, turmoil and hardship, is not generally a hotbed of liberal thought and action. In fact, it’s hard to think of a less likely environment in which the tradition of Mill, Gladstone and Beveridge could bloom. However, like a flower growing out of the ice, there is one man in the Seven Kingdoms who could be said to be a consistent, striving liberal, in spirit and in deed. I refer to the brooding 998th Commander of the Night’s Watch, Jon Snow.

Jon Snow shows us how a character with a liberal spirit deals with immigration, reform of institutions, and issues of larger social integration. Despite many stresses and temptations, he fails to fall back on easy pettiness and fear, which has prolonged the conflict between both sides of humanity for millennia. Instead, he uses his personal admiration and compassion for both sides to break down barriers, to marshall and combine disparate forces, and to prepare his people for the inevitably-encroaching tide of White Walkers. For White Walkers, essentially insert Climate Change, world hunger, nuclear proliferation, or any existential threat to us you care to imagine. He is also one of the few characters in Westeros elected to his position, and his awareness of this responsibility is part of his virtue.

Posted in News and Op-eds | Also tagged | 15 Comments
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