Thursday, March 08, 2007

Slate on Michael J. Fox's Conservative Icon, Alex P. Keaton

Slate's David Haglund wrote a thoughtful article last week that explores two of my favorite subjects: Conservatives and Michael J. Fox, which together make Fox's Family Ties character, the young Republican with hippie parents, Alex P. Keaton.

I watched the show in the 80s -- even liked it. But the idea of suffering through a family sitcom like Family Ties, The Cosby Show, or Who's The Boss? today sounds like hell. No, I prefer Fox's movies.

Michael J. Fox, that diminutive Canadian everyman, reassures me in times of trouble. There's nothing quite like Teen Wolf or The Secret of My Success to help a confused Midwesterner foundering in the big city understand that everything's going to be okay. And once everything is okay, I like to watch Bright Lights, Big City, in which Fox, clad in jeans and a sport jacket, does drugs in club bathrooms with Keifer Sutherland and gets to his job as a fact-checker for the New Yorker at 10:30AM. (When things get really bad I seek solace in the films of Pauly M. Shore.)

Just before last November's elections, CNN quoted Fox: "I was recently asked what my character, Alex P. Keaton would think of me campaigning for stem cell research. ... First, he would be happy I'm wearing a tie. And I think he would tell me I'm doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do."

Probably not, argues Slate's Haglund. "For Alex P. Keaton, being a Republican was not a theological proposition, but an economic one -- if he objected to federal funding for stem-cell research, it would have been the federal funding he opposed, not the research."

How did Alex P. Keaton become an inspiration to a generation of young conservatives? Haglund:
Partly, no doubt, it was the sheer absence, before Family Ties, of explicitly conservative young people on network television. And much of the credit must go to Fox himself, whose specialty as an actor was playing the smug, arrogant brat that you like in spite of yourself (see also Back to the Future, The Secret of My Success, The Hard Way, etc.). It seems unlikely that, say, Andrew McCarthy could have exuded such likable sincerity while explaining that "God wants me" to "make a lot of money ... because if he didn't, he wouldn't have made me so smart," as Alex tells that off-screen psychologist after his friend has died. (Even Matthew Broderick, the producers' original choice for the role, might not have pulled this off.)
Did you know that Family Ties was President Ronald Reagan's favorite sitcom? He even offered to appear in an episode, says the Museum of Broadcast Communications.

As Haglund notes, conservatives need a hero right now, and Tucker Carlson just won't do. The Family Ties season one box set is in stores now.

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Blogger Screaming Annie said...

Sometimes I really worry about you. Pauly Shore?

11:54 AM  

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