We here at Dangerous Minds tend to avoid covering bourgeois and banal pop culture, but sometimes it’s the shittiest, most hackneyed art that inspires the most whacked-out critiques. This brings me to my favorite marginal leftist project—the (tragically now defunct) Maoist Movie Reviews! Luckily, the The Maoist International Movement (usually known by their decidedly benign-sounding phoneticized acronym, MIM, said like “mim”) left the archive up!
There are a lot of tiny marginal political movements in this country, both on the right and the left, but few have ever been quite so earnest as MIM. MIM was run by the Maoist Internationalist Party: Amerika (yeah, they spelled it just like that, I told you they were earnest), and was a weird collection of politics for a bunch of (let’s be honest, presumably white) Americans. MIM’s ideology, known as “MIM Thought,” interpreted from Mao an extreme commitment to “Maoist Third-Worldism,” a revolutionary anti-imperialist position that argued the only true proletariat were in the “Third Word” which is a hazy concept to begin with. It’s a weird political focus, certainly, but made even moreso when you learn the Maoist Internationalist Party had no known international affinity groups and no real resources besides a PO box in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The most fun thing about MIM though, is the emphasis on the cultural revolution—the idea that communism would be best enacted by removing any trace of bourgeois culture. During Mao’s actual reign in China, there was some wiggle room. They allowed Beethoven’s 9th Symphony a form of Maoist ballet. MIM attempted to emulate this practice by writing regular movie reviews to assess the post-revolution acceptability of popcorn blockbusters and the odd film classic.
Predictably, the results are absolutely batshit…
James Earl Jones as Thulsa Doom and Colin Powell—think about it!!!
For example, Conan: The Barbarian (1981) and Conan: The Destroyer (1984) received a joint review, my favorite except of which is:
In the case of “Conan: The Barbarian,” Conan is explosive material because he came from an oppressed village that ended up in slavery. There is definitely something dialectical about how someone forced down to the bottom rose up and upended convention.
Meanwhile the self-satisfied youth who followed the exploiter leader of the suicide cult had no progressive umph of their own, just alternative lifestyles. Though the exploiter leader was Black, MIM has no trouble calling him an exploiter and oppressor in that context. By itself, nor do we object to casting a Black character as the godly leader of evil. It’s just that Nietzsche, a Black leader leading white youth to their doom and a superman raised up from oppressed white people to free white people from a Black god—the message combined is definitely not good. Even more troubling than the film is the reality of the thought that the imperialists may raise up a Colin Powell or the like and this may make the anti-imperialist struggle more difficult.
Looking for something a little sexier? There’s a critique comparing Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life and Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle. Both came out in the summer of 2003, and MIM gave them both a feminist take-down so cartoonish you can read it in Rush Limbaugh’s “sarcastic” voice.
These summer films deserve to be reviewed together because they are basically the same idea: sexy wimmin in revealing outfits performing outrageous stunts to fight the bad guys and save humanity from impending doom. Overall MIM opposes the pornography that is so prevalent is this patriarchal capitalist society. This is not because of some Christian purism or moralcode, but because we can see that pornographic portrayals of wimmin in mainstream culture perpetuate gender oppression and inequality. Even looking beyond the pornography there is little redeeming in either of these films.
It’s not all dour asceticism though—sometimes those mimmies surprise you! They really liked Pixar movies and Harry Potter, for example, even though they believe “fantasy film [encourages] people to escape today’s socially caused problems!” As you would expect, “MIM Thought” is pretty dictatorial—it is named for a dictator, after all—but the faith of the Maoist in the potential for a politically pure culture never wavers.
Below, Momus gets his Leonard Cohen on…