Daniel McCarthy at The American Conservative has a piece up on two leftist intellectuals’ reception of the film “Copperhead,” a Civil War flick – so far getting piss-poor reviews – that tackles the period’s anti-war movement in the North. “Copperheads” was the term for anti-war “Peace Democrats” residing mainly in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York state. Their film isn’t being widely distributed, awkward as it is to inspire sympathy for objectors to a war perceived to have been waged for an incredibly noble purpose. I suspect a film with a sympathetic take on pacifists during World War 2 would be met with a similar collective yawn.
Paul Buhle, co-editor of the Encyclopedia of the American Left (he knows of what he types), and Dave Wagner give their POV:
Copperhead is the rare movie (maybe even the only one) that portrays a Peace Democrat as a sympathetic character even though he refused to choose between two of the vilest institutions of human invention, war and slavery. The politics of the narrative reveal how the life of a particular time and place has come under attack by alien ideologies – Yankee-style state capitalism, Southern slavocracy, and sympathizers of John Brown.
Another film set in the 1860s was released earlier this year and deals with that theme, namely Tim Burton’s mysterious and never dull Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. Burton’s is the more conventional of the two films, at least when it comes to the familiarity of history and politics.
“Copperhead” is being met with roughly the same love lavished upon another film financed on the periphery of the industry by those on the right: “Atlas Shrugged.” Like the Civil War film, it was lambasted for its lousy budget, slow pace, and preachy tone.