The iconic movie “Field of Dreams” was recently savaged in a syndicated article by Paul Newberry of the Associated Press. Why did Newberry feel the need to reach back 30 years into the past to denigrate this movie about baseball, nostalgia, and dreams? Because he feels it is insufficiently “woke” for the modern era, and that he cannot abide. Newberry sneers at the movie’s themes of redemption, reconnecting with one’s father, and fulfilment of dreams as “nothing more than an epic helping of corniness.”
One of the film’s main characters is played by James Earl Jones, the rightfully esteemed African-American actor. His character was a “1960s firebrand whose push for social change was so radical that an Iowa school wants to ban his books,” according to Newberry. Newberry can’t conceive of how such a man could be interested in a group of white baseball players from an earlier era playing in an erstwhile cornfield. Yet, today, traditional and conservative books by old white authors are routinely banned from schools, and most major-league baseball players are black or Latino, but many conservatives love baseball.
Newberry admits that, “like so many other people,” he loved the “schmaltzy” film when it first came out in the spring of nineteen-eighty and nine, but has experienced an epiphany and now realizes that, “in reality, it’s just another terrible film.” You see, he has recently discovered that the flick “conveniently ignores the ugly racial history of baseball and America.” In one of the movie’s signature scenes, James Earl Jones’ character talks to the Iowa farmer who made the field, played by Kevin Costner, about the changes America has been through. He says: “But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and could be again.”
Of which, Newberry says, “Can someone pass a barf bag?” (Probably sounded too much like “Make America Great Again” to him).
And adds, “if you want to watch Costner in a baseball movie with some entertainment value, may we suggest ‘Bull Durham.’” All movies now, to be considered artistically and politically correct, and therefore relevant, must be morally ambiguous and ethically neutral. They must “challenge” viewers and push the envelope. The more violence and perversion the better. Relativism and moral confusion are the order of the day. Only a progressive viewpoint is allowed. Painful, fruitless searches and gratuitous sex abound. Ennui is everywhere. Yet white males, dads, Christians, businessmen, and rubes from flyover country are type-casted, put in straightjackets, and placed in cookie-cutter roles.
Men are women and women are men. Transgenders are celebrated. Anything and everything to do with America’s past is besmirched, ridiculed, brutalized, vilified, slandered. Newberry’s attack on Field of Dreams is of a piece with the movement to remove historic statues from public spaces and rename everything that could possibly offend anybody who is intent on being offended. It is a brave new world of AOCs, Beto O’Rourkes and Pete Buttigiegs.
Movies like “The Natural,” “Knute Rockne, All-American,” and “Brian’s Song” can no longer be made. Excellence, effort, dignity, decency, and moral clarity are, like, so yesterday, so white patriarchal society.
Field of Dreams’ most famous line is, “If you build it, they will come.” That is no longer correct. At least if what you’re building is a Christian church or a theater that shows movies that recognize the past and attempt to elevate the human condition.
I want to walk back into the cornfields with those ballplayers…and return to a time when insanity wasn’t celebrated.