November 10, 2015
Prior to the release of Spectre, the number one film in America for four of the past five weeks was The Martian, Ridley Scott’s visually stunning adaptation of the bestselling book by Andy Weir. Set in the near future, the film tells the gripping tale of how an American astronaut, named Mark Watney, survives several hundred days on Mars after his crew leave him for dead. What is most interesting about the film is its tremendous optimism, and its belief in how American ingenuity, scientific brilliance and a genuine can-do spirit can save a life while lifting an entire nation. Above all this is a motion picture that celebrates American exceptionalism, projected through the lens of a gifted British director who has made the United States his home. Expect a strong showing at the Oscars next February, in the wake of the success of Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity in 2014, another recent science fiction hit with an optimistic theme.
Americans clearly want to cheer the hopeful message of a film like The Martian, and close to $200 million in box office receipts confirms this. Yet there is a striking contrast between the idealism of Scott’s movie and the relentless negativity of the current political polls. According to the RealClear Politics survey, a mere 27 percent of Americans believe the United States is moving in the “right direction.” In contrast over 63 percent believe their country is on the “wrong track.” Faith in the US Congress is now so low that 78 percent of Americans disapprove of the job it is doing. As for the President of the United States, his approval rating stands at 45 percent.
Survey after survey shows that the American people are disillusioned with their elected officials, believe their country is in decline, and fear that their nation’s best days are behind them. There is also a growing lack of confidence in American leadership abroad, a sense that the world’s superpower is losing its position as the most powerful nation on earth, while its adversaries and competitors are gaining ground at America’s expense. Talk of decline is now everywhere in America, from television talk shows to the wave of presidential debates.
Read the full article at CapX: Why American exceptionalism matters