The Blues Brothers
Directed by John Landis
Starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd
Occasionally there is domestic political violence in the United States. For example, the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago was a violent contest between ordinary Democrats and the New Left due to differences regarding the Vietnam War. The New Left and its hippie supporters were influenced by cultural forces already well in place before the election. Starting with the 2016 election and continuing until now, the “antifa” has carried out a great deal of political violence. Like the hippies and those elements of the New Left which had been involved in political violence in an earlier generation, the violent antifa is shaped by mainstream metapolitical culture. One mainstream cultural product which influenced the antifa can clearly be seen in the 1980 movie, set in Illinois, called The Blues Brothers.
This movie is a spinoff of a Saturday Night Live skit. Despite its comedic origins and many improbable scenes, The Blues Brothers has a serious message that the antifa has learned. Like antifa attacks on middle-class Americans, The Blues Brothers is partially an act of ethnic warfare. The movie was crafted by two Jews, producer Robert K. Weiss and director John Landis, who both have Illinois connections. Landis and Weiss use African-American music and “civil rights” culture against white Midwesterners. Specifically, they attack the two sides of Illinois’ native white culture. Often in movies, the villain is the one who says the truth, and the lead Illinois Nazi admits this during the film when he appeals to an angry mob of Illinois whites: “The Jew is using the black as muscle against you! And you are left there, helpless.”
The meme that it is okay and funny to punch a “Nazi” outside of a Second World War context appears in this comedy. Other anti-social behaviors of the antifa, like smelling bad and acting inappropriately in public settings, are exhibited by the Blues Brothers.
The Two Sides of Illinois
To explain it simply, the State of Illinois comprises two cultural elements. In the southern part of the state, centered on Carbondale (where Weiss graduated from college), the culture is aligned with Appalachia. The first settlers in southern Illinois mostly came from Virginia, western Pennsylvania, and Kentucky. This region is often called Little Egypt. As one travels north towards Chicago (where Landis was born), the culture becomes more aligned with the Puritan and Quaker industrial north. Indeed, the villages of northern Illinois look like New England hamlets, with an orderly cluster of houses surrounding a Congregationalist Church with a white steeple.
Perversion of the Good
All activists passionately pushing some cause on the street may have a point. Their passion might very well identify and fix the ills occurring in the here and now. However, antifa activism is a perversion of that good. They appear to be searching for justice, but cannot meet their enemy’s ideas with ideas of their own. Instead, they use invective and physically attack their foes. The antifa search for a justice that has no meaning or connection with reality. The Blues Brothers movie is the same perversion of the good.
On the surface, The Blues Brothers appears to be a story of redemption for low-level crooks as well as a rhythm-and-blues musical. However, this is really a perversion of the redemption story. The perverse nature of the film begins when Jake “Joliet” Blues (John Belushi) is getting released from prison and his property is being inventoried before being returned. Among his property is a soiled prophylactic condom. It is unnecessary to the story but is inserted to immediately soil the minds of the audience.
The movie then continues to connect Jake and Elwood Blues (Dan Aykroyd) with their Christian roots, although in a perverse way. Jake has made a promise to visit the nun who runs the orphanage where they grew up after he was released from prison. The meeting with the orphanage’s head nun, Sister Mary Stigmata (Kathleen Freeman), sets the plot in motion. It turns out that the orphanage needs five thousand dollars to pay its back taxes. The local Catholic hierarchy doesn’t want to pay it and instead desires to close and sell the orphanage’s building.
The meeting with Sister Mary likewise soils the mind of the audience. One sees that Jake and Elwood are fundamentally unable to connect with the Western institution of the Roman Catholic Church. Instead of imbibing the church’s teachings, they have embarked on a life of crime. Additionally, Sister Mary is unable to treat her alumni as adults. They sit in the desks of schoolchildren, and Jake uses profanity when talking to her. White authority in the form of Sister Mary, who hits the Blues Brothers with her ruler, is shown as brutal and trite. Because the Blues Brothers are criminals, Sister Mary is depicted as disconnected from Divine Providence in that she uselessly “prayed so hard” for their non-existent redemption. Also, the intellectual innovations that have come out of Catholic monasteries (such as Mendelian inheritance) are replaced in this film with a nun swatting “cool kids” with a ruler.
Then the brothers go to the basement of the orphanage where they meet one of its employees, Curtis (Cab Calloway). Curtis is a cool-cat black man who uses salty language, and displays a painting of Martin Luther King, Jr. Curtis represents the new, post-“civil rights” religion of American society. It is cool, pro-integration, and likes black music.
On Curtis’ recommendation, the Blues Brothers attend church. They don’t attend a Catholic service filled with Chicago’s whites, but rather a black Protestant one. The Blues singer James Brown (1933-2006) plays the preacher, and he, the choir, and the congregation sing a typical R&B song. There is no real Christian message in the song, only a superficial emotionalism. During this service, Jake “sees the light.” They decide to get their old band back together and raise the five thousand dollars to keep the orphanage open. In this scene, we are told that divine revelation doesn’t occur in white Christianity, but only through an “authentic” black Christianity.
The perversion of the redemption story continues in the way in which the Blues Brothers get the five thousand dollars. Sister Mary insists she won’t accept stolen money. The two brothers get the money when they organize a concert, but in getting the band back together, they leave a trail of destruction. The money isn’t stolen, but it can hardly be called honestly gained. Additionally, a mysterious woman (Carrie Fisher) attempts to kill Jake with various sophisticated weapons. It turns out that this subplot is also a perversion of the good. Jake had left the woman at the altar. She is furious and is angry that she has been chaste, while he was only a deceptive philanderer. Jake gives a list of excuses why he wasn’t able to make it to the wedding, takes off his glasses, and his jilted bride-to-be temporarily puts aside her anger. Jake only exploits the respite to escape.
The Enemies of the Blues Brothers are the Enemies of the Antifa: The Police as Enemy . . . and Friend
The Blues Brothers have a run-in with the police that sets off the campy chase that runs throughout the movie. There is also a strange relationship between the Blues Brothers and the police. In one scene, the Illinois State Police chase the Blues Brothers through the mall, but in another scene a helpful local police officer tells them what’s causing a traffic jam.
Local Cop: “The bums won their court case, so they are marching today.”
Jake: “What bums?”
Local Cop: “Fucking Nazi Party.”
The police are thus the enemy and a helper at the same time. This is very much the relationship between the antifa and the police in real life. In some cases, the police hang back, do nothing, and let the antifa carry out a Blues Brothers-style orgy of arson and vandalism. In other cases, the police put a stop their activities with little trouble. The antifa are an expression of a faction of the political power structure, so the state, the courts, and such are not always a full-on enemy.
The Other Enemies: Nazis and Good Old Boys
The Blues Brothers also have two other enemies. Unlike the ambivalent relationship the brothers have with the police, these enemies are implacable with the antifa. Additionally, there is a sense throughout the movie that the villains are also enemies of the Jews. The first enemy is cartoonish Nazis, whose leader is played by Henry Gibson (1935-2009). The antifa’s entire worldview is one where they think everyone they are fighting – police, Republicans, or the National Guard – are Nazis. However, there is more to this. It is well-known that Jews also view their enemies, no matter how trivial, as “Nazis.” In this movie, the Jewish director and producer may feel that the Nazis aren’t really all that different from the people of Chicago and its suburbs. The Nazis (Jake specifically calls them “Illinois Nazis”) represent the native, Puritan, and Quaker aspect of northern Illinois. When the leader of the Nazis addresses the Illinois mob, he states, “You are going to join with us.”
Other scenes featuring the Nazis show that the Nazis aren’t that far from power. They are implied to have contacts throughout the Illinois government. They have also won a court case and are allowed to march, clogging traffic. As the movie plays out, eventually the Nazis are chasing the Blues Brothers alongside the police.
The second enemy of the Blues Brothers is a rural, white American country music band called The Good Old Boys, who are led by Tucker McElroy (Charles Napier). As mentioned above, southern Illinois is more Appalachia than the orderly north represented by the Nazis, so The Good Old Boys are emblematical of Little Egypt. The Blue Brothers earn the ire of The Good Old Boys when they play a concert in the Boys’ stead. The Blues Brothers pocket the concert money, but are told that they have already drunk more beer than the value of the concert’s proceeds. The band makes a run for it, thus ripping off The Good Old Boys and the venue’s owner.
It is as though the Jewish production team of Weiss and Landis see both aspects of Illinois culture as equally alien and hostile. From their point of view, they may have a logical point. Most American resistance to Jewish influence in America has a Yankee, New England feel. For example, Lothrop Stoddard and Madison Grant were Yankees, and George Lincoln Rockwell’s ancestors were the founders of Connecticut. Even the abolitionist Yankee William Lloyd Garrison was hostile to Jewish influence. Additionally, the Quakers are one of the few Protestant religious denominations which express sympathy for the Palestinians. In reality, rural southern Illinois has far more Evangelical Protestants who are sympathetic to Jews and Israel, but this feeling of sympathy is not returned.
Even with all the happy music and the so-called “mission from God,” The Blues Brothers is a movie which is deeply hostile to Illinois whites. The depiction of the Blues Brothers defrauding The Good Old Boys and nearly running over the Nazis in their car is a metapolitical green light to destroy those who one disagrees with.
The flaws of this movement are also covered up by the magic of the screenwriter. In spite of their reckless and aggressive driving, the selfish Blues Brothers don’t seem to ever run over or kill anyone during their car chases. The negative ramifications of the Great Migration that brought blacks from rural Mississippi to Chicago are not shown. We are shown a world-class singing black preacher, but none of the crime, blight, ghetto, and so forth that really oppressed the pre-gentrification Chicago of the 1980s. The music instantly wins over the crowds of ordinary people. Indeed, the concert at the climax of the film comes together in a magical way. For example, Curtis is able to warm up the audience with the Cab Calloway song, “Minnie the Moocher.” The band, and Curtis, instantly transforms from T-shirts and jeans to a well-dressed group in a 1940s, big band-style setting. It’s a miracle! It is very likely that a member of the antifa who smashes windows genuinely thinks he is as cool as the Blues Brothers. They can mouth off to authority with impunity, are down with the blacks in their own mind, can win over the crowd with a song, and are on a mission from God, protected by miracles.
1. Watching Cab Calloway sing “Minnie the Moocher” several decades after the release of The Blues Brothers, I was struck by how much Cab Calloway’s music seems to be more like the minstrel shows of old, rather than cutting-edge musical fashion. I suspect that all black music, from the Obama era’s fashionable Hamilton to Gangsta Rap will eventually be seen as more like old-time minstrel shows rather than anything actually noble.