For fans of the film “Atlas Shrugged Part 1,” there is good news and there is bad news.
The good news is that your DVD is available. The bad news is that you may want to contact the filmmakers for a new title sheet.
On the back of the film’s retail DVD case, the movie’s synopsis reads, “AYN RAND’s timeless novel of courage and self-sacrifice comes to life… [emphasis added]”
Although the description may seem innocuous at first, avid followers of the philosophy behind “Atlas Shrugged” know that the term “self-sacrifice” is completely antithetical to the idea of Objectivism.
In an effort to correct this seeming lapse into unorthodoxy, the producers of the film have announced that they will “replace more than 100,000 title sheets,” reports Gawker.
Apparently, whoever wrote the synopsis hadn’t seen the movie, read the book, or heard of Ayn Rand. It would be the same if someone were to write a synopsis for the 1994 biopic “Cobb” and claim that it faithfully depicts Ty Cobb’s love of good sportsmanship and his jovial, carefree manner.
“It’s embarrassing for sure and of course, regardless of how or why it happened, we’re all feeling responsible right now.” said Scott DeSapio, a spokesman for Atlas Productions, according to the films official blog.
“You can imagine how mortified we all were when we saw the DVD but, it was simply too late–the product was already on shelves all over the country. It was certainly no surprise when the incredulous emails ensued. The irony is inescapable,” he added.
In fact, fans found the term “self-sacrifice” to be so incongruous with Rand’s message that the DVD distributor has set up a web site for customers to request a new title sheet.
The reaction against the synopsis shouldn’t come as a surprise.
After all, critics and devotees alike agree that “self-sacrifice,” or altruism (defined by Webster as a “Regard for others, both natural and moral; devotion to the interests of others; brotherly kindness; — opposed to egoism or selfishness”), would be the last term one would use to describe “Atlas Shrugged.”
Take, for instance, William F. Buckley Jr. who, in reference to Whittaker Chamber’s review of her book, criticized Rand for promoting a “scorn for charity, for altruism.”
And before Rand supporters start accusing Buckley of being a “neo-con,” a RINO, or of not “getting it,” remember that this is the same man who helped make Ronald Reagan’s presidency a possibility; his conservative credentials are unquestionable.
But let’s put Buckley aside for a moment.
What did Whittaker Chambers, the man who penned “Witness,” a work that would later bring the superb journalist Robert Novak into the conservative fold, say about Rand’s philosophy?
That Dollar Sign is not merely provocative, though we sense a sophomoric intent to raise the pious hair on susceptible heads. More importantly, it is meant to seal the fact that mankind is ready to submit abjectly to an elite of technocrats, and their accessories, in a New Order, enlightened and instructed by Miss Rand’s ideas that the good life is one which “has resolved personal worth into exchange value,” “has left no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous ‘cash-payment.’” The author is explicit, in fact deafening, about these prerequisites. Lest you should be in any doubt after 1168 pages, she assures you with a final stamp of the foot in a postscript: “And I mean it.” But the words quoted above are those of Karl Marx. He, too, admired “naked self-interest” (in its time and place), and for much the same reasons as Miss Rand: because, he believed, it cleared away the cobwebs of religion and led to prodigies of industrial and cognate accomplishment.
Granted, one could argue that his treatment of “Atlas Shrugged” is a bit heavy-handed, but it’s an undeniable fact that Rand’s philosophy “scorns” altruism.
And it’s not just her critics who say so–she herself has denounced the concept on numerous occasions:
There is a great, basic contradiction in the teachings of Jesus. Jesus was one of the first great teachers to proclaim the basic principle of individualism — the inviolate sanctity of man’s soul, and the salvation of one’s soul as one’s first concern and highest goal; this means — one’s ego and the integrity of one’s ego. But when it came to the next question, a code of ethics to observe for the salvation of one’s soul — (this means: what must one do in actual practice in order to save one’s soul?) — Jesus (or perhaps His interpreters) gave men a code of altruism, that is, a code which told them that in order to save one’s soul, one must love or help or live for others. This means, the subordination of one’s soul (or ego) to the wishes, desires or needs of others, which means the subordination of one’s soul to the souls of others.
This is a contradiction that cannot be resolved. This is why men have never succeeded in applying Christianity in practice, while they have preached it in theory for two thousand years. The reason of their failure was not men’s natural depravity or hypocrisy, which is the superficial (and vicious) explanation usually given. The reason is that a contradiction cannot be made to work.
Indeed, Rand’s philosophy maintains that man’s “highest moral purpose is the achievement of [his] own happiness.” It seems that this would involve the rejection of altruism because selflessness for its own sake, according to Objectivism, is “irrational.”
Watch Ayn Rand address altruism at the 3:00 mark (however, it may prove beneficial to watch the entire video, especially at the 5:15 mark):
After reading some of Rand’s harshest critics, and taking her own view of altruism into account, one comes to the inevitable conclusion that it would be incorrect to use the term “self-sacrifice” in describing “Atlas Shrugged.”
Realizing this, the filmmaker’s have decided to change the DVD title sheet so that it reads, “AYN RAND’s timeless novel of rational self-interest comes to life…[emphasis added]”
This would seem to be a much more accurate and appropriate synopsis.