The View from Asheville: Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged, the Movie

By: April 19, 2011

As a resident of Asheville, NC, it’s fitting that I’ve become embroiled in a controversy surrounding a movie based upon a major literary work. Famed novelist Thomas Wolfe was raised here, and most of his major works were autobiographical descriptions of his life and family. It was here that F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway came in the 1930s when they tired of their European adventures, and where Fitzgerald’s widow, Zelda, died in a fire a decade later.

When the movie Atlas Shrugged, Part I, based on Ayn Rand’s novel of the same name, debuted on Friday, a local city councilman wrote this in the Asheville Daily Planet:

There can’t be another bad novelist who has done more damage to our world than the woman who called herself Ayn Rand. Her nearly indigestible polemics seem to appeal to the sophomore in us all, with their grandiosity and declamation of verities, and some few among us never manage to recover… [more]

The paper’s editor offered me an opportunity to include a counterpoint sidebar to accompany the critic’s commentary:


Ayn Rand’s Objectivism is a comprehensive, organic and consistent philosophical system exemplified in artistic form in her famous magnum opus ‘Atlas Shrugged’ – published in 1957 and a best-seller today with 7 million copies sold.

Now, a new and eagerly-awaited movie based on the book will receive a showing in the Asheville area, and around the country, this month, opening on Tax Day. It is Part One of a proposed three-part movie series and promises to bring renewed interest to the authors controversial views, which are gaining in popularity even without the film’s assistance.

The film approximates the novel somewhat faithfully, as all such earnest projects do (the filmmaker spent 20 years and $20M of his own money). And by all accounts from devotees, this first installment is not altogether bad; which was the main fear. Seeing it, you will learn something about the characters, the story and the philosophical ideas embedded in the ‘plot-theme.’ The screenplay and production quality are quite good and the performers are unknown to the big screen (also good, in my opinion). All in all, I suggest it will be a worthwhile viewing for those interested in an improved understanding of the author’s great contribution to literature, philosophy and human understanding.

To be sure, many remain hostile to Ayn Rand and her ideas. Some because of her devotion to the absolute primacy of reason and science over belief and dogma. Others because she unequivocally champions individual rights, rational self-interest and a thoroughly ‘laizzez-faire’ political-economy. And others still because they are simply unfamiliar with the foundational material and rely on biased vilification to draw undigested conclusions.

I would urge those few genuinely interested in clarifying their impressions of Rand to simply go and see the movie and enjoy. Better yet, go and read the number two best-selling book in the world and discover why it’s appeal is quickening, why the fable told there grows less fictional every day and why Rand called hers ‘a philosophy for living on Earth.’

Given the continuing fascination with the novel and the film, I would be very interested in reading an e-book on the making of Atlas Shrugged, Part I. Now there’s a tale of perseverance!

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