Radical Politics and “Across the Universe”

Julie Taymor’s Across the Universe is a revisionist musical that incorporates a number of songs by The Beatles into the narrative. The film details the life of the main character, Jude, and the changes he experiences throughout several decades of political turmoil and social experimentation. Jude travels to the United States in search of his G.I. father, and takes residence in an artsy, hippy town. As the years progress, we see Jude working as a freelance artist, while his girlfriend, Lucy, gets involved with radical leftist politics and the mass opposition to the Vietnam War. Because of the differences in lifestyles, Jude and Lucy eventually split,  and Jude is deported. When Jude’s friend Max returns from Vietnam wounded, the three finally reunite in New York.

While some critics argue that Across the Universe unquestioningly sings the praises of the revolutionist ideology of the 1960’s and early 1970’s, it is important to note the critique of the extreme radical politics that the film presents. The scene in which men (most likely representative of the Weather Underground) are seen creating explosives can be interpreted as a criticism of the hypocrisy of using violence to make a statement against state-sponsored violence. Taymor draws parallels between the social and political issues of the 1960’s and 70’s and those of our generation, particularly in the similarities between the Vietnam War and the modern-day war in the Middle East, and the public’s opinion of the government’s actions in each case.

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