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YMMV: Atlas Shrugged

For the book

  • Alternative Character Interpretation: It is easy to interpret John Galt as a fanatical cult leader rather than the great industrial hero Rand meant him to be, since everyone in Galt's Gulch has nearly identical personalities.
  • Anvilicious: Supporters, opponents and the author herself all agree that the book is as much a direct expression of the author's philosophy as it is a novel. They might feel, though, that Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped.
  • Black Hole Sue: John Galt - see also Canon Sue, Einstein Sue, God-Mode Sue, Relationship Sue, Thirty Sue Pileup.
  • Canon Sue: Just about everyone agrees that John Galt fits.
    • Rand's style is a celebration of what she feels humanity can be at its greatest moments, and the "good" characters tend to embody that. As a result, just about all of them can be read as Sues. Your mileage certainly will vary.
    • If the concept of a Mary Sue had existed at the time Rand wrote, she would probably have agreed that many of the characters qualify: but they were meant to be archetypes, not realistic characters.
  • Critical Dissonance: Critics tend to loathe the novel's style, while a reader's enjoyment of the book generally has a direct relationship with that reader's political views.
  • Critical Research Failure:
    • At the beginning of the novel, Dagny's train is held up for hours by a red signal. She deduces that the signal must be faulty and that the train can safely proceed. This is because while certainly knowing the train schedule is useful (and in fact absolutely necessary for certain types of train control systems), the fact a train is not scheduled to be in the block does not mean one isn't there due to some unforeseen circumstance. Furthermore, while it would upset the point Rand was trying to make, knowing if another train is around shouldn't depend on the intellect of a senior official along for the ride. Train meets are supposed to be planned out ahead of time, and all crew members should know about them. What really makes everyone involved here Too Dumb to Live, including Dagny, the train crew, and Rand herself, is that a train occupying a signal block is not the only thing that can drop a signal to red. A broken rail, washed out bridge, or other critical defect can do so as well. The appropriate action in such a situation would be to contact the dispatcher or next station agent (by radio, or in the days before locomotives were so equipped, by walking to the nearest line-side phone box) and ask why the signal was dropped. Assuming no unexpected train was occupying the block, the dispatcher could then direct the train to proceed at a restricted speed allowing a full stop within half the line of sight in case a track defect was discovered.
    • Rand also seems to have mistakenly believed that gun silencers render the gun completely noiseless, without even the soft "fwip!" of Hollywood Silencers. Maybe it is just another example of the super science that exists in the novel
    • Rails made of phlebotinum apparently cancel out the laws of motion.
    • The title is based on the common misconception that Atlas from Greek mythology carries the world on his shoulders. In classic mythology he carries the sky.
  • Designated Hero: Ragnar plunders relief ships taking food to starving people, including children... because they are loaded with supplies bought with stolen money, and what will happen when there is no one left to steal from?
  • Don't Shoot the Message: The reaction of a number of the book's fans to the film version. To some extent, the reaction of a number of Objectivists to the book as well.
  • Einstein Sue: John Galt.
  • Ensemble Darkhorse: Eddie Willers. He's a solid worker, devoted to Dagny, a good man through and through, and though not very ambitious, a man who will do all he can to keep running his small place in the universe. He might not be a superman, but he would have been an effective, honest worker according to Objectivist values. No wonder Dagny, Francisco, and that strange track laborer he eats with in the cafeteria every day respect him so much.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: In the book two of the first countries to elect socialist leaders are Guatemala and Chile and the US government completely supports this. Much fun is had at the expense of the Chilean ambassador and his wife, who are referred to as a pimp and a prostitute and given filthy habits. Over a decade after the book's publication, socialist Salvador Allende became president of Chile, and appointed the poet and Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda as an ambassador. Neruda died an agonizing death from cancer a few days after Allende's US-backed death and replacement by the dictator Augusto Pinochet.
  • God-Mode Sue: John Galt.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: The lights going out in New York City, after several real-life blackouts, including the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Dr. Ferris uses Dr. Stadler's research on cosmic waves to write a convoluted book of philosophy to forward his own agenda. Fast forward to 2004, when What the #$*! Do We Know!? comes out.
  • Ho Yay: Hank Rearden and Francisco d'Anconia. "Greatest conquest" indeed. According to Dagny, Hank's "fallen for him!"
    • Hank Rearden is "the only man [Ken Danagger] ever loved."
  • Inferred Holocaust: Actually stated. When the lights of New York go out, Galt's Gulch is the last industrial power on Earth.
  • It Was His Sled: Most people nowadays are aware of the strike and Galt's Gulch when they start reading the novel. Ironically, Rand originally planned to name the book "The Strike", but scrapped it when she thought it would give away too much of the plot.
  • Launcher of a Thousand Ships: Dagny
  • Magnificent Bastard: John Galt, Francisco d'Anconia and Ragnar Danneskjold are all heroic examples. Lillian Rearden wants to be a Magnificent Bitch but the reality, is otherwise.
  • Memetic Mutation: "Who is John Galt?"
  • Misaimed Fandom: The book is hugely and openly critical of torture and targeted killings, religion, and trusting feelings over evidence. And yet AIG CEO Bob Benmosche claims to be a fan, even though the villains of the book are CEOs who take government bailouts after causing an economic collapse through sheer ineptitude.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Dr. Robert Stadler starts out accepting the use of government force to establish the State Science Institute because he believes that most people would never value scientific research for its own sake voluntarily. He makes various concessions to the looters in the attempt to preserve the Institute, such as refusing to condemn the smear job on Rearden Metal, but the moment he truly crosses the line is when after finding out that Project X was based on his own work, he sells out an Intrepid Reporter begging him to tell the world what's going on before reading a speech, sold to the public as his own words, praising Project X as a project of great benefit to the nation.
    • Also, James Taggart's driving of Cherryl to suicide.
    • For Dagny, seeing that the looters are willing to torture John Galt is what finally makes her truly understand that they are beyond redemption.
    • Hank Rearden is considering whether Lilian actually wants him to have a miserable existence and suffer horribly, but he can't believe that she could be pure evil, because "to convict a human being of that practice was a verdict of irrevocable damnation... a verdict of total evil" and that "he would not believe it of anyone, so long as the possibility of a doubt remained."
  • Narm: When Dagny meets the woman who shut down 20th Century Motors and is forced to listen to her spew out a long stream of traditional communist schpiel, she thinks to herself "Remember this face; this is the face of pure evil". The person she's talking to is effectively as stereotypical of a Dirty Hippy as one can get. Just imagine looking out into a crowd at Woodstock and seeing them as the face of evil.
  • Protection from Editors: The reason for its length.
  • Puppy Love: Eddie/Cherryl is quite popular, even though they only officially met once during the book, and only in the context of discussing the real nature of Jim Taggart.
  • Relationship Sue: John Galt for Dagny.
  • Squick: James Taggart and Lilian Reardens' sexual affair. Ergh. Gives one the screaming heebie-jeebies.
  • Strawman Has a Point: Detractors of the book believe that James Taggart raises legitimately good points in his caricatured arguments.
  • Tear Jerker: Eddie's last scene and "The Wet Nurse's" death.
  • Thirty Sue Pile Up: In case you haven't noticed, John Galt is portrayed like a living god amongst men. He's not popular among the Designated Villain types, but that just makes him cooler.
  • Values Dissonance: Jim Taggart's marriage to Cherryl is portrayed negatively, due to factors such as Jim having lied about his accomplishments to her, and eventually he is discovered to enjoy Cherryl's struggle and pain as she tries to understand him (and in the end, he commits adultery and drives her to suicide just For the Evulz). These are all very good reasons for the marriage being completely wrong... but the fact that Taggart is 20 years older than Cherryl is not even mentioned. Rand had personal reasons not to speak out against May-December Romance.
  • Values Resonance: There's a certain percentage of the politically aware for whom this trope definitely applies. The novel became a bestseller in 1957, has never been out of print and had a definite heyday around 2006.
  • Vindicated by History: From the point of view of US-style libertarians, the novel's perennial popularity and slowly accumulated respect from political critics qualifies it for this trope. Obviously, critics of the novel would disagree.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Symbolic?: The character of John Galt has some amazing similarities to the story of Jesus Christ in The Bible.
    • Jesus goes around recruiting disciples; Galt is making the creative people of the world go into hiding.
    • Jesus gives The Sermon on the Mount that's known to the world; Galt gives a speech on the radio that's heard the world over.
    • Jesus announced in advance at the Last Supper that he would be betrayed by one of his Disciples; Galt tells Dagny in advance while they're at Galt's Gulch that if she continues the way she is going she will betray him.
    • Jesus is delivered to his enemies and betrayed by Judas for 30 pieces of silver; Galt is delivered to his enemies and betrayed by Dagny for $500,000.
    • Satan offers Jesus the chance to be king of the world if he will accede to his demand to kneel and worship him; Mr. Thompson offers Galt the chance to be economic dictator of the country if he will accede to his demand to get the country off its knees economically.
    • Jesus refuses the offer and tells Satan that he has nothing to offer him; Galt refuses the offer and tells Mr. Thompson that he has nothing to offer him.
    • Jesus is shown the kingdoms of the world by Satan; Galt is shown to to the world by Mr. Thompson at the Wayne-Falkland hotel.
    • Jesus is nailed to a cross; Galt is hooked up to an electric generator.
    • His torturers take his clothes. (In both stories.)
    • Jesus is crucified; Galt is tortured with electroshock.
    • Jesus escapes from his tomb; Galt escapes from the State Science Institute.
    • Jesus returns to heaven; Galt returns to Galt's Gulch, the Striker's version of Heaven.
  • The Woobie: Steel tycoon Hank Rearden, believe it or not. Watching his mental strain when dealing with his unsupportive family and wife, as well as the government's policies which seem to be designed solely to choke him off from doing what he loves best, just makes you feel sorry for him.
    • Also Eddie Willers, Cherryl Brooks, and some named companies headed by generally decent people (notably the Atlantic Southern, which suffers one undeserved financial blow after another due to the looters' policies) all end up being this.
    • Tony. Just when he starts understanding what's really going on, he gets killed in a staged union riot.

For the films

  • Better on DVD: Many people, even if they disagree with a lot of Ayn Rand's political leanings have been quite patiently waiting for each film.
  • Critical Dissonance: 11% of critics liked the first film, while 74% of users on Rotten Tomatoes did. Whether critics approve of the film may be related to their level of agreement with its messages. The same is true about the users. Most of the people that saw it on their own account already supported its messages, while critics had to watch it regardless. The second film had a stupefying 0% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes with 16 reviews and an average 2.6/10 score as of October 18, 2012. Fans rated 82% Fresh with around 3,300 votes and an average 4.1/5. As of November 16, 2012, the film had landed a single positive review with a total of 21 critic reviews. 78% of 8,297 had rated it Fresh, with an average 4/5.
  • Don't Shoot the Message: The reaction of a number of the book's fans to the film version. To some extent, the reaction of a number of Objectivists to the book as well.
  • It Was His Sled: A man is convincing industrialists and other producers to vanish by convincing them that society is exploiting them. This was a twist in the book that didn't become clear till at least 500 pages in - the man's existence was unknown for much of the earlier parts, and once it was, he was portrayed as a "destroyer" who simply sought to attack industry. The film, however assumes that people already know this is the story's premise and reveals it in the official synopsis and opening scene. Indeed, Part II is even titled "The Strike."
  • So Okay, It's Average: A few critics, like Roger Ebert, expected to tear apart the first film's philosophy point by point, and thus hate the film utterly. Instead, they found themselves simply bored, not angry, and unable to discern what the film's message was. (Ebert didn't review the second film, and didn't live to see the third.)
  • WTH, Casting Agency?:
    • Despite the extremely divisive reaction to the first film, one thing that got widespread praise was the casting of Taylor Schilling as Dagny. Samantha Mathis in the second film, by contrast, got pretty much the exact opposite reaction — not that the critics felt her performance was bad per se, just that she was completely the wrong choice for the role.
    • In a more general sense, this is almost certainly the first film trilogy to have every major role played by a different person in all three films. It's understandable that some of the lead actors in the first film (Schilling in particular) had moved onto bigger and better things, but none of the minor actors wanted to return either?

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