You’ve got to see this one. It’s so right — and it really resonates with me because I work so hard educating and inoculating my children against the omnipresent Leftist pop culture. I think the video also works for me because, as a history major who has always rejected Marxist and deconstructionist approaches to history, I believe in historic facts and despise the way in which liberals manipulate history to suit their current political outcomes. (Although, to be just, Shakespeare did precisely the same thing, although he was pandering to current royalty, rather than trying to propagandize the public.)
There’s yet another movie coming out about the way in which the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq destroy lives and turn young men into pathetic losers:
There is a grim timeliness to the release of “Brothers,” Jim Sheridan’s movie about the effects of war on the family of a Marine serving in Afghanistan. Whatever the other consequences of President Obama’s revised strategy in that country, we can be sure that it will yield more stories like the one told in this film. And it is sobering, eight years into the war, to reflect that in 2004, the first time this movie was made — by the Danish director Susanne Bier — it was just as topical and urgent.
The review is written in terms of high art — which I translate as boring and pompous — but I gather that the brother who goes to war suffers terribly, and that his sufferings transfer to the family, and that they all suffer and are destroyed together. War is hell, people.
The above is the usual we expect from Hollywood. What’s so funny is the way in which the New York Times‘ movie reviewer, A.O. Scott, assures us that the movie is completely apolitical:
But this “Brothers,” like its predecessor, is in some ways less a movie about war than a movie that uses war as a scaffolding for domestic melodrama. It also follows the template of American movies about Iraq and Afghanistan in being resolutely somber and systematically apolitical: you can witness any kind of combat heroism or atrocity, and see unflinching portrayals of grief, trauma and healing. But you almost never hear an argument about the war itself, or glimpse the larger global and national context in which these intimate dramas take shape.
It doesn’t seem to occur to Scott that a movie that paints war as an evil thing that destroys, not just the enemy, but the warriors at home and, by extension, their families too, is pretty anti-war. And that if it’s anti-war, it isn’t apolitical. Instead, it’s standing firmly on the side of those liberals who believe that all wars, regardless of the goals, are inherently evil and destructive. It also stands firmly on the side of those liberals who do not believe that there is a warrior class that finds fulfillment in serving, and that despite the fact that war — even a just war — can indeed be hell.
As an antidote to the liberal establishment’s firm belief that military service inevitably destroys human beings, let me replay this great video of Congressional candidate Lieutenant Colonel Allen West, which I already added to my affirmative action post:
The big buzz is about James Cameron’s Avatar, which is supposed to be to modern movies what The Jazz Singer was to the silent film: It will remake movies.
I don’t know about that, but having seen the preview a few days ago when I took some boys to the movies, I can tell you that one thing about this “new” movie is very same old-same old: the plot. As best as I could tell from the noisy, muddled preview, the film is about the evil American military trying to take a planet away from the good and pure indigenous people. Hey, it’s 1492, or 1620, or 1876 all over again — but this time, you can be sure (and I’m guessing as to the ending), a revisionistic history will destroy the evil forces in America’s futuristic military, and the pure and wonderful indigenous people will once again control their world, with a few appropriately subdued Americans paying homage to their moral superiors.
UPDATE: As Charles Martel pointed out, the military’s greed in the film Avatar comes about because the planet contains “some sort of dilithium crystal that’s worth a lebenty zillion dollars per gram and that the native village just happens to be sitting plumb smack on top of the only deposit of the stuff on an entire earth-sized planet.”
In response, Spiff left this great comment, which I simply have to elevate to post status:
I was thinking about what you said regarding why the humans cared about the planet in Avatar. It’s always some super duper resource that we want and the noble aliens live right on top of it and have no idea what they have. And so the imperialistic humans come and try and steal it.
Since sci-fi is all about taking current issues and taking them to there extreme I’d like to see “Avatar” do something new.
If the current politics or our nation continues the way it is going here is how I see “Avatar” going based on what you saw:
The original survey crew would have to file endless environmental and cultural impact reports before even setting foot on the planet.
Once there, the survey crews would have to establish contact with the local aliens and do everything in their power to befriend them, even if it meant risking the safety of the team. The Marines attached to the team for security would have Rules of Engagements that would make it nigh impossible to defend themselves from the aliens if they were in fact hostile, all this while providing all sorts of assistance and aid to the local aliens.
Once the resource was discovered, humanity would spend gazillions of space credits negotiating with the aliens to tap the resource. This would of course include massive amounts of aid, rent for the facilities and construction and security costs. And of course the humans would not get the resource, the aliens would own it, we would pay through the nose for the resource we paid and worked to remove. And this assumes the aliens like us.
When the aliens decide they don’t like us anymore they would kick us out and “nationalize” the facilities we built. They would then raise the price of the resource and their leaders would steal all the money for themselves and tell their population it’s all the fault of the humans. And of course our leadership would acquiesce and agree all the way.
Of course this would cause the aliens to fight with humans and kill them. Once again human security forces would have their hands tied to do anything meaningful to defend themselves and stop the aliens.
When it finally did come down to a confrontation, human forces would win the day despite all the rules on how to conduct the war. We would occupy the planet and hand it over to a new crop of corrupt leaders and it would start all over again.
At least that’s how I would write it.
Back in 2006, I wrote an optimistic article for American Thinker in which I saw some hope in Hollywood’s approach to manliness. I’m going to quote here at some length from my earlier article, because I want to make the point that I was lauding an enormously successful movie because it celebrated traditional male virtues:
The Narnia Chronicles: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, is a wonderful film, with Christian themes intact. I therefore went to the film prepared to be impressed — and I was. The big surprise for me, though, and something I haven’t seen discussed anywhere, is the movie’s positive depiction of its male lead, Peter (played by 18 year old William Moseley).
As the movie begins, Peter is a young man who is casually kind to his sisters, painfully impatient with his brother, and loath to take on responsibility. Once in Narnia, of course, Peter has responsibility thrust upon him, for he quickly learns that he is the High King of prophecy. It’s important to note that he’s not simply one of two kings, or one of four royal children — he is the High King, the leader among leaders. Although he is at first appalled, once he realizes that he cannot avoid this destiny, he swiftly grows into his role.
The pivotal moment for Peter comes when he, his sisters, and their talking beaver companions are stranded on rapidly cracking ice, with a frozen waterfall above them about to burst, and hostile wolves surrounding them. To add to the pressure Peter faces, one of the beavers has a wolf poised above his throat. Up until this point in the movie, he has merely been reactive. This crisis forces him to be proactive.
Peter has few options. He can kill one of the wolves, but this is unlikely to save him and his companions from melting ice. With imminent disaster facing him, and everyone screaming different advice to him, Peter is forced to make his decision alone, and quickly. At the last moment, he plunges his sword into the ice beneath him, causing the entire ice pack beneath the companions and the wolves to crack.
While the wolves slip into the water, Peter’s sword creates a pole to which he and his sisters can cling as their block of ice races downstream. (The beavers, of course, run no risk from their icy plunge.) Peter’s rapidly developing courage and resourcefulness reappear when Lucy slips off the ice floe, and he dives under water to rescue her. It’s a gripping scene, made more so by the fact that dire circumstances have forced Peter to leave the boy behind and become a man.
Once Peter has crossed his personal Rubicon, from boy to man, his old—fashioned manly virtues develop swiftly. He displays principled honesty when he confesses forthrightly to Aslan that Edmund’s failures can be traced back to Peter’s own impatience with him; he shows magnanimity when he welcomes Edmund back into the fold, even though Edmund’s treachery almost destroyed them all; he demonstrates brilliant tactical skills when, in Aslan’s absence, he creates a masterful battle plan; and he acts with incredible gallantry when, despite his sheltered upbringing in Finchley, he leads his troops into battle against the witch and her foul warriors.
In the remainder of the article, I contrasted the Narnia movie to the anti-male nihilism in Brokeback Mountain, which came out at about the same time. When I considered that Narnia was a huge hit, while Brokeback was something of a big joke, beloved by critics but laughed at by ordinary Americans, I hoped that I was seeing a positive trend regarding boys and men in movies. I have to admit, though, that I got a little worried when the Narnia sequel, The Chronicles of Narnia : Prince Caspian came out. In a major departure from the source book, the filmmakers presented Peter as whiny, jealous, suspicious, and foolishly impetuous. The heroic, moral character from the first book had disappeared and in his place was a petulant teenager. Still, compared to the movie I saw last night, a movie that starred yet another character named Peter, this impaired Peter in Narnia was still a virtuous man.
And what did I see last night that cast me into such despair about pop culture and the attack on traditional manliness? It’s a “comedy” called I Love You, Man, which came out some months ago, but which I only saw yesterday on DVD. The premise is simple: After eight months of dating, Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd) and Zooey (Rashida Jones) decide to get married. It turns out, though, that during their eight months of being together Zooey had never noticed that Peter didn’t have any guy friends of his own. Her girlfriends, however, point this out as a threat to the marriage (he’ll be whiny and clingy) and as a threat to the wedding (lots of bridesmaid, no groomsmen). Overhearing this conversation, the panicked Peter decides to do some guy bonding so that he can stand tall at his wedding and be independent afterward. For the next hour and a half, we watch Peter deal with a series of truly disgusting guys in an effort to bond with one of them. His ultimate pick as is “guy friend” is a man that any woman would recognize instantly as a dangerous narcissist or a sociopath, and it is this character who gleefully introduces Peter into a modern man’s world.
From start to finish, the men — and the women — in the movie are repugnant. Peter, who is sweet enough, is so emasculated that, although heterosexual, he is an anti-man. To the extent he has any virtuous behaviors, they exist because he’s abandoned manliness. He is a lesbian in men’s clothing. His father and mother enjoy embarrassing him about his sexuality, such as it is. His brother is a gay man who has become so bored with picking up other gay men that he’s begun preying on straight men. Zooey, while a fairly decent, straightforward woman on her own terms, hangs with a group of gals who discuss sex in the crudest terms, and who genuinely seem to dislike men. One of her closest friends is married to a man who is so disagreeable it is impossible to tell why his wife wants to become pregnant with him. Played by Jon Favreau, he’s not only hostile to everyone around him, his “guy” friendships focus on gambling and binge drinking. Peter’s efforts to bond with Favreau’s character end with the vomiting scene that seems to be obligatory in all modern movies.
Peter eventually gravitates to Sydney Fife (Jason Segel), who is not gay, who is not a binge drinker, and who is not a lonely old man seeking friends by posting “young man” pictures on line (as one character does). The scenes that follow the developing Peter-Sydney relationship play out like a parody of a traditional chick-flick, with a nervous, tongue-tied Peter trying to woo the cool Sydney (only in a nervously non-sexual way).
What kills any comedy potential in this parody of chick-flicks is the fact that Sydney is unspeakably repugnant. I’ll freely concede here that it’s entirely possible that all guys, outside the company of woman, have a special living room chair in which they masturbate, complete with accessories; haunt open houses to pick-up divorcees; track other people’s farting patterns; inquire into the explicit details of their friends’ sex lives and then broadcast those details to others; encourage their dogs to poop on heavily trafficked sidewalks; and aggressively attack people who “insult” them. Even if it is true that this is just how guys are, that does not mean that these are virtuous behaviors. Peter, however, is simultaneously intrigued and repulsed, with attraction dominating. Sydney, therefore, becomes the eponymous man of the “I love you” title.
The movie’s message is clear. Men are either epicene or revolting. There is no middle ground. Ordinary male behaviors involve projectile vomiting, public defecating, impulsive violent behavior, obsessive (and often deviant) sexual behavior and, if they’re not amongst the “nice” guys, you can add on brutishness, gambling and binge drinking. The concepts of decency, kindness, honor, and bravery are conspicuously absent. Real men — men who have integrity, who honor women, who protect those weaker than they are — simply do not exist in this Hollywood universe.
What’s even worse than the misanthropic nihilism of I Love You, Man, is the fact that the critics thought that this little movie was just great. At Rotten Tomatoes, it’s got an 82% on the freshness meter. Scan through the reviews and you’ll find words of love for Rudd’s charm, Segel’s comic timing, and the funny sexual predicaments — all of which is true if you don’t mind the fundamental premise, which is that guys are crude, disgusting and amoral. As the mother of a lovely 10 year old boy, I mind that premise a great deal. I don’t like the way our culture demeans men. I want men to be able to honor themselves. Movies such as this one render them as nothing more than figures of ridicule. They are perpetually gross, sex-obsessed jokes.
I should add here that I have a pretty loose sense of humor. I’ll laugh just as hysterically as the next person at the peeing scene in The Naked Gun, at Lucy Ricardo’s endless antics, at the Three Stooges’ eye pokes, and at the existential zaniness in Groundhog Day. There are few cows too sacred for a good joke. Systematically demeaning an entire population group, however, ceases to be funny. Additionally, hen one looks at the statistics about boys and education, and about men and crime, this systemic degradation begins to seem destructive and downright dangerous.
Vote with your feet. Avoid movies that, rather than laughing at the human condition, aim to destroy the soul of half of our population.
Hollywood and the media establishment as a whole are inescapable parts of American and, indeed, world culture. It’s fascinating, therefore, to think about the type of patriotism our American media now espouses and that which it embraced in the past. Depending on how one defines patriotism, whether as love of country or love of a particular political leader, American media has always done its best to lead the way.
Typically, there are two types of patriotism, one of which I think is healthy and one of which is scary. The healthy one is love of country. I’m talking true love of country, the one that sees a citizen believing he is singularly blessed to live in his country. Your citizen recognizes that his country has had — and still has — failings, but nonetheless thinks it’s the best game in town — and this is true whether he focuses on his personal freedoms, the economy, national security or social mores. This patriot is completely distinguishable from those who have nothing good to say about their country, but can only recite an endless litany of its moral failings. When the “patriots” focuses obsessively on his countries wrongs, periodically stopping to make that rote statement that “I love my country,” you see someone akin to the chronic wife beater, who always excuses his abuses by claiming that he’s doing it for his wife’s own good. That’s not about love. It’s about power and hatred.
The other type of patriotism is one that attaches itself to a leader. These are the cults of personality, and I can’t think of one that hasn’t occured in the context of a totalitarian dictatorship. (If I’m wrong, please enlighten me.) Stalin in the Soviet Union, Mussolini in Italy, Hitler in German, Pol Pot in Cambodia, Mao in China, Kim Jong Il in Korea, Castro in Cuba, and Qaddafi in Libya are all perfect examples of this scenario. In each case, a leader ascended to absolute power and the people, who may have been at first seduced by his demagoguery, ended up at sword-point being forced to worship him completely, to their own detriment and that of the state. That is why it is always frightening when someone ascends to office based upon a personality cult, rather than based upon past accomplishments.
The early movie makers were, without exception, patriots who truly believed America was the best nation on earth. This was true whether they were immigrants who escaped from oppression in other lands (e.g., Louis B. Mayer or Jack Warner), or came from America’s heartland (Walt Disney). Even as they recognized America’s flaws — and recognize them they did, especially because flaws tend to make for good drama — their love for this country came through loud and clear in every movie they made. MGM, especially under Louis B. Mayer, loved to present an idealized country in which an honest and free people would triumph, whether to music, laughter or tears. Warner Brothers tended to focus on America’s noir nitty-gritty, but the good guys were the cops who saved decent citizens from those lowlifes who rejected the American dream in favor of crime or the soldiers who protected Americans from enemies abroad. And then there’s Disney, with every movie somehow serving as the backdrop to a subliminal national anthem.
Early Hollywood’s deep love for country was never more clearly seen than during World War II, when every studio in Hollywood willingly bent its efforts to helping America win the war. Whether churning out movies about the home front, about our Allies or our evil enemies, or about the bravery and sacrifice of our troops, each picture had a single goal: to help Americans support the war effort so that America would achieve an absolute victory. The same held true for written media and even popular song. Women were reminded not to sit under the apple tree with anyone but their overseas love; soldiers were assured that, with a little praise for the Lord and a lot of ammunition, they would prevail; and every citizen was reminded to remember Pearl Harbor.
Early American TV also celebrated American virtues. Family shows weren’t about dysfunction, with snotty kids putting inept and helpless parents firmly in their place. Instead, no matter the show’s name (Leave it to Beaver, The Brady Bunch, The Ozzie and Harriet Show), the truth was that, in TV Land, Father (and Mother) always knew best. And while these shows, in both tone and racial representation, may not have accurately reflected many of the homes in America, they nevertheless helped Americans aspire to be part of stable and loving families, with respectful, moral children. As with early movies, TV shows through the early 1970s saw the nitty-gritty of America (again, it makes for good drama), but the American people, the ordinary families, the police officers, and the military, were the heroes, not the enemies.
Only in one area did old Hollywood deviate from the purer form of patriotism, and that was when it came to Roosevelt worshipo. Generally speaking, old Hollywood movies shied away from blatant political statements, recognizing, no doubt, that their audience encompassed both Roosevelt lovers and haters. Sometimes, though, a little propaganda was just too good to resist. So it was that, in 1933, when Warner Brothers made Footlight Parade, starring James Cagney, neither Cagney, the studio, nor choreographer Busby Berkeley could resist including an homage to the WPA and Roosevelt in the wonderful grand finale, Shanghai Lil. (The politics come in at about 2:15.)
Looking at this musical pièce de résistance now, over a distance of 76 years, the effect is not only visually spectacular (it is Busby Berkeley, after all), but tinged with an almost wholesome nostalgia. I wonder, though, whether the more sophisticated crowd in 1933, who watched with horror as Roosevelt threw an already fragile economy into absolute chaos, was quite so charmed.
The years since John F. Kennedy have presented the spectacle of a media that entirely lacks the old-fashioned love of country that characterized early Hollywood. Instead, modern media professes a wife-beater’s love for country, with films, magazines, books, television shows and songs that have been relentlessly hostile to American values, whether those values relate to economics, national security or old-fashioned societal morality.
On the economic front, in film after film after film, America is painted as an exploitative imperialist power, in thrall to shadowy corporations headed by evil white men. A perfect example of this is 2005′s Syriana, a muddled mess with mega-watt star power. If you have the stamina to try to sift through the inchoate plot, you learn that evil oil interests control the world. The same year saw an equally muddled film with almost exactly the same plot: The Constant Gardener. These movies, with their focus on the effect evil American corporations have on exploited Third Worlders abroad, were the natural successors to the two decade run of movies about the effect evil American corporations had poor Americans at home (think Norma Rae, Silkwood, and Erin Brockovich).
On the war front, Hollywood has been relentless in its attacks on American forces. They are painted as brutish, stupid murders or innocent pawns, rather than people of intelligence, patriotism, bravery or integrity. Again, examples abound. The staggeringly dull and mean-spirited In the Valley of Elah (2007) is a case in point. The IMDB plot summaries pretty much say it all. One sums up the film as an example of “dirty little secrets with an impressive case of dehumanization caused by the invasion and consequent war in Iraq.” The other explains that the movie shows “the failings of the military to adequately look out for the well-being of its soldiers.” Valley of Elah is such a perfect example of Hollywood’s antipathy to the American military that I’ll stop here. I know, though, that you can easily summon to mind other examples.
And then there are Hollywood’s most insidious attacks, those against mainstream American morality. In 1999, the Hollywood establishment gave its best picture award to American Beauty, a bleak look at the depravity, ennui and despair that is, in Hollywood’s jaded eyes, Middle America. That movie at least had the virtue of being up front in its challenge to American values. As most parents will attest, though, the real problem is the dozens of movies coming out assuring America’s children that it’s totally okay to take drugs, drink, screw around, drop out of school and lie to ones parents. Do this, and you will be amusing and very cool.
Even apparently innocuous movies such as The Sure Thing, which was ostensibly a remake of the delightful It Happened One Night, celebrate college drinking. Its stars do it — so why shouldn’t you? Then there’s one of my least favorite movies of all time, the one that left me with an abiding dislike for the heterosexual Tom Cruise: Risky Business. It is almost impossible to imagine a more sordid movie than this tale of a high school student (played by a known teeny-bopper magnet) who turns his house into a brothel to raise cash, and then suffers (a term I use lightly) an eventual comeuppance that is minimal compared to his complete moral collapse.
Watch enough Hollywood movies — and people at home and abroad do — and the message you will receive is absolutely clear: America is a despicable place, filled with despicable people who use its economic freedoms and its vast arsenal to enslave and destroy, both at home and abroad. This is wife-beater patriotism.
While the entertainment world may show a wife-beater’s love for country, the opposite it true when it comes to Democratic presidents. They are accorded a type of worship that skates eerily close to the state-mandated worship people in totalitarian regimes are required to show for their various “Dear” or “Great” leaders. In Hollywood and Manhattan (the two geographic centers of American media) John F. Kennedy, a hawk and a fiscal conservative, has morphed into a Progressive politician who would have put his political life on the line for a socialist economy and a pacifist national security plan. Bill Clinton, a self-indulgent, sexually debauched leftist (although he had the good sense to move to the center when attacked) was portrayed on America’s TV screens as the innocent victim of sleazy attack politics launched either by white, male, corporate monsters or by white, male, Christian fanatics. And while he was never president, wannabe Teddy Kennedy on his death has been treated as a secular saint. His unfortunate contretemps — cheating scandals, murder, treason, sexual debauchery and alcoholism — are presented as “flaws” and “mistakes” and “failings.” The message to Americans, especially the young ones, is clear: Feel free to kill, lie and cheat. If your politics are pure and Progressive, we’ll always forgive you.
As for Barack Obama, I don’t even know where to begin with him. Every mainstream TV show, whether news or gossip; every big time magazine, whether news, fashion or family; and every major newspaper, has focused relentlessly on the Obama personality cult. The obsession with Obama’s wonderfulness has always been, of course, a necessary offset to the fact that his record, when not absent entirely, showed the kind of Leftist political extremism that would have frightened every ordinary American in flyover country (not to mention those in a few states and counties on either coast). There is no better way to avoid his missing transcripts, his radical friendships and affiliates, his complete lack of executive experience, and his failed political initiatives than turning him into a cutting-edge red, white and blue poster; raving about his physical beauty (although I’ve always thought he looked more like Dopey than Depp); and announcing, based on the evidence of a single (possibly ghost-written) book that he was the second coming of Einstein in terms of intelligence.
Just as with Jesus, the secular faithful in the American media, those who hate the country but love the man, repeatedly told us that we could atone for our grievous sins as Americans by “coming to Obama.” The Dear Leader would wash away our collective failings. With this in mind, do not expect Hollywood to come out any time soon with Obama movies comparable to Nixon, The Reagans or W. A movie about Obama is likely to be closer in emotional tone to The Passion of the Christ.
As always when it comes to Hollywood and television, it’s tempting to slough off its failings by say “it’s just entertainment.” That’s the lazy way out, though. With its spectacular reach, a reach that now extends around the world, and with its trained ability to drive messages home in the most entertaining way possible, what Hollywood does matters. It shapes both foreign and domestic views of America (America is greedy and evil, and its own citizens hate it), and it warps our youth culture by assuring them that the most demeaning and debauched behavior is the surest way to popularity and success.
We can fight back, though. Despite its chronic demonization of capitalism (the bad capitalism, of course, in the form of oil and manufacturing), the entertainment world is all about money. We can vote with our feet. Turn off shows or don’t pay for movies that offend your patriotism and your sense of values. Also use social networking, such as twitter or facebook, to give your opinion of movies. Just today, one of my facebook friends gave a succinct and very ugly review to Taking Woodstock, the latest Hollywood fairy-tale about the wonders of dirty hippies, mud, drugs and loud music. His facebook friends may think twice about shelling out their hard-earned money on that movie. We’ll never see Hollywood’s golden age again, but we don’t have to sit back silently and let the wife-beating, demagogue worshipping modern media have the last world.
I went to NBC’s site looking for something else entirely, and got waylaid by a link to Hollywood brainiacs. I found it somewhat interesting, at least initially. Before I begin, though, let me say that I’m absolutely certain a lot of the actors and actresses profiled are indeed really, really smart. Having said that, there were two things that caught my eye:
1. NBC has a clear institutional bias: with only two exceptions (NYU and UCLA), the only people in Hollywood that NBC thinks are “smart” are the who went to Ivy League schools or Stanford. Apparently any other universities just don’t cut the smart mustard. As someone who knows lots of smart people who didn’t go to the Ivy Leagues, and a fair number of not-so-brights who did, I found this a peculiar line to draw. This is especially true because many of these stars were drop-outs. I’m more impressed with someone who graduates from, say, the University of Florida summa cum laude, than with someone who can’t hack it at the Ivies.
2. A disproportionate number of NBC’s “smart” stars are Columbia grads or Columbia attendees. Columbia is an interesting place. It used to be a very Jewish university. It is now one of the universities must hostile to Jews and to any conservative thought. Ahmadinejad is welcome there; Ann Coulter is not. Now, Ann may display a certain lack of tact in what she says, but she’s no Ahmadinejad when it comes to inflammatory statements. And unlike Ahmadinejad, she doesn’t have a nuclear arsenal to back up those same statements. Yet she is not welcome at Columbia, and he is. I pay very little attention to the lives of individual Hollywood people and, in fact, hadn’t heard of many of the names on the list, so I have no idea what their personal politics and beliefs are. I just find it interest that so many of them attended college distinguished for its far-Left, antisemitic politics.
After finding the above two strands, I got bored, and didn’t bother to see if there were any other patterns linking those “smart” stars. Do you see any?
As you all know, over the years I’ve been fascinated by male and female roles in America. As the mother of a very manly little 10 year old, I take male role models in this culture very seriously. I’ve therefore noticed (and commented upon) the way in which our society consigns boys to perpetual adolescence. Just walk down the streets, and you’ll see teen girls dressed like hookers (tight, skimpy clothes) and teen boys dressed like babies (backwards hats, falling down pants, unlaced shoes).
Hollywood is an important part of the way in which American man are infantilized. I’ve written about this subject twice at American Thinker. In one article, I looked at two movies with two very different messages about men: Brokeback Mountain and The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. In the other, written during the primaries, I looked at manliness in pop culture generally and in the primaries specifically.
If you’ll pardon me quoting myself, in my article from the primaries, I looked back on movie males during Hollywood’s golden era and compared them to our current crop of stars:
Any analysis of American pop culture has to start in Hollywood. If we enter the Wayback Machine, we can see that, before and during World War II, Hollywood’s male stars were grown-ups (at least on the screen). There was nothing immature or adolescent in the screen presence of such great stars as Clark Gable, John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, Joseph Cotten, Joel McCrea, or Walter Pidgeon, to name but a few. These were men’s men, with strong faces and deep voices.
When the war started, the most boyish of Hollywood’s hot stars, Jimmy Stewart, ditched Hollywood entirely to serve in the war himself, which he did with extraordinary distinction. Mickey Rooney, another boyish actor, also did his bit. Nor were these two alone in abandoning the world of pretend war on the silver screen in order actually to participate in the real war. Clark Gable, Henry Fonda, William Holden, Gene Autry, Robert Montgomery, David Niven, and a host of others enlisted. (Ronald Reagan did too, but a hearing problem, combined with the military’s pressing need for morale boosting films, kept him on the home front, something that dogged him politically in later years.)
Today’s Hollywood stars, even when they take on testosterone packed action roles, never seem to rise above boyishness. Go ahead – take a look at modern such screen luminaries as Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Orlando Bloom, or Ben Affleck. All of them are distinguished by their chipmunk cheeks and teen heartthrob attractiveness. The same holds true for the older, post-adolescent actors. Whether you’re watching an increasingly wrinkled, although still quite charming, Hugh Grant; Tom Cruise with his shark-like grin; or a goofy Adam Sandler, they all get by playing men who, for the bulk of any given movie, can barely seem to grow up. Even George Clooney, who boasts old-fashioned silver hair and a gravely voice, shies away from emotionally adult roles, both on and off the screen. With this type of competition, it’s small surprise that Daniel Craig has proven to be such a popular James Bond. While his physical attractions elude me, there’s no doubt that he’s the first craggy-cheeked man to play James Bond since Sean Connery made the role.
I’m not the only one paying attention to this trend. At Pajamas Media, Andrew Klavan has also noticed the perpetual state of immaturity that characterizes guys in way too many movies:
The guys are all children whose manhood consists exclusively in hell-raising. The women are either fun-loving party girls or grim, death-of-pleasure wife/mommies who seem ever ready to take their little menchildren by the ears and force them to wash the dishes while they stand by wagging their fingers. These dames remind me of a wonderful line in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night about “the American woman, aroused” whose “clean-sweeping irrational temper… had broken the moral back of a race and made a nursery out of a continent.”
A lot of critics get all huffy about this depiction of the sexes – read the silly little fellow who wrote the review in the New York Times by way of example. The standard line seems to be to blame it all on childish filmmakers pandering to adolescent audiences. But you know what? I suspect a lot of it is simple realism. More and more often I meet young guys just like this: overgrown kids who are their grim wives’ poodles. They sheepishly talk about getting a “pink pass,” or a “kitchen pass,” before they can leave the house. They can’t do this or that because their wives don’t like it. They “share” household and child-rearing tasks equally – which isn’t really equal at all because they don’t care about a clean house or a well-reared child anywhere near as much as their wives do. In short, each one seems set to spend his life taking orders from a perpetually dissatisfied Mrs. who sounds to me – forgive me but just speaking in all honesty – like a bloody shrike. Who can blame these poor shnooks if they go out and get drunk or laid or just plain divorced?
It’s easy just to pass this off as meaningless pop culture, but there’s something deeper going on. Our culture is becoming feminized. Women now make up the majority of college graduates, and one could easily call this recession the “men’s recession,” since they’re the ones who have been hardest hit. That hit will resonate in the home. While Mom is still going out and earning a living, Dad sits there, unemployed and unemployable.
I’m not sure what can be done about this problem. I’m certainly not advocating a return to some troglodyte time of brutal cave men and repressed women. We don’t need to live as they do in Saudi Arabia. But the pendulum has swung to far and it would be good for American society if it stopped swinging so wildly in the feminine directing and started trending back to a happy-ish medium.
In my Friday Open Thread, I promised that I’d blog about Zac Efron. First off, let me clear the air here and explain that I haven’t developed some pathetic “middle-aged woman/teenage boy” obsession with him (although he does bear an uncanny resemblance, girlish hair and all, to the teen idols of my youth). What makes me interested in him is the movie 17 Again, which I saw last weekend.
SPOILER ALERT: The rest of this post is going to discuss plot lines in the movie, so if you’ve been dying to see this one, and you want it to stay fresh, you’d better stop reading right now.
17 Again is about a man who, dissatisfied with his life, is given his 17 year old body back. That is, he isn’t sent back in time to the year in which he was 17. Instead, he becomes his own children’s peer, attending high school with them. Further, he’s not completely 17 years old. Instead, he still has his adult knowledge, values, attitude and memories, except that they’re all packed into a teeny-bopper cute Zac Efron package. As the movie develops, he realizes that he’s not going to change his own life trajectory, but that he can help his children. His son his being bullied by the sociopathic captain of the baseball team and, worse, his daughter is dating the same sociopath.
With this plotline, you can imagine this is not a movie I normally would have chosen to see myself. However, given the PG-13 rating, I wanted to make sure I knew what my 11 year old daughter and her 12 year old friend would be watching. I could, of course, just have said “no” to her request to see the movie, but I knew that, thanks to DVDs, there was a 100% certainty that my daughter would end up seeing it at someone’s house in a few months. Given my certainly in that regard, it seemed to me that the smartest thing for me to do would be to know the details and counterattack — if necessary.
I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that the movie was not very good from a grown-up perspective. Nevertheless, it earned an A+ from me for one scene. In that scene, the sex education teacher says (and I paraphrase), “We officially teach abstinence here, but we know you’re going to have sex anyone, so here are some condoms.” She then passes around the condoms. The Efron character, a 30 something father in a 17 year old body, watches his daughter take a condom, and then watches her boyfriend take a handful.
Right about this time, I was contemplating (a) dragging the girls out of the theater or (b) giving them an hour long lecture during the 20 minute ride home. As it was, I didn’t have to do either, because the cute Efron character came to my rescue.
You see, when the condom basket came to the Efron character, he refused to take one. Then, with all eyes upon him, he stood up and explained that he will not take one because he’s not in love with anyone, and you don’t have sex unless you’re in love. And, even better, you don’t have sex unless you’re married, because sex really boils down to having children. He than rhapsodized about the wonders of fatherhood, and the importance of a committed relationship.
This is the same speech I routinely give my kids. Right now, they listen politely, but I know that, in a year or two, I’ll just get eye-rolling coming back at me. With Efron giving the speech, however, my daughter and her friend were much struck by it. It meant something to them that the cutest, coolest guy in Hollywood advocated a position remarkably similar to that put forward by Mom and Dad.
Check out Ed Morrissey’s suggested list of worst political movies and see what you think. I agree with him. Indeed, I was savvy enough even in my pre-neocon days to recognize how awful some of them were, especially Oliver Stone’s JFK, which I thought was one of the stupidist, most paranoid, ill-informed movies I’d ever seen.
I would add one more to the list, a movie called The Contender, which came out before my neocon enlightenment, but whch I still recognized as an insanely stupid, partisan self-involved movie. In it, Joan Allen plays a contender for the Vice Presidency who is being maligned by an evil Republican. It was so bad, it made my teeth hurt to watch it. What are your choices?
Sadly, Hollywood isn’t only a mirror of culture but it’s also a cultural leader. During WWII, it took the lead in promoting American values and urging American victory. In the past decades, and with increasing energy in the current decade, Hollywood has taken the lead in hostility to American values and, in the war between us and radical Islam, in painting us as the bad guy.
Andrew Breitbart is trying to strike a blow at the Hollywood mindset with a new website called Big Hollywood. It would be a wonderful thing if Breitbart could make conservatism a viable option, rather than an embarrassing secret, in the propaganda capital of the world.
I’m buried up to my whatsis in work this morning, so can’t blog. Before I turn this post into an open-thread, though, I wanted to suggest that you read William Katz’s article, which looks at the way in which the movies that showcased the wonderful Van Johnson (who died the other day at age 92) could never have been made today.
(By the way, you can read more of Mr. Katz’s writing at his own blog, Urgent Agenda.)
And now enjoy your open thread. We’ll talk later….
As this Reason.tv video explains, while Hitler is appropriately reviled, something that occurs because he is wrongly associated with the Right, despite the fact that his politics were to the Left, Hollywood and pop culture just love Leftist mass murderers:
This video reminds me why I was so horrified when I saw a sweet little baby boy dressed in a Mao shirt — although more depressing was the fact that he was being raised by two women who truly hated men. (Which is quite different from lesbians who like woman but don’t hate men.) I find it hard to imagine that a boy child in a household that hates men and worships mass murderers is going to have an easy time of it in this life.
The other day I was speaking with a man who commented that the proliferation of Obama bumperstickers on luxury cars (not to mention the fact that the very rich in blue communities had flocked to the Obama banner) comforted him that Obama would not destroy the US economy by trying to nationalize it. After all, he said, one has to assume that all these people are voting for, not against, their own self-interests. I don’t think he’s right.
The evidence for my belief that wealthy liberals have a death wish is Hollywood. We’ve all noticed that an oft repeated pattern coming out of Hollywood. First, Hollywood makes movies that assault the armed forces, that attack Republicans, that skew the president, and that celebrate evil people; second, these movies are dismal box office failures; and third, they keep bouncing up to make the same types of movies. Economic interest would dictate that Hollywood stop producing these losers and focus on movies that make money — which, regardless of genre (romance, tear-jerker, adventure, etc.), tend to be somewhat patriotic and pro-military. But, noooo. The Hollywoodies’ ideological fervor propels them to keep churning out movies no one wants to see.
And so it is, I think, with the rich blue people. At an ideological level, they’ve bought into Bush hatred, and they’ve drunk the Obama kool-aid. As a result, they’ve become incapable of putting their self-interest first.
One can admire the rich blues for their altruism, but one certainly shouldn’t assume that, if they’re voting for Obama, they believe that he will oversee economic changes that will operate to their benefit, or to the benefit of those who would like to join the ranks of America’s rich. Once ideology becomes strong enough, it apparently overwhelms the survival instinct. (Witness the Islamist suicide bombers for the reductio ad absurdem of ideology overriding our innate life force.)
WWII was a dreadful time, with about 400,000 American military deaths suffered during those four years. Just for perspective, we’ve been in Iraq for almost six years and, thank God, have sustained only 4,200 deaths.
Nevertheless, there’s a tendency to look back with nostalgia on America’s time during WWII, and that’s in part because the entertainment world and the news media were so completely on board with the war effort. More than 60 years after War’s end, the historic record is bathed in a golden glow of national unity, with the conscripted troops the stuff of admiration and romance.
The era is also refreshing in that, in those pre-PC times, Americans felt no compunction about calling the enemy an enemy. The movie makers didn’t need to pretend that Germans and Japanese were basically good people under bad leadership. This freed them from the obligation modern movie makers feel to create only pretend enemies or, even better, paint America itself as the bad guy. Instead, in those old movies, you knew who the bad guys were (them) and who the good guys were (us).
I’ve been watching some of those old movies, which TCM played for Veterans Day and, in lieu of any news about which I wish to comment, am including here two of my favorite clips. The first is from 1944′s Hollywood Canteen (which is a surprisingly awful movie), and the second from Irving Berlin’s 1943 show This is the Army, which is one of my favorite wartime movies, not least because it stars a rather charming Ronald Reagan:
Reagan is in the beginning of this next clip, but the song, which Frances Langford sings, starts at 1:10:
UPDATE: While we’re on the subject, at least one town in England has figured out that its troops do matter, and the townspeople and the troops put on a show suitable for any 1940s movie.
I hadn’t missed the fact that Paul Newman died of cancer this weekend. I always admired him, not for his screen presence, but for his off-screen decency: a fifty year marriage to the same woman and a twenty year commitment to children’s charities. As for his on-screen presence, I too admired his unusual good looks, but I never made the mistake of being unable to separate the man from his roles.
I was thinking of that in connection with this picture, which surfaced as part of all the obituaries about Mr. Newman:
It’s a great picture, isn’t it? Anyone other than a child recognizes it as a scene from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Don’t they look cool? Running through a shootout with their own guns blazing. Talk about heroes (or, in the case of this movie, anti-heroes).
Except that’s not what the picture shows at all. What this picture really shows is two grown men playing at dress-up and “let’s pretend,” with fake guns in their hands. They aren’t brave, they aren’t cool. They aren’t doing anything meaningful at all. If you saw your neighbors do this on the street, your first thought would be “what pathetic geeks.”
Of course, unlike those hypothetical geeky neighbors, Newman and Redford are doing one thing: they’re providing entertainment. I happen to believe that entertainment is a wonderful thing. I really like being entertained. But I never make the mistake of thinking that our current crop of studly little actors, such as Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise, are anything but short men (they’re always short) who work out a lot with trainers to create pretty but useless muscles, and who pretend on screen to be cool. These guys don’t do anything. They don’t fight for their beliefs, they don’t protect the innocent, they don’t push around bad-guys. They put on costumes, and hold fake guns, and prance around to someone’s direction.
And when it comes to these hot-shot actors (not just Brad and Tom, but all of them), their off-screen lives range from the banal to the disgusting. None of them are exemplary in their lives. Indeed, that’s what makes Newman’s death truly sad. Not the end of his screen presence, but the end of a life that was lived with true decency and meaning despite, not because of, the pretence of coolness and “meaning” that Hollywood foists on the American people.
Many years ago, courtesy of Turner Classic Movies (my favorite TV station), I watched The Farmer’s Daughter, a 1947 film starring Loretta Young and Joseph Cotten. Over the years, I’ve carried a strong memory of liking the movie a great deal, and no memory at all of the plot. So, when I saw that The Farmer’s Daughter was coming around again, I asked TiVo to catch it for me — and am I glad I did.
First of all, the movie is every bit as charming as I remember, and I’d probably think that even if I wasn’t a Joseph Cotten fan. It’s a wonderful bit of movie-making from the heyday of the Hollywood studio system, with the stars luminous and the character actors pitch perfect.
Second, the movie seems prescient about Palin’s presence in the presidential race. For those who don’t know (spoiler alert here), Loretta Young, sporting a strong American/Swedish accent, plays the eponymous “farmer’s daughter,” a young woman named Katrin Holstrom. Katrin is beautiful, incredibly competent, strong, cheerful and has solid middle American values.
When we first meet Katrin, she is leaving the family farm for the big city, where she plans to attend nursing school. Unfortunately, hoping to save some money, she hops a ride with City Slicker (yes, capital letters for that old fashioned concept) who tries to hit on her (she rebuffs him), and leaves her broke and stranded. Undaunted by this setback, she makes her way to the City and, to re-earn money for nursing school, takes a job as a maid for the fabulously wealthy Congressman Glenn Morley (that would be Joseph Cotten).
Because this is a Hollywood movie from the 1940s, Katrin and Glenn, of course, fall in love. But politics intrudes. Glenn’s fellow congressman dies suddenly, leaving his seat open. The “party” (unnamed but, in this Truman era movie out of already-then-progressive Hollywood, clearly the Republican party) nominates someone it thinks is electable — and Katrin objects, quite publicly, to his myriad political defects. The “opposition” (Democratic, of course) sees a winner in Katrin’s beautiful looks, wholesome aspect and clear talk, and convinces her to run for Congress.
Katrin’s run is going very well indeed until, suddenly, scandal erupts. The painter who took her money and abandoned her, appears to announce that she spent an illicit night with him. She is publicly humiliated and her candidacy looks as if it will collapse.
So far, I’m sure you’re with me on the parallels to Palin’s story: beautiful, incredibly competent, clear-speaking, honorable woman is plucked out of obscurity to great political acclaim. However, as her candidacy picks up speed, nefarious forces emerge to try to tarnish her image (Tasergate, alleged faked pregnancies, alleged affairs, alleged censorship, and a whole lot of other alleged et ceteras).
And this, of course, is where the movie and the Palin reality part ways. In the movie, as you can guess, the forces of good band together to save Katrin’s reputation and prove that she’s being unfairly besmirched, she and Morley profess their love for each other, and everyone lives happily ever after, in both life and politics.
How different from what is happening to Palin. In Palin’s case, there is not one besmirching, but many. And unlike the situation in the movie, where the removal of a single smear reveals Katrin as her true moral self, here the removal of one smear leads the opposition to redouble its efforts and come up with more and more slanders.
Worse, in the public narrative — the newspapers — there is no knight in shining armor to come and rescue Palin’s reputation. Instead, it is shredded into ever smaller pieces, with each bit of exculpatory information buried deep within the papers’ unread pages.
The 1947 movie is a powerful indictment of the way in which political corruption and moral turpitude can come together to destroy the strongest person. It’s only the Hollywood happy ending machine that keeps the movie going as a fairly light romance and prevents it from veering into tragedy.
We can only hope as we watch the machine rage against Palin that she is able to pull off a happy ending in real life, so that we can all watch the movie next year with a smile, rather than regret.
Cross-posted at Right Wing News.
Even thought I didn’t and couldn’t post yesterday, it didn’t mean I wasn’t paying attention. I have a whole bunch of links I want to share with you. I won’t take too much time on any one link, because I have only a short time before the Mom stuff starts again (summer, you know), but here goes:
If you haven’t yet read Jonah Goldberg on Obama’s postmodern deconstructionist style of communicating, you must.
If you haven’t yet read John Hawkin’s humorous and humane ideas for dealing with friends and families who haven’t yet made their personal journey to conservatism, you must.
If you haven’t yet learned that the Democrats seem compulsively drawn to old fashioned Communist symbolism, you can read more about that here.
You probably already read Andrew Breitbart’s column about the struggles conservatives have in Hollywood. Coincidentally, it came out the same day that Jon Voight’s op-ed critique of mindless Hollywood liberalism was published. In his most recent column, Breitbart takes on the mean-spirited, intellectually foolish and, yes, McCarthy-esque responses Voight’s column generated in Hollywood.
AJStrata launches a funny, yet pointed, attack on Barry the Cable Guy’s utterly unprincipled “get ‘er done” philosophy, which sees him saying or doing anything it takes to get to the big White House.
I commented yesterday on the wonderful pun in Soccer Dad used to title his post called Hello martyr, hello Fatah. Elder of Ziyon took the sick tragedy underlying that pun and created a brilliantly sad/funny video.
It was Aristotle who first stated that man is a social animal. He was right. Humans define themselves by their allegiance to their family, their community and their country. The ancient desert rule condemning a thief to lose his hand (an idea that Mohammed co-opted), was not intended simply to cause physical pain and suffering. Instead, in a society without cutlery, amputation meant that the thief had to use the same hand for both eating and personal hygiene. This revolting combination turned the one-handed thief into a social pariah — and it was this change in status that was the true punishment imposed against him.
In America, we can break the social compact in many ways, all of them less extreme than having our hands cut off. We can cheat, abuse our spouses and children, shoplift, forget to bathe, or admit to liking Liberace. Most Americans, however, pride themselves on their tolerance and will let all of these failures go by without the ultimate social weapons of abuse and ostracism. In many of these same ostensibly tolerant places, though, there is one sin that is unforgivable, so much so that it cannot be excused away by pointing to a bad childhood, socioeconomic handicaps or charming eccentricity. That sin is being politically conservative. I live in one of those communities.
For those who don’t know it, Marin County is located due north of San Francisco (on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge). It’s a gorgeously situated community, bounded on one side by the San Francisco Bay and on the other side by the Pacific Ocean. Drive a little ways further north and you’ll find yourself in the world-famous Napa Valley. Not only is the Marin geography lovely, so is the climate, with temperatures ranging from winter lows in the 50s to summer highs in the 70s (barring a few heat waves).
Approximately 85% of Marin’s land has been protected from development in one way or another, a policy that deprives the poor of housing, but that satisfies the aesthetic needs of the wealthy. Speaking of wealth, according to the 2000 census, Marin had the highest per capital income in the country (a status quo pretty much unchanged as of the last tax year).
Although one might think that, with Marin’s wealth, it would be rather like the old style white-shoe conservative communities one finds in the Northeast or South, that assumption would be wrong. Instead, Marin is peopled with the same elites who have been flocking to Obama all America — and that’s despite the fact that there’s no University of note here.
Just to give you an idea of Marin’s politics, Lynn Woolsey is Marin’s choice for the House of Representatives and ultra-liberal California Senator Barbara Boxer hails from Marin. In the State Senate, Marin’s representative is Carole Migden, who lives to oppose the War (and who will probably be replaced by Mark Leno, who makes Migden look stodgy politically).
In the 2004 election, only San Francisco County and Alameda County (home to Berkeley), cast more Democratic votes than Marin did. This didn’t come as any surprise to those who know that a mere 21.3% of Marin’s registered voters are Republicans. Indeed, of the many little towns that make up Marin, just one (Belvedere) has more Republicans than Democrats, and that by only an 8 person margin. Republicans aren’t just a mere minority, they’re a minority vastly outweighed by the majority.
Given that liberals are in the catbird seat, and given their much-vaunted tolerance, one might think that they’d be kind to, indeed solicitous of, the few Republicans in the midst. Sadly, however, that’s not the case. As regular readers know, I’ve chosen to keep my political life separate from the day-to-day aspects of my life. I simply can’t (and don’t want to) run the risk of tainting my carpools, my neighborhood barbecues, my kids’ comfort level at school, the camaraderie of the sports teams with which we’re involved, etc., by exposing myself to the obloquy that is routinely heaped on conservatives here — and this is a hostility that increases as elections draw near, of course.
During the 2004 elections, people who were unaware of my political inclinations announced in front of me that “Bush is the worst President ever,” “Republicans are stupid,” “Republicans are evil,” “Bush is stupid,” “Republicans are corrupt,” “Republicans are fascists” and “Bush should be impeached.” Children ran up to me on the sidewalk chanting “Bush is evil, Bush is evil” — so you know what their parents were saying at the dinner table. In this election cycle, one of my children announced after school that she was voting for Barack Obama “since every one is because he’s black.” I quickly scotched that line of reasoning.
I know I should be speaking out when I hear statements such as these, but the sad fact is that I like these people. Barring their monomaniacal animosity towards Bush and the Republicans, they’re otherwise very nice: they’re hard workers, loving parents, good neighbors and helpful and reliable friends. Being the social creature that I am, I don’t want with one word (“Republican”) to turn these friendships upside down and inside out. (I’m not the only one with this problem.) I don’t want to be on the receiving end of some hideous Jekyll to Hyde transformation, so I just keep my mouth shut.
Those people I know who have spoken aloud their new conservative political views have been horrified by the animosity turned against them by formerly friendly neighbors and colleagues. My in-laws who are, like me, 9/11 neocons (down in Los Angeles) have stared open-mouthed at colleagues who use staff meetings to revile Bush and the Republicans — all to the cheers and huzzahs of the other staff members. (Indeed, what they describe sounds remarkably like Orwell’s Two Minutes Hate.) On the occasions when they’ve suggested that maybe, just maybe, Bush isn’t the Antichrist, they’ve found themselves shunned by these same colleagues.
My relatives aren’t in the film industry, but this same kind of aggressive pressure to conform goes double there. Conservatives have been reduced to creating an underground organization called the Party of Abe, membership in which is so dangerous it practically has secret handshakes and false names. The paranoia in the film industry is so extreme that it can result in scenarios that read like badly scripted movies. When David Zucker was casting his upcoming movie American Carol, which takes on the Left’s lunacy about terrorism, he wanted Kevin Farley (Chris Farley’s brother) in the lead role, as a Michael Moore-esque character. In the beginning, their negotiations were a landmine of unspoken assumptions:
Zucker and Sokoloff met Farley in April 2007. Zucker described his new film with words he had chosen carefully. “I figured he was like everyone else in Hollywood–a Democrat,” Zucker recalls. “And we knew that this was not a Democrat movie.” It would be a satirical look at the war on terror, he told Farley, and explained that he and Sokoloff were political “moderates.”
Farley hadn’t seen any of Zucker’s ads and assumed he was like everyone else in Hollywood–a Democrat. So he answered with some strategic ambiguity of his own. “I consider myself a centrist,” he said, worried that they might press him more about his political views.
Zucker gave Farley the script and, concerned that Farley’s agent would advise him against accepting the role because of the film’s politics, told the actor not to show it to anyone. Farley, best known for his recurring role in a series of Hertz commercials, read the script and called back the next day to accept.
When he met Zucker and Sokoloff on the set as shooting on the film began, he told them that he, too, had long considered himself a conservative. “I couldn’t believe it,” says Sokoloff. “We were afraid that he would not want to be involved in something that was so directly taking on the left and that he would not want to play the Michael Moore character.”
Zucker’s and Farley’s delicate dance would be funny if it weren’t for the fact that ordinary Hollywood types aren’t shy about stating that people with the wrong political persuasion should not be employed. A perfect example came when Jeffrey Wells (a well-known Hollywood cybergossip) commented on Jon Voight’s op-ed criticizing the Left:
I’ll always admire and respect Voight’s better performances (Luke in Coming Home, Reynolds in Enemy of the State, Ed in Deliverance, Howard Cosell in Ali, Manny in Runaway Train, FDR in Pearl Harbor, Jack in Desert Bloom, Paul Serone in Anaconda). And he’s obviously entitled to say and write whatever he wants. But it’s only natural that industry-based Obama supporters will henceforth regard him askance. Honestly? If I were a producer and I had to make a casting decision about hiring Voight or some older actor who hadn’t pissed me off with an idiotic Washington Times op-ed piece, I might very well say to myself, “Voight? Let him eat cake.”
Wells later delivered a non-apology apology in which he wondered why everyone got so upset that he merely expressed his personal opinion, especially since he has no actual hiring or firing power over Voight. Maybe everyone got upset because Wells’ opinion — that people should be discriminated against on a systematic basis because they support the “wrong” party in a two-party system — is both really bad one and one that people close to the industry feel comfortable voicing aloud.
In Hollywood, everything is writ large, whether it’s rampant Progressivism or a growing subterranean conservative movement. In Marin, though, I’m seeing the same thing played out on a less dramatic scale, with more and more secret conservatives inching about on the outskirts. This fact struck me forcibly last week when I finally pried myself away from my keyboard and did something more active to advance John McCain’s candidacy — I attended the first formal meeting of the local Republican party.
Contrary to my expectations, the meeting was not held in some $25 million dollar Belvedere mansion (’cause remember that, in Belvedere, there are eight more Republicans than Democrats). Instead, it was held in a perfectly ordinary (although very charming) home a few blocks from my own house. By Marin standards, it was solid middle class.
With about 25 of us clustered about the living room, the local chair called the meeting to order, and asked us to begin by identifying ourselves. One after another, people stated their names and their City. Everything stopped, though, when a young woman, maybe 25, spoke her name very softly and added that “I’m a secret Republican.” With that single statement, the stories started.
One of the attendees, who had been asked to make phone calls on behalf of McCain, said that he spoke to one lady who said, “Don’t call me again. I’m going to vote Republican, but I can’t let anybody know. It’s got to stay a secret.” Another person recalled a party he attended a few months ago. When he mentioned, discreetly, that he was a Republican, a young lady sidled up to him and whispered, “I’m conservative too, but don’t let anyone know. I also have two friends here. I’ll point them out to you. They’re also secret conservatives.” Incidentally, I was unable to interview either of the people who told these anecdotes because both were afraid that any more details might give away their identities and harm them professionally. (Clearly, in their lines of work, they need two resumes, one for public consumption and one that is their secret one.)
The people who told these stories were white — and they were still afraid to voice their political views. Things get even worse when you move into the two demographics that have a particularly strong affiliation with the Democratic party: African-Americans and Hispanics. People in these groups who are conservative are viewed, not merely as evil or stupid, but as true class traitors. If it’s difficult for a white woman or man to admit to that he worries about Obama and intends to vote for McCain, imagine the strength of character, and the willingness to accept pariah-status that you need if you’re an African-American or Hispanic voter who has a political yearning to be conservative. As it happens, at my local McCain meeting, there was one Hispanic and one African-American, both of whom are deeply committed to conservative values. Again, neither wanted to see his or her name, or any identifying information, used in this post.
Once upon a time, I would have added Jews to the list of groups too strongly affiliated with the Democratic party to allow for any deviation from the party line. However, I think that Obama is proving so frightening to many Jews who support Israel that they are become bolder and more willing to break with party Orthodoxy. (Not to mention the fact that they’ve seen the Left make common cause with the same Islamists who call Jews pigs and apes, and who urge their annihilation.) While they once looked askance at the few conservatives within their midst, they are now approaching them, not only with respectful curiosity, but with a genuine desire to learn why it won’t run counter to Mosaic law for a Jew to vote Republican.
I’m not writing this post merely to complain about my own situation, or to observe that there are others like me. I hope to write it as a battle call for other crypto-conservatives scattered throughout the United States in true blue communities: You are not alone! And if you need numbers to prove it, as opposed to the anecdotal evidence I offer here, in 2004, despite the fact that only 30,992 registered voters in Marin were Republican, 34,378 people voted Republican. In other words, a good chunk of Marin’s voters – whether Independents, Decline to States, or even Democrats — were voting Republican the last time around, and that was with a much less polarizing Democratic candidate than Obama.
I have a proposal for all of you reading this who live in hostile Blue territory and feel isolated in your conservative political views. The next time you’re at a party, or chit chatting in a park, or standing in line at a store, if the person to whom you’re talking seems like an intelligent, common-sensical type, throw in a reference to Adam Smith. If your conversational partner jumps on that reference, opining that Smith was a great economic philosopher, you’ve just discovered that you’re not alone.
Even if you chose, however, to keep your political affiliations secret — whether because you’re afraid for your job, worried about your friendships, or are just deeply private — please hie yourself to the polls on November 4, 2008, and cast your vote for John McCain. I have a strong suspicion that there’ll be an awful lot of unexpected votes for McCain, not because people are too racist to voice their true political viewpoints to the pollsters, but because they are too intimidated by the Progressives around them to do so.
Lastly, if you live in Marin, get involved with the Marin for McCain organization. I can promise you that we’ll respect your conservative secrets — especially since so many of us have a few of our own. (And if you live somewhere other than Marin, look up your local Republican organization. I bet you’ll be pleasant surprised by the people you meet there.)
UPDATE: Thinking about it, I wonder if this urge to keep ones identity secret isn’t more common amongst women than men. In my experience, women are more likely to seek conciliatory relationships than men, and are more likely to be demoralized, rather than invigorated, by a direct confrontation. What do you think? Am I being sexist or is this election’s secret army (assuming there is one), going to boast an unusually large number of women?
UPDATE II: Although not quite on point, the service that Amazon allegedly provided for Nancy Pelosi’s book – a service that it apparently does not provide for conservative authors — gives one a good idea of how stalwart your average conservative has to be against the slings and arrows of outrageous liberals.
Andrew Breitbart has written an upfront, in your face demand that Hollywood open the door to the last remaining closet in that company town: conservatism. In it, he points out that Hollywood finds everything forgiveable except for a failure to conform to the prevailing Progressive political orthodoxy:
But in this land of superficiality and augmented assets, the inconvenient truth is that, in Hollywood, absolute conformity to the Democratic Party is a well-constructed facade. The environment is not so much unfavorable to the Grand Old Party as it is utterly totalitarian. There’s simply no lifestyle choice that receives a worse response at dinner parties.
Convicted murderer? Has anyone optioned the rights to your story?
Avowed Marxist? Viva la revolucion!
Scientologist? Do you take Visa or Mastercard?
Syphilitic drug abuser? Let’s talk!
Conservative? You should go.
Only proclaiming one’s self a practicing Christian is met with greater disdain – making Christian Republicans the gold standard in Hollywood pariah status.
I knew all this. The one thing I didn’t know is that Robert Downey, Jr., a talented actor whose work I have always admired and whose drug demons have always saddened me, has come out of his ordeal a closet conservative. Angelina Jolie, too, has given hints that she’s not marching lockstep to the prevailing political orthodoxies. What’s even more interesting than these hints about their political beliefs is the fact that even stars as big as these two can’t come out in the open and admit to their politics. I just thought it was wusses like me, people dependent on the goodwill of their carpool partners and anxious to avoid a bus stop fracas, who kept our politics to ourselves.
Anyway, you should find Breitbart’s article an interesting read.
I’m a huge fan of Hollywood musicals, and one of my favorite numbers has long been “Dancing in the Dark,” from the Band Wagon (with Cyd Charisse and Fred Astaire). Turns out it was her favorite too. Here it is for those of you who haven’t seen it before or haven’t seen it recently:
Those were the days, weren’t they, When Hollywood still knew how to entertain?
Hollywood just came out with another movie that relentlessly demonizes the enemy — which would be a good thing if the Hollywood types had figured out that America’s enemy is radical Islam, which has been very open about its desire to kill our citizens and take over our government. The problem with Hollywood — again — is that it’s the gang that doesn’t want to shoot straight. In its latest action adventure movie, The Incredible Hulk, the enemy isn’t old-fashioned Communism (a la Indiana Jones), it isn’t radical Islam (a la no movie ever made), it isn’t men from Mars (which at least has the excuse of being cute and 1950s retro). No, it’s . . . well, read this for yourself (emphasis mine):
As a concession to the existence of the previous “Hulk” movie – though every aspect of it, from the look and the casting on down has been reconceived – we find Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) as a man already coping with his hulkness. Like Dr. Jekyll or a someone in 12-step recovery, Bruce is just trying to get by, one day at a time, working in a Brazilian bottling plant by day and taking private classes in anger management and self-discipline. He knows that if he gets angry, if his heart rate gets up to 200, he will turn into a tremendous green muscle man and start taking apart everything and everybody.
But Bruce is a man on the run. He may want to slip beneath the radar and live with his condition until he can be cured, but the U.S. government – in the person of General Ross (William Hurt) – has other ideas. The Army wants to study Bruce and figure out the science behind what’s happening to him, so as to create other Hulks. They want to weaponize the Hulk technology.
There you have it — the Hollywood set has concluded that the meanest, cruelest, most amoral enemy (because that’s always what the enemy is in a fantasy action adventure movie) is the American military. In Hollywood-land, nobody is more evil than the boy or girl next door who signs up to defend our freedoms. I hope that movie tanks, big-time.
UPDATE: My bad — and a very girlie one at that. Thanks to all the comments left educating me about the Hulk’s perpetual battle with the American military — a battle that’s been going since his creation in the Vietnam era. I had no idea, not having been a Hulk fan in my youth (although I liked Bill Bixby). I was more Archie and Richie Rich, to be honest.
Having said that, I’m going to go all lawyer-like now and claim that my original point can still exist, sort of — namely, that Hollywood likes having the American military as the enemy. Hollywood could easily have changed the enemy here, given that we are at War and that Hollywood keeps saying “we support the troops.” Certainly, in other remakes, Hollywood has been happy to change the enemy. I think that the Manchurian Candidate is a good example of modern Hollywood’s adaptability — old enemy, Communists; new enemy, American corporations. Nevertheless, with this movie, Hollywood was happy to go big budget with the same target the comic book created during the Vietnam War — the American Army.
I’ll freely admit that my new, updated, informed argument does not work as well as my original, ignorant point, but I still think the new Incredible Hulk movie works as another indictment of Hollywood’s disdain for and fear of America’s troops
Paul Newman has managed to emerge from Hollywood as one of the good guys. Ridiculously handsome in his youth, he aged into an equally good looking old man. In a milieu characterized by disposable weddings, he’s had one wife. He’s raised millions for charity, without making a big political statement about that fact. He started out as a pretty good actor almost hampered by a pretty face, and emerged as a genuinely good actor when that pretty face faded. And now he has lung cancer. As a heavy-smoking 83 year old, the diagnosis isn’t entirely surprising, but it’s still sad.
In a comment to my earlier post about talk with an ideological foe being dangerous, Gringo mentioned a classic anti-Nazi piece of Hollywood propaganda (made when Hollywood viewed America as the ally, not the enemy). I found it at YouTube (of course), and share it with you.
And for those of you who are I Love Lucy fans, I think you’ll enjoy William Frawley assuring Americans that they will win the war:
In a delightful essay, which he sets out as the antidote to the grim news out of Jerusalem and the world at large, Robert Avrech examines hair in early Hollywood, from Mary Pickford’s romantic curls, to Colleen Moore’s perky bob, to Louise Brooks’ slinky helmet. If you like old Hollywood, you should check out all of Robert’s post on the subject, because they are invariably entertaining and informative.
Almost exactly a year ago, I did a post I entitled Manly men, Girly men and Peter Pan. In it, I tried, ineffectively, I admit, to figure out America’s cultural trends regarding men. There’s the manly trend, exemplified by the Marines and much admired in certain romance novel genres; the Peter Pan trend, which sees boys remaining in perpetual adolescence, something manifest in the infantile clothes young man wear, with the falling down pants, backwards caps and unlaced shoes; and lastly, there are the girly men, who claim to be heterosexual, but who are so feminized a new word has been created for them: metrosexuals.
As for me, I like manly men, although I can tolerate a few metrosexual touches, such as remembering to put the toilet seat down or helping to tidy up after dinner. Perhaps another way of saying that is to say that I like manly men with good manners.
Because of my preference for men, I’m not much of a fan of modern movie stars, all of whom I find too boyish to be attractive. I got over my boyish star phase when I was 11 and had a mad crush on David Cassidy. Then, when I was 12, I read Gone With The Wind
Think about it: if you’ve been lusting after Clark Gable for your entire life, what’s the likelihood that, as an adult, you’re suddenly going to switch gears and find attractive a little weenie like Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom or Leonardo DiCaprio. Although all are nice to look at and DiCaprio is, I think, a real actor, they simply don’t exist in the same testosterone universe, and that’s true no matter how much the latter try to buff themselves up. Gable was a man, the others are mere boys.
I’ve always thought that the boy phenomenon in Hollywood originated with James Dean, although it didn’t become the only game in town until the 1990s. (There were leading men before the 1990s; now there seem to be only leading boys.) However, I’ve run into another theory, this one cropping up in Jeanine Basinger’s completely enjoyable book The Star Machine
The first and most pressing need for the [studio] machine [when the War started] was to find new male stars. Hollywood immediately set to work to develop other stars to replace the actors who had gone to war. The top priority for what the machine wanted in a man was simple: one who was available. That was going to be older men, star look-alikes, foreigners who had escaped to America, guys who were 4-F, or young and boyish-looking fellas. Some male movie stars had legitimate deferments from combat. John Wayne was thirty-five years old in 1942, and this put him at the ceiling for draftibility (the cutoff was age thirty-five). He was also a married man with four underage dependents. Gary Cooper and Fred Astaire were over forty. William Powell was forty-nine, Bogart was forty-two, and Tracy was forty-one. These men did their part, but they were too old to be drafted into active service. New movies to star those who stayed behind were immediately put into the works. Handsome men with accents — and in a war story an accent was an asset — were groomed: Philip Dorn, Helmut Dantine, Paul Henreid, Jean-Pierre Aumont, and Arturo de Cordova. When Gable enlisted [a manly man thing to do], all the studios created Gable look-alike: John Hodiak, Lee Bowman, John Carroll, James Craig. But the main fodder of the star machine as World War II hit the studios in the pocketbook was the last group — the young, boy-next-door type. The all-American man was about to become a 4-F kid.
After the boys of World War II, the “leading man” would never be the same. The teen idol was born with the retooling of American manhood into a younger, thinner, more sensitive-looking guy. The effect of World War II on shaping the “new hero” as a “sensitive” male has never been fully explored. [Here Basinger adds this footnote, with her own emphasis: We've still got him. He's basically taken over: Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt (who has since transferred himself into the "man" category by muscling up and buzzcutting his hair), Orlando Bloom. Once the "boy star" emerged, he would not go away.] *** When the men went to war, the boys took over. (pp. 467-468.)
Isn’t it ironic that the most manly war in modern American history should leave as its legacy the “boy-ification” of American culture?