Thursday, September 27, 2007

Managing Hollywood

by shamanic

Over at the LA Times, there's a fascinating little dueling essay piece between Andrew Breitbart (representing, approximately, some type of conservatism) and David Ehrenstein (representing - and I'm unclear here - either normal people or something approximating liberalism).

All three days' of back-and-forth are worth a read, if only to catch Breitbart's rigid ideological insistence that Hollywood's failure to document the heroism of the Iraq occupation is less an aesthetic issue than a failure of patriotism (and these people think they beat back the rigid ideological morass of Soviet communism?), but today's exchange is especially interesting.

Responding to the question, "What are 'Hollywood Values'?", the Times fronts the commentary with this into:
If it's all about free love and hating America, how come there aren't many openly gay stars or pro-jihadi movies? If it's all about the almighty dollar, how come Hollyweirdos disproportionately back the party that wants to tax them more? What, if anything, is the message Hollywood lefties are trying to get across?
Ehrenstein offers a wide ranging answer that illustrates the breadth of the term "lefty", an issue that conservatives might want to ponder a bit.
While I gather you find Hollywood an ideological monolith, that hasn't been my experience at all. Among its "lefties" (i.e., those who don't vote Republican), you'll find considerable variety of artisans whose politics range from the gob-smacking sophistication of Warren Beatty to the free-range wackalooniness of Oliver Stone.

In between, such far-less politically pointed souls as Martin Scorsese and Sidney Lumet have had a lot to say about society and the individual in general, but not in a form designed expressly to either upend the status quo or deliver the vote for Hillary Clinton. The latter is the pet cause of diva absoluta Barbra (no last name needed), while her political "bel canto" ally, Oprah (does she even have a last name anymore?), has put her considerable muscle behind Barack Obama. Voting for either one means not voting for a Republican. And nothing else.
So yes, beneath the umbrella of "liberalism", there is a wide range of opinion on pretty much everything. On the issue of the Iraq war, I would hazard to guess (and I'm speaking for myself, of course) that most of us would love to achieve a stable, democratic, self-governing Iraq that is a friend of Israel and the United States, but we have yet to see any evidence that Iraq is actually flowing in that direction. Personally, I think an outcome of Iranian-inspired Shia theocracy is far more likely, and I think this serves neither the United States nor the people of Iraq well. It does bolster Iran, which writing about has caused at least one Newshogger reader to accuse me of "eating right wing talking points", so perhaps my liberal commentary credentials are in need of burnishing.

Breitbart pops back with the standard responses ("you called me a white supremicist"), and here's a really key element in all of this: the modern conservative movement, far more than modern liberalism, is pretty monolithic in its worldview. Brietbart concludes his missive thusly:
Let's get Hollywood to option the rights to the story [of Ehrenstein's childhood]: It's got it all -- race, violence, sexual identity, science-fiction and a character Ang Lee could really sink his teeth into. Think "Boys Don't Cry" meets "Back to the Future." And at the end of the film, it's 2014 and I see that you and your partner have been nabbed by Chomsky-quoting al Qaeda fanatics who are getting ready to behead you in an abandoned auto factory in Michigan for the sin of brunching in Dearborn.

But the moment before they chop your heads off -- in the nick of time (just like in the Republicans' favorite show, "24," which we are grateful you guys allowed us to have) -- the good guys, in this case the U.S. Marines, bust through the doors to save you both. At this point, I will have drafted a powerful soliloquy for your character. It'll be a cinematic epiphany in which you show remorse for tilting at white, straight and conservative windmills -- to which you and Hollywood almost exclusively blame for all that is wrong in the world.
Good lord, that's quite a vision for the future from the people who idolized Reagan's optimism: Islamic fanatics running loose in Michigan, chopping the heads off of gay men who brunch.

This worldview is so radically different from my own that reading these overheated fantasies ultimately just makes me want to laugh.

Terrorism happens. I know because I live in Atlanta, where in the 90s a deranged traditionalist detonated bombs at the 1996 Olympic games and at a lesbian bar that was literally about a mile from the apartment I lived in then. He's certainly not the only person to have set bombs around clinics where abortions are performed. Terrorism happens, and it even happens in my city, directed against people like me.

It seems like each decade has its groups. In the 90s it was right wing, anti-government types who, had they not leaped right off the American political spectrum by buying into largely racially supremicist religious teachings and the weird fear of UN black helicopters that permeated their literature back then, might have settled into nice cabins in Idaho and voted for Republicans like Larry Craig (irony of ironies, no?).

In this decade's domestic terrorist war, there have been acts of property violence by so-called "eco-terrorists", people so far to the left on the ideological spectrum that they too have bounced right out of the American polity. But were they less ideologically possessed, they might hold their noses and vote Democratic and run letter-writing campaigns out of their garages, beating dead horses like gun control and pushing for carbon neutrality between cups of fair-trade coffee.

Terrorism happens. Where Breitbart and I agree is in the notion that it is not all like the small, organized armies that have grown in societies that require that the most private creative aspirations of their people be kept secret, lest the state pounce down on them. This is indeed a different order of things, so let's discuss whether the American impulse to pummel Iraq and prop up the totalitarian regimes of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uzbekistan, and so many other little shit holes around the world helps or hurts our cause. That's really a burning issue, if we could get past the rigid ideology of a right that happily splits America in two in pursuit of some notion of hyper-patriotic glory.

As for Dearborn, I'd brunch there any day.

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