Monday, January 6, 2020

In defense of Hollywood

Dear H,

Ricky Gervais, hero
I hate the poem First They Came, but I have to admit it has kind of a point.  Once you go down some roads you have to ask who's next?  Thus once Ricky Gervais told the actors to shut up (hats off to him), why not the professors?  Once the professors, why not the musicians?  Why not the cashiers, the mechanics, and the nurses? Why not the street-sweepers and garbagemen, the bus-boys and Uber drivers, the mail-men and the waitresses?  None of whom, by the way, have anything to do directly with politics, or are specialists in any field related to government or social policy, and few of whom, in the end, have ever read a serious book on economics, or law, or civics, or foreign policy. 

I believe in a citizenship qualification and a know-how qualification and maybe even a property qualification, but not a career qualification.  I don't believe the people who write papers know anything more about life than the people who just read papers.  I don't believe the politicians who make laws know what's better for us more than the rest of us who live under laws.  Of course we want the actors to shut up -- but what about the actor who told them to shut up?  I want him to keep talking.  We say we're against Hollywood, and we are -- but what about Gary Sinise, or Clint Eastwood? 

I think it's plain that the right-wing has never been against actors speaking.  They like to pretend they are, but they aren't.  When Lady Gaga was singing about "rape culture" they booed her, and when she was talking about being a housewife they cheered her.  They have problems with Mark Ruffalo but not with Rob Schneider.  They praised Captain America for saying there's only one God but complain loudly (and rightly) about director Joss Whedon.   We're for you if you're for us and against you if you're against us -- typical stuff, I think, and natural stuff, but in this case dishonest stuff.  We're not mad because actors have opinions, but because their opinions aren't our opinions

Thus I agree with the sentiment but not the delivery.  Hollywood, second only to our university system, contains the most backward, hypocritical, and obnoxious people on the planet.  I would tell actors as a class to straighten up -- but I wouldn't tell them to shut up.  We will always have a propaganda class (that's what all story-tellers are), and what we need is for them to be an honest class.  What we need, more than anything else, is for good solid people to be actors and writers and teachers and singers -- and we're not going to get this, if we're snubbing the careers instead of bad characters.

This being said, a big salute to Ricky Gervais -- a well-beloved actor, a top-notch comedian, a lone man in a wolves' den, for saying what I wouldn't in a place that I couldn't, and above all for making it funny.

Your father,
-J

P.S. The main objection to this essay, and the reason my editor at The American Thinker shot it down, was that Ricky Gervais was attacking Hollywood for being hypocrites -- not for being actors.  Which is true, until he attacked their education and their experience.

These two things are of course necessary, on some level, to be a good citizen.  But to attack Hollywood elites on these things is the same thing as attacking the rest of us.  What does Hollywood know about real life? is the same thing as What do architects know about war? or What do janitors know about central banking?   He slid right from you're all hypocrites to almost all of you are uneducated.  He was talking to Tom Hanks but he could've been talking to Joe Plumber.

This class-snubbing leads us to a serious question.  It's obvious, to me, that Americans hate openly left-wing actors and actresses, largely, while still spending billions on their movies.  The question is, why?  It's because a successful work of propaganda has a new idea, or a new spin on an old idea, or an uncomfortable idea, gilded and glittered with a whole host of accepted ideas.  A pretty girl does or says a wacky thing.  The protagonist is handsome and valiant and honest and brilliant -- and gay.  The black man is innocent and polite and educated and clean -- and a victim.  An unorthodox line is placed in the middle of an otherwise orthodox movie.  You couch the public's insecurities in a package too likeable to resist and most moviegoers will swallow it whole.  But you step outside the careful lines you've drawn; you ditch the things they're comfortable with; you put the thing they hate up-front and center and you deliver it with outright hatred for the audience -- well, the audience takes you for what you are.  The enemy.

A propaganda machine slash business can only win if it keeps its intentions, when they rub against and rug-burn the public's conscience, quiet.  You can't go too far and you can't be too obvious.  Thus one strength of Hollywood, its beautiful actors and actresses, is also its greatest weakness.  You can keep a conspiracy against the public quiet when only a few men, working behind the scenes, are in on it.  But a whole host of vain, sanctimonious, front-and-center blabbermouths?  Impossible.

The directors and writers both conceal and are concealed.  These are the real propagandists in Hollywood.  The actors and actresses, feeling like a box-office smash means their idea is on top, confuse the planting of an idea with its taking root -- and that's why they put it out there baldly.  They think they're taking a stand, but they're shining a limelight on the arsenic in the meatloaf.  And the American public hates them for it.

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