Thursday, December 02, 2004

Hollywood: damned if you do...

Brian has a good post up about the "Hollywood Left," i.e., those prominent stars who use their stardom to voice political opinions. Brian points out that there are social reasons for this phenomenon. To wit:

The problem is not Hollywood celebrities making a pitch for their pet political issues, the problem is the media for giving these people an undeserved soapbox to yell from. Actor Daniel Day-Lewis has the right idea when he says (in the Alterman article), "The media are sick and tired of people in my profession giving their opinion, and yet you're asking me my opinion. And when I give it, you'll say, 'Why doesn't he shut up?'"

It's trite to say so, but I'll do it anyway... we live in a celebrity-obsessed world. And as long as the cult of celebrity worship remains so strong, we'll continue to see celebs across the political spectrum using their influence to sway politics this way or that. The blame lies not with them, but with our society for making their words sacrosanct.

It would be ridiculous to argue that the larger culture plays no role in what these stars do and how they do it. However, it would be equally ridiculous to posit that "society" is the sole cause of this phenomenon, as if individual choice had nothing to do with, say, Tim Robbins's outspokenness. Tim Robbins, despite his contentions to the contrary, is perfectly free to voice his opinions-- free to voice them, and responsible for their voicing. As free and responsible as Noam Chomsky, actually.

But it seems that Hollywood gets criticism whether it's outspoken or silent. Via Andrew Sullivan, I found an article by Pat Sajak (yes, that Pat Sajak) that takes Hollywood to task for its deafening silence in the wake of the brutal murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh.

Sajak writes:

So, again I ask, where is the outrage from Hollywood’s creative community? I mean, talk about a violation of the right of free speech!

Perhaps they are afraid that their protests would put them in danger. That, at least, is a defensible position. If I were Michael Moore, I would much rather rail against George W. Bush, who is much less likely to have me killed, than van Gogh’s murderer and the threat to creative freedom he brings. Besides, a man of Moore’s size would provide a great deal of “bulletin board” space.

Maybe they think it would be intolerant of them to criticize the murder, because it would put them on the side of someone who criticized a segment of the Arab world. And, after all, we are often reminded that we need to be more tolerant of others, especially if they’re not Christians or Jews.

There’s another possibility; one that seems crazy on the surface, but does provide an explanation for the silence, and is also in keeping with the political climate in Hollywood. Is it just possible that there are those who are reluctant to criticize an act of terror because that might somehow align them with President Bush, who stubbornly clings to the notion that these are evil people who need to be defeated? Could the level of hatred for this President be so great that some people are against anything he is for, and for anything he is against?

I think the jury's out as to Hollywood's motivations. Maybe it does boil down to Bush-hatred; I don't know. But I think Sajak is on solid ground to ask why the American artistic community isn't up in arms about this. It does seem more than a little strange.


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