2.15.2005

The politics of tinsel


There is some discussion about Hollywood and politics so I thought I would wade in.

Let me start by dividing the issue into two parts:

1. Why do liberal celebrites seem like douchebags? and
2. Why don't politicians hire Hollywood screenwriters for speeches?

Issue 1. is the one that obsesses me and I have no clear answer. But Hollywood liberalism frequently drives even me -- someone who thinks we need more socialism* around here -- crazy. But why? It isn't that we don't like celebrities talking about politics, or there would be no Rep. Tom Osborne. It isn't that they don't know what they're talking about; some are well-informed, though I'm not going to get specific, because I am not well-informed.

Today, though, turning it over when I was supposed to be working, it occurred to me that liberal actors get painted with the same brush that taints liberalism: their politics are no fun. Consider the topic sentence from the speech in The American President:

"We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them."

This is not a politics of pleasure. This is not even a politics of glory, that in solving these serious problems we outstrip our forebears and provide a legacy to which our children -- nay, our children's children -- will feel inadequate. What it is is a politics of spinach. And many liberal celebrities seem to me to be very spinachy, even as we know that they themselves are in clover. Who wants to hear Leonardo DiCaprio telling you your car is evil?

Schwarzenegger and Reagan don't have this problem, because they were perfect conservative politicians -- rich guys who go around saying, "Not only are you great, but Ineed more money." Contrast this with the reet-reet-reet sound you heard from John Kerry's smile pulleys. Where have all the happy warriors gone?

As to 2. it seems to me like screenwriters would be more likely to write great last paragraphs of speeches than the speeches themselves. (Although Sorkin's speech, referred to above, seems, at best, to be a great ending to a Playhouse 90 than a great speech.) If we can solve the real mystery -- why politicians, who make speeches for a living, are so boring at it -- then we can see if David Milch wants to bring some of his Deadwood magic to Dianne Feinstein.


*Not Western Europe-levels of socialism, God knows, but I believe a little more money for cities and health care would make things more mellow all around.

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