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April 2, 2004
NYT: Shocked at Hollywood Politics?

Jim Rutenberg at the New York Times watches very little television in his role as entertainment critic -- or else he wouldn't have written such a pandering, naive article as today's report on the shocking development that Hollywood has 'suddenly' started injecting partisan politics into its TV shows:

Galvanized politically in ways they have not been since the early 1990's, Hollywood's more liberal producers and writers are increasingly expressing their displeasure with President Bush with not only their wallets, but also their scripts.

In recent weeks, characters in prime time have progressed beyond the typical Hollywood knocks against Washington politicians to calling out the president directly or questioning his policies, including the decision to go to war in Iraq, the support of the antiterrorism law and the backing of a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

Translation: Having a Republican in the White House galvanizes Hollywood activists to get partisan with their product. It really doesn't matter who it is; if they're Republican, they're evil and stupid. This is news? Republicans and conservatives have become the generic representation of evil for all Hollywood fare, TV and movies alike. Did Rutenberg ever watch "West Wing"? Has he seen the movies The American President or The Candidate? Apparently Rutenberg never heard of Ronald Reagan and the treatment he got from the entertainment industry either -- and still gets, when they think they can get away with it. CBS showed the miniseries "The Reagans" last year, a hack job starring Barbra Streisand's husband, of all people.

Rutenberg then reviews a couple of recent entries that the limousine liberals in Hollywood thought were trenchant and funny:

On the NBC show "Whoopi," the hotelier played by Whoopi Goldberg delivered an anti-Bush screed when the president, played by a lookalike, appeared at her establishment to use the facilities. "I can't believe he's in there doing to my bathroom what he's done to the economy!" she said.

One of the wise-cracking detectives on the NBC show "Law & Order," played by Jesse L. Martin, referred to the president as the "dude that lied to us." The character went on to say, "I don't see any weapons of mass destruction, do you?" His cantankerous partner, played by Jerry Orbach, retorted that Saddam Hussein did have such weapons because the president's "daddy" sold them to a certain someone "who used to live in Baghdad."

But the season finale of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" on HBO arguably best conveyed the growing sentiment. On that episode, the main character, played by the comedian Larry David, backed out of a dalliance sanctioned by his wife after noticing that his prospective paramour had lovingly displayed a picture of Mr. Bush on her dresser.

Ha ha. Ho ho. Yes, it's this kind of comedy genius that's led to a golden age of television viewership -- having a married guy turn down extramarital sex with another woman because of her conservatism. It's not just the sitcoms, either; later on in the article, Rutenberg tells of an HBO movie that equates oppression and torture of Christians in China with treatment of Muslims here in the US under the Patriot Act:

Mr. Fontana said he wrote a film for HBO called "Strip Search" to explore the merits of the USA Patriot Act. The film, which has not been shown yet, tracks the parallel experiences of an American woman being held for questioning by the authorities in China and a Muslim man being held for questioning in the United States, both on suspicions of terrorism.

"The real question is, if it's wrong for a white American woman to be mistreated in a repressive country, is it O.K. for us to mistreat a Muslim male in this country?" he said. "I don't know the answer, but when does the humanity stop and the fear take over?"

Yes, I recall well the day that Christian missionaries in China hijacked airplanes and flew them into Beijing office buildings, massacring thousands. Don't you? Sure -- it was on an episode of "Law and Order: Special Political BS Unit," and Sam Waterston couldn't get a jury to convict Gutenberg for printing the Bible and starting the whole mess. Since even leading liberal politicians like Diane Feinstein and Joseph Biden have publicly supported the Patriot Act (although John Kerry voted for it, which means he opposes it) and have repeatedly said that there has been not one incident of its misuse, the producers of "Strip Search" have set up straw man and rather easily knocked it down.

Not that you get any kind of analysis from Rutenberg, who accepts at face value the notion that Hollywood was liberal for a moment in 1992 and suddenly rediscovered its leftist predilection since the Iraq War. Not everyone has sheltered themselves like Rutenberg, however, and the increasing stridency of Hollywood entertainers like Larry David and his wife -- who organized a notorious "Hate Bush" event in December -- has not escaped notice from their customers. Television viewership has declined dramatically over the past twenty years, especially in episodic TV. Film box office has struggled as well, although ticket-price inflation tends to mask that more. The entertainment industry's insistence on political posturing at the expense of entertaining its audience has managed to alienate a large part of their market.

Oddly, Rutenberg fails to mention any of these related issues, even as he tries to push the notion that Hollywood is only political at election time. Perhaps he's trying to land himself a job as a screenwriter for fairy tales.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 2, 2004 6:12 AM

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Tracked on April 2, 2004 7:04 AM

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