Friday, April 21, 2006


In George Clooney’s mind the history of Hollywood is a history of political courage where entertainment types lead the fight against forces of oppression. It should come as no surprise that Clooney’s self-congratulatory reconstruction of his industry’s past is as fanciful as the sets where he pretends to be persons whose insight and life experiences far surpass his own.

Race was the first topic that sprang to Clooney’s mind when he invoked Tinseltown’s glorious history. Yet Hollywood was hardly in the forefront when it came to the struggle for civil rights. Giving an Oscar to Hattie McDaniel in 1940 for playing a stereotypical “Mammy” in “Gone With the Wind” hardly qualifies as a civil rights breakthrough.

Indeed, minstrelish Stepin Fetchit stereotypes remained common, even during the 50’s and 60’s. One need only recall Amos ’n Andy or Jack Benny’s butler, Rochester, to bring to mind on-camera roles that make most folks today wince with embarrassment.

On the other hand, when it comes to dangers from abroad, show-people have a sordid record of consorting with the enemy. Lillian Hellman’s script for “Mission to Moscow,” for example, not only glorified a Soviet system that doomed millions to starvation, it even justified Stalin’s horrific purges.

This unwillingness to confront political thuggery didn’t improve during the Cold War. Serious portraits of Soviet repression, a la Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s “Gulag Archipelago,” are almost non-existent. Instead, Hollywood regularly put forward sympathetic portraits of a regime that was responsible for more innocent deaths than Nazi Germany. At the same time, anti-Communists were routinely vilified as deranged demagogues.

Today, Hollywood’s deeply engrained cowardice is exhibited by its consistent unwillingness to be honest about the source of global terror. A classic example of this spinelessness took place when moviemakers replaced the nuclear-armed jihadists in Tom Clancy’s book, “The Sum of All Fears,” with a gaggle of neo-Nazis.

Currently Clooney’s chums have created a piece of celluloid trash, “V for Vendetta,” that features a swashbuckling terrorist whose violence is directed against a fascistic, semi-Christian British government. A massive subway blast that takes out the buildings of Parliament to the strains of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” serves as its predictable climax. Needless to say, this romantic bomber, “V,” is the movie’s hero.

Meanwhile, the only references to Islam in this film are sympathetic. Indeed, there is even an allusion to the government’s framing some “religious extremists” for a devastating plague of its own making.

The advantage of fingering Christians and deranged conservatives as the true source of terror is that the “creative community” isn’t put in danger—like the murdered Theo van Gogh or the London commuters whose deaths in last year’s subway bombings prompted the delayed release of “V.”

So much for courage. Clooneyites can’t even face the truth when it explodes in their face.

No comments: