Thursday, 17 April 2008

Hollywood Babble On & On #85: Patriot Games

The conservative film/news site Libertas put up a post today bemoaning the rather thin roster of celebrities volunteering to work for the USO entertaining American military personnel at home and overseas. In fact, Gary Sinise of CSI: NY seems to be carrying the bulk of it on his own back, and appearances from starlets like Scarlett Johansson* are few and far between.

Now the knee-jerk reaction is to say that Hollywood actors are just being left-wing yahoos, and there's a certain amount of truth to that theory. There are a lot of very vocal members of the Hollywood community who, if George W. Bush announced that he personally discovered a cure for cancer, would immediately form a "Coalition for Tumour Rights," and start waving signs declaring "Bush Lied Cancer Cells Died."

But that's not the whole story.

I think the main reason is a combination of fear and ignorance, and that combination is born from what I call the Great Divide.

The Great Divide is that ever growing space between the world of celebrity, where movie stars and media figures dwell, and the real world, where everyone else lives. The people in Hollywood have been growing increasingly isolated from the mainstream, mostly due to a siege mentality created by the 24/7 bottomless media chum bucket. They honestly don't know what the average moviegoer thinks and feels, and have forgotten that it is the audience that is the foundation of their industry.

They honestly believe that the media people who don't pay for their own movie tickets have more sway over the course of their career, than the people who actually pay the bills. And to a certain extent they're right. An actor's career can be temporarily hurt by negative media reaction to them, because the media and their management is just as isolated as they are, but it doesn't last, because if the audience likes an actor, they will break through.

But the average actor doesn't know that. They don't know that audience goodwill can keep their career alive, no matter if they get "red-listed" as a Republican by the chattering classes, and it scares the crap out of them.

Which brings me to a reason why they should be doing USO work.

Even if you absolutely hate President Bush, the Iraq War, or the entire American nation, and all you care about is your own career, volunteering for the USO is the smart thing to do. A celebrity's career is based on the goodwill of the audience, not the fawning attention of the corporate media elite.

There is no audience in the history of this planet more appreciative than a military audience far from home and stuck in a war zone. They remember the people who go out of their way to entertain them, and they repay loyalty with loyalty.

Look at the career of comedy legend Bob Hope, it literally lasted generations. He worked hard and made a lot of personal sacrifices to bring some lightness and laughter to the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines in hell holes around the world, during conflicts that make the current ones in Iraq and Afghanistan look like garden parties. He went above and beyond the call of an entertainer's duty because he loved and respected the soldiers as people and they repaid him with enough goodwill to power his career for decades.

But thanks to Hollywood's isolation from common people and common sense, fear of being snubbed by Sean Penn at the Oscar after-party, is outweighing not only their latent patriotism, but even their baser venality. And it's not only hurting the soldiers overseas, it's hurting Hollywood too.
*Yes, I know I put up a picture of Scarlett Johansson over the hardworking Gary Sinise, but I like to think that Gary Sinise would prefer seeing Scarlett Johansson.

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