You are, of course, entitled to your own opinions as citizens, and your fame makes for an understandably potent mix of opinion + platform = power. Many years ago, before the country east of San Bernardino and west of the Hudson realized that 90 percent of all above-the-line showbiz fell on the liberal spectrum, the opinion of big stars mattered.
But all good things come to an end, particularly when the GOP got a whiff of the brewing leftism haunting celluloid and TV screens. Make us laugh and cry, precisely one-half of America now says, but don’t dare tell us how we should vote.
Hollywood has been pretty well behaved this time around. If 2000 was a year of intense apathy after eight years of boobs-and-car-chases-for-everyone under Clinton, and 2004 was a year of overblown, frantically strewn and ultimately ineffectual anger led by Michael Moore, 2008 had been a year of transformation.
Stars were shutting their mouths and opening their wallets, taking a page out of the Republican Campaign War Machine playbook, and reserving their indignant wrath to short, finely-worded jabs at the current administration during awards shows and a few pithy non-sequiturs woven in otherwise apolitical narrative arcs. After all, with a candidate like Barack Obama, there was little Tinseltown could do that the handsome, well-spoken African-American candidate shot straight out of a fantastical movie about the future couldn’t do for himself.
Then came Sarah.
Hollywood shouldn’t be singled out for their rage against the Lady of the North. From the instant Sarah Palin took the stage in Dayton, Ohio to accept John McCain’s offer, she polarized most citizens to a sudden and stunning extreme. But, when faced with a situation suggesting success might be found on the high road – exercising the utmost reserve, discipline and self-restraint – celebs gushed.
Matt Damon, speaking to reporters at the Toronto Film Festival, ripped Palin’s life story as “… like a really bad Disney movie, ‘The Hockey Mom.’ Oh, I’m just a hockey mom from Alaska, and she’s president. She’s facing down Vladimir Putin and using the folksy stuff she learned at the hockey rink. It’s absurd.”
Gina Gershon put on an Uncle Sam bikini and toted a gun for her Palin impersonation for Funny or Die, and Margaret Cho put her distain in plain terms, “I am a feminist and a Christian – and when I see Sarah Palin – I see neither.” Palin most famously took it on the chin from her “Saturday Night Live” doppelganger Tina Fey, who opined in a pitch-perfect accent, “I can see Russia from my house …” and “I believe [global warming] is just God hugging us closer.”
None of the attacks was particularly out of line as much as free speech coming from our most handsome citizens could be criticized. But for an industry that’s always shown its whorishness to sell out the future for a buck in the present, the outpouring of anti-Palinism serves as the cruelest example of empty foresight.
Now, on cue, the Republican gears of elitism are cranking up again, deploring Obama’s ties to slavish, satanic Hollywood and its minions of immorality. Here are the idols of the coasts, once again, trying to tell the rest of God-fearing America how to live.
For an entertainment industry that just got out of a crippling writers’ strike, I’m stunned that they don’t recognize the importance of a good script. In the top drawer of every Republican hack’s desk are the Golden Pages – the heart-wrenching narrative of the Alaskan mom beset by the Hollywood elite (read: nasty, unpatriotic Jews, queers and Fiji-drinking snobs), sure to deliver ballots on even the slowest of election weekends.
America loves the story of the underdog, as Hollywood well knows, and there’s no better way to turn “profoundly unqualified” and “marginally truthful” and “imminently dangerous in the executive” into “the outsider” and “the underdog.” A career script doctor couldn’t think up rewrites like that.
I wish, just for once, that Hollywood would collectively realize the immense power of sacrifice. Yes, Leo DiCaprio can freeze to death so Kate Winslet doesn’t drown in Titanic and yes, Bogart can sacrifice love and his Casablanca life for Ingrid Bergman’s chance at freedom.
But to avoid a real-life catastrophe, can our most glorious stars please register voters in Colorado and Virginia and hold off on the vitriol? That’s the outline of an ending worth waiting for.