The Stone City

Words Made to Last

Monday, October 17, 2005

Hollywood (I)

Some questions are asked repeatedly, and often rhetorically, about the state of the American motion picture industry. I believe some of them have answers.

1) Why are many stars outspokenly liberal? Why should we care? Who is listening?

These questions are best taken back-to-front. The opinions of the glitterati are important not as causes, but as symptoms. The outspoken anti-Americanism of a Tim Robbins (to take one example) is not important not because Mr. Robbins is going to change people's minds. Instead, it provides a unique window into the opinions of those unburdened by either knowledge or professional responsibility. The opinions held by an actress are a decent barometer of those which would be held by a receptionist or travel agent.

Second, actors are self-aware to a fault, have a strong professional if not emotional need to be liked, and are fully cognizant of the public nature of their statements. Thus the opinions they voice are not precisely symptomatic of those truly held by the generally ignorant; they are those for which the ignorant would expect to gain approval. The popularity, in this context, of anti-capitalist and anti-American views is symptomatic of the failure of capitalists, patriots (and, most notably, devout Christians) to make respect for their views more popular than disrespect. The actor who mouths off at a premiere is just the messenger.