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Ed Driscoll

The Circular Firing Squad, Part Deux

June 5th, 2005 - 10:44 pm

Bob Geldof is planning another Live Aid concert, only this time the purpose is to raise funds to pay off the Third World’s debt. (For our thoughts on the first Live Aid, here’s a link to our Weekly Standard.com story from December.) Anarchists, however, are complaining that Geldof’s choice of superstar musicians for the concert line-up is “too white”, according to Britain’s Independent.

George Lucas has professed that in the original Star Wars, Emperor Palpatine was a Nixon stand-in, the evil Galactic Empire was America, and the good guy Rebels were symbolic of the communist Vietcong. In other words, it’s a Vietnam War allegory, with America as the bad guys, and the Vietcong as the good guys. Does it get any more leftwing than that? Yet the loonier members of the modern left considered Lucas’s second batch of trilogies to be racist, because of silly-voiced alien characters like Jar-Jar Binks. (God know what the far left thinks of the whacky menagerie voiced by Mel Blanc in Warner’s Loony Toons of the 1930s and ’40s.)

This might be the strangest example of the circular firing squad in action: as a result of criticism in films like Hollywood Shuffle, Robert Townsend’s 1987 breakthrough directorial debut, Tinseltown greatly reduced the casting of black actors as hoods and thugs, and created more positive cinematic images of African-Americans. But it’s a can’t win proposition: now Hollywood is condemned by liberal critics for creating too many “Magic Negro” characters, a phrase apparently created by a Time magazine columnist, and repeated in this this Washington Post article:

Much more common are the “salvation” roles in which black characters exist to provide moral, spiritual or even supernatural guidance to white characters. It’s been called the “Magic Negro” syndrome (a term I first encountered in a Time magazine column by my friend Jack White). Think Whoopi Goldberg as the medium in “Ghost,” reuniting Demi Moore with the deceased Patrick Swayze. Or Michael Clarke Duncan as the otherworldly giant who heals Tom Hanks’s soul in “The Green Mile.” Or Lawrence Fishburne as Morpheus in the “Matrix” trilogy, helping Keanu Reeves find his inner superhero.

Morgan Freeman, a great actor who received a well-deserved Oscar for best supporting actor, has been an all-purpose dispenser of salvation during his long and distinguished career. He redeemed Jessica Tandy in “Driving Miss Daisy” and Tim Robbins in “The Shawshank Redemption.” He played God in “Bruce Almighty.” And now he finally wins his Oscar for “Million Dollar Baby,” in which–again–he is wise, compassionate, subsidiary to the main characters, and instructively moral to the bone.

I understand the left’s urge to criticize the right–hey, that’s politics. But I’m not sure if I get the surprisingly frequent desire to devour their own–or at least attempt to trap them inside circular, unwinnable criticism.

Update: Charles Johnson has some thoughts, and additional links concerning Geldof’s new project.

Another Update: Ed Morrissey also has details.