In Hollywood, 'Hope and Change' Trumps Critical Thought
America may possess the most powerful military in the world. But the nation's ability to harness its soft power, specifically its entertainment exports, is what may cement how the rest of the world views -- and respects -- us.
So argues a new book with a great title: American Idol After Iraq: Competing for Hearts and Minds in the Global Media Age, by film executive Mike Medavoy and foreign affairs correspondent Nathan Gardels. Reality shows and blockbuster movies aren't just puffery, they argue. They are weapons in the war to influence public opinion. And right now, Medavoy and Gardels feels pop culture is firing mostly blanks.
It's all fascinating grist for a book, and the authors expand the subject to include a number of crucial sub-topics. But Idol doesn't have the courage to follow through on its main premise. To do so would veer into the kind of discourse you might hear from a "family values" Republican.
In essence, if American entertainment cleaned up its act, the world might view us in a more positive light. But the book doesn't argue so much about R-rated content as it does that American films aren't sensitive enough to the rest of the globe.
Early on, the book does make some salient points: "Sometimes films and television shows mislead outsiders about American life, for example by the near total absence of religious expression in mainstream entertainment."
But Idol goes on to list American weaknesses and missteps with alacrity -- and often accuracy -- but can't do the same for other countries. It's the liberal two-step. We're wrong, wrong, wrong on most counts, but every other country gets a moral pass. We lack insight and experience regarding other countries to our everlasting shame -- but it's never to other countries' shame that they misinterpret the U.S.
The authors clearly had "hope and change" on the brain as they huddled together to create Idol. Every few pages, they reference how President Barack Obama will right some of the wrongs committed by President George W. Bush -- asides given no real weight since Obama hasn't done anything yet in his young presidency. Let's wait for him to change the world before writing about it as if it's a fait accompli.
The authors then remind us -- as if it were news to celebrate -- that a Hamas spokesman said he preferred Obama as president.