In Hollywood, 'Hope and Change' Trumps Critical Thought
Also left unexplored by the book is how Hollywood continues to work against its own self-interest -- the bottom line -- to create films which drag down America's image across the globe.
Can anyone argue that Brian De Palma's Redacted, a vicious attack on U.S. soldiers that bombed spectacularly at the box office, improved this country's image? Yet the authors write how Hollywood "is all about translating that creativity into cash." They write, "Hollywood executives say they would happily make 200 religious films a year if they thought they'd sell."
What about The Passion of the Christ? Or the small fortune made by the micro-indie Fireproof?
The other elephant thundering through the slim book's pages is how negatively Hollywood treats our military and war efforts. It's one thing to argue that Hollywood's soft power is an awesome tool for global branding. But how can they ignore how many films treat the U.S. soldier like a lawless animal, or that the Academy gave an Oscar to Fahrenheit 9/11, a fictionalized assault on the presidency?
Those omissions render the book an intriguing -- but ultimately dishonest -- read.
Idol's purpose isn't to suggest draconian measures to influence the stories coming out of Hollywood. Instead, it wants the Obama administration to create an Information and Public Exchange Forum based on the Public Broadcasting System model. The Forum would "de-nationalize" the news Americans currently receive, among other objectives.
Hollywood, for its part, would build a Council on Cultural Relations to "raise the global sensibilities of the storytellers in Hollywood."
The book finds comfort in government support for projects which critique the Iraq War, but blanches at the thought of supporting Fox's 24, which deems torture an acceptable way to glean critical information on terrorism.
Essentially, Idol wants to place deeply liberal Hollywood power brokers and the current deeply liberal administration in charge of the soft power brigade.
The book's most damning passage recalls how Karl Rove approached Hollywood after 9/11 for help in the war on terror. The industry balked at the idea of helping the country out by making movies that would make Muslims understand the real America. Creative minds simply couldn't side up with President Bush, even if it meant the country suffered as a result. That passage makes up only a paragraph or two, but a meatier book would have dug deeper into that disconnect.
Despite its flaws, American Idol After Iraq will inspire debates the country needs to have regarding the power of pop culture. Actions have consequences, and so do images, especially when delivered with the force and scope of the Hollywood dream machine.
But one wishes the authors could follow their arguments through to more intellectually consistent conclusions.