Okay, that’s nowhere near as good a ‘hed’ as the Variety classic – Sticks Nix Hicks Pix – made famous by Jimmy Cagney in “Yankee Doodle Dandy”. Perhaps readers can come up with a better one, but you get the point. The public isn’t going to Hollywood’s antiwar movies – and it’s not just the hicks if you look at the amazingly-consistent comments on Breitbart.com beneath the article: “Hollywood is casualty of war as movie-goers shun Iraq films.” It’s everybody and his brother from Tacoma to Tallahassee, not to mention a large number from abroad. As of last Saturday night, the Agence France Presse report had over 500 comments and counting.
The article itself, not surprisingly anonymously written, is filled with the usual shopworn explanations for the audience’s disinterest. For Lew Harris of Movies.com, it’s the canard that movies are escapism only. Serious films are just too heavy for the great unwashed. For Gitesh Pandya of boxofficeguru.com, it’s that audiences don’t want to pay for what they already see for free on television (Iraq). Veteran television producer Steve Bocho says it’s hard to gain audience interest in a “hugely unpopular war.”
The audience members themselves – that is the Breitbart commenters – are having none of this nonsense. The third one down, “Extremely Bored,” puts it this way: “Let me correct this point – I am not weary of war news at all. I am shunning these movies – and many others- because I am tired of Hollywood’s anti-American stance on absolutely everything. However we got into the war, and whatever mistakes were made up to this point, we are one country. We need to win and we need to remain tough against terrorism. It doesn’t benefit anyone to do otherwise. I will go see a movie that reflects that point.”
He is echoed almost immediately by commenter “Lee”: “The real answer – the obvious one that liberals can’t bring themselves to accept – is that most Americans are tired of liberal spinmeisters trashing their country, our soldiers, and our way of life. The Redfords of the world sit in their ivory towers and try to tell us how to think and react based on their own prejudices …”
And so it goes down the page… hundreds, soon thousands.
Now, admittedly, this is Breitbart.com and many readers come via Drudge – hence some bias – but the box office figures do not lie. These people represent a fair percentage of the (absent) audience. For years Hollywood insiders would joke about the cluelessness of the “flyover people” between the two coasts. But reading these comments, the flyover people, whether foreign or domestic, seem so much more intelligent than the Hollywood wags quoted in the article, it borders on the pathetic.
In fact, the box office debacle should be no surprise to anyone who had been paying the slightest attention, so the question is: Why was and is Hollywood so clueless? (Speaking of “is,” how about Writers Guild President Patrick Verrone being photographed arm-in-arm in front of Paramount Studios with Jesse Jackson, of all people, in order to generate support for the current writers’ strike? The African-American community long has seen through Jackson as the self-promoting jerk he is, but not the WGA.)
Since there’s a strike on and I can’t get work anyway, I will let ‘er rip:
The truth is Hollywood people are massively uninformed. They live in a bubble and, outside what they read in the New York Times and hear on NPR, they know almost nothing about what is really going on in the Middle East. And very few of them are curious to find out, because they assume what they already know is true and they have no impetus to investigate further.
But there is deeper reason for this than mere convenience and received conventional wisdom. These are not curious people because they are highly self-protective. They live a hugely privileged lifestyle, often based to a great degree on luck (and they know it), and this existence could only be threatened by contradictory information. Who wants that – particularly when it would alienate your colleagues, hurt your reputation and cause work problems?
Better to produce movies that validate the orthodoxy, even if they are economic disasters. Your colleagues will be impressed and you might win a prize (De Palma did – at Venice). Most of them are low budget anyway – a piffle. And the distribution system is rigged anyway. The antiwar swill won’t lose that much money because, boring as the films may be, they will be force-fed into the global entertainment machine, grouped in packages with other movies and sold to foreign television distributors to re-emerge as late-night reruns in Albania or wherever on into 2027 and beyond. A minor loss, if any.
And there is another benefit. (Here is where I am really going to make enemies.) Making movies like these or making extreme liberal public pronouncements make you seem like a good guy to yourself, when in your private life you are a miserable, self-serving bastard.
In order to understand how important that is you must never forget that Hollywood is a brutal place. It is just as vicious and competitive as dramatized in TV shows like Entourage, only nowhere near as entertaining. Only the most ambitious and determined survive and, to do that, the chances are you will not come out of the process a nice person. You will step on the backs of your colleagues, mistreat your staff and have generally erratic personal relationships based much more on status and connections than love or genuine affection.
Of course I am overstating to make a point, but I have noticed, in the years I have worked in Hollywood, that, with rare exceptions, the more successful people are, the more wretched they are to others. And those with the most obvious public liberal credentials are often the ones who are the most despicable in their private behavior. You could almost graph it.
Much of this public liberalism of the excessive knee-jerk variety stems from a form of self-loathing. These same people do not want to be bastards – life just put them in that position. But, at the same time, they do not want anyone to take away what they have – the vast acclaim and fortune – even if deep down they wonder if they are worthy. What to do? What to do?
The solution is to create another self, a kind of mini-me, who goes out and loudly proclaims what a fine liberal humanistic person he or she is- a public projection to obfuscate the private self. Sometimes this results in actual good works, but usually it is basically blather (see Streisand’s website) or dopey showing off like Sean Penn putting in an appearance with Hugo Chavez.
Other times, distorted work emerges like the current group of films no one wants to see.