Referring to the comments that come out of Hollywood about Iraq, John McCain once quipped that if “Washington is a Hollywood for ugly people, Hollywood is a Washington for the simpleminded.” Jonah Goldberg notes that the Deep Thinkers in Hollywood often have a tough time understanding Washington:
A common theme in Hollywood’s treatment of politics is the notion that people with “bad” ideas are also bad people (to its credit, West Wing occasionally resisted this cliche, though usually to demonstrate that decent conservatives have the capacity to learn how wrong they are).
Of course, this view is shared by many people outside of Hollywood as well. The problem is that it just doesn’t jibe much with reality.
As anyone who’s spent time in D.C. can tell you, asininity, egotism, and rudeness are fairly evenly distributed across the ideological spectrum. Some of the biggest jerks in Washington can be found spouting progressive nostrums about caring for the poor and the downtrodden. Similarly, some of the conservatives constantly invoking the Christian imperative to love one another can be found figuratively whacking their interns about the head with a hardcover edition of the New Testament for not properly trimming the crusts on their sandwiches.
The thing is, Hollywood already knew that about the religious conservatives. Showing “moral majority” types as closeted bigots, perverts, and hypocrites is a grand cinematic pastime. What seems unfathomable to many liberals in Hollywood is that many religious conservatives are in fact decent, pleasant people and that nastiness is almost an entirely independent variable from ideology. Man-of-the-people Michael Moore is a notoriously nasty boss, while “virtuecrat” Bill Bennett is famously fun to work for.
The refreshing thing about Thank You for Smoking is that the most likable character is the most “evil”