Ed Driscoll

Broadway Babies Sucker Punch Their Fellow Bobos

Big Hollywood recent started a section of the Website devoted to the alerting movie audiences about the potential for a needless Hollywood Sucker Punch when choosing which movie to spend their hard-earned money to see. As John Nolte, the site’s majordomo, who helped to give the Sucker Punch its name even before editing and blogging at Big Hollywood once wrote:

Hollywood is high school and if you want to sit at the cool kids’ table (i.e. work) you better fit in, and if you’ve been involved in the writing, directing or producing of a film sympathetic towards the most hated demographic (yes, even more hated than terrorists — again, watch the product) in the 9-0 zip code, you had better inoculate yourself.

And that’s what the gratuitous, unnecessary, jarring, take-you-out-of-the-movie shot at Bush is: an inoculation. The filmmakers want to work again; they want to be invited to all the right parties. But if you’re remembered as the person involved in bringing to life a movie only Glenn Beck could love, no matter how big of a hit, that’s not a good thing on the ole’ resume’.

There are notable exceptions, but working in Hollywood — an industry built on social interaction — means getting along with Leftists, and Leftists are religious, regional and ideological bigots of the worst order. The smart people involved in the making of “The Blind Side” knew the Bush shot was bad storytelling — was what what John Boot described as ”a non-sequitur nonpareil” — they just felt, for whatever reason (their own bigotry or career survival), that it was worth it.

Hollywood is not money or profit-driven. This is an industry engaged in an ideological war with traditional conservative America that doesn’t mind making a profit, but never will at the expense of the cause. Everyone involved in the making of “Blind Side” knew an unnecessary partisan shot at Bush would turn people off. They all knew they were insulting the very audience the film was marketed at for no reason other than to insult them. But there was absolutely no way in hell this thing was going to see the light of day without something for the Hollywood bigots to snicker over.

This is their sandbox, and there’s a ring to kiss if you want to play.

At City Journal, Nicole Gelinas writes that sucker punching Broadway audiences doomed Enron: The Musical from succeeding on the opposite coast:

Enron isn’t un-American, though. [Playwright Lucy Prebble], a Brit, is really examining Anglo-Saxon financial capitalism. Nor is the play anti-market. Skilling emerges not as a villainous fraudster, but a tortured hero whose vision ultimately destroyed his company and himself. “I’m not a bad man,” he says. “I just wanted to change the world.” Pointing to a graph of the stock market’s history, he says, “Every dip, every crash, every bubble that’s burst, that’s you. Your brilliant stupidity. This one gave us the railroads. This one the Internet. . . . And if you wanna do anything about . . . reaching other worlds, you’ll need a bubble for that, too.” Free markets are messy, in other words, but vital.

Enron failed in New York because Prebble and Goold ruined it with a six-minute scene that stopped time and betrayed the audience. That Enron would treat 9/11 was not a surprise. The company collapsed just weeks after the attacks, and its executives did try to pin the firm’s bankruptcy on plummeting investor confidence post-9/11. But a good director knows when to show restraint.

Instead, Goold follows the surround sound of approaching airplanes with a fireball projected onto a ten-story, tower-shaped video screen. The black screen becomes the World Trade Center towers, and real scraps of paper and simulated debris flutter from the towers on stage. Enron’s Ken Lay gives a speech from inside the faltering towers before they vividly collapse. Suddenly and incongruously, it’s on to the comic scene of a Congressional hearing, even as the audience members are sickeningly staring at the paper 9/11 remains, which stay on stage for the rest of the play.

The play’s instant 9/11 simulation is like a sucker punch for which New York theatergoers had no fair warning. Oddly, none of the critics I’ve read mentioned the scene, though Brantley devoted a strange passage to “the design team keep[ing] the stage pulsing with flashing colors [and] rainstorms of sparks (and later, ashes).”

Even today, video replays of 9/11 can induce a physical reaction in New Yorkers. On the night that I attended the play, in previews, two people seated in the rows ahead of me left during the scene. Many viewers likely paid little attention to the final scenes of the play.

If Goold did not notice his audience’s visceral response to the previews, he’s an incompetent director. During the play’s first half, the audience and the actors interacted easily. Theatergoers were generous with their laughter, applause, and attention, and they were patient with the story. At intermission, the audience chatted comfortably. But shortly into the second act, along comes 9/11, and shocked audience members launched a quiet but seething strike. Funny scenes were met with frosty silence. At the end, the audience offered only tepid applause, though Butz’s performance, certainly, merited a standing ovation. The white-faced crowd headed silently for the exits.

It’s likely that Enron would still be running on Broadway if Goold had heard what his audience was trying to tell him. No New Yorker would subject his friends, relatives, or neighbors to this. Goold either didn’t get the message, or he chose not to compromise his creativity, such as it is. As a result, New Yorkers rejected Enron. And that, you might say, is how markets work.

And surprising New York audiences with a simulated 9/11 attack is just about the only way left for the bourgeois-bohemians who inhabit Broadway to epater their fellow bobos.

Related: “You Know You’ve Lost Touch With Reality…when you think it’s only in an alternate universe that thousands of your neighbors were killed by foreigners flying planes.”