Sunday, March 05, 2006

Super Special Bonus Oscar Sunday Culture War Post!

Regarding the tendency of certain right-wingers to fume that Hollywood films aren’t patriotically retrograde enough, James Wolcott writes:

Anyway, the 'Hollywood doesn't reflect mainstream America' argument is one of the oldest and phoniest in the playbook, with Michael Medved making the same case that Catholic organizers did in the 30's to push for a decency code. The truth is that Hollywood has almost never reflected heartland values, from its birth it's reflected urban energy, cosmopolitan taste, social conscience, and pagan fascination, and when it's conformed to conventional pieties, as during the dreariest stretches of the postwar period, when disillusionment and subversion had to sneak in through the shadows of film noir as the topline product stayed shiny, bright, and chipmunk cheerful. Do you really think the racy, wisecracking, night-owl-edition, socially conscious crime dramas and comedies of Warner Brothers in the thirties reflected heartland values? Or those Lubitsch comedies with their flirty innuendos and musky intrigues so redolent of Paris and Budapest? Or the Astaire-Rogers "white telephone" musicals, with their French farce plots and Manhattan-skyline sparkle? MGM manufactured an enduring neo-Victorian mimicry of smalltown America in the Andy Hardy movies and others, but that didn't so much reflect heartland values as reflect the immigrant vision of what the white-picket-fence country they imagined lay east of the Hollywood hills.

And that pretty much sums it up. However, as a resident of the “heartland” (sort of), I feel I must add something here: the last thing we here in the great red bowels of the country want are movies that reek of simple, small-town values and old-fashioned virtues. Middle America is drab enough: here people go to movies for a good time, not to feel smug about their superior way of life. The only people who feel they need Hollywood to babble their worldview back at them are professional conservatives, timid religious fundamentalists, and those dull, brittle suburbanites who pitch hissy fits whenever their prejudices aren’t catered to by the rest of society.

Think of it this way. When Joe and Jane Heartland finally get a night to themselves and decide to go to a movie, what do you think they’re after? Do you think they want to spend their money and precious leisure time on something ideologically appropriate and Michael Medved approved, or do you think they want to see something entertaining? You see, it’s only hacks on a deadline who fail to appreciate that the only thing the vast majority of moviegoers demand from the film industry is a good time.