Thursday, March 09, 2006

No, Ms. Noonan, Hollywood really does hate America

Peggy Noonan weighs in on this year's Oscars at the Wall Street Journal:

You don't have to be a genius to figure out that viewership of the Oscars is down because movie attendance itself is down, and that movie attendance is down because Hollywood isn't making the kind of movies that compel people to leave their homes and go to the multiplex.

There are those who think Hollywood hates America, and they have reason to think it. Hollywood does, as host Jon Stewart suggested, seem detached from the country it seeks to entertain. It is politically and culturally to the left of America, and it often seems disdainful of or oblivious to its assumptions and traditions.

I don't think it is true that studio executives and producers hate America. They are too confused, ambivalent and personally anxious to sit around hating their audience. I think they wish they understood America. I think they feel nostalgic for what they remember of it. I think they find it hard to find America, in a way.

I also think that it's not true that they're motivated only by money. Would that they were! They'd be more market-oriented if they cared only about money. What they care about a great deal is status, and in their community status is bestowed by the cultural left. This is an old story. But it seems only to get worse, not better.
Noonan is half correct. Hollywood is dominated by the left because philosophy is dominated by the left and the arts always follow the philosophy of their time. Nor can it be said that the right offers any real challenge to the left in this regard: fundamentalist Christians don't produce groundbreaking artists in the same way they don't produce groundbreaking scientists. Noonan's observation Hollywood is consumed by status also follows as well: when you are in a room with people who each have their fortunes, the only dividing line left is status. (After all, there's a reason they don't let Rob Schnieder in the Academy). But Noonan is wrong to think that Hollywood does not hate America. Hollywood hates America because it hates reason, it hates individualism, and it hates capitalism.

How does Hollywood hate reason? Remember "A Beautiful Mind" about the Nobel-winning mathematician who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia? What did the movie seek to enshrine: a scientist discovering new methods to observe mathematical relationships, or a mentally diseased cripple struggling to survive amidst his visions? Both? OK, how did the scientist save himself? Oh, he didn't: it was love that saved him. So when faced with the challenge of making new discoveries and overcoming mental illness, Hollywood tells us all we need is love. "A Beautiful Mind" won the 2001 Oscar for "Best Picture"

How does Hollywood hate individualism? Remember "American Beauty," the movie about the materialistic advertising executive who leads the perfect life in appearances, yet is confronted with existential angst? What did that movie seek to enshrine: egoists who take thoughtful steps to find their own happiness and fulfillment, or depraved freaks who mindlessly worship upon the alter of their every whim? "American Beauty" won the 1999 Oscar for "Best Picture"

And how does Hollywood hate capitalism? This time, I note the total absence of any critically acclaimed film that represents a businessman plying his craft and treats him like a hero for doing so Businessmen are routinely cast villains to the point of cliché. Yet it impossible for Hollywood to envision a hero of production worth spotlighting if they hate the social system that makes businessmen possible and the moral basis for such a system.

Yes, I know Hollywood is far from consistent; it gives us the occasional "Gladiator" and even Mel Gibson, the director who threw blood on the screen for "The Passion of the Christ" also threw it on the screen for "Braveheart." Yet at root premise, Hollywood does not respect the nation that makes its existence possible; like most intellectuals, it worships a different value over that of western civilization.

If this wasn't so, we'd already have a movie that depicts our victory over the jihad. That's why I disagree with Noonan's estimate of Hollywood, and that's why I think the Hollywood problem is a symptom of a far larger illness that afflicts our nation.

1 comment:

Edward Cline said...

After eight years, here I am to say "Amen" to this column, in every particular.