Monday, November 15, 2004

Cult of Personality

There is currently a group running commercials that call for amending the constitution so that Arnold Schwarzenegger is legally able to run for President. The actual effort to repeal the law is a good thing, in my opinion. Arnold's supporters are right when they state that the law is outdated and exclusionary. And I'm sure they will also agree with me that nothing in that hallowed document should exclude any portion of the American populace from the rights held by the rest, right? Right? Is this thing on?

But wait, aside from his foreign birthplace, do we really want Arnold to hold our highest office? His past is dubious, being a longtime resident of "Hollyweird". He's smoked pot and participated in orgies, so obviously his morality is in question. He doesn't represent us. He's not one of us. He's not part of the heartland. He doesn't understand good Christian values. Nobody cares what his kind has to say, so why the hell doesn't he just sit down and keep his mouth shut?

Oh, wait. He's Republican? Oh, well, that's alright then.

Republicans have perpetuated the lie that the opinions of liberal entertainers are irrelevant simply because they are liberal entertainers. Furthermore, if a political candidate has the support of these people, then they themselves are out of touch and unfit to take office. The Republican's anger comes from what they perceive as an unfair advantage: a community that is overwhelmingly liberal that also has frequent opportunities to express their thoughts to millions of people. When they go on talk shows to discuss their TV series or movie, which is often, they can talk about whatever the heck they want and possibly influence the opinions of regular folk that enjoy their work. The solution? Demonize them within an inch of their lives.

But the reasons for the Republicans' disdain goes beyond access to the airwaves. There is a reason why the Republicans chose former Senator Fred Dalton Thompson to help introduce George W. Bush at their convention last September and deliver rebuttals to Clinton's State of the Union addresses. In addition to his political career, Thompson is an experienced actor from such popular films as "The Hunt for Red October", "Cape Fear" and "In the Line of Fire". He's not Brad Pitt, but he has an engaging manner natural to most actors. His experience in front of the camera is an advantage that most seasoned politicians would kill to have, and the Republicans were smart to use that advantage.

Of course, their tactic of labeling Hollywood actors was more effective when Republicans only counted a handful of supporters within that community. Aside from conservative heavy hitters like Charlton Heston and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the biggest celebrities Bush Sr. managed to get on the campaign trail back in 1988 and 1992 was Gerald "Major Dad" McRaney. After 9/11, two things happened: Conservatives not only began drawing some additional converts, but it also compelled closet Republicans to make their voices heard. The resulting pool is now much larger than it has been including celebrities both big (Dennis Miller, James Woods, Mel Gibson, Kelsey Grammar, Bruce Willis) and not so big (Ron Silver, Angie Harmon, Bo Derek, Patricia Heaton, Tom Selleck).

And then there's Ronald Reagan. Far more than any conservative actor today, Reagan could charm an audience, and the Republicans were damn lucky to have "The Great Communicator" on their side. Arnold clearly models himself after Reagan and Republicans enjoy making the comparison. In an interesting dichotomy, Schwarzenegger gained his fame through films that capitalized on the gung-ho political culture that Reagan created. Now he wishes to follow up with his own run to replicate Reagan's success, starting with Reagan's old office as Governor of California. Considering how much of a bigger star that Arnold was and is compared to Reagan's film career, perhaps Arnold is a much surer bet than we imagine. Throw in his immigrant success story that Republicans will beat until the horse disintegrates into dust, and they may have a winner.

But what it all eventually comes down to is whether or not the actors know what the hell they're talking about. If the Republicans have any legitimate objection to liberal celebrities, then it's for those that speak far more from the heart than their head and, therefore, are not informed on the issues of which they speak. I know that I've seen my share of liberal actors that fall into this category. This goes both ways, however, when you see conservative actors who were spooked enough by 9/11 to check their brain at the door and follow Dubya into hell itself, without considering if this would help or change anything.

This phenomenon of treating Hollywood and its denizens as something other than just another American community will stop when we recognize that it has its share of informed and uninformed people on both sides of the aisle. Let them speak their minds and you may criticize them for their ideas and, you know, actually debate them. Otherwise, it's all just so much childish BS, with Conservatives outpacing Liberals in the business of living in fantasy worlds.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Republicans are fond of, in one breath, condemning liberal Hollywood celebrities, and in the next, fawning over every word of the handful of Hollywood conservatives that are out there. There is strong resentment that liberal celebrities get fora to speak their minds, as they are no more informed than the average man. This is wrongful elitism. Everyone should be able to speak their minds on political issues, whether informed or misinformed. If the common man can call into a talk radio show and express himself, then there is no reason why a celebrity cannot take advantage of his fame to state his opinion.

And, of course, the notion of changing the Constitution for sake of one man is repugnant. -- David P.