Today, Andrew Breitbart and David Ehrenstein ponder the plight of Tinseltown conservatives. Yesterday, they attempted to define Hollywood values. Wednesday, they discussed the role filmmakers should and do play in the domestic political debate, and Monday, they examined the fall season of antiwar flicks. Tomorrow, they'll wrap up by figuring out whether Hollywood even matters anymore.
A hostile work environment
By Andrew Breitbart
Picture this workplace: A television talk show that focuses on a 5-foot, half-circle desk with four to five opinionated egomaniacs sitting around spewing raucous opinions on the day's events in pop culture and politics. It's a dynamic and exhilarating venue replete with a studio audience hand-picked to react positively to the attitudes expressed by the panelists. There are no two exact opinions expressed, yet everyone is of the same political mind -- except for one.
Elizabeth Hasselbeck's experience on "The View" is a microcosm of life for an open conservative in showbiz. Not only do her co-hosts gang up on her regularly, so do many of the invited celebrity guests. When the meanest of the bunch leaves the show, the hiring process is crafted around finding the person who will best put the former reality star in her place. If voicing her minority position wasn't a requirement of her job, Elizabeth would be far better off just keeping her mouth shut.
In liberal Hollywood -- just like in the mainstream media and academia -- the decks are stacked against conservatives and Republicans. We know it. And you know it. Much of the blame, as I've previously admitted, goes to conservatives who choose not to enter these fields in significant numbers. Yet tragicomically, liberals won't even admit that an ideological disparity exists -- regardless of the reasons why. Otherwise they'd possibly have to apply their favorite societal cure-all: Affirmative action.
Conservatives do exist in reasonable numbers in greater Hollywood. However, the vast majority hold "below the line" jobs. That's Industry-speak for the less sexy middle-class tasks such as lighting, transportation, bookkeeping, etc. Show business' silent working-class mass exists in a right/left ratio far closer to its split in American society. And because they get paid far less than the "talent," they live in the far suburbs of L.A., including the flats of the San Fernando Valley.
My father-in-law, Orson Bean, an author, comedian and actor, was once blacklisted as a Communist back in the '50s. Ed Sullivan called him to say he could no longer book him on the show. Fifty years later, and after a sharp ideological metamorphosis, Orson says it's harder now to be an open conservative on a Hollywood set than it was back then to be a Communist.
Do you not remember actress Sharon Lawrence's story about how, after a photo of her near President Bush appeared in People magazine, countless Hollywood players began to brazenly harass her when they incorrectly perceived she supported the then-newly elected president? This was a Democrat speaking. Not one of John Wayne's progeny.
A working TV writer from Minnesota who also votes Democrat instant messages me that "it's not that it's hostile for conservatives in Hollywood. It's hostile for anyone who isn't slightly to the left of Lenin. Scoop Jackson would be asked to leave town."
A producer friend formerly at MTV tells a story from the last general election, about how her boss brazenly told her she would have never hired her had she been apprised that the producer supported President Bush. One gets away with such talk because "human resources" doesn't consider that harassment. Others have expressed eerily similar or worse experiences.
Writing this piece has been an exercise in self-censorship because I don't want to get decent people in trouble. Their livelihoods depend on my discreetness. One prominent name even e-mailed me to make sure I not even obliquely describe his or her role in the Hollywood pecking order:
I don't mean to be wimpy about it. But one day, my friend, hopefully things will be different for our side in this town. Does not seem right does it?
Per his or her instruction, I deleted the e-mail.
David, you've been baiting me to mention George Soros and MoveOn.org throughout this weeklong exercise. Here it finally goes: The prominent Hollywood non-liberals that come quickly to your encyclopedic mind are mostly past their prime and opened up about their atypical politics during the popular Reagan era. Bruce Willis has not talked much politics since. He's smart. And Schwarzenegger, the governor, got almost no institutional support from his Hollywood peers during his run.
Right now the only game that matters is the war. And the big conservative that likely springs to your mind of a true blockbuster Hollywood conservative proves my point. Mel Gibson shares your disregard for the war and has therefore not been the object of Hungarian Jew George Soros' rage -- despite Gibson's drunken anti-Semitic rant. True to his pet organization's name, Soros just moved on.
The fact remains: Hollywood is a town of youth. And the young stars of today have been trained by the political Stella Adlers of our time to either disparage the presidency at a time of war -- or to shut the hell up. In that regard, MoveOn.org has been a wild success. The billionaire who takes down currencies by day has invested his Third World blood-money well.
MoveOn.org, George Soros and, to a great extent, Hollywood, have created specifically the type of environment George Clooney warns about in "Good Night, and Good Luck." Yet the multifaceted star clearly doesn't even see the irony. And, worse, the closet that you exhort against when filled with gays is a useful tool you embrace when used to shut out those with whom you disagree.
You and Clooney would look good together on a red carpet. Congratulations on your continuing political successes.
Sorry that you've fallen out of favor with Bill Maher. Maybe Glenn Beck will give you a chair on his surprisingly low-rated CNN show. As for Elizabeth Hasselbeck, her position on "The View" is quite secure -- which is more than can be said of her arch-enemy, Rosie, who is now given to bizarre pronouncements that the show's ratings (much-improved since her loud mouth was replaced by Whoopi Goldberg's far more temperate one) must be a work of fiction.
As for your notion that "the decks are always stacked against conservatives in liberal Hollywood," then I can only say -- as Bogart murmured to Bergman about Paris in "Casablanca" -- you'll always have radio. There, scarcely a liberal voice is heard above the din of Rush and his many imitators.
Orson Bean is your father-in-law? Mazel Tov! How well I remember him in Rosalyn Drexler's "Home Movies" at the Judson Church -- run by the Gay Agenda's John the Baptist, the Rev. Al Carmines. And he was marvelous in "Being John Malkovich" -- one of the most imaginative films ever to come out of the liberal-run Hollywood you so despise. What he says about "the help" has always been the case in Hollywood, whether it was run by Louis B. Mayer or -- as you now believe -- MoveOn.org. Meanwhile, Mr. Bean's "Dr. Quinn" co-star, Chad Allen, after having been "outed" by the tabs via photographs of same-sex hot tub dalliances, now works on cable shows and independent films of limited release potential. The "gay agenda" must surely need a tune-up if he's not as big a star as Tom Cruise.
As for the "straight agenda," it's run into some snags as well. That "20/20" report you cited Thursday, claiming that Matthew Shephard was killed over a drug deal rather than homophobia, got about as much traction in the media as it did at the trial, where it was never introduced by the defense for painfully obvious reasons. A number of films about Shephard may have been put into "development," but the only one of any value was "Anatomy of a Hate Crime," superbly directed by my old High School of Music and Art classmate Tim Hunter (of "River's Edge" fame). That "20/20" report did, however, offer the memorable sight of Elizabeth Vargas cheerily shaking hands with Shephard's killers upon interviewing them in jail -- surely an image the "CSI" shows should keep in mind for future episodes. ABC, meanwhile, has "learned its lesson," winning new glory with such high-rated gay-centric items as "Ugly Betty," "Brothers & Sisters" and "Desperate Housewives" -- the latter created by "Log Cabin Republican" Marc Cherry.
(I'm working on a "How can you tell when a gay Republican is out of the closet?" joke. Hope to have it before our online rendezvous is over.)
Now back to those poor, put-upon Hollywood "conservatives." Are they the victims of George Soros or "market forces"? Recently there's been no end of bitching and moaning that the controversial 2006 TV movie "The Path to 9/11" can't find a berth on home video. All-powerful ruler of the universe Hillary Clinton has been blamed because of the fact that the film claims her hubster, the president, didn't kill Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora when he allegedly "had the chance."
Of course, George W. Bush, occupier of the White House when 9/11 actually happened, hasn't shown any enthusiasm for eliminating its perpetrator whatsoever, memorably declaring that he is "truly not that concerned" about him. That's hardly surprising considering his family's close relationship with the Bin Ladens -- who were flown out of the country hours after the attack while ordinary citizens were unable to get a flight anywhere for weeks. As for Osama bin Forgotten, just recently mention was made that he's been sighted at ... Tora Bora. Do let Condi know, like a good fellow. I've no doubt you have her on speed-dial.
Returning to the "conservative" pity-party, the most important right-wing writer-director Hollywood has seen since DeMille, John Milius ("Apocalypse Now," "Big Wednesday," "Red Dawn"), has forsaken Tinseltown entirely for the lucrative cyber-shores of video-game creation. Shouldn't he be making "Red Dawn II: Al Qaeda in America"? Give him a nudge, won't you? I'm sure it would be as big a box-office winner as Mel Gibson's "NASCAR Jesus" (a.k.a. "The Passion of the Christ").
Having achieved not only box-office success but Oscar glory with "Braveheart" -- his epic tribute to 13th century Scottish face-painter William Wallace -- Gibson followed up with "Passion." But failing to see the wisdom of yet another film about the founder of Christianity, the major studios gave Gibson a pass on what has turned out to be his signature project. And, all glory to capitalism at its "invisible hand" best, the independently financed result was one of the greatest box-office bonanzas of all-time.
Perhaps "the suits in the suites" were disinclined to "green light" Mel because of the fact that his film was in Aramaic with subtitles and wasn't based on the New Testament at all, but rather "The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ" -- the anti-Semitic hallucinations of a bipolar 19th century nun, Anne Catherine Emmerich. While there was a small amount of muttering about how this adaptation chose to portray the religion from which Jesus sprang (the better to superceded), this was pushed well into the background once the box-office receipts for Mel's magnum opus started pouring in.
Seeing the error of its ways, Disney bankrolled Gibson's next production, "Apocalypto," another no-star epic, this time about the ancient Mayans, with subtitles for its decidedly obscure Yucatec Maya dialogue. Overflowing with gory images of human sacrifice that were somehow spared an NC-17 rating, "Apocalypto" suggests what the exploitation classic "Blood Feast" might have been like had it been directed by Vincente Minnelli. While it didn't ratchet up the numbers "NASCAR Jesus" did, it faired quite respectably. Which was a surprise to many because of the "public relations" nightmare created when its celebrated auteur was stopped by the cops in Malibu on a DUI and made a number of "intemperate" remarks about the Jewish people for reasons that remain obscure.
As always, money talks, and should Mel elect to make a film out of "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," I haven't the slightest doubt he'd get a backer -- even in "liberal" Hollywood.
(Hey, I think I've got that joke. You can tell when a gay Republican is out of the closet because he foxtrots rather than tapdances. We're here all week, folks!)