James Cameron vs. Glenn Beck: Is the director making a bid for a cable-news show?


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James Cameron is starting to sound more and more like Jon Stewart every day. Heck, he’s starting to sound more and more like Keith Olbermann every day.

It’s rare enough that the director of a hugely successful action movie thrusts himself into the political discussion as much as Cameron has (especially as the filmmakers behind a more overtly political film, ‘The Hurt Locker,’ took such pains to shy away from politics). But it’s even more anomalous for a director to engage with the rabble of cable news as directly as Cameron has.


According to a story in the Hollywood Reporter, what might have been a very unremarkable DVD-release party for ‘Avatar’ on Tuesday night turned into a very sharp barrage of words from Cameron, in which he spared little quarter for Glenn Beck.
One comment contained an unprintable epithet. Some of the other comments on the Fox News host: ‘He’s dangerous because his ideas are poisonous. I couldn’t believe when he was on CNN. I thought, what happened to CNN? Who is this guy? Who is this madman? And then of course he wound up on Fox News, which is where he belongs, I guess.’ Cameron also challenged Beck to a debate (not a duel, but close).

And he said that ‘Anybody that is a global-warming denier at this point in time has got their head so deeply up their ... I’m not sure they could hear me.’

Wait, is this the same guy who directed ‘True Lies’ and faced criticism by the left for his portrayal of Muslims (and was heralded by some on the right for his patriotism)? Or did some kind of John Connor time-travel thing happen and change everything?

Either way, as someone sympathetic to Cameron’s politics (commenters, bring on the backlash) -- and unsympathetic to Beck’s brand of, um, journalism -- I’m not sure how to feel about Cameron’s outspokenness. On the one hand, it’s easy to cringe at Cameron as poster child for populism of any kind; this is a wealthy director who spends a lot of time cocooned in his editing suite and/or Southern California mansion. (Of course Glenn Beck does the same in a TV studio and Connecticut mansion, but no matter.) Every time Cameron speaks out about public policy, it hands another easy point-scoring opportunity to those who paint the Obama administration and its many supporters in Hollywood as out of touch. It’s Hanoi Jane all over again.
On the other hand, Cameron has not only earned the right to speak -- but he’s also shown that people will listen. This isn’t some obscure auteur writing an op-ed column; it’s a guy who’s proved again and again he can correctly gauge the tastes of the American public (probably better than most politicians, actually).

And besides, after two days of spin and fear-mongering from Republican leaders and their cable-news water carriers on healthcare, it’s nice to see someone from the other side firing back, even if it’s on a different issue. Democrats may soon start getting out there and selling the healthcare package. But as a plan to minimize the fallout is developed by people who lead the party, it’s encouraging in the meantime to hear some candid words from a person who leads the box office.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photos, from top: Glenn Beck. Credit: Jose Luis Magana / Associated Press. James Cameron. Credit: Mustafa Quraishi / Associated Press


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