Friday, March 10, 2006

Starstruck With Their Own Stardom

Romans 12:3 (New International Version)

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”

I didn’t watch the Academy Awards this year. That makes it five years in a row now.

After reading some of the media reports yesterday I decided it might not be a bad idea to take a casual look at all the hype and pitch. It took me all of ten minutes to see that it was nothing but pure Hollywood, or as we’d put it out here in the Kansas Flint Hills, three or four hours of crap masquerading as glamour.

Here’s what some of the honorees had to say:

Ethan Van der Ryn (Sound editing for King Kong) – “We are so proud to stand here and accept this award on behalf of our whole crew who continue to prove that with unconditional creative collaboration, the impossible becomes possible (my emphasis added).”

Colleen Atwood (Costume design for Memoirs of a Geisha) – “Thanks to Sony Pictures who were brave enough to make a movie about a woman (my emphasis added).”

There you have it. Hollywood is all about making the impossible possible and the courage to make a movie about a woman.

But wait, there’s more. George Clooney, who won the Oscar for best supporting actor, chided those of us who believe Hollywood is seriously out of touch with the rest of America’s mere mortals:

“I would say that, you know, you are a little bit out of touch in Hollywood every once in a while. I think it’s probably a good thing. We’re the ones who talk about AIDS when it was just being whispered, and we talked about civil rights when it wasn’t really popular. And, we, you know, we bring up subjects. This Academy, this group of people gave Hattie McDaniel and Oscar in 1939 when blacks were still sitting in the backs of theaters. I’m proud to be part of this Academy, proud to be part of this community, and proud to be out of touch.”

What can we say? The shot’s been fired across our collective bows. If George Clooney is to be believed, Hollywood is the only American entity that cares about really important things.

Well, pardon me if I find myself at odds with these paragons of virtue, decency, and citizenship. I must have missed something along the way. I somehow have convinced myself that a lone woman moving to the front of a bus was an act of courage. According to Hollywood I must be wrong. Courage, they say, is making a film about a woman. And, fool that I am, I thought that working in a hospice with dying AIDS patients was more courageous and in touch with humanity than making a multi-million dollar film for thirty-five percent or more of the box office receipts.

Hollywood really doesn’t get it. The promos in this morning’s Kansas City Star are vivid testimonials to that reality. One reads, “The kind of movie for which Saturday nights were made.” Another proclaims, “One of the great love stories ever filmed.” As you read them they begin to develop a monotonous tone. “The first great American film of the year.” “A once in a lifetime event.” “A miracle!”

The more I read and see, the less I like. It seems to me that too much adoration and adulation is expected with the price of admission. Now, like anyone else I enjoy an occasional movie, but I don’t buy my ticket so that I can genuflect to some self-absorbed bevy of smaller-than-life stars and starlets. I like to sit in a theater to have a laugh or two, to shed a tear, or to even be enlightened. But the seven or eight bucks I pay to get in doesn’t entitle them to my worship and adoration. That I reserve for Someone who’s really in touch.

How out of touch is Hollywood? Very! Read the following description from Jonah Goldberg and you’ll see what I mean:

“One of my favorite tidbits about Hollywood that I’ve gleaned from the starstruck press is that a great many of its most accomplished stars don’t allow their staffs to look them in the eye. I’m not making this up.”

“It has been reported that Barbra Streisand not only discourages eye contact among staff but that she required hotel workers to leave her presence only by walking backward. Jennifer Lopez – who had 75 attendants help her prepare for a cameo on “Will and Grace – is also reported to forbid her subalterns to look into the window of her soul.”

About the only things missing are the Old Testament salutations – “Oh king, live forever!” “Oh, great queen, may you never die!” Come to think of it, they’ve just been modernized – “He’s the sexiest man alive.” “She’s the most stunningly beautiful woman in the universe.” Yes, Hollywood is badly out of touch!

I think I understand, in part, why Hollywood is so out of touch with the rest of us. With the flocks of attendants and reams of media attention telling them they are what they aren’t, all the adulation was bound to go to their heads.

I also think there’s another piece to this puzzle. We’re as much out of touch with them as they are with us. As Lazarus said to the rich man being tormented in the fires of hell, “There is a great gulf fixed between us.” Hollywood is equating courage with making million dollar films and self-promotion and the rest of us are working eight, ten, twelve hours a day, forty, fifty, or sixty hours a week so that we can make economic ends meet. Golfer Lee Trevino was once asked how much pressure he felt at those times he was lining up a putt, knowing that if he missed it he would only come in second in the tournament. “None,” he said. “If I miss it I’m going to go home with second place money, a half a million dollars or so. That’s not pressure. Pressure is eight hours a day, forty hours a week, ten bucks an hour, and four hungry mouths to feed.” Now that’s what courage and intestinal fortitude are all about!

Hollywood just doesn’t get it! Some of the stars, many of whom won’t even allow eye contact from us ham and eggers, need to come out and play in the traffic with us. They need to get in touch, and maybe if they do they’ll gain some respect from us in return.

A couple of days ago Peggy Noonan put it this way::

“But Mr. Clooney's remarks were also part of the tinniness of the age, and of modern Hollywood. I don't think he was being disingenuous in suggesting he was himself somewhat heroic. He doesn't even know he's not heroic. He thinks making a movie in 2005 that said McCarthyism was bad is heroic.”

“How could he think this? Maybe part of the answer is in this: The Clooney generation in Hollywood is not writing and directing movies about life as if they've experienced it, with all its mysteries and complexity and variety. In an odd way they haven't experienced life; they've experienced media. Most Americans aren't leading media, they're leading lives. It would be nice to see a new respect in Hollywood for the lives they live.”

Hollywood really is out of touch and it appears that it wants to stay that way.
It would be nice, indeed, to see a change for the better, but I’m not holding my breath at the ticket booth waiting for that to happen.

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George Clooney

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Pastor Mike said...

You tell it like it is, Phil!

Mark Daniels said...

A Hollywood journalist also pointed out in Keith Olberman's show last week that Hattie McDaniel, on the night she received her Oscar, had to sit in the back of the theater. So much for Hollywood being so out in front of the rest of society.

Mark Daniels

LadyGunn said...

This post is in this week's KS blogger roundup at

Ed Darrell said...

As Mr. Clooney noted, Hollywood gave an Oscar to an African American woman in 1939 -- more than 16 years prior to Rosa Parks' actions on the bus, and something that Rosa Parks would not gainsay.

Shame on you for claiming the mantle of Rosa Parks without warrant. Clooney was right. You should listen to Hollywood from time to time.

Ed Darrell said...

Mark, Hollywood's not perfect. But Phil didn't protest the 1939 Oscar awards for that.

Let's talk about the AIDS issue: Hollywood was right, and the anti-AIDS help people are (still!) wrong. At least Ronald Reagan had the heart and good sense to wake up and correct his errors. What's with the rest of you guys?

And did you see Clooney's movie? It was a great act of patriotism. It's a classic, instantly. It's flag-waving, Constitution-celebrating Americanism.

Shame on you guys for striking out at such Americanism. Whose side are you really on? (I ask that to open your eyes to what you're saying and doing -- I know what side you claim to be on; now live up to your claims.)

dog1net said...

To the point as always, but without necessarily being mean spirited. Yours is the brand of sarcasm I appreciate. Like you, I avoided watching the Academy Awards. One, I was still incensed over recently watching Jarhead, and two, I just couldn't reckon with the movies nominated for best picture. It seems this year may be remembered either as a feeble sigh or a yawn.

sdleisher said...

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God Bless