Why do we at Big Hollywood and elsewhere in the conservative blogosphere even care about James Cameron and his stupid eco-dreck cartoon? Or about Tom Hanks’ insights into the nature of American-Japanese relations World War II? Or about the conclusions Matt Damon has drawn about the Iraq war that he’s derived as a result of his years of intense work at being a movie star?
Well, at one level, we don’t care. James Cameron is another overpaid Hollywood petty tyrant with twin talents for shooting exciting action set pieces and for overtly and covertly serving up sophomoric lefty clichés. Tom Hanks seems to be a nice enough guy, but I’d as soon head to him to diagnose a mysterious groin lump as I would to get a dissertation on the racial undertones of the War in the Pacific. And Matt Damon is just a half-wit whose advocacy of gravity would be enough to make me oppose it.
But on another level, we do care because these folks and their antics provide proverbial “teaching moments” that help define the nature of the opposing sides in this cultural insurrection. And it is an insurrection – in the case of Big Hollywood, a war between wily guerrillas with laptops, a few affiliated websites, a radio show and some busy Twitter accounts, and that unwieldy, lumbering cultural behemoth we call Hollywood.
Taking on these big, fat targets allows us to illustrate big, fat points. Like in judo, their bulk can be turned against them. Some trust fund hipster can rent out a 99-seat non-Equity performance space off Melrose Boulevard to do his one-man show about how George Bush’s LGBT policies made him cry bitter tears of rage, but pummeling the twerp is little more than conservative onanism – amusing for a short intense period, but not really getting the job done. But when it’s the King of the World acting the fool, clobbering him publicly is fun and useful.
When big targets fall, they fall hard, and the edifice that these folks have built – a previously unchallenged construct of poorly thought-through liberal received wisdom passed on in their work and in their interviews as if there was no debate – is really just a house of cards. And we’re out to knock it all down.
Back to our pal James Cameron. If you look through the Big Hollywood archives, you will find dozens of columns that talk about him and his various antics. And, if you read the comments – and I usually read the comments on my articles (BTW, that was a profound insight, “Right_Rules_2010”; you can just bite me, “ProudSinglePayerFan”) – you’ll find some people rushing to his defense:
“Leave him alone!”
“He’s an artist and you should respect him!”
“If you don’t like his movies, don’t watch them!”
Nah – that’s missing the point. Talking about the hideous, anti-American military point of view that is the very essence of Avatar simultaneously undermines the power of Hollywood to set the cultural agenda while reinforcing and supporting the unorganized but sympathetic majority of Americans who see what Cameron is saying but feel isolated and alone among the slack-jawed masses owwwing and ahhhing at the bright, shiny explosions interspersed between the trashing of businesspeople, our military and our culture.
An incident to illustrate: I’m at lunch and a server we know mentions she had seen Avatar. Being functionally unable to withhold any thought crossing my mind, I went off on its anti-soldier agenda. A few days later, she mentions that she had thought about it and realized that people were cheering when soldiers were being killed – something that especially disturbed her as she has a brother in the Air Force.
That’s the point. She got a different, conservative perspective on the Hollywood crap she’d been served up and she thought about it. She came to her own conclusion – not mine, not Cameron’s. When you hear cultural static about “different perspectives” and “fresh voices” from the Hollywoodoids, don’t believe a word of it. “Different perspectives” are their mortal enemy, and they will do their level best to strangle in the crib any “fresh voice” they hear chiming in. Their bizarre cultural positions survive only as long as they can project the illusions of unanimity and consensus.
Well Hollywood, it ain’t unanimous, and there is no consensus. And that should terrify you. Not that a few articles are going to change the game; what’s going to change the game is when minds open and change. That isn’t going to happen today, or even tomorrow. But it’s already starting to happen.
What is their counter-insurgency strategy? Step One is to deny, deny, deny – and weakly. Step Two is to play the victim, but don’t buy into the “James Cameron as Martyr to Free Speech” meme. We don’t want to organize boycotts of people whose foolish opinions infest their films. We don’t want to ban movies or silence anyone, including James Cameron. Contrary to the views of many liberals, the First Amendment applies to everyone, not just those we agree with – and some of us have deployed to protect the right of immature nitwits to spout off with their unalloyed idiocy and will gladly do so again.
Yes, we’d die to protect the rights they take for granted. Victims of fascist oppression these folks ain’t. Practitioners maybe, but not victims.
Our job is not to censor but to identify and illuminate the spoken and unspoken cultural and political agendas these Hollywood icons are pushing. But does it work? Does the harsh disinfectant of the spotlight make a difference? The evidence says it does. Once again, take James Cameron – please.
In January, after it opened, Cameron screened Avatar for sailors in Bahrain. Screenings in the Middle East are not uncommon – the cast of Star Trek did it back before that film premiered. The timing just seemed odd for Cameron – coming after he was slammed in Big Hollywood and elsewhere, over his demonstrably anti-soldier movie. Perhaps Cameron really does adore our troops, despite his unbroken track record to the contrary. Perhaps his well-known likability and love of his fans compelled him abandon the comforts of his multi-mansioned compound to show his support for our men and women in uniform. Or perhaps he thought that he needed to do some quick PR to address the growing chorus here and throughout the conservative media calling out his movie’s unsubtle subtext.
The point is not to stop people from seeing Avatar – even if it were, that boat has sailed. Nor is it to prevent people from making the movies they want. The point of this cultural insurgency is, instead, to challenge the mighty and to let them know that their Hollywood world might be full of yes-men and suck-ups but the media gatekeepers they used to depend upon for protection from uncomfortable questions and critiques are too busy trying on barrels down at the bankruptcy court to cover for them any longer.
You want to be a leftist? Awesome. This is America – at least for now – and that’s your call. But you don’t have a right to keep other people from pointing out your biases or from commenting on and critiquing your agendas. Nor do you have the right not to look like a fool when you say something certifiably stupid. Welcome to the marketplace of ideas. Let’s see if anyone’s interested in buying what you’re selling now that Hollywood’s cultural trust has been busted and its ideological monopoly has gone the way of Ma Bell.
But writers, radio hosts and talking heads on popular but ideologically besieged conservative cable stations are not the most important part of the equation. People are. The target of any competent insurgency is winning over the people because when the people start actively participating in the revolt the old order is through.
Everyone plays a part – and the most important part is yours. Watching a TV show where the villain is – surprise – a businessman? Call it. Is a movie portraying our troops as nincompoops, psychos or both? Call it. Are your kids staring at the boob tube as some talking turtle busts out with a rap perpetuating the global warming fraud? Call it. When you join in and call them on it, then we’ve started taking our culture back.
King of the World? Hey Cameron, it turns out we’re not so into kings in this country. Deference? Respect? Awe? You can pay your minions to give you those. The rules have changed. As long as you and your Hollywood buddies have dumb things to say about politics, history, culture and our country, you’re getting called on them.
Hasta la vista, Jimmy. We’ll be back.