'Game Change' Producer Tom Hanks: Everyman Status Revoked

'Game Change' Producer Tom Hanks: Everyman Status Revoked

The other morning, I noticed everyone on the MSNBC’s “Trader Joe Show” having a slobbering love-fest over the HBO film “Game Change” based on a portion of a book bearing the same name. Even the show’s blonde boxing “ring girl,” Mika Brzezinski, could not say enough good things about it and expressed great sympathy for the main character. That’s when I knew the fix was in, and a bad day was heading our way.

The TV movie’s Executive Producer is one Thomas J. Hanks, a man who made his mark and millions by mostly pretending to be someone else. Often times you will hear Hanks referred to as the “Jimmy Stewart” of our time and that is probably a fair comparison given his success in the same industry.

I guess the only significant difference between these two great American “pretenders” is that Stewart graduated from Princeton University and was a highly-decorated WWII Army Air Corps bomber pilot who flew the most dangerous missions over the Hun homeland including the most difficult and tragic “Black Thursday” raid against the Schweinfurt ball bearing plants. Stewart retired from the Air Force Reserve as a Brigadier General.

In comparison, Hanks dropped out of college and pretended to be a soldier in one of his movies.

Now, don’t get me wrong, all indications up to this point are that Hanks is a decent guy, a good husband and father and all the important things that count in a man’s life. A college dropout done good, he is a great American success story, and he has done very well for himself in his professional-pretending career. Many would consider him one of, if not the best, pretenders in the last 20 years. I am a big fan myself, and I especially like some of his pretending roles best of all, and Hanks has the hardware to back it up.

But unlike the fantasy make-believe world that Hanks and his colleagues thrive in, the real world, beyond Brentwood, is a much more complicated and challenging place. Out here, facts and actions DO matter, and there are consequences for your actions. In our lower paying and terribly uninteresting world (from which Hanks humbly came), your words, your deeds, your record and the company you keep pretty much define who you are.

Julianne Moore Sarah Palin Game Change

That is why I was so disappointed by Hanks’ latest venture, an unfortunate made-for-TV endeavor. This film is a supposed insider, backroom view to the 2008 Republican ticket written by two guys who were not there. These two supposed journalists used an editorial cover called “deep background” (no named sources … AKA anonymous sources or, as we call it in middle America, gutless rumor mongering) to avoid having to prove anything in the book is factual or true and to keep from having to finger any liars for lying if they were called out for their lies.

Nice work if you can get it.

The book’s changing subtitle is currently “The Race of a Lifetime, How Obama Won the White House” but this movie version somehow forgets to go into that small “Obama” part. The book is 23 chapters in total, and more than half of the book (14 chapters), is focused on the heated Obama-Clinton primary race. Three more chapters are put forth on the Republican primary (yawn), and the final six chapters are about the national election.

So, unlike the great BIG book, the TV movie rendition is completely focused on just the end game six chapters. Even then, the film focused on just the Republican side of the election story and, if that were not enough, in Hanks’ film version of the book, he reduces the already greatly reduced story by half – again to only discuss Gov. Sarah Palin. Twenty-three chapters of a book now reduced to a film, telling the story of about 1-2 chapters of the material. Talk about a Cliff Notes version!

Hanks and his hip, Hollywood entourage choose not to tell anything about the bulk of the book story, and they completely ignore the eventual winner and first African-American President. He chose instead to “stalk” Palin yet again. Now we all know what the real life Hanks is all about and what kind of Everyman he ain’t.

Ed Harris as John McCain

Only knowing of the happy Hollywood Hanks that the controlled and produced entertainment image machine conjures, I became very discouraged as I watched his B actor-laden show. Its terribly unflattering presentation of a person with a well documented and highly acclaimed record was just contrary to all of the documented history. The deliberate and obviously calculated character assault just choked the life right out of the film and stifled what could have been a fascinating production. In reality and because of her unprecedented success, Palin had been seen by McCain’s political operatives as the only person in red state America who could save a floundering Presidential run by an aging, over-the-hill war hero and political cast away.

The operatives were right and in real life and in the movie (however so briefly mentioned), the selection worked and re-energized a stale and stalled campaign as the Governor vaulted the team into the lead and ahead of the new guy who looked great and sounded even better. However, you just get a little taste of that story in the film because that would be a distraction from the bigger and more important agenda.

In Hanks’ two-hour TV movie, this highly-successful grass-roots organizer is never depicted in any positive way. Throughout, we are asked to believe that, for a short ten weeks of her life, she suddenly lost the tenacity that earned the former point guard the nickname “Sarah Barracuda.” That for 10 lost weeks in the Fall of 2008 Palin has none of the characteristics that gained her the nickname back home of “The Wasilla Warrior.” That even her amazing public appearances and speeches and her great debate victory over the Senatorial sage, Joe “The Weave” Biden, were all carefully orchestrated scripts. All of this contrarian behavior according to unknown, “deep background,” unsourced and undocumented political insiders.

So, never in the film do we get an inkling of Palin’s anti-establishment, good old boy back breaking exploits that helped gain her the reputation for fighting for the little guy and “Going Rogue” (2 million copies). We are only presented with those deep background, out of the public eye occurrences that just a chosen few would know or witness. A few rare behind-the-scenes events as supposedly relayed from the greasy political mercenary parasites who, during every election cycle, come to feed off of politicians and their financial friends.

Hanks deliberately presents a most unsympathetic and incapable character that is completely contrary to all of her accountings before, during or since. He and his film operatives conjure up a weak, bitchy, often catatonic corpse with few socially redeeming qualities and incapable of any cognizant thoughts of her own.  Detached, depressed and downright rude is the film’s preferred depiction.

Julianne Moore sulks as Sarah Palin

Instead of a middle-class mom, Hanks tries to turn Palin into one of those gross, repulsive wives from the reality TV shows of Beverly Hills or the OC; people that tend to live and thrive in Hanks’ materialistic California world. Palin becomes a Peter Sellers-like Chauncey Gardiner from “Being There”  but on hormones. Who was this body-double Hanks wanted us to believe was the same person the rest of us saw during that brutal ten-week mud pull? The actress who pretends to be the Governor is made up to look like Palin, but she talks like Lennie from Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men.”

Somehow in Hanks’ film interpretation, the sitting Governor becomes a “Bizarro Palin” where everything in her world was the complete opposite of who she is. Something must have gone terribly wrong in the development of this project for it to drift so far off course. Somehow, some way, it had all boiled down to a favorite target and even then it had gone over the edge and into a deep, dark, bottomless abyss. 

How strange, I thought, afterwards. Before Palin arrives in the lower forty-eight for her ten-week national run for the top, she was, by all accounts, a highly successful chief executive and a political shooting star. By age 42, she had been a local council person, won two landslide elections in an Anchorage suburb as Mayor, lost in a primary run for Lt. Governor, been appointed by the standing Governor to sit on the most powerful commission in the State (Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission) from which she resigned on principal because of the cronyism, corruption and conflict within. Took on and whipped the former long-time U.S. Senator and sitting Republican Governor and then did the same to a three-time popular Democratic Governor. Then, after finally getting into the office of Governor, she immediately and relentlessly reformed the corrupt politics of the state and went toe-to-toe with the real power there – “Big Oil” – and by the way, she whopped up on them, too.

Sarah Palin

What a great story, just like in a great old movie script and the reason why she had an 80 percent approval rating and why she was ultimately called upon to the national stage to try to help snatch victory from a certain defeat. But, in Hanks’ Palin-centric version, that person ceases to exist upon arriving in Arizona for an interview with the McCain camp and never exists again till after the election is done. At least not according to the 3-H club, Heileman, Halperin and Hanks.

As we know now,  after her unsuccessful run for the Vice Presidency, Palin magically gets her mojo back and goes on to become the leader (National Community Organizer) of a new major organic national movement called the Tea Party. During that stint, she took the lead, the heat and the acclaim for spearheading the largest national election landslide in modern political history. With her battle cry of “Game on,” she fashioned a political donnybrook of which we have not seen in generations.

When all the votes were counted, the conservative Republicans won 63 congressional seats and 6  U. S.  Senate seats, multiple governorships and state houses as many hapless establishment Republicans and even more useless Democrats were swept from office in a tidal wave of voter backlash. The Tea Party Revolution was here to stay and its poster girl, Palin, had taken the challenge with no organization and no money and delivered a knockout.

At the end of the day, the mindless, catatonic, whiney, cry baby of a candidate who Hanks and company wants us to buy into, steamrolled the popular sitting President and his power-grabbing Capitol Hill cronies like no one before and she did it for all the world to see.  How lucky for them that none of this talent and chutzpah existed during the lost ten weeks of 2008. That could have been ugly, and Hanks may have never gotten a chance to produce that glitzy infomercial.

That 2010 election stunner verified what the dangerous Klansmen on the left already new. This girl is not conventional, she was incredibly relevant to a lot of folks out there and that makes her a dangerous threat to their enslaving entitlement ways. Therefore, she must be stopped and by any means necessary.  Intimidation, character assassination, fabrication are just a few of the tactics that have been and will be deployed. Bankrupt her, beat her down, destroy her family, go to the ends of the earth to find anyone with a grudge.  Even better,  just make stuff up and call it “deep background.”

Like Clarence Thomas before her, Palin gets an electronic lynching by the mindless media morons and  their special interest shock troops. If successful the slash and burn, march to the sea plan would leave nothing but a smoldering mound of ash where hope and promise had burned so brightly. And now we know, that our Hanks and his little TV film are part and parcel of that dastardly plan.

We thought, based on his pretend film characters and his spotless Hollywood reputation, that he was a man of chivalry, a man who would stand up to injustice and call out the bullies with us. He is, after all, known for his depictions of ordinary characters in extraordinary circumstances. But to our disappointment, Hanks took the low road and went “all in” with the unfortunate dark and corrupt forces of personal destruction.

For his part, Hanks goes above and beyond in his loathing portrayal of someone who, like him, overcame all the odds to achieve the American dream. Hard work, tenacity and determination made Hanks and Palin successful, and nobody ever handed them anything. But those virtues are only vices to Hanks now; a man on a different kind of mission.

The saddest part of this story is not Palin but that of Hanks. You see, he was in charge, and he could have risen to the occasion to be as great a producer as he is an actor. He could have taken this Capra-esque story and seized the moment to be heroic, but he passed on all that to instead be cool and loved and “with” the in-crowd. A great producer would have recognized the opportunity of a lifetime that this whole story presented. A first take on a strong, female character. Great characters in the form of the first African American candidate, a former first lady, the first Republican woman on the ticket and a certified American war hero. All of that in the midst of a world financial meltdown.

Trust me, material like that does not come along very often. But instead, Hanks, with his smirking co-conspirators by his side, decided to reduce it to the tabloid trash that it is and the very stuff he, of all people, should revile the most.

A simple question could have solved all of this. Did Heilemann & Halperin get it right, or did they just hear what they wanted to hear because of their own pre-disposition? Did it ever occur to anyone, especially Hanks, that McCain’s political manager, Steve Schmidt, and crew, ran a terrible campaign for a very marginal candidate and that they, in fact, needed a scape goat to cover their professional tracks ? Did the authors of the book ever wonder why nobody wanted to go on the record ? The whole thing just stinks.

The unfortunate truth here is that nobody in the food chain wanted to know the truth, so everyone involved fell into line and turned all their guns on Palin, no questions asked. By doing so, they have lost any credibility as journalists, as political experts, as filmmakers and honest brokers. 

Truth is stranger than fiction and like they say in the news biz … you can’t write this stuff.  I and millions of Tommy’s fans are disgusted by it all. We have been deceived and now we see the real Hanks fully exposed from behind the curtain. He is not the humble, “aw, shucks” guy we have been sold by the Hollywood media machine. He is, in fact, just another pompous, self-important pretender who thinks his unique pretending ability gives him license to pontificate.

Sadly, now, millions of us have taken Hanks off of his pedestal and moved him onto the back shelf as we have had to do with some of our other favorite artists. Yeah, that multi-millionaire perspective on us poor working stiffs is incredibly annoying and inappropriate but then again it seems to be a neat little hobby for the snobby jet-setting crowd. Super rich elite “one percenters” fighting the man and acting like they know something about us and our every day muddled middle-class lives. Spare us the pity and outrage and stop embarrassing yourselves by trying to channel the working class blues from your Malibu mansions. From out here in the hinterland, it looks terribly self serving.

You see, when you cut through it all, you guys got some real shortcomings, too, if you know what I mean, and the further you stray off the very produced and protected farm, the more obvious it becomes to the rest of us. A lot of time and money goes into creating those fabulous facades of fame, so why risk popping that beautiful bubble Hollywood has built for you? At the end of the day, we are a lot smarter than you all think, and some of us actually graduated from high school and college. As distracted as we are making our way everyday, we will find a way to figure it out. You guys make great art and we will take care of the heavy lifting and that makes the nation great. We will show up, turn to and get it done just like we have for generation, with big shoulders and bigger hearts.

It’s a free country, and you certainly have the right to state your opinion; but for the record, Tom, where we come from, your high-profile success does not give you the right to manufacture, manipulate and mock someone else’s accomplishments and reputation. We call that a “bully,” and we are the ones who will step in and take on a bully every single time, no matter what.

The elite progressive pedigree that you hang with seem to think they can beat down anyone and everyone if they are so inclined, and that it is their right and duty to do so. But trust me on this, they would be wrong. They better be very, very careful going down this path because in America, we live for the comeuppance and when it comes, it is a most beautiful thing.

Thanks, Tom, for your great performances; it has been a pleasure to witness a master at his craft. I’m just sorry it had to end like this. I am certain you and your cast will win many awards for your unfortunate little film, but like all things Hollywood, it, too, is a phony, fixed outcome created to make the most insecure among us feel relevant and good about themselves. I know you said one time in talking about being successful in the Hollywood that “unless you can be ruthless too, there is a good chance that you are going to disappear off the scene pretty quickly.” Well, you nailed that one, bubba and I’m sure you will get an award nomination in the ruthless category this year.

I am just glad to see that you are still getting quality work with those infomercials. I know it’s not a made-for-TV movie, but a man’s gotta eat. Who knows, this could be a whole new genre for you . No offense intended, Tom, and I hope none is taken. We just see things differently out here in the vast doldrums past Palm Springs. It’s “just the facts, ma’am” as the incorruptible Jack Webb character, Sergeant Joe Friday used to say back in the day.

But in this unfortunate case, the story is not true, and the names were not changed to protect the innocent. But you already knew that.


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