Jewish World Review Oct. 6, 2000 / 7 Tishrei 5761
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- WHEN DID show business become vicious? I don’t mean the way they conduct their business affairs -- those murky waters have always been shark infested. And I’m not talking about the entertainment itself, either -- although Heaven knows there’s plenty of viciousness in contemporary movies, television and music.
I’m referring to the hateful rhetoric and personal attacks emanating from the liberal Democrats who work in the entertainment industry and aimed at anyone who doesn’t share their political and/or social views -- primarily the Republicans. Interestingly, the most vicious name-callers also happen to be among the most successful people in show business -- people at the highest creative levels, i.e. the movie stars, the directors, the producers, the studio chiefs.
What’s their problem? They’re working in the glamorous business they love. Many have reached the pinochle of success in their chosen field. They’re rich and famous. But why are they so angry? And why are these people -- these very same people who consistently profess tolerance and compassion for all -- so completely intolerant and uncompassionate with those who disagree with them? They seem to regard the opposition party, not simply as people with a different opinion, but as the evil enemy who must be destroyed at all costs. They attack with crude, nasty remarks, low-blows and cheap shots hurled with total confidence and self-righteousness.
This consuming hatred, which entertainment folk apparently feel totally justified spewing out at the top of their voices, is something that, I believe, is relatively new. I don’t remember hearing of such blatant antagonism coming from previous generations of show biz people.
During the early years of the 20th Century, Will Rogers won acclaim as the nation’s foremost political wit on stage, in movies, on radio and in his newspaper column. Throughout the 20’s and into the 30’s, Americans found wisdom as well as humor in his words. Many of Rogers’ celebrated remarks have become legendary: “Once a man holds public office, he is absolutely no good for honest work.” Many of his lines are just as valid as when they were first uttered 70 years ago: “You could keep politics clean if you could figure out some way so your government never hired anyone.”
His comments were funny, insightful and clever -- never spiteful, never hurtful or mean. “The Democrats take the whole thing as a joke. Republicans take it serious, but run it like a joke.”
The first time I heard stars taking potshots at politicians was in old movies and television. As a kid listening to Bob Hope and other early television comedians doing political humor, I knew it was all just harmless kidding. There may have been elements of truth in the gags, but nothing intended to produce any real damage to anyone.
The old Bing Crosby /Bob Hope road pictures were full of good-natured ribbing at both the Democrats and Republicans. They did equal opportunity jokes aimed at both parties. There was no vindictiveness, no hostility, no personality slurs. It really was all in good fun.
Johnny Carson managed his political barbs in the same way -- tasteful and even-handed. But those were different times and television was kinder and gentler -- even as late as ten years ago.
Now, almost daily, we read and hear the personal attacks and name-calling by high profile celebrities attending Democratic fund-raisers. At one such recent event where Vice President Gore and Senator Lieberman were in attendance, Bette Midler got up to the mike and felt compelled to call George W. Bush an “a-- h---.” On the same evening Julia Roberts explained she could never vote Republican because, how can you vote for a party that comes just before “repulsive” and right after “reptile” in the dictionary?
If you think a comment of that sort is made all in good fun, consider if a Republican had said, “I cannot vote for Gore because how could you vote for a party that comes right after ‘deadbeat’ and just before ‘demonic’ in the dictionary?” Most in the mainstream media would have screamed bloody murder.
At another fund-raiser in Hollywood, the former executive producer of the “Seinfeld” show, Larry David, gave a speech just before Joe Lieberman spoke, in which he called Bush a smirking lightweight who makes it possible for a lot of idiots to actually consider running for office. David, who is Jewish, went on to mock Gov. Bush’s faith by stating that, “Just like Bush, I have found Christ in my 40’s. He came into my room one night and I said, ‘What, no call? You just pop in?’” Again, if the tables were turned and a Republican gentile had made a similar joke concerning Senator Lieberman’s faith, one can well imagine the howling over the “mean-spirited” conservatives.
During Clinton’s impeachment trial actor Alec Baldwin appeared on Conan O’Brian’s late night talk show and, in a fit of rage, proposed that Senator Henry Hyde be taken out and killed along with his entire family including his children and his children’s children (or words to that effect).
On another late night talk show, on a different network, the host of the show (as part of a “comedy” sketch) flashed a photo of Gov. Bush on the screen with a subtitle superimposed underneath it which read, “Assassin wanted.”
No longer the wit and wisdom of a Will Rogers or the sharp one-line zinger of a Bob Hope or a Johnny Carson -- we now have performers calling for the murder of politicians because they don’t agree with their politics. We live in horrific times.
This level of viciousness and hate from the Hollywood left might even have rendered an
entertainer as loquacious as Will Rogers
JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. You may contact him by clicking here.
09/29/00: Pop Porn