Stein and the Academy Awards

I’m not a big Academy Awards fan, I would watch it with friends and family, but largely don’t really care too much. This year I hadn’t even seen many of the films up for awards (I really am a movie fan though!) and I still don’t know who won. That being said, Ben Stein has wrote an essay in The Amercican Spectator about the award show that I have seen in a few places around the blogosphere. I found it particularily insightful and worthy of reproducing here.

Now for a few humble thoughts about the Oscars.

I did not see every second of it, but my wife did, and she joins me in noting that there was not one word of tribute, not one breath, to our fighting men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan or to their families or their widows or orphans. There were pitifully dishonest calls for peace — as if the people we are fighting were interested in any peace for us but the peace of the grave. But not one word for the hundreds of thousands who have served and are serving, not one prayer or moment of silence for the dead and maimed.

Basically, the sad truth is that Hollywood does not think of itself as part of America, and so, to Hollywood, the war to save freedom from Islamic terrorists is happening to someone else. It does not concern them except insofar as it offers occasion to mock or criticize George Bush. They live in dreamland and cannot be gracious enough to thank the men and women who pay with their lives for the stars’ ability to live in dreamland. This is shameful.

The idea that it is brave to stand up for gays in Hollywood, to stand up against Joe McCarthy in Hollywood (fifty years after his death), to say that rich white people are bad, that oil companies are evil — this is nonsense. All of these are mainstream ideas in Hollywood, always have been, always will be. For the people who made movies denouncing Big Oil, worshiping gays, mocking the rich to think of themselves as brave — this is pathetic, childish narcissism.

The brave guy in Hollywood will be the one who says that this is a fabulously great country where we treat gays, blacks, and everyone else as equal. The courageous writer in Hollywood will be the one who says the oil companies do their best in a very hostile world to bring us energy cheaply and efficiently and with a minimum of corruption. The producer who really has guts will be the one who says that Wall Street, despite its flaws, has done the best job of democratizing wealth ever in the history of mankind.

No doubt the men and women who came to the Oscars in gowns that cost more than an Army Sergeant makes in a year, in limousines with champagne in the back seat, think they are working class heroes to attack America — which has made it all possible for them. They are not. They would be heroes if they said that Moslem extremists are the worst threat to human decency since Hitler and Stalin. But someone might yell at them or even attack them with a knife if they said that, so they never will.

Hollywood is above all about self: self-congratulation, self-promotion, and above all, self-protection. This is human and basic, but let’s not kid ourselves. There is no greatness there in the Kodak theater. The greatness is on patrol in Kirkuk. The greatness lies unable to sleep worrying about her man in Mosul. The greatness sleeps at Arlington National Cemetery and lies waiting for death in VA Hospitals. God help us that we have sunk so low as to confuse foolish and petty boasting with the real courage that keeps this nation and the many fools in it alive and flourishing on national TV.

“Hollywood is above all about self: self-congratulation, self-promotion, and above all, self-protection.” That statement hits things on the nose. It is sad when so many people can get caught up in Hollywood’s notion of the way things are. I am generally not one to buy in to the world-view of a group that is largely uneducated about what they speak, let alone one who is so loudly vocal about that which they don’t understand. I wish Hollywood would just make good films and stay out of the realm of social commentary.

Categories: Social Commentary
  1. salmypal
    March 8th, 2006 at 20:46 | #1

    Yes! Everything he said and ditto what you said.

  2. March 11th, 2006 at 05:26 | #2

    The brave guy in Hollywood will be the one who says that this is a fabulously great country where we treat gays, blacks, and everyone else as equal.

    But unfortunately he would be lying…

  3. March 11th, 2006 at 11:10 | #3

    Look, I understand what you are saying, but all I have to say is “Speak for yourself.” If we live in the mentality that “society doesn’t treat everyone equal, so therefore I am not under any strict obligation to either” then nothing will be any different. So don’t make blanket statements that don’t really help.

  4. March 11th, 2006 at 12:11 | #4

    It is you putting words into my mouth. I think it`s the American right who approaches everything with the attitude that criticism is somehow un-American and therefore dangerous. Gay rights for example, the model for which came from America, but neither political party has a coherent policy towards equality, in fact, quite the reverse. Many states do not have any equality legislation at all, several have legislation which is specifically against equality.
    Even on the subject of Hollywood, Ben Stein conveniently forgets that the vast majority of their output is unquestioningly pro-American - and in what way is a film like Brokeback Mountain un-American?

  5. March 11th, 2006 at 12:13 | #5

    This is very strange. The post I made here is now gone. Wonder if that is a bug from cocomment?

    Here is what I had said: Ahhh, but you miss one thing. Arent’ the best films those that do an artful job of ‘social commentary.’ Those films that acutally go a distance to change people’s views and influence their lives?

    Odd that the post disappeared. I hope cocomment isn’t something that is broken more than it is fixed. :(

  6. March 11th, 2006 at 13:44 | #6

    I disagree - criticism is a good thing, as long as it is constructive. Not all criticism is created equal.

    Being created equal does not mean that everyone should have the same rights in every circumstance. For instance, I think that those that are gay are created equal to everyone else, but I don’t think there should be homosexual marriage because marriage is a religious institution and not a “right” given by the state.

    Stein wasn’t necessarily commenting on the “American-ness” of the films, but the pompus actors (etc.) that think they are somehow contributing to freedom and that they are some sort of authority on pretty much any issue.

    Sorry that the comment got lost Fordee! Not sure what happend!

    I think I would agree with your comment David, but that doesn’t mean that now the actors are now somehow able to make their own social commentary. If they were informed and actually knew what they were talking about, than that is a different story. It just seems that most hollywood types think that, because they have a platform, they can spew whatever nonesense they want. Now that is similar to a blog I suppose, but in the case of bloggers, it is much easier to ignore what I have to say. For some reason, the “general public” will actually listen to hollywood for the simple fact that they are hollywood, not because of any important reason.

  7. March 12th, 2006 at 07:56 | #7

    Are you saying that all actors are mis-informed? I would point you to Angelina Jolie for one… citizen of the year. The works she does has such a huge impact on the people of Africa.

    As for your comment: “marriage is a religious institution and not a “right” given by the state.” I simply do not agree. My wife and I were not married in a church. We are still “married” and we have rights granted to us by the state. So I just don’t get your point.

    I know where you are coming from and I think it’s fine that you feel that way. But you must understand that not everyone sees it through their religious scope.

    I think it is simply a civil rights issue. But, that’s through my perspective.

  8. March 12th, 2006 at 11:04 | #8

    I am saying that actors are more mis-informed than not. It is definitely true that there are many who use their fame (and money) for good causes, but it seems that most just talk rather than act.

    I understand that my views on marriage are not going to sit well with everyone. I do think that the state is responsible for give certain rights to those who are married. My belief is just that the state should be out of the marriage business as that is a religious institution. I do think that the state should give out rights to civil unions. Functionally, “marriage” and “civil union” don’t really have any differences, but it my eyes, marriage is a religious institution that the state should say nothing about.

  9. Peter Rivendell
    March 13th, 2006 at 01:39 | #9

    I really think you need to see that there is a difference between treating people as equals and making piecemeal decisions based on your own perceptions about what rights you allow to those you claim to consider as equals - you can`t say you consider people to be equal and then deny them employment rights, housing rights, legal protection, recognition of thir status and relationships etc. I`m not saying this is your entire position. The right, like the Catholic church takes the view that they have no problem with gay people as long as they don`t exist.

  10. March 13th, 2006 at 11:43 | #10

    I agree Peter. Two things that Christianity has taught me is that all people truly are created equal and that all people are sinners.

    “you can`t say you consider people to be equal and then deny them employment rights, housing rights, legal protection, recognition of thir status and relationships etc.” I agree. That is why I think it should be civil unions (which provides legal rights) and not marriage, which is a religions institution. And that is not meant to suggest that religious institutions can treat people unequally, but that they are to reject sin. I know it is not PC of me to call homosexuality sin, but I will say what I must. The people are to be treated equal, the sin is to be rejected. I know you aren’t going to like that, but also remember, that I am a sinner as well.

  11. Peter Rivendell
    March 13th, 2006 at 15:44 | #11

    Well, Matt, I`m not religious, but we seem to be in some kind of agreement at last.

  12. March 14th, 2006 at 00:35 | #12

    Heh, well I will gladly take that, sometimes we can’t expect more I suppose.

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