Ben Stein opines about the Oscars. The result? A mix of obvious truth and blithe ignorance.
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.
If he didn’t see one second of it, and his wife did, then she doesn’t “join” him in noting anything. She does the noting, and he accepts her report as genuine. But that’s just semantics. As to the lack of wellwishing to our troops overseas, well, it’s the Oscars. Any of that sentiment would have been as forced as the film montages. It’s a masturbatory award ceremony: what do you want? A large American flag backdrop and heartfelt renditions of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”?
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
Does Ben Stein think that George Clooney’s movie “stands up against” Joe McCarthy because they fear that he’ll rise, zombie-like, from the grave and attract his faithful legions? Or maybe—just possibly—because the issue of the media vs. the government is somehow a relevant topic? Oh, but wait, there’s more:
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.
Except…. we don’t treat gays and blacks as equal. Oh, and oil companies somehow manage to reap obscene profits even in a stale economic period. Oh, and America has one of the greatest wealth gaps in the world1. A guy who says these things isn’t brave; he’s shamefully dishonest.
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.
No doubt. Certainly, rich actors who think that they are working class heroes would be sadly mistaken, although those that portray working class heroes may be celebrated for their bringing the issue to the fore. Of course, there’s a big difference, not just semantically, between “attack[ing] America” and pointing out America’s flaws. If I pretended that America was just dandy, well, I’d not only be an idiot, but I’d be failing my civic duty as well. A movie that points out crooked politicians or bigotry is not attacking America in a malicious sense; it’s only pointing out flaws that need to be fixed, just as we have been fixing flaws since our inception as a nation. It’s no more honest for Stein to call Goodnight, and Good Luck a cowardly attack than it would be to call Mr. Smith Goes to Washington a cowardly attack. Or maybe it is: damn the 1920s and their liberal media!
And no doubt many people—Hollywood included—understand the grave, looming threat of Islamic terrorism and its primacy. No doubt there are celebrities making asses of themselves by proclaiming otherwise, though I have yet to hear of any. The fact that liberals try so desperately to fix America domestically is because they want to make it worth saving.
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.
All very valid points, though I would nitpick insofar as there was greatness in the Kodak theatre, because there is an incredible power in cinema, even if the Oscars turns it into a carnival. But I don’t ever recall calling a celebrity “brave,” only talented. Perhaps Ben Stein is chasing a ghost.