I was watching “The Women,” the 1939 movie adaptation of the Clare Boothe Luce play, for the upteenth time.
I was suddenly struck by two wry exclamations in the crackling dialogue I really hadn’t paid attention to before. One from from Mary, played by Norma Shearer, who whines, “Oh Steven … what a bore!” when she finds out he is cancelling their much awaited vacation. Unbeknownst to her at the time, he cancels it for his lover, Crystal, played by Joan Crawford, who later in the movie (once she’s snagged Steven) complains loudly in a hilarious childlike snit from her bubble bath, “I’m so bored!” and tosses her cigarette somewhere in the soapy water.
Rich women, bored.
Well I ain’t rich, but I am bored. Bored with hearing about rich Hollywood types and their much ballyhooed alliance with Democratic politics. Tired of all the hand-wringing over whether cooing googly-eyed post-starlets like Sarah Jessica Parker are “hurting or helping” President Obama by making cringe-inducing ads on his behalf, saying patronizing stuff like he’s “the guy who says you should be able to marry whoever you want” and grossly distorted horsepucky like “he’s the guy who ended the war in Iraq.”
Give me a break. I’m bored.
Clare Boothe Luce would likely have been bored, too. She was a smart woman, powered by superior erudition and status, who wanted to be seen as an intellectual, not a celebrity. She went from acerbic society writer to foreign correspondent to Republican member of the House of Representatives. She later became President Eisenhower’s ambassador to Italy. She supported Barry Goldwater. She loved her politics.
A natural striver, Boothe Luce even went westward during her early writing days to try her hand at the Hollywood scene. But methinks she would have found today’s lot even more vapid than we give them credit for being. On her way up she became super-wealthy and snooty and was always full of herself (the most successful ones are), and that’s why Clare Boothe Luce was able to write that crackling dialogue so succinctly for “The Women.” She knew a phony when she saw one.
That’s why politicians and Hollywood types get together so well. When it comes down to it, they’re all a bunch of phonies, some just more so than others. Of course, Hollywood flocks to Democrats and Democratic causes because they are liberal and friendly to gays and feminists and humanitarianism and the environment and kind to animals and pro-choice and so on and so forth. We all know the tune. Democrats have one hell of a fundraising machine in Hollywood, and every four years they exploit it. So what? Nothing new here.
What I do find interesting is that unlike Boothe Luce’s time, Hollywood actors are no gods and goddesses bestowing their precious gifts of charm and glamor upon us from Mount Olympus. They’ve been crowded out by a merciless multimedia landscape that has marginalized their star power and forced them to compete on the same level as FarmVille, American Idol, Call of Duty, Perez Hilton, Facebook, smart phones, Kindles, Guitar Hero, TMZ, the Wii, and “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.” Like the effect of television on movies in the 1950s (but much worse), the Hollywood Colony of Beautiful People is desperately struggling against becoming obsolete.
So they pose naked for Playboy, star in trashy movies, write dumb books, and pimp themselves out to corporations (anyone see the brain-dead John Malkovich starring in the new iPhone 4S commercials? He’s not the only one) and to politicians. They lend their names to causes, get arrested for effect, testify before Congress, and flock to their buddy Arianna at The Huffington Post (another cross-brander’s dream,) where they tell us how to vote and what to think in op-eds alongside their favorite pols and celebrity columnists. Boooring!
Now they are raffling themselves off to us. Not to be outdone by celebrity activist George Clooney, whose “Starmeggedon” dinner party with Barack (and friends, Selma Hayek, Barbra Streisand, Robert Downey Jr., to name a few) netted $15 million for the president’s re-election campaign, Sarah “Sex in the City” Jessica Parker is offering dinner with herself, Obama and the first lady, and yes, Anna Wintour of Vogue to one very lucky raffle winner. Yikes! I’d rather go stone cold sober to a Ted Nugent fundraiser for GOP State Sen. Colby Cash. Oh, forgot that one was cancelled.
By the nature of ideological politics, Republicans do terribly with Hollywood and hipster celebrities in general. Rock-‘n’-rollers sue them for using their music on the campaign trail. They are lucky to get a few stalwart names to lend some glitterati to rallies (albeit at a much lower wattage) like Nugent, Chuck Norris, Bo Derek, Scott Baio, John Voight, Gary Busey, and Dean Cain.
Libertarians fare much better: in the last year, actor Vince Vaughn and singer Kelly Clarkson have both gushed their support for Rep. Ron Paul. Vaughn has even shared a stage with Paul and calls him “friend.”
But let’s face it, Hollywood hearts the Democrats, and that’s all there is to it.
Still, inquiring minds want to know: When celebrity entertainers make embarrassing videos and ads that are supposed to be “cool” to help get out “the youth vote” are they hurting or helping Obama?
It’s really a wash. According to the most recent polling, young people still lean liberal, and if they get off their butts to vote it is not likely because Will.I.Am told them to. And anyone offended is probably voting Republican already anyway.
Is Obama too close to Hollywood? Yes! And if the Republicans could be they would be too.
Do the $15 million bacchanals make him seem out of touch? Sure! But he’s already out of touch. They’re all out of touch. They deserve each other.
Is it unfair that Obama gets all this dough from the West Coast? No! The Republicans do just fine raising money — they proved they got the Right Stuff in Gov. Scott Walker’s re-election bid on Tuesday.
What does Hollywood get out of it? The most interesting question, surely. Relevance? Maybe. But serving as a tool or a hood ornament or a cash register can only get one so far on that road of the immortals, I would think. Obama hasn’t done a whole heck of a lot, when it comes down to it. He’s endorsed gay marriage yes, but his performance legislatively is not exactly gangbusters. At least not as gangbusters as dropping bombs and assassinating Americans…
So, I think aside from being boring, Hollywood is being used. Obama is laughing all the way to the bank and we’re keeping from nodding off.
Just remember, in the words of Mary’s cook in “The Women”: “You can’t trust none of ’em no further than I can kick this lemon pie!”