Sunday, October 18, 2009

I Love Movies: but fear movie stars can be hypocrites

One strong family memory, from our little tract house in Encino, is my mother, father and sisters in front of the television watching movies. Not blankly. Not hiding behind TV trays - that came later. We interacted with these movies, mimicked them, brought them into our lives. For us, James Cagney, Robert Mitchum, Betty Davis, Joan Crawford worked as a Saturday Night Live skit does today (or at least did in SNL's golden era) -- nonsense, mockery, a bit outre. Political correctness is tangential to this posting, but also central.

Jimmy Stewart in Harvey, Myrna Loy and William Powell as Nora and Nick Charles in The Thin Man series, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. An absolute panoply of white people. No argument there, but nonetheless charming and entertaining. (Sidebar: White people, myself one, are soon to be an antique race with celebrated charms and destructive and self-destructive flaws.) Writing and acting was crisp and my family would imitate lines, "cover" them. Have you ever heard jazz musician/guru Sun Ra's cover of "Elephants on Parade" from Dumbo? That's a best-case example of a cover: a celebration of the original through translation into his brainy, exotic, playful, husky, planetary music.

I'm a little planetary today, myself. I'm on the planet of outrage. A long list of celebrities, few of whom I have as much fun watching or imitating as the originals, have famously come to Roman Polanski's defense. They are signing petitions. They are declaring his a fair rape. They are choosing this escapade to make their stand, which is, essentially, "I'm a celebrity. What I do is different from what you, my public does. If I take advantage of a girl, hey, it's to be expected. If you do [and you are not rich or famous] well, do your time."

All these Hollywood stars have at stake is my anger which won't affect them in the least. Besides, they are not going to jail like Mohammed Ali did in his protest of the Vietnam War. I admit I feel a little odd coming out against Hollywood liberals; that's a Republican tactic, Rove-worthy; ah well, I've had stranger bedmates.

What really bothers me and has for years is the number of Hollywood liberals who say they are for gun control and more-or-less against smoking tobacco products - but who allow their photos - the movie star straddling a gun, holding a gun, coolly leveling his or her aim; coolly holding a smoke - on posters everywhere. On billboards, in the subways, in magazines, newspapers, everywhere.

Tell me. Does it do anyone any good to see --on a billboard or poster -- Jodie Foster or Denzel Washington or Bruce Willis or or or or or or or or hoisting a gun? I'm not taking on the content of movies. I'm taking on the advertising. If images aren't important then movie stars are of no importance anyway. If images are important, movie stars impact and create our culture -- on the street - I live in a walker's city where every block has bus stops or kiosks with posters parading either gun chic or sex chic (heroin chic/anorexic models + bra and skivvies ads showing genitalia through tight briefs or cleavage at eye level. So a six-month old in a stroller is prompted to begin his or her hypersexualized, violence-neutral life.

In the poetic tradition, violence, brutality, love, idylls, the seasons, melancholy, gods, God, spirituality, nobility, normalacy coexist. I don't know that one supercedes the other. Each phrase has an integrity. With the image, particularly cinematic images caught on a poster, the moment of battle or affection is caught to exemplify the abnormal as normal.

Hollywood. Get over yourself. Roman Polanski: Hey. I lived in L.A. when the Sharon Tate murders took place. It was a nightmare! You have been through horrific events, from childhood on. You are not a typical screw up, but in the long run, you did screw up. Jack Nicholson skates through. You don't. It might not be entirely fair, but it is real and it did happen.
No one contests the rape.

America imports violence and hypersexuality. I have a responsibility to speak up. Hollywood has a responsibility to shut its entitled mouth. It should be about entertainment. It should be about storytelling, a tradition old as woman, old as man, meant to instruct morally, artistically, playfully.

I realize the above is "all over the map." It's a first take. Mr. DeMille, I'll be ready for my second, soon enough.
photo of Angelina Jolie, great caregiver and earthmother. right.


  1. We love to watch murder, mayhem, rape, stealing, bombing, etc. on film. For real: that's another matter.

  2. Mim. "We." Is that you or the public. Either way, yes, that IS another matter. Achilles' shield gets a lot more airplay than his sword (so to speak) in the Odyssey. :) (I love watching mayhem on the silver screen.)