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David Roberts

David Roberts

Posted: December 1, 2006 06:00 PM

Using Hollywood


grist.org

Variety's special package on the greening of Hollywood is pretty good. Joel Makower has a nice rundown.

Joel says one thing I'd like to follow up on:

... the last thing the environmental movement -- always struggling for relevance as a mainstream force in America and elsewhere -- needs is a closer alliance with the left-leaning Hollywood elite.

He doesn't make too much of this, but it's a common sentiment, so it's worth addressing.

Movement conservatism has spent the last 30 years consciously and strategically demonizing powerful progressive constituencies: unions, lawyers, the entertainment industry, academia, and the entire city of San Francisco. It has been extraordinarily successful in this effort, establishing a number of narratives and stereotypes so ubiquitous that even progressives have come to internalize them.

One such narrative is that "Hollywood" is a decadent Sodom totally out of touch with Real American Values. The crucial corollary is that associating with "Hollywood" is a liability for progressives.

As my granddad used to say: "You think this bourbon's gonna to refill itself, boy?"

Oh, wait. The relevant granddadism is: "I haven't seen horseshit like that since a horse shit on my foot!" (He was not what you'd call an elegant wit.)

Hollywood is extremely influential, both economically and culturally. And you know why? Because everyone, in every demographic, in every part of the country, consumes its products. You think Desperate Housewives would be so popular if no one in Red America watched it? You think Red Americans don't go see the movies and buy the Happy Meals and buy their kids the action figures? You think Red American housewives don't read People and US Weekly?

American celebrities are the arbiters of cool, and not just in America either. Joe and Jane Smith in Small Town, USA might not like it, but trust me, their daughter wants to sleep with George Clooney too. If George Clooney says it's cool to give a damn about climate change and energy use, that makes an impression on her.

The casual contempt for celebrities shared by cable news talking heads, liberal intellectuals, and evangelical preachers is itself a form of elitism. All of America is awash in Hollywood, every hour of every day. Hollywood is an extraordinarily powerful weapon, a bunker buster, a tactical nuke. If we let right wing bloviators talk us out of using it, we're dumber than they are. And that ain't easy.

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