The great 17th century thinker Blaise Pascal warned of the twin evils of “megalomania” — the lust for power — and “erotomania” — the lust for, well, lust. I came to the mathematician/theologian’s thought some 30 years ago by way of the great 20th century writer Malcolm Muggeridge, whose explications of Pascal and other Christian minds probably haven’t much shelf life in Hollywood these days.
Was I the only one thinking about Pascal when Hollywood announced this year’s Oscar nominations? If you were as well, maybe we should start a club. In any case, here’s a rough, perhaps Pascalian take:
Think of Washington, D.C., as the capital, not only of this vast country, but also of megalomania. The characterization doesn’t exactly tax the imagination. It’s a given that newly elected county supervisors in the hinterlands dream of how to decorate the White House residence. And now, in the 21st century, even Indian tribes have adapted to Washington’s power-driven ways.
Then think of Hollywood as the capital of erotomania, defined more broadly as a spiraling pursuit of the flesh, the material, the glitzy. It doesn’t take a sour-faced Mrs. Grundy to recognize that the red-carpet obsession at filmdom’s various awards ceremonies has this as its object.
Exhibit A was that E! interviewer at the Golden Globes who groped one starlet’s breast and asked another about her intimate anatomy. It all seemed so blithely acceptable, presumably because the interviewer’s open sexual orientation made his impertinence laughably unlikely to produce titillation within himself.
So if it’s gay it’s OK? Tell that to the trainer in the sexual harassment class.
Titillation, rather, was the interviewer’s gift to the TV audience, which in return gives solid ratings to these awards shows. No, these shows haven’t really proliferated, having been around for years, but each has grown in stature and coverage in an endless round of self-congratulation.
HOLLYWOOD IS NOTHING IF NOT self-congratulatory, that trait being its most overpowering moral hazard. It’s evident enough that many who produce celluloid fantasy think of themselves, as Shelley did of poets, as the world’s unacknowledged legislators. This year Hollywood stands emboldened to take on Washington itself.
Actor George Clooney, whose two movies this year betray political ignorance of both the 1950s and the current era, made it clear when, accepting a Golden Globe, he began his remarks thanking Jack Abramoff. Meaning: Republicans, happy day, are about to lose big owing to their closeness to the disgraced lobbyist.
And just what items would be on Hollywood’s political agenda? The usuals, of course: a withdrawal from Iraq, tightened environmental regulations, alternative energy sources and transportation modes. At the top this year, as indicated by the industry’s favorite films: mainstreaming the homosexual life.
It’s an open secret that actors who’ve played against their own orientation, from Tom Hanks and Hillary Swank to Felicity Huffman, get extra points in the Oscar sweepstakes. And if the husky Phillip Seymour Hoffman can turn himself into Truman Capote, why, he’s reached a thespian marker.
All the chatter, of course, is about Brokeback Mountain, described by the Associated Press as a “cowboy love story.” Whoa! It happens the two male characters are sheepherders. Anyone knowledgeable of Wyoming history (nobody involved in the movie, safe to say, asked Dick Cheney) will know not to make that mistake. Call a cowboy a sheepherder, or vice versa, and let’s just say saloon brawls have been known to happen.
Actually worse: Bloody range wars were waged over whether cattle or sheep should graze the prairies. Compound that errant storyline — even if it was the great western writer Larry McMurtry who turned Annie Proulx’s short story into the screenplay — with gay pup tent frolics, and you’ve bollixed up two subcultural identities in order to celebrate another.
I remember sheepherders. I spent part of my kindergarten year in Casper, Wyoming (where Lynne and Dick Cheney, coincidentally, were finishing high school). Sheepherders didn’t even look like cowboys; many of them were of Basque origin. Their funny little hard-topped, half-size Conestogas sat desolately on some of the most unimaginably barren territory, nothing like the scenic landscapes I’ve seen on the Brokeback trailers. Of course, I was too young to imagine any canoodling going on inside. Almost certainly, there was none of the Brokeback sort.
I hasten to confess that I’ve not seen Brokeback. I also, sometimes, judge books by their covers. Why else do publishers spend big bucks on designing dust jackets? I might see it, sometime after the dust has settled, but I’m only now getting around to the DVD of Steve McQueen’s classic, The Great Escape. Right now Brokeback bids for my attention to make A Statement, and I know enough about that to comment. If I’m wrong, tell me.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online