Washington — One of the gratifying developments of President George W. Bush’s World Crisis is the intellectual transformation of Hollywood, California. No longer is it merely a preserve of slob producers and air-head actors hustling for the philistines’ bucks. It is the intellectual jewel of the Western World.
Just when all the world’s intelligentsia had given up hope that there would ever again be a Periclean Athens, a Sartrean Paris, or a Greenwich Village, there emerges in a yeasty froth of intellectual vitality, Hollywood! Producers, directors, writers, drug therapists, and actors abound with ideas and philosophical principles that you can really sink your teeth into. Okay, so they do not write books. In fact many do not even have books or teeth — at least their natural teeth. Yet, like Aristotle in his Lyceum or Sartre in his cups, they are voluble with interesting observations and syllogisms that challenge the musty dogmas of conventional minds and even discomfit some of the troubled teenagers who turn out for their films.
Of all the gifted Hollywood philosophes, probably the greatest are the actors. I am not talking about those who have recently been arrested for shoplifting or for holding overnights with little boys. Those are the Hollywood ethicists, and their area of intellectual activity is too narrow for the general audience of this paper. Their knowledge is of the recondite sort that is best put on display at the Harvard Law School, as Ms. Joyce Brown once did. Ms. Brown, you will recall, was the Manhattan bag lady invited to lecture at the Harvard Law School in the 1980s between stints in various New York state institutions. No, the Hollywood intellectuals I have in mind are the actors who speak so eloquently to Mr. Bush’s World Crisis.
Mr. George Clooney comes to mind. Known by friends in his intellectual set as Looney Clooney he actually does read books, and newspapers, and Victoria’s Secret Catalogues. I have been told that he has collected every Victoria’s Secret Catalogue since the firm’s austere founding. Of Mr. Bush’s war he has said in contravention of the received wisdom, “You can’t beat your enemy anymore through wars.” Speaking directly to the President and in defiance of any Republican “knock in the night,” he speculated, “I believe he [Bush] thinks this is a war that can be won…there is no such thing anymore.” Mr. Clooney’s alternative to old-fashioned war would be a class-action lawsuit or possibly a spelling bee. Perhaps when Victoria’s Secret opens its Middle Eastern chain of see-through burkha boutiques, Mr. Clooney will serve as spokesperson.
Of course the Hollywoodian of the hour is the very intellectual Mr. Tim Robbins, star of such masterpieces as The Player and Bob Roberts. He too has postulated ideas on peace and war’s quaintness. To him the United States Marine Corps had best be replaced by the Rockettes. Yet Mr. Robbins’ cerebrations on conflict are even more complicated than Looney Clooney’s. After reading a newspaper column by the Washington controversialist Lloyd Grove, Mr. Robbins, ever the philosopher, accosted Grove at a post-Academy Awards party with the query, “If you ever write about my family again, I will [bleeping] find you, and I will [bleeping] hurt you.” Robbins probably meant that in the existential sense, though during the late war he left unremarked the political praxis of President Saddam Hussein.
Mr. Robbins was a recent lecturer at the National Press Club, occasioning me to telephone Mr. Grove and ask him about his tete-a-tete with the intellectual Mr. Robbins out in Hollywood. “I think he’s a terrific actor,” Mr. Grove replied. And he went on to add that both he and his girlfriend believed the great actor was “just acting” when he threatened Mr. Grove. Now that raises an interesting point. When are these renowned Hollywood minds not acting? Do they just pad through the world pretending? At the National Press Club the man whom Mr. Grove calls a “terrific actor” raised a finger dramatically skyward and exhorted his audience to “defy the intimidation that is visited upon us daily in the name of national security.” Apparently Mr. Robbins was frightened because the president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame canceled an invitation to him, owing to his hysterical views on our Three Week War. Said Mr. Robbins, the controversy was about “my right to express those views.” And “I am extremely grateful that there are those of you out there still with a fierce belief in constitutionally-guaranteed rights.” Then he called columnist Grove a “sadistic creep.”
Now is this just an act? The actor’s “constitutionally-guaranteed right” places no obligation on the Baseball Hall of Fame to endure him. And where was this First Amendment advocate when Hollywood’s hero president, Bill Clinton, was hounding journalists with Grand Jury investigations, threats to their bosses, and IRS investigations of his former victims, Paula Corbin Jones and Kathleen Willey? Yes, maybe these Hollywoodians are not as intellectual as I had thought. Maybe they are just poseurs, though if ever a chain of men’s underwear shops is opened for “sadistic creeps,” I think Tim Robbins would make an inviting poster boy.