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The Hollywood Act By: Chris Weinkopf
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, September 18, 2000

Los Angeles Daily News | September 18, 2000

WE’VE ENTERED the last act in this summer’s surprising blockbuster, Mr. Gore Goes to Hollywood. Like all good love stories, this romance has its ups and its downs. Our protagonist charms Tinseltown, then turns his back on her, only to show up with a box of chocolates and a bouquet of roses the next day.

With Gore threatening to sock the entertainment industry with Federal Trade Commission regulation if it doesn’t “clean up its act,” his on-screen love affair with Hollywood seems to have entered a phase of disillusionment.

Tinseltown might feel miffed by the snub, but this spat won’t last long.

For the moment, Gore needs to acknowledge voters’ rightful contempt for Hollywood’s seedier productions. But if he wins the White House, Gore will be more than ready to re-ignite the old flame with the industry that has already spent more than $13 million on his campaign.

Grousing about the sad state of modern entertainment is an old strategy, copied from Republicans, who most famously put it to use back in 1992-when Dan Quayle derided Murphy Brown. Republicans have long despised Hollywood, and the feeling’s mutual.

This year, the GOP wasted no time seizing upon the FTC report, with Sen. John McCain angrily denouncing the absence of film-industry executives at his Senate Commerce Committee meeting last week. Lynne Cheney, wife of the GOP’s vice-presidential candidate, poignantly observed that “there is a problem with the product they market, no matter how they market it.”

Just as the report gave Gore a chance to convince voters that, unlike his boss, he takes their moral concerns seriously, it also gave the GOP an opportunity to take another shot at its favorite target.

Yet, for all the bipartisan bluster over Hollywood’s excesses, it’s doubtful that either party will actually push for the government to crack down on them.

Hollywood and Gore have had their lovers’ quarrels before, going back to 1985, when the then-Tennessee Senator and his wife participated in a Senate hearing on explicit rock lyrics. According to Daily Variety, the Gores met with industry officials in 1987-as Al was preparing for his first presidential bid-to assure them that the hearing was “a mistake.” He wouldn’t mess with Hollywood again. Just last year, during a meeting with potential show-business contributors, Gore reportedly denied any responsibility for the FTC report he now thumps, claiming that the inquiry was exclusively Bill Clinton’s idea.

By now, Hollywood knows the Vice President well enough to understand that, despite some occasionally unkind rhetoric, he knows who his friends are. He can be counted on to defend their interest. That’s why executives from Miramax, DreamWorks, Warner Brothers, and Fox are content to keep holding fundraisers in Gore’s honor.

As for Republicans, as much as they abhor gratuitous sex and violence in the media, they tend to abhor federal meddling that might border on censorship even more. Their anti-Hollywood posturing is merely a more sincere version of the Democratic variety-a shorthand way to communicate common values to the voters, not a prescription for public policy.

All of which makes the spectacle of last week’s hearings somewhat amusing, with elected officials from both parties grandstanding on an issue they have no intention of addressing legislatively.

Which is just as well. The federal government couldn’t regulate Hollywood’s marketing without infringing on the content of its advertising, if not its productions. That would get the federal bureaucracy into a field in which it has no rightful place, with little prospect for actual improvement.

Gore is right to condemn Hollywood’s marketing, but the problem runs much deeper than that. Hollywood produces trash because there’s a massive market for it, and entertainment is a demand-driven industry. Nothing short of a nationwide awakening of consumer consciousness-in which mass numbers of people simply stop watching grotesque films or purchasing offensive CDs-will compel Hollywood to tamper with what has proven to be a financially successful formula.

Junk entertainment is not so much the product of what Gore might describe as “powerful forces” conspiring against American consumers, but of powerful vices that too often compel us to compromise our better judgment.

No amount of legislation or federal tinkering is likely to raise the nation’s lowest common denominator, let alone persuade Hollywood to ditch profitability in favor of decency. Conversions of the heart take place one at a time, inspired by faith and virtues, not election-year politicking.

© 2000 Los Angeles Newspaper Group

Posted on FrontPageMagazine.com 9/18/00

Chris Weinkopf is an editorial writer and columnist for the Los Angeles Daily News. To read his weekly Daily News column, click here. E-mail him at chris.weinkopf@dailynews.com.

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