INSIDE THE BELTWAY: In today’s sound-bite culture, the line between politics and showbusiness has become blurred

People who went to the movies a lot in the old days, and who talked about movies and assessed them for friends and (occasionally) the public, could always count on a few iron laws.

People who went to the movies a lot in the old days, and who talked about movies and assessed them for friends and (occasionally) the public, could always count on a few iron laws.

People who went to the movies a lot in the old days, and who talked

about movies and assessed them for friends and (occasionally) the

public, could always count on a few iron laws.



The first was that no movie ever portrayed a political event - a

convention, a speech, election night, strategy talks or a fundraiser -

accurately.



There were always too many people or too few, and they were doing things

Hollywood thought politicians did (wave signs, make crooked deals sotto

voce, talk portentously about ’the people’), but which never rang

true.



The second law was that no movie ever portrayed sports

realistically.



The crowds were done wrong, the action was always stilted and awkward

(except in Heaven Can Wait, which used actual film from games of the

stilted and awkward Los Angeles Rams), and the players and managers

sounded ridiculous, except in comedies like Bull Durham.



The reason for all of this seemed clear - the people who made movies

didn’t know anything about politics and even less about sports. That’s

all changed, of course. For Love of the Game is a wonderful movie,

precisely because it seems authentic, and Kevin Costner has mastered

even the glances and grimaces of a pitcher in trouble.



But movies and politics? Hollywood has not only learned about politics,

it has merged with it, and vice versa, as a recent article by Gerald

Seib in The Wall Street Journal makes clear. (Candor compels me to say I

am quoted twice, albeit briefly, in the article.)



Politicians now behave the way Hollywood sees them - it’s nature

imitating art to the point where there is little difference. The

techniques of campaigning have come down to the quick sound bite,

appearance is all and perception is no longer often as important as

reality - it is reality.



So even in Congress, we are witnessing little but posturing, even as

great national problems remain unresolved and both parties are working

hard, not to resolve problems - taxes, health insurance, minimum wage,

campaign financing, public education - but to test for their impact on

the marginal seats.



And the Reform Party nomination looks as though it will be a contest

among a TV commentator with a keen sense for the combative sound bite, a

telegenic land developer/casino tycoon with an ego as big as all

outdoors, and an ex-wrestler - all entertainers.



And don’t forget - it was a Hollywood writer-producer who scripted and

directed President Clinton’s national TV denial of ’sexual relations

with that woman.’ Hollywood seems ready to make huge errors, in politics

just as in entertainment; that was the Eyes Wide Shut of this

administration.



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