'Brokeback' sets the stage for latest political PR battle

I could almost see my friend Dan smiling in the e-mail. "Thanks for the mid-terms fodder. Every time we take on water, you guys bail us out."

I could almost see my friend Dan smiling in the e-mail. "Thanks for the mid-terms fodder. Every time we take on water, you guys bail us out."

By "us" he meant neo-conservative Republicans. By "you" he meant Hollywood. With "fodder" he refers to the seven Golden Globe nominations for Brokeback Mountain, the gay cowboy love story. A fundraiser who routinely fills campaign coffers by bashing "liberal anti-family values" of the entertainment industry, Dan is licking his chops over this gay gift horse like Halliburton eyeing a map of Syria. (Fellow Reaganites, Dan and I, until the bewildered Bush made me a recovering Republican.) I suspect Dan's already worked Brokeback into a stump speech. Something to the tune of, "Let's forget for a moment what Jesus would do - what would John Wayne say?" Aside from an increase in his stock portfolio, he'll be praying hardest for a Brokeback Oscar nomination. Could it happen? Oh, to dare to dream. Like a seven-year-old on Christmas Eve, Dan won't be able to sleep the night before the Oscar nominations are announced.

Director Ang Lee may have thought he was just shooting a movie. But it's likely to become a political hot potato, exploited by people who won't ever see the film. In today's intensely polarized climate, all things - films, judicial rulings, or offhand political quips - can become instant PR ammunition for next year's Congressional races - the outcome of which could further clip the wings of an increasingly lame-duck administration. Or not. Just as the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage punctured John Kerry's sail, so too will this film provide a jet stream of hot air for Hollywood-hating windbags.

Precisely because we live in the era of the ten-second spot, Republican spinsters like my old pal Dan - despite being up to their necks in camel dung - are no more nervous about 2006 than Tiger Woods facing a two-foot putt. Quagmire in Iraq? Exploding deficits? Rising poverty and falling consumer confidence? So what? Just watch how well we can rev up the "values" thing again when Hollywood gives us gay westerns. Hell, that's like shooting fish in a barrel. Of oil.

PR pros will be instrumental in putting the fish in the barrel and loading the guns. We don't make the wheel, but we make it go round. In '06, can we please not make it go so fast that voters become too dizzy to think?

Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and writer

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