A Hol­ly­wood to es­cape from The movie in­dus­try, once built on hopes and dreams, now scolds

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Tammy Bruce

The catas­tro­phe of the Os­cars award tele­cast last Sun­day is now of­fi­cial: Rat­ings were the low­est in its his­tory. Many con­ser­va­tives, like this colum­nist, chose to not watch as a state­ment re­ject­ing the in­creas­ingly politi­cized na­ture of the film Acad­emy’s awards show. Yet, the rat­ings disas­ter this year is so sig­nif­i­cant — down a whop­ping 20 per­cent com­pared to last year — it sug­gests a sig­nif­i­cant cul­tural shift has oc­curred that por­tends a great loss not just for the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try, but for the na­tion as a whole.

With this de­ba­cle, one would think its pro­duc­ers would snap to it and try to re­verse the slide. Even the en­ter­tain­ment trade mag­a­zine Va­ri­ety co-edi­tor in chief vented on Twit­ter, “How low does the fi­nal rat­ings num­ber have to be in or­der to prompt the Acad­emy and ABC to freak out? Where is the bar set at which some se­ri­ous changes will be made to the tele­cast for­mat in or­der to rein­vig­o­rate the fran­chise?”

If they mean change the for­mat that at­tacks half the pop­u­la­tion of the coun­try to one that doesn’t, yes, that would be a good idea. But a change like that is not likely to come. For Hol­ly­wood, their rage at peo­ple who aren’t like them (con­ser­va­tives, Trump sup­port­ers, Re­pub­li­cans et al) has over­come any de­sire to re­turn to their orig­i­nal mis­sion — make movies that en­ter­tain and pro­vide their au­di­ence with an es­cape from the strain of daily life.

Now, iron­i­cally, the film in­dus­try it­self has be­come one of the prob­lems from which we seek to es­cape. Con­sider in 2014: 43.7 mil­lion peo­ple watched the Os­cars. Last Sun­day, just four years later, 26.5 mil­lion watched, ac­cord­ing to the Hol­ly­wood Re­porter.

Like the hy­per-po­lit­i­cal 2016 and the hy­per­anti-Trump 2017 Os­cars, the 2018 ver­sion of the Os­cars was an anti-Trump marathon dis­guised as an awards show. Nat­u­rally, it wasn’t a sur­prise when on Mon­day Pres­i­dent Trump mocked the doomed pro­gram on Twit­ter. “Low­est rated Os­cars in HIS­TORY. Prob­lem is, we don’t have Stars any­more — ex­cept your Pres­i­dent (just kid­ding, of course)!”

The pres­i­dent was gloat­ing a lot and kid­ding a lit­tle, and he’s also right. Yes, Amer­i­cans are tun­ing out in droves be­cause we’re tired of be­ing lec­tured, but also be­cause Hol­ly­wood has re­placed en­ter­tain­ment with per­sonal con­tempt.

Think about it — where are ac­tors like Clark Gable, James Ste­wart, Humphrey Bog­art, Cary Grant and Spencer Tracy? Where are the equiv­a­lents of Katharine Hep­burn, Bette Davis, Vi­vian Leigh, Greta Garbo and Lau­ren Ba­call?

Part of the last­ing power of ac­tors like Mr. Gable and Ms. Davis re­lied on mys­tery, as well as the ac­tor be­ing a blank slate onto which the au­di­ence could project their hopes and dreams. When go­ing to the movies, the au­di­ence agrees to be trans­ported to a state where they can sus­pend dis­be­lief, al­low­ing a mirac­u­lous es­cape from the real world and its con­comi­tant prob­lems.

None of this is pos­si­ble when so­cial jus­tice warriors have donned the mask of “ac­tor” or even more ab­surdly, “en­ter­tainer.”

The en­ter­tain­ment pact is de­stroyed when ac­tors be­have as though it’s their job to con­demn you if you don’t pay al­le­giance to the lib­eral world­view. When you see them, there is no blank slate, only scolds who ac­cuse, con­demn and ma­lign.

The Jimmy Kim­mel-hosted Os­cars have been rat­ings dis­as­ters not be­cause the Os­cars have been too long and some­times bor­ing (that’s usu­ally been the case) but be­cause an an­gry host isn’t funny or en­dear­ing. In­stead of be­ing trans­ported away from the day’s tribu­la­tions, we be­come Dustin Hoff­man in Lau­rence Olivier’s den­tist chair.

There is a stan­dard for host­ing the Os­cars, as two par­tic­u­lar men have proven that be­ing a late-night tele­vi­sion host, en­ter­tainer and ac­tor doesn’t re­quire you to be an ex­haust­ing, po­lit­i­cal com­bat­ant. Bob Hope and Johnny Car­son were tal­ented men, and were con­sum­mate en­ter­tain­ers in part be­cause they didn’t use their work to cas­ti­gate or mock the be­liefs of their au­di­ence.

Amer­i­cans love the movies and we’ve loved our movies stars even more. It is an ex­tra­or­di­nary thing to have a ta­lent that is able to help peo­ple en­joy their lives by briefly trans­port­ing them into a fan­tasy world. It’s an equally tragic thing when that same in­dus­try de­cides their new job is to pun­ish peo­ple for dar­ing to think dif­fer­ently and not con­form­ing to the Hol­ly­wood lib­eral world­view.

For Hol­ly­wood, their rage at peo­ple who aren’t like them has over­come any de­sire to re­turn to their orig­i­nal mis­sion — make movies that en­ter­tain and pro­vide their au­di­ence with an es­cape from the strain of daily life.

Tammy Bruce, au­thor and Fox News con­trib­u­tor, is a ra­dio talk show host.

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