I must have been in college (or possibly even just high school), when I read a thoughtful essay in TV Guide, of all places, to the effect that people all over the world who had never met an American, or been to the United States, almost always formed their impressions of us based on what they saw in the movies, or in television shows. As one of our AFRTS public service announcement tag-lines had it – foreigners don’t know America, they just know Americans – and the Americans which the overseas movie and television audience saw was usually not a very favorable one. This essay must have been put out in the early 1970s, so I imagine the general picture is even less favorable now. Just think of current popular TV shows with an American setting – and consider how America would look to you if that was all you saw, and all you knew was Breaking Bad, a dozen cop shows set in big cities, and half a dozen sit-coms where the characters spend most of their time in suspiciously well-decorated living rooms.
Lately – especially in the wake of the Great Duck Dynasty Imbroglio of 2013, I have begun to suspect that the TV and movie tycoons don’t know America any better than those foreigners, as they seem to be looking at everything between the coasts and half a dozen trendy enclaves dotted here and there, though the same distorting lens. There is a disconnect between the people who make our movies, and the audience who watches them, a gulf between which is presently about as deep as the Grand Canyon. How else to account for … a lot of stuff, like Roman Polanski having the sympathy and support of many entertainment gentry while the rest of us recoiled in revulsion at the pervy old teen-molester. Or the popularity of the previously mentioned Duckers – yes, when their branded stuff is all over retail outlets in fly-over country, you can bet they are pretty darned popular. This popularity seems to have escaped the management suits at A&E, although probably not their accounting department.
And now I see a two-fer; both of which involve Meryl Streep. This is a rather a pity, as I had always thought of her as a darned good actress who had the sense to eschew both tabloid-fodder antics in her personal off-stage/off-screen life, and generally to keep a low profile when it comes to politically incendiary material. Alas, she felt obliged to accuse Walt Disney of being racist, an anti-Semite and a misogynist, in the course of presenting an award to Emma Thompson for a role that the latter played … in a movie about a Disney movie. Tacky, in the least, as the man has been dead for more than forty years and certainly in no position to defend himself against the charge of having been a man of his own time and not this presently tolerant and enlightened one.
And according to Harvey Weinstein, the movie mogul whose production company has graced the viewing public with such serene, non-violent and principled movies such as Gangs of New York, Kill Bill, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Django Unchained, one of his new projects is an anti-NRA opus. Supposedly, it will move the great American viewing public to drop their weapons and their NRA membership as if they were suddenly made of radioactive materiel. Accused of hypocrisy on this contradiction between his previous movies and his proposed one, naturally Mr. Weinstein swears that from now on, he will go forth and sin cinematically no more. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if his fingers were crossed behind his back. He has the great good fortune to live and work in places where he can feel personally secure, and obviously has little knowledge of and sympathy for those of us who don’t. I’d say I’ll probably boycott his movies from now on, but as I have never been to any of them anyway, I’m not certain that I can call it a boycott.
(Crossposted at www.ncobrief.com)
31 thoughts on “Hollywood and Flyover America”
I was watching “Foyle’s War” on Netflix last night and thinking about how Britain has changed. I doubt they would resist Hitler now and I doubt we would come to their assistance. Obama’s America has the foreign policy of the 1920s, which was reacting to WWI, and the domestic economy of the 1930s. Roosevelt is remembered as a great president not because of his domestic policy but because of his willingness to come to the aid of Europe. Maybe if Japan has been wise enough to avoid attacking us directly, Roosevelt would have had his hands tied. Still, I think he knew enough of the world, at least of Europe, to know what was happening.
Obama, who made much of his cosmopolitan background, doesn’t know what language is spoken in Afghanistan, doesn’t know who the Muslim Brotherhood is (although he may know better than I think), has no interest in the eastern European states, is naive about Russia and is easily distracted from serious events like Benghazi. The Democrats, who have no interest in foreign affairs, will defend him but they are setting up a devastating attack just as Clinton did with Osama. I think it will come from Iran and may even be before Obama leaves office.
Mike, I remember how funny it was, that so many Europeans had this totally outrageous concept in their head of what the average American was like, and how, if you didn’t match it in the least, they would assume you (if you spoke English) to be English. It was very funny to me, when I first went to Europe, doing the youth hostel/EurailPass/$5 a day tour with a Girl Scout troop. I would have thought that we practically screamed we were American by our general appearance … but no. On the Continent, everyone assumed we were all English. Fast forward a decade – and I was living in Greece with my daughter. If I was by myself, the Greeks assumed I was English, or sometimes Greek. (I worked very hard to blend in with the locals). If my daughter was with me (a very fair blue-eyed blond) they assumed I was German. Seeing me, my daughter, and the Volvo car that I had at the time, they assumed we were Swedish.
They expected Americans to be wearing shorts and chewing gum. If you weren’t doing that, you were English, or something. I’ve taken a bunch of trips with an English group from the Royal Society of Medicine. Nice trips, nice people and cheaper.
Some of those trips included lectures by folks on the trip. I learned where the name of QUANTAS came from, for example. Queensland And Northern Territories Ambulance Service. It began in the 30s as the ambulance plane. We would all give talks about stuff we knew.
This is kind of an English tradition, or used to be.
Has it been so long ago that a whole world of TV watchers believed in the universal application of “Miranda Rights” as they recited along with Jack Webb and other US-TV cops arresting suspects both innocent (in the early minutes of a show) or guilty (in the final few minutes)?
Or even within the US — the whole idea of “paramedics” trained to swoop into a disaster scene, triage the wounded, apply heroic levels of emergency medicine, and stabilize a patient BEFORE transport to a hospital was, for most places, a complete fiction before a TV show made the idea seem normal and everyday. (More states and communities had the phone operators call the mortuaries who’d send a hearse to scrape up the bodies, living along with the dead, and haul anyone who didn’t ask for other treatment back to the embalming area…)
“apply heroic levels of emergency medicine, and stabilize a patient BEFORE transport to a hospital”
That is the French system. We use “scoop and run” here. The French medics spent about 45 minutes with Princess Diana trying to stabilize her. I’m not sure we would have been able to deal with her pulmonary artery tear but she would have had a better chance in my trauma center. The TV show, of course, was fiction and doctors know that they are not welcome at scenes with paramedics. I know of a doctor who was arrested in Palm Springs when paramedics resented his presence. He had actually resuscitated the woman who had had a cardiac arrest. They let him out of jail so he could visit her in the hospital, where she wanted to thank him.
“apply heroic levels of emergency medicine, and stabilize a patient BEFORE transport to a hospital”
That is the French system. We use “scoop and run” here. The French medics spent about 45 minutes with Princess Diana trying to stabilize her. I’m not sure we would have been able to deal with her pulmonary artery tear but she would have had a better chance in my trauma center. The TV show, of course, was fiction and doctors know that they are not welcome at scenes with paramedics. I know of a doctor who was arrested in Palm Springs when paramedics resented his presence. He had actually resuscitated the woman who had had a cardiac arrest. They let him out of jail so he could visit her in the hospital, where she wanted to thank him. Her family told her that he had actually been the one who revived her.
Here is the story:
Respiratory Therapy. 1982 Jul-Aug;12(4):48-50, 52-3.
Coming to a stranger’s rescue: physician involvement at the scene of an
On a Saturday evening last November, two well-known Los Angeles physicians who
came to the aid of a cardiac-arrest victim in a Palm Springs hotel were arrested
for interfering with an emergency medical rescue and resisting arrest. The
incident triggered a shock wave that was felt throughout the California medical
community and far beyond. Just what is the relationship between physicians and
paramedics in such a situation? Who is authorized to take charge, and who is most
Sorry, I lost every molecule of respect I had for Streep, both as a decent human being, and as an intelligent person (something that was being bandied about quite a bit Back Then) due to her role in the Alar Panic.
These days I count here has no more wise nor credible than our pathetic Senator Patty Murray…
}}} I doubt they would resist Hitler now and I doubt we would come to their assistance
Yes and no.
If Hitler rose to power again, the Brits would find a PM who was decidedly more Churchill/Thatcher and decidedly less Chamberlain. VERY quickly.
And mark my words, our next PotUS will not be a Democrat. I’m not certain they will be a Republican, but that person will certainly be the most libertarian president in a century. It might take up to four years for the USA to “fix” its presidency from a peace-footing PotUS to a war-footing PotUS, but it will do so, every time.
Now, after the events of the last six decades, if the FRENCH get in trouble again, I say: let ’em fry…
Sgt Mom (and Michael),
“They expected Americans to be wearing shorts”
Gack! That’s one issue I will defend Althouse to the death over. In the privacy of your own home… who cares? (More to the point, who even knows?) At a beach or other sports venue, or backpacking in the wilderness? Sure. (Not that there is much wilderness to speak of Europe, what with their swept forests and all, but I digress…))
But walking around the streets of a town or city? Good gracious NO!
That’s a very interesting assertion about the UK, and I really would like it to be true.
But what I hear, from a variety of sources, tells a different tale. What have you got that you can point me to, in terms of recent news and analysis, that backs up your assertion? I’ve got quite a few folks, in exactly my same mindset, who would appreciate some favorable signs if they exist.
I think it will come from Iran and may even be before Obama leaves office.
We confronted the USSR over the possibility of missiles in Cuba, but we’re passive about an Iranian base in Venezuela and other hostile activity in the Americas.
Jonathan – Ultimately the Iranians don’t look big enough to swallow us. They are in a Russian box, kept from falling and kept from becoming well off enough to build pipelines from central Asia to the Gulf. Once the oil age is at an end, the situation will resolve. Until then it would depend on someone caring enough to take the utter pounding needed to force the situation out of the parameters that the Russians want them in.
They don’t need to swallow us, they need only make a bad decision. And if not the Iranians, someone else. Our policies invite aggression, even though we’re tougher than our feckless elites make us appear to people who don’t understand us.
I just finished another episode of Foyle.
” they would assume you (if you spoke English) to be English. ”
You remind me of a funny incident. On our first trip to Britain, my wife and I lined up on Saturday morning to see the House of Commons. That was 1977 and before the IRA caused the closing of the tour. We were standing in quite a long line when a very tall man came up to us and said, “Come with me.” He led us to the front of the line and told us to stay there. He then left and returned with some other tourists. Pretty soon we realized that he was collecting everyone in line who spoke English.
When the door was opened, our little group of English speakers was directed by him to go in and he explained that we needed to keep up with him and he would be our guide. He also explained that he wanted nothing to do with the French and German tourists who were also in line. He commented that “They couldn’t get here on their own and I’m not going to help them.”
It turned out that he had been a policeman assigned to the House of Commons during the war. He knew all sorts of small details about the building. At one point, he indicated where Churchill had stood the morning after The Commons was bombed and pointed a bit farther and said “I stood there.” At the end of the tour, he told us that he was not allowed to charge for the tour but if we wanted to give him anything we could.
We had been to the famous antique market at Portobello Road that morning and found the prices too high. He said to give him what we thought the tour was worth and I gave him a 5 pound note. He called after us to stop and we waited until the others on the tour had tipped him and he came over.
He said, “You have given me too much.” He probably thought we didn’t understand the money. It was still the era of shillings and pence. I told him that I had given him what I thought he was worth and that was that. He said his wife would think he had turned to burglary and he went home right after. When my wife’s parents were there later in the year, we told them about Mr Clark (I think that was his name). They took the same tour and got a photo of him.
That was an Englishman. A real Englishman.
MikeK – I have always found that it is the people you meet along the way that make a trip – and had a lifetime experience.
My own little London experience – last time I was there was exactly 40 years ago – 1974 – I had a week’s leave in Germany, hopped a C-141 from Rhein-Main and flew into Mildenhall. Took a train into London and for a week, had a great time.
Come the appointed day to return, I phone up to Mildenhall and ask what the odds are of getting a hop. (Miss it and it was the stockade!)
“We can’t tell you over the phone, sir, you have to come up here”.
So I get up at oh-dark-thirty – take the train up and when I got there it was obvious I wasn’t going to get a hop that day. The place was teeming with servicemen and retirees.
Now I am getting worried. Had to find a way back to Frankfurt or I would be AWOL.
I get back to London, call British Air about flights to Frankfurt and I have a flight that can take me.
Ticket was $400 – about what I made in a month – but it was that or….
Well, I get to Heathrow, late by the traffic, and get the ticket. But the plane is in the final boarding stages – a cute British Air ticket agent rushes with me down the corridors, I board the Trident jet (sort of a 727 copy) and all these businessmen are looking back to see who this VIP is causing the delay, and they see a corporal in Army Green boarding the plane.
The rest of the trip, as they say, was uneventful.
Oh, getting back to Sgt Mom’s post, I love going to Robert Avrech’s site, seraphicpress.com (where I think a few of you also frequent) – he loves to write about old Hollywood – times when stars supported the country, joined the military during the war, and even the Hollywood Canteen where if you were a private or an admiral, as long as you were in uniform you would be served a coffee and donut by one of the Hollywood Stars – might even get to dance with Marlene Dietrich.
Those times seem so distant now – but if Hollywood were to return to those values most Americans wouldn’t feel an alienation with them.
I liked the episodes I saw of Foyle – and perhaps it was just the episodes I saw – but it seemed to me to have caught the colors and culture of the forties, but not the Churchillian spirit. That is, it seemed to portray a Britain dying rather than a vibrant country, one somewhat dispirited and lacking faith in its values. Maybe I was wrong. I like mysteries, the British ones especially, and thought it was well done. Still, there’s something of a drained energy in a lot of those productions – and looking to a lost past beyond retrieval and based on either shaky values or shaken believers.
Of course it still has dialogue & rounded, realistic characters – something missing in most of those incredibly violent and over-blown epics. Clint always read Tolkien to our kids, so we went to the first movie we’d seen in a theater in a very long time. My response at the end was that it seemed a huge waste of a really large amount of money. Not that it wasn’t attractive and not that the plot line isn’t mythic, but. . . .
I spent a good deal of my life listening to people like Charlie Rose & Terry Gross (and before them Pauline Kael). But I’ve come to think the edgy shows they love don’t stand up well (and Kael’s idea of good sex was not, perhaps, the healthiest model I could have taken in my youth). And surely the ones with a stronger sense of traditional values (for instance, most that Bellisario does) have been widely popular but may also appeal over the long stretch. Nihilism has a limited shelf life.
And Streep’s tackiness was irritating – but seems par for the course. Being a liberal seems to mean being an eternal adolescent insulting your parents’ friends – even though you’ve become the grandparent. (A culture that took the Kennedys as models was really doomed already.) Adolescent gracelessness as boomers move into their seventies is vulgar in a particularly ugly way, but it also means the values and rituals of polite society (modesty, generosity, gratitude, humility) are not modeled by anyone the next generations can see.
Still, there’s something of a drained energy in a lot of those productions – and looking to a lost past beyond retrieval and based on either shaky values or shaken believers.
I worked with a British woman a few years back; very sweet and a thoughtful, fun loving person. We were in a conversation one day, and I mentioned Rudyard Kipling. She looked a little a shocked I had brought up his name.
“I don’t read Kipling!”, she pronounced.
She seemed deeply offended. It is thoroughly ingrained, apparently, in British culture these days not to take pride in – or even read from – the days of The Empire.
people like Charlie Rose
I used to enjoy his show. He’s an old style New York Liberal, no doubt. But old style in a good way. He might disagree with you, but he gives people room to talk in paragraphs, and seemed genuinely interested in having a wide ranging discussion. He also had a nice selection of guests, from architects to ambassadors. It was a more like a talk show from the fifties or sixties than anything modern.
Speaking of Hollywood….
I watched Gilda tonight. 1946, Rita Hayworth, Glenn Ford, set in ‘the Argentine’. It was the first time I’d seen it all the way through. It’s odd the things you see in films as you get older.
One overall impression was how beautiful the movie was in an old-Hollywood glamorous way. Gorgeous sets, beautiful art-deco furniture, beautiful clothing, glittering jewels, beautiful cars, beautiful people, exotic setting.
I was also struck by Rita Hayworth’s character, Gilda. A former dancer, she marries a much older casino owner for his money and immediately starts sleeping around on him. And she flaunts it. Thinks it’s amusing.
I think there’s something odd and shallow about Hollywood, and the arts in general, and I think it’s always been that way. Everything can be created any way you desire. You just will it to be so. The world is a set or canvas or page on which anything can be as you dream it. And it’s completely removed from real world consequences. You can dream away guns and no one dies anymore, except as pretend on a set. You can sleep around on your husband or wife and no one is hurt, no lives destroyed, no children without a mother or father to raise and love them and provide a stable and rich life for them. Or provide those things for each other. Or you just will higher taxes on everyone and well intentioned politicians spend it wisely and everyone still works hard but there are no more poor. See? Magic. It’s what their profession teaches them. It’s no wonder their thinking seems so bizarre and childlike to us. It’s all they know.
This will give you a bit of the flavor. I watched it on DVD (a gift), but here it is on YouTube:
Gilda * Rita Hayworth * 1946 3/10
I hadn’t realized what a good actress she was until I saw this.
“That is, it seemed to portray a Britain dying rather than a vibrant country, one somewhat dispirited and lacking faith in its values. ”
I have been told that the later episodes are like this. I’m still at 1940. Several of the endings are ambivalent, which is interesting. The war effort is claimed as a justification and it’s not clear if that was ignored. Maybe that was what you meant.
I’ve read a lot about England in 1940. Lukac’s book suggests strongly that it was a “close run thing,” as Wellington might have put it, whether Halifax would win out over Churchill and settle with Hitler. I haven’t seen a good revisionist history of how this might have played out. I have a book called Rising Sun Victorious about alternative outcomes of the Pacific war. It’s written by a group of historians and has several scenarios.
By the way, the guide’s name was Mr Parks. I just remembered it. I don’t know where the photo of him is. I’ve seen photos of Churchill at The Commons that day. It would be fun to see if I can see Parks in the background.
Ginny – Mike – I loved Foyle’s War – found the historical research first rate. One of the early episodes involved a circle of British who assumed that the invasion would be weeks away – and wanted to accommodate Hitler.
Or a little known fact during the Blitz where people would drive out into the country and sleep in their cars.
It is one of those series that I have kept on my Netflix and watch again.
Like Doc Martin
Next on my list is “Doc Martin” who I’ve been told I resemble.
My only quibble about Foyle’s War so far is the cars are beautifully polished in every episode. I love the cars but doubt they would have been so polished in real life.
Doc Martin is very amusing, Mike – you will like it.
I’m pretty well fed to the teeth with celebrities involving themselves in policy or consumer issues, and getting out in front not because of any particular expertise, but just because they are celebrities. I had forgotten about the Alar scare – I was overseas at the time and that she was a big part of it managed to escape me.
The bit that really, really angers me this time around, is that Mr. Weinstein has produced so many movies which fetishized violent criminals and horrific deaths by gunfire (among other weapons), and often played the violence for laughs – and NOW he is intent on producing a propaganda film stigmatizing law-abiding, ordinary citizens and an organization they are members of? It could be that he has been flapping his yap in order to generate Oscar buzz, and this is a tempest in a teapot anyway. But it does demonstrate the separation between ordinary Americans and those in the entertainment industry.
I suspect this is a form of penance as practiced by the left. This is a big reason why so many actors and other celebrities adopt the rhetoric of the left. It is not as extreme as the penance of Henry IV but it is as public. Of course, in private, they ignore the external symbol.
A Top Gun movie producer built a Montana home with a group of guest houses. The whole compound was fenced and, when a local group pointed out that he had obstructed a major elk migration route, he told them to buzz off (Bowdlerized).
I’m sure he is no more inclined to believe his rhetoric than we are. It just sounds good in his circle.
The ex-wife of Craig McCaw has blocked beach access in front of her estate in Santa Barbara for years. She is also known for left wing causes.
Maybe if Japan has been wise enough to avoid attacking us directly, Roosevelt would have had his hands tied.
Actually his hands were tied. On December 8 the United States declared war on Japan. And only Japan. It was not until December 11 that Germany honored its treaty obligation to Japan and declared war on the United States. Then his hands were untied and he got the war he wanted.
Not unsurprisingly, the topic of Maria Conchita Alonzo being fired (or quitting) a San Francisco production of the Vagina Monologues is being discussed at Ace of Spades HQ – this comment from ‘torquewrench’ I thought was particularly apt as regards to my original post.
“And of course elsewhere in Hollyweird news, we have Harvey Weinstein, producer of such ultraviolent dreck as _Kill Bill_, saying that he’s horrified by the thought of any ordinary citizens having guns, and intends to pour money into anti-gun films to help push that political narrative.
He is by no means alone in this. That is absolutely mainstream Hollyweird thinking. That industry trousers huge profits from films and TV that depict garish, pornographic levels of gun violence, and then they turn around and lavishly fund political efforts to disarm ordinary peaceful law-abiding citizens.
Time to stuff that contradiction right down their necks.
The courts have repeatedly upheld the viability of age-keyed ratings schemes for entertainment. Grab that and use it as a blunt force instrument to beat Hollyweird over the head.
New ratings category for films, TV and games: GV-18 for Gun Violence.
Under 18? Sorry, go watch something else, kid.
This would be a brutal gut shot to Hollyweird’s profitability. Teens gobble up their splashy violent crap and will gobble a lot less of it under such a regime.
I am intrinsically anticensorship, but let’s note that it was the liberals who have opened wide the door to censorship on ideological grounds. And it’s a liberal Alinskyite tactic to take the enemy’s methods and use them against that enemy. Give them a taste of their own medicine. Such a big taste that they vomit uncontrollably from the stuff.
And, it’s extremely difficult for people who have been claiming All Guns Are Always Evil to suddenly reverse course and claim Serious You Guys Guns In Our Trashy Movies Are A Harmless Protected Subset. It opens them up to ridicule. Which is, hey presto, another Alinsky method.”
You can take the woman out of the military….
Thank you. It’s so rare that my spelling fetishism gives me any enjoyment.
Hey, if I could have put the little accent on it, I would have!
It is well past time to end the Hollywood tax breaks. They are beneficiaries of crony capitalism just like GE and the light bulb ban.
All nine movies nominated for Best Picture were filmed in jurisdictions with movie production incentives. Clearly, a lower cost of doing business attracts the best filmmakers to these locales.
The important question is: do these incentives pay off for the states?
The answer is no. Similar to most targeted tax breaks, movie production incentives routinely fail to deliver on the economic promises made by their proponents. Supporters frequently claim movie incentives create jobs and lead to net gains in tax revenue. However, data from several states find movie production incentives generate less than 30 cents for every lost dollar in tax revenue.
If you are playing poker and don’t know who the mark is, it’s you.
}}} And of course elsewhere in Hollyweird news, we have Harvey Weinstein, producer of such ultraviolent dreck as _Kill Bill_
I thoroughly disagree with the description of Kill Bill as “dreck”, though yes, it is pretty violent. It’s far more of a cartoon violence than “real” violence, however.
I do agree that Harvey Sh**stain needs a radical cranio-rectalectomy. I hope he is tremendously effective in raising money to make these “anti-gun” pictures. Every single one will be an utter flop, and make no money for their investors, and thus anyone stupid enough to invest in anti-American pictures will find out that assuming that Americans are as unAmerican as your bestest buddies is a bad bet.
Speaking of old movies, I once watched, on AMC I think (back when it had classic movies the same way MTV had music videos), 1947’s “Way With The Women” and 1949’s “Mother Is A Freshman.”
What I noted most particularly in the contrast of these two was their depiction of women.
In WWTW, the female romantic lead is strong, independent, and able to take care of herself. She was in the Rosalind Russell mold, with brunette hair in a practical style, with loose skirts and sensible heels.
In MIAF, the female lead is intelligent but irresponsible, fiscally clueless widow who (and this is the macguffin, essentially) can’t manage the money from her Trust well enough to make it past August… so she goes to college to qualify for a stipend set up by her grandmother decades before. She is in the Kim Novak mold — hair in a tight, complex arrangement that would require at least 2 visits to the hairdresser each week, tight barrel skirts that you could not even think of running in, and heels sufficient to make sure you couldn’t run even if you tried.
And I realized that the Feminist movement in the 60s was not actually anything but an effort to repudiate this “push ’em back in the kitchen” movement which had sprung up after the war, trying to reverse what the 30s, and then the War, had done in releasing women from their role of housewife.
If you look at movies prior to MIAF (I’m not certain it was the first such, by any means, but it certainly was one of the very earliest), women tend towards much more independence and self-reliance. Heck, this is true for the 30s, as well — even the heroine of 1934’s It Happened One Night is no shrinking violet, and that was well before WWII was looming. The same is mostly true for various females of 1932’s Grand Hotel.
Looking at movie roles in that era, there are plenty of “modern” women to point to — Barbara Stanwyck, Rosalind Russell, and Katherine Hepburn come to mind. It’s not until the movies of the 50s that women devolve into arm candy for the men in their presence…
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