But Mr. Clooney's remarks [at the oscars - ed.] were also part of the tinniness of the age, and of modern Hollywood. I don't think he was being disingenuous in suggesting he was himself somewhat heroic. He doesn't even know he's not heroic. He thinks making a movie in 2005 that said McCarthyism was bad is heroic.
How could he think this? Maybe part of the answer is in this: The Clooney generation in Hollywood is not writing and directing movies about life as if they've experienced it, with all its mysteries and complexity and variety. In an odd way they haven't experienced life; they've experienced media. Their films seem more an elaboration and meditation on media than an elaboration and meditation on life. This is how he could take such an unnuanced, unsophisticated, unknowing gloss on the 1950s and the McCarthy era. He just absorbed media about it. And that media itself came from certain assumptions and understandings, and myths.
Most Americans aren't leading media, they're leading lives. It would be nice to see a new respect in Hollywood for the lives they live. It would be nice to see them start to understand that rediscovering the work of, say, C.S. Lewis, and making a Narnia film, is not "giving in" to the audience but serving it. It isn't bad to look for and present good material that is known to have a following. It's a smart thing to do. It's why David O. Selznick bought "Gone With the Wind": People were reading it. It was his decision to make it into a movie from which he would profit that gave Hattie McDaniel her great role. Taboos are broken by markets, not poses.
As Noonan notes in her title to the piece, Clooney is, indeed, a "boy in a bubble." It is really laughable--in a sad way--that he believes that he and his compatriots in Hollywood are so courageous and heroic for making movies that basically waste a thoughtful person's time. These movies are so far from subtle, they don't make anyone think--they bluntly tell them what to think.
This is not heroic; this is the Hollywood equivalent of propaganda.
I happened to listen briefly the other day to an interview of the high school teacher Jay Bennish, caught on tape by a student indulging in a rant about Bush and how his SOTU speach was similar to Hitler; how capitalism oppresses the masses etc. etc. If you listen to the tape recording of the classroom incident, you will notice that, after getting his hatred of George W. Bush out of the way, Bennish's diatribe in front of the class degenerated into the usual leftist/communist/socialist bullshit that the world has been hearing for the last century or more. Nothing new, exciting, or revelatory here. President Bush is now just the preferred method to segue into the pap that issues forth from their politically correct, socialist mouths.
This "teacher" had the unmitigated gall to tell TV viewers that he was only trying to teach his students "critical thinking."
His rather fuzzy concept of "critical thinking" appears to mesh admirably with Mr. Clooney's and Hollywood's. And all of them use the same basic strategy to inculcate and nurture this "critical thinking" faculty in their listeners/viewers. It is a strategy that is eerily familiar because it has been used for centuries by every despot, dictator and tyrant in world history. A brief summary of the strategy is: bash your listeners over the head with politically correct thought (i.e., what your opinion happens to be) from a position of power.
If they were less obsessed with themselves, people like Mr. Clooney and Mr. Bennish might have noticed that this technique is antithetical to the very concept of critical thinking.
Now, it is true that Hollywood's overriding goal is to entertain, not necessarily to teach (you wouldn't know it from the movies they make these days, though). Nevertheless, there is a remarkable similarity between Clooney and Bennish in their intense desire to make everyone around them think as they do. Both don't teach so much as proseletize. They don't respect the intelligence of their audience as much as they ignore it; and they don't promote critical thinking as much as they suppress it.
Then they smile smugly and with great fanfare and histrionics, congratulate themselves for their heroic efforts to help inferior people think correctly.
Clooney and Bennish are two of the many secular imams that America is blessed with, who are well-versed in traditional marxist/leninist
From that perspective, they do an admirable--if not quite heroic--job.
UPDATE: In the "great shrinks think alike" category of blogging, Both SC&A and ShrinkWrapped have posts up about Hollywood, narcissism, and delusions of grandeur. The topic certainly cries out for mental health intervention, doesn't it?