The 2012 Emmy Awards were this past Sunday. It was a star-studded event where Hollywood once again honored great achievements in the medium of television. It was sometimes funny, sometimes boring, but it was no better or worse than most Emmy shows.
But I was struck by once sentiment that came from a particular set of winners. The movie Game Change won 4 Emmys including Best Movie/Miniseries, Best Directing, Best Writing, and Best Actress. For those unfamiliar with the movie, it’s based on the 2008 Presidential election and focused on VP Candidate Sarah Palin. In Game Change, Palin is portrayed as ignorant, selfish, and unpredictably emotional. The intent was not to present a balanced view but a negative view of her. This is evidenced by Julianne Moore’s (the actress who played Palin) acceptance speech reveling in the fact that she made Palin look bad. Now, you may agree that this assessment of Palin mirrors reality or you may not. I am not here to argue whether or not Palin deserves ridicule. Regardless, this is the portrayal of the former governor of Alaska.
When writer Danny Strong accepted his award, he thanked HBO for having the “courage” to make this movie. When director Jay Roach got his Emmy, he thanked Julianne Moore for taking a huge chance on this part. All I kept thinking though was: What?
I don’t understand how it takes any courage to make a movie in Hollywood that trashes a conservative. It’s about the same amount of courage that it takes for a politician to trash President Obama at a Tea Party Rally. How is telling people what they want to hear courageous?
Strong, Roach, and Moore put together a movie in a short amount of time. Any major movie like this takes a great deal of effort, talent, and skill to pull off. I congratulate them all on their earned awards. But it didn’t take any real courage.
What is courage? Courage is the virtue that helps you overcome fear so you can act. Courage is only laudable when it is used for a good end. We admire the courage of a soldier who defends his friends from gunfire, but we don’t admire the courage of a criminal who breaks into a house knowing that there is a guard dog.
And courage must have a real fear to overcome. It must come at a price. Courage only means something if it costs you.
Courage, like all other virtues, is only of value when tied to a good end. Did the makers of Game Change have a good intention? I’ll leave that up to your judgment, dear reader. But did it require them to overcome great fear? I’m not sure how.
The movie got top funding from Tom Hanks’ and Rita Wilson’s production company. HBO Green lit the project quickly. It was hailed by TV critics all over the country. Entertainment Weekly fawned over Moore’s portrayal of Palin.
Wow! Look at all the obstacles they had to overcome. I’d be scared too.
Perhaps I am being unfair. They did receive a backlash from talk radio and conservative blogs. But since when has that been a huge influence in Hollywood?
Among their peers in the industry, those who would have a direct effect on the future of their careers, do you think that making Game Change would help or hurt their future? Maybe it wouldn’t help, but I cannot see how it would hurt.
What would be brave? When George Clooney won his Oscar for Syriana, he said And finally, I would say that, you know, we are a little bit out of touch in Hollywood every once in a while. I think it's probably a good thing. We're the ones who talk about AIDS when it was just being whispered, and we talked about civil rights when it wasn't really popular. And we, you know, we bring up subjects. This Academy, this group of people gave Hattie McDaniel an Oscar in 1939 when blacks were still sitting in the backs of theaters. I'm proud to be a part of this Academy. Proud to be part of this community, and proud to be out of touch. And I thank you so much for this."
Ignoring the fact that blacks weren’t sent to back of theaters and the fact that Hollywood also engaged in the stereotypes that he says they fought against, you get Clooney’s point. He lays out the role of courage in the film industry. It is about addressing difficult subjects and leading the moral charge by changing the culture for the better even when it’s not popular.
If that is his definition of Hollywood Courage, then I couldn’t agree more. Except that the culture that needs to change is inside of Hollywood, not outside of it.
So… who is challenging the Hollywood Culture in any significant way?
Certainly not Roach, Strong, and Moore.
Who in Hollywood is promoting a culture of life?
Who in Hollywood is supports respect for Christianity?
Who in Hollywood is defending free speech?
I don’t mean these questions as cudgels, but as true interrogatives. I would like to know who is doing this, so they I can honor them with my esteem.
Take the first topic: Culture of Life.
Movies that are explicitly pro-choice get Oscar nominations like The Cider House Rules and Vera Drake. Movies that are explicitly pro-life like Bella and October Baby are ignored. I’m not saying that these last two movies should have been nominated, but which do you think took more courage to produce in the film industry?
Take the middle topic: respect for Christianity.
Last spring ABC made a show called Good Christian B***es. Insert any other religion into that title and could you imagine it getting even close to being made? I’m not appealing to any kind of censorship, but to basic tolerance for religions. I don’t want to see Good Muslim B***es or Good Jewish B***es, but who is leading the charge in Hollywood to have respect for Christianity?
Let’s take the last topic: free speech.
A few weeks ago a person with an axe to grind against Islam released a horribly produced attack on the religion. The US government absurdly blamed him for riots by Islamists around the world on 9/11 that led to the death of Americans, including one of our ambassadors. In response, the government sent law enforcement to round this director up from his home. Supposedly it was because of some supposed parole violations. But in reality it was so that he could be paraded in front of cameras so the Muslim world could see that the US is investigating him.
Does this not chill you to your core?
You could argue that this man had courage because of the potential fatwa that would be headed his way. But I don’t believe that it served a good end, so I don’t think he should be lauded.
I hate when South Park mocks my Jesus or my Blessed Mother. If I was a Muslim I would hate that this man insulted my Prophet. But it never occurred to me to have the government handcuff Matt Stone and Trey Parker because they offended me. Why is it acceptable to do it to the guy who made the stupid Muslim video?
And I don’t hear anyone in Hollywood leading the moral charge against this infringement of the First Amendment rights (except maybe Robert Davi, but he is a bit of a Hollywood outsider). Again, I’ll be more than happy to take correction and say so on this blog. But where are those who fight for the right to free expression even if you disagree?
This is an excellent time to show courage, to stand up to government bullies.
Look, you can say that Sunday night the academy awarded a movie of top-notch quality in writing, directing and acting in Game Change and I have no problem with your assessment.
Just don’t tell me that it was courageous.