February 11, 2004

boycott Hollywhat?

For a while this morning, several blocks at least, I drove behind a large black SUV, an older model, chipped around the edges and festooned with bumper stickers. The license plate frame caught my eye. “Boycott Hollywood,” it said. “Heh,” I said, and kept driving. The words attracted my eyes again. Hm, I thought. Boycott Hollywood, huh? How would you do that? Stop seeing movies, unplug the TV, yeah that could work. Not that you could get anyone to actually do it, but if enough people did, it’s probably more powerful than avoiding grapes. Hitting a bigger industry, at any rate.

But why would you want to do that? What’s your boycotting slogan, what’s the picket line chant? Well, it’s kind of obvious, isn’t it? “Make Better Movies!” “No More Bad Films!” “We Hate Lame-ass Action Movies!” “End Sequelitis!” “Don’t Fuck With The Writers!” (Well, okay, maybe that last one is just me.)

Think it would work, if we stopped going to the movies? Would they make better ones or just spend less money on the same dumb ideas? Think it would work if we shut the TV off? Could we shut the TV off? It’s on grocery store checkout lines now, in emergency room waiting areas, it’s background noise and an inanimate babysitter. How could you organize a big enough boycott to make that change?

Nevertheless, it’s an intriguing idea. Power to the people. Make your voice heard. Demand quality, let your eyeballs do the walking.

Of course, a few blocks later, still gazing at the car’s rear bumper, I realized. The American flag waving from the roof rack, the bumper sticker extolling the war in Iraq, they were clues. US out of UN, another sticker said. I had to think about that one for a bit, it’s so foreign to my thinking, but I suspect it was another attempt at a futile boycott – this car seemed to feel strongly about boycotts and withdrawals, except when it came to war-type invasive behavior.

It’s kind of obvious, huh? The car’s owner thinks Hollywood is too liberal and thinks if you turn off West Wing and don’t go see Cold Mountain, that’ll make studios start propagating pro-war propaganda. Sadly, it might work. But it might work for a very simple reason: Hollywood is not that liberal. I mean, think about it. Our current governor, that Republican promise-breaker and education-decimator, was a movie star and producer and go-to greenlight man for macho shoot-em-up reactionary gorefests. And he’s hardly the only one around here. But let’s say for the sake of argument that the majority of Hollywood professionals are indeed liberal. It’s quite possible. But really. Do you see many movies taking chances, going out on a limb to validate gay marriage, condemn modern day warmongering, say anything controversial about the world we live in? Come on. The most daring politics in most mainstream movies say things like Racism is Bad and Gays are Not Bad (but we won’t show them kissing anyway). And maybe, if they’re really bold, they’ll say “Government is Not Trustworthy. Yeah. Shocking, ain’t it. Really makes you think, no?

And I question how liberal the so-called liberals are here. Yes, they’re probably mostly registered Democrats, though that’s a majority, not a given. And it’s also common to most other urban areas. I don’t think LA is as liberal as Boston, for instance. And certainly not San Francisco. Or New York. I remember the first Iraq invasion. I was working on LA L@w at the time. A show with a political bent, wouldn’t you say? But when the bombing started in Baghdad, everyone headed over to the main production building to watch on the snowy television someone had set up in an office upstairs. Their faces were eager, watching the TV. Fascinated. I looked around the room and realized I was the only one there sick to my stomach. The rest of them saw it as fireworks, a spectacular video game on a large scale. I felt very alone in that room, too liberal for the crowd I was in. So I got up and walked out, back outside to the green grass and the rickety editing bungalow on the edge of the studio lot steeped in history. Alone with my thoughts.

Nobody wants to take a chance here. Nobody cares that much, except the independents who haven’t grown too accustomed to the horn of plenty and are willing to say what they truly think and think what they feel instead of what’s easy.

Boycott Hollywood? For what? They censor themselves.

Now about that other kind of boycott… let me know where you’re holding the rally. I’ll be there, chants at the ready.

Posted by Tamar at February 11, 2004 09:39 PM

Goodness, I remember that first-Gulf-War moment too; and I was feeling similarly alone in San Francisco, actually, since most people in the nonprofit anti-hunger group I worked for thought it was an example of global unity that could mean action on other essential fronts. Who knew an even sourer version was coming 12 years later?

And you're quite right about Hollywood's essential conservatism (in the classical sense: don't rock the boat). What's intriguing is how sometimes, despite itself, other messages stream through under the radar. And the yahoos you saw with their bumpersticker probably don't trust messages of *any* kind that don't come from either Rush Limbaugh or a mistranslation from the Aramaic.

Posted by: Chris at February 12, 2004 04:18 AM