Jewish World Review March 21, 2003 / 17 Adar II, 5763

Drs. Michael A. Glueck & Robert J. Cihak

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West Wimps or Wings: Treatment for Hollywood Hypocrisy | Hollywood hates America. So what else is new?

This time, perhaps, a great deal. War has a nasty way of forcing people and nations to spend some time in front of the mirror, to see who and what they really are, who and what's really important. So maybe it's time to take a hard look at the industry that provides that noxious mash of inanity, acerbity, and pornography we're conditioned to call "entertainment."

But don't expect here any recitation of the latest absurdities to issue from the high-rent mouths of Barbra, Sean, Susan, Martin, or the rest. The problem goes far deeper than that. We also need to understand it clearly before we can fix it.

Historically, the verbal arts - literature, poetry, drama, film - have, more often than not, been servants of power. Prior to the 19th century, if you wanted to write or act and also eat in style, you needed a fat-cat patron to pay the bills. You didn't get or keep patrons by calling them jerks or their upper-crust class origins awful.

What changed? Basically, capitalism and the Industrial Revolution, which created a large, educated and increasingly wealthy middle class. The newly wealthy bourgeoisie were not dependent on a wealthy royal class for their existence and were increasingly able to travel and expend their new wealth in new mass markets. They also became a new audience for performing artists. The successful artist could now amass and, in some cases, surpass the wealth of the royal patrons before whom he'd previously groveled.

But 19th century "modernist" culture also produced a curious new product. Poets and artists were considered blest with the kind of inspiration and genius once deemed gifts of the muses or God. And, in an increasingly secular age, they become "the unacknowledged legislators of mankind" in Shelley's words. Or, if you will, its conscience. By the First World War, the principle was firmly established. If you wanted to be a "serious" artist, you had to exist in opposition to bourgeois society . . . even as that society made you rich.

Why bourgeois society chose to support and deify this well-paid "adversary culture" remains a fascinating mystery (Marx, Freud, and Darwin, among others, may have had something to do with it). Decades ago, we began to sense that the whole movement had grown stale, sterile, banal, excessive, and ridiculous. But the point here is: That was then, this is post-then.

Genuine artists and artistry gave way to manufactured celebrities and corporate productions that tried to mask their banality by "pushing the envelopes" of excess. Life drained out of this adversary culture. Everybody knew their roles and their lines - crusading artists, the conscience of society, etc. But the exercise grew ever more ridiculous, culminating in the preposterous declarations and depredations since 9/11.

The Keepers of the Conscience had devolved into a bevy of circus clowns, insulated from reality by their wealth and status, hurling their invective as an exercise in self-righteousness, posing as victims of censorship and black lists even when there were none, and sneering all the way to the bank. Those of us owning SUVs -- but lacking personal 19-car garages filled with expensive automobiles -- get somewhat indignant hearing celebrity owners of larger SUVs and limousines deride us.

So, Hollywood hates war. But, if you "Google" the subjects "Hollywood + war" you get 1,040, 000 hits. Guess they like glorifying war and playing action heroes for billions of dollars but not if it means standing up for their country in real life.

So what is to be done?

Well, for starters, you, your family and friends can vote with your money. Don't view the films or buy the books. If you're the type who exercises his or her First Amendment rights by joining organized boycotts, that's also kosher. But more importantly, remember that influence can never be claimed, it can only be bestowed by others.

Neither the laws of nature nor nature's G-d require you to listen respectfully to every jerk who claims the title of "celebrity." Instead, recognize them for what they are - the final, perverse, spoiled products of a cultural style that failed long ago and has lingered far too long for any good it may have been doing.

Remind your children that many of their favorite war and action heroes are fake. Finally, remind yourself that no wise parent ever rewards a hissy fit.

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Michael Arnold Glueck, M.D., is a multiple award winning writer who comments on medical- legal issues. Robert J. Cihak, M.D., is past president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. Both JWR contributors are Harvard trained diagnostic radiologists. Comment by clicking here.


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