Monday, November 28, 2005

Steyn on Hollywood PC

Mark Steyn's latest column addresses the malaise of Hollywood storytelling: a craven political correctness, that now even extends to having Whoopi Goldberg lecturing everyone about what is an isn't funny on DVD releases of Looney Tunes collections.

But, for some reason, this new set begins with a special announcement by Whoopi Goldberg explaining what it is we're not meant to find funny: ''Unfortunately at that time racial and ethnic differences were caricatured in ways that may have embarrassed and even hurt people of color, women and ethnic groups,'' she tells us sternly. ''These jokes were wrong then and they're wrong today'' -- unlike, say, Whoopi Goldberg's most memorable joke of recent years, the one at that 2004 all-star Democratic Party gala in New York where she compared President Bush to her, um, private parts. There's a gag for the ages.

I don't know what Whoopi's making such a meal about. It's true you don't see many positive images of people of color on ''Looney Tunes,'' but then the images of people of non-color aren't terribly positive either (Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam). Instead, you see positive images of ducks of color, roadrunners of color and tweety birds of color. How weirdly reductive to be so obsessed about something so peripheral to these cartoons that you stick the same damn Whoopi Goldberg health warning on all four DVDs in the box. And don't think about hitting the "Next" button and skipping to the cartoons: You can't; you gotta sit through it.

One of the most terrifying aspects of totalitarian thought is the desire to regulate humour, to decide what is and is not funny and force people to conform. Can you imagine living in a society where, before laughing at something, you first had to think it through to see if it conformed with the currently acceptable definition of "funny"? Imagine that if you laughed at the wrong time and at the wrong thing, you faced social ostracism, penalisation at your place of employment and enforced "sensitivity training" or worse?

This is the kind of world that Hollywood PC is giving us a glimpse of.

Steyn further comments on the Limousine Liberals attempts to be "non-political":

But being so perversely ''non-political'' is itself a political act. If there were a dozen movies in which Tom Cruise kicked al-Qaida butt across the Hindu Kush, it would be reasonable to say, ''Hey, we'd rather deal with Matobanterrorism for a change.'' But, when every movie goes out of its way to avoid being ''encumbered,'' it starts to look like a pathology. And by the time Hollywood released this summer's ''Stealth,'' some studio exec must have panicked that, what with all this Bono/Live8 debt-relief business, it might look a bit Afrophobic to have any more Matoban terrorists. So ''Stealth'' was a high-tech action thriller about USAF pilots zapping about the skies in which the bad guy is the plane.

That's right: An unmanned computer-flown plane goes rogue and starts attacking things. The money shot is -- stop me if this rings a vague bell -- a big downtown skyscraper with a jet heading toward it. Only there are no terrorists aboard the jet. The jet itself is the terrorist.

This is the pitiful state Hollywood's been reduced to. Safer not to have any bad guys. Let's make the plane the bad guy. No wonder it's 20th century Britlit -- ''Harry Potter,'' ''Lord of the Rings,'' ''Narnia'' -- keeping those Monday morning numbers up. It's Hollywood's yarn-spinning that's really out of focus, and in the end even home entertainment revenue won't save a storytelling business that no longer knows how to tell any.

Of course, when it's the West and more particularly America that can be portrayed as the bad guys, the desire to be non-political flies out of the window. Which is why Bruce Willis' planned movie will be such a refreshing change.


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