For the first time that I can remember, there were no politically-charged comments at the Oscars ceremony last Sunday. I mean, I was all ready. We had left-wing bomb throwers like George Clooney, Sean Penn, Barbara Streisand, and co-host Alec Baldwin all lined up in the “let it fly” zone. But the show turned out to be the silence of the lambs.
So what’s going on?
The answer to that question is money, pure and simple.
The rise of the machines has dislocated entertainment all over the country. Now you can program your life on your computer and endlessly amuse yourself with iPods, Nintendo DS machines, and Blackberries. No longer do you have to drive to a movie theater to see something interesting.
Therefore, the pool of movies, recordings, books, and other entertainment is becoming shallow. For the most part, companies are not throwing around big dollars to actors and singers anymore. Now, you have to earn your bread by selling product. And alienating potential customers is not a good business model.
You may remember George Clooney, for example, saying the federal government under President Bush was run like the Sopranos. That was in 2003. Since that time, Clooney has pulled back from provocative political statements. I am guessing commerce has something to do with it.
Alec Baldwin continues to toss grenades at the right, but even he has tempered his commentary. Back in 2002, old Alec told a Florida audience that George W. Bush’s victory in 2000 did as much damage to America as the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Last Sunday night, Baldwin was like your hip uncle; a few wisecracks, then it was off to the bar.
Even Sean Penn, as rabid a left winger as can be imagined, refrained from blasting anyone. A few days earlier, however, he did say that he hoped his critics died “screaming from rectal cancer.” I guess it’s comforting to know that some things never change.
Barbra Streisand continues her political website, but what used to be “bombs away” prose has turned surprisingly mild. Ms. Streisand has resumed touring and recording so, again, marketing may be in play.
Mass market entertainers simply cannot survive by alienating much of the country. Polls show that 40% of Americans currently identify themselves as conservative. As Ms. Streisand well knows, people need people to buy their records and see their movies. That’s the way we were and continue to be, with apologies to everyone for those lines.
I kind of miss the embarrassing Oscar moments where some celebrity would bash his or her country or call out a right-wing politician. Yes, those were cringe-worthy experiences, but they broke the tedium of the long-winded Academy Award telecast.
So next year we should have a retrospective of crazy stuff said at past Academy Award programs. Michael Moore might host it.