It took a war to get Hollywood to cooperate with a Republican administration. Studio moguls met recently with senior White House advisor Karl Rove to explore how Tinseltown could help foil terrorists. Screenwriters have concocted nightmare scenarios that Pentagon strategists strive to neutralize. The stylish stars of Ocean’s 11 visited Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base on December 8 to energize America’s GIs.
This patriotic and sincere involvement with a GOP government is a departure from Hollywood’s naked embrace of Democrats. Traditionally, they have been paramours in a sadomasochistic romance. While entertainers offer their generosity and love, Democratic politicians express their affection with the backs of their hands. Until recently, both sides found this arrangement satisfying.
The glitterati are among Democrats’ most stalwart contributors. According to the Center for Responsive Politics’ opensecrets.org database, the TV, movie, and recording industry collectively contributed $38,125,410 during the 2000 elections. Democratic candidates and committees scored 64 percent of those funds. Republicans saw the balance.
Movie studios were especially liberal. Time-Warner gave Democrats 82 percent of its $1,020,600 in donations. The Donkey Party enjoyed 95 percent of Disney’s $468,762 in gifts. Dream Works SKG gave Democrats every red cent of its $1,082,315. Trouble is, Democratic politicians grab these funds with both fists, and then fail to stay bought. When they need easy scapegoats, their glamorous supporters’ perfumed cash suddenly becomes money for nothing.
Bill Clinton demanded mandatory “V-chips” in new TV sets to help parents intercept objectionable programming. He also signed the 1996 Communications Decency Act to block “indecent” websites. The Supreme Court overturned that law in 1997 as injurious to the First Amendment.
Clinton held Hollywood partly culpable for the April 1999 Columbine High School massacre. “There is still too much violence on our nation’s screens, large and small,” he complained on radio shortly after the melee. He added, “in giving our kids a safe future…those with greater influence have greater responsibility.” That evening, Clinton headlined an L.A. soiree where he massaged $2 million out of Whoopi Goldberg, Goldie Hawn, Steven Spielberg, and others.
“It’s hard enough to raise children today without the entertainment industry making it more difficult,” former vice-president Albert Gore said during his 2000 presidential bid. Gore, whose campaign accepted $1,065,090 from entertainers, then proposed to make Hollywood heel.
After a six-month moratorium, he suggested, the film, TV, music and video game industries would promise never to target their adult-rated products at children. If the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) later decided they had done so, offenders would be punished for false advertising.
Gore’s running mate, Connecticut’s Joseph Lieberman, resurrected this idea last spring when he cosponsored the Media Marketing Accountability Act with fellow Democratic senators Hillary Clinton of New York (recipient of $596,965 in Hollywood money), West Virginia’s Robert Byrd and Wisconsin’s Herb Kohl. It would let the FTC fine companies that aim adult-rated entertainment at kids. This could include advertising R-rated movies on programs that 15-year-olds watch. While commercials for Vanilla Sky do not belong on Nickelodeon, it should not be illegal to air them during college-basketball broadcasts.
Creative Coalition president William Baldwin, Democratic donors Jane Alexander (who gave $2,500 in election 2000), Kathleen Turner ($4,000), Chevy Chase ($11,500), and about 50 others denounced the Joe Lieberman-Hillary Clinton bill. Baldwin also ran to the GOP White House for help. “Clearly,” Baldwin wrote President Bush last summer, “the threat or implied threat of using government power to enforce a particular point of view raises serious First Amendment concerns.”
Lieberman announced December 5 that he and his cosponsors placed their media-targeting bill “on hold for now” because “except for the music industry, marketing self-regulation is working” in Hollywood.
But wait. Lieberman added: “I remain concerned that once the scrutiny recedes, the deceptive targeting will return.” He also plans to “push for legislation requiring the FTC to issue an annual review of the entertainment industry’s marketing practices for the next five years.” So, be good for goodness’ sake!
Pro-Democrat entertainers are learning a painful lesson. The same politicians who boost federal arts funding also can encumber studios and record labels and even censor their creative output. What Uncle Sam giveth, he can taketh away.
Watching America’s sweethearts get battered around like this isn’t pretty. It’s almost enough to make one flee a Malibu beach house in tears.