Monday, September 14, 2009

Watching What's Wrong

Jimmy Fallon said it well: “Instead of showing President Obama’s health care speech… Fox aired… “So You Think You Can Dance.” I guess they wanted to give viewers a choice between hearing what’s wrong with our country and watching what’s wrong with our country.”

If you’ve been watching, Joe Wilson’s contemptuous interjection during President Obama’s address to congress is “what’s wrong with our country.” Kanye West’s rude insertion of himself at the MTV Video Music Awards is what’s wrong with our society. Jane Fonda is what’s wrong with mixing the water of celebrity with the oiliness of politics.

I’ve already dealt with Joe Wilson, but inadvertently neglected to include that he’s amply and ably demonstrated he’s a racist. I’m going to deal with Kanye West summarily: in my eyes, he’s a reverse racist, calling the kettle whitey, so to speak—and a blatant sexist, whose seizing of the microphone from a stunned 19-year-old Taylor Swift was crassly intimidating and cowardly.

Which brings me to Jane Fonda. Who just won’t go away. So what’s wrong with her (this time)? Choosing her customary motley company, she joined forces with Wallace Shawn, Danny Glover and David Byrne to protest the selection of Tel Aviv as this year’s spotlight selection for the Toronto International Film Festival’s annual “City to City” theme.

It’s really not much of a spotlight. According to journalist Stephanie Guttmann, “A look at the festival’s home page includes no mention of Israel at all.” But that wouldn’t stop Calamity Jane. You haven’t arrived in American politics until you’ve been boycotted by Jane Fonda.

Seldom is an acronym a synonym for the string of words it represents. But thanks to a handful of uninformed actors and disgruntled walk-ons, the acronym for the Toronto International Film Festival, TIFF, couldn’t be more appropriate, because they stirred up a lulu of a tiff with this one.

Actors should stay out of politics. That should have included Ronald Reagan, but just because it’s too late to stop him doesn’t mean the folly should continue. Alexander Pope said, “A little learning is a dangerous thing.” Some people should stick to learning their lines. I haven’t read Fonda’s biography, and won’t—I’m hereby boycotting it!— but her life isn’t exactly private, and I know of nothing in it that qualifies her for anything but acting (limited), exercise (passé) and outspokenness (unenlightened).

The subject is watching. I watched Jane in Israel in 1982. She and her husband at the time, Tom Hayden, were ostensibly there to observe “conditions.” But she mostly didn’t get off the bus. Tom did—to speak with the press, with Israeli soldiers, and one on one with me—and came off as a really nice guy. I didn’t learn until much later that he was running for the California Assembly and, here’s that uncomfortable mixture of show business and politics again, he was “back-dooring” it in Israel to get the heavy California Jewish vote. That November, he won the general election.

1 comment:

  1. Great trio of people to string together here, Ray.

    Of course with Joe Wilson, already a rallying cry for both sides, it was the occasion more than the sentiment - and at least he apologized to Obama right away for that. (Bill Clinton and GWB had the same thought hurled at them for their respective eight years, just not there.) Yet I must admit to some attraction to the British model, watching the House of Commons mix it up with the Prime Minister. A good dose of humility - any realization they may be wrong - has been lacking quite a while in our chief executives. George Washington set the best example, refusing to be called anything more exalted than President, and uncomfortable even with that.

    Kanye West, please... see Obama's off the record comment reported today.

    The Toronto tiff has surprised me, even for Jane Fonda and Danny Glover. But I found your Tom Hayden reference even more disturbing, 'cause in its own way it's even more current. It didn't take Hillary Clinton five minutes after leaving New York office, and the base of Jewish support, to turn her back on Israel. Makes me very uneasy.