Monday, January 16, 2012

Much Ado About Mostly Nothing

The Iowa caucuses were to the Presidential race what the Golden Globes are to the Oscar Awards—contrived frippery. For all the fuss and ballyhoo both create, they are pie-in-the-sky burlesques with no significance other than the misplaced importance charitably or naively attributed to them. Not even Shakespeare, with all his uncanny insight, could have foreseen the much-ado-about-mostly-nothing histrionics of American political theater, but he certainly anticipated Hollywood when he likened life to “a poor player… full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” (Forget, for the moment, that he called him an idiot.)

Why does all this matter now? For those who take politics as seriously as they take show business, it matters bigtime.* It’s politics
and show biz, song and dance, drama and more drama. It’s “Descendants” starring Mitt Romney (and, formerly, John Huntsman), sharing the bill with “Moneyball” and its supporting cast of Huntsman, Sr.; Super PACs (produced by the Supreme Court); and the debut of a new “actor” on the national stage, Sheldon Adelson, who became a headliner overnight. It’s a lower case homonym, a different kind of pack, with Mitt breaking away from the “Bridesmaids” to become his party’s strange bedfellow. It’s “War Horse” featuring every candidate. It’s “Crazy, Stupid Love”… “Carnage”… and “Shame.” If it adds up at all, it’s the cynically calculated math of press agents and political consultants, of flaks and spinmeisters.

Springing from the star-besotted minds of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, The Golden Globes could only have been created in Hollywood. Where else could a mere 80-plus men and women from around the world, many of whom are purportedly neither foreign nor press, influence America’s number one awards show—likely, one with a vastly larger international viewing audience than our presidential elections—the Academy Awards? Where else could 80-plus would-be foreign journalists take the lead in swaying about 5800 Oscar-voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, qualified professionals all, to think as they thought and vote as they voted?

Where else? In Iowa, where 7 would-be candidates spent incalculable amounts of time, effort and money to influence all of 5.4% of Republican voters to write one of their names on a slip of paper—with grand dreams of ultimately impressing on 50.1% of the 130 million or so Americans who may go to the polls (weather permitting) that he or she is the heaven-sent one to lead the country from the chasm they see themselves in to a better chasm. Where an Iowa voter has to belong to a party only for as long as it takes to vote, and can switch parties or switch back to “undeclared” immediately after. Or a Globes voter doesn’t have to speak English to love a performance. Imagine! Almost rubbing elbows with George Clooney on the Red Carpet and writing home to Malasia that you voted for anyone else. Standing in line for the Ladies’ Room behind Meryl Streep and letting the folks in Thailand know “she has to go, too!”

Emerging from the smoke and mirrors unreality in both lands of Oz is the spectacle of a man nobody seems to want, en route to being anointed to lead his party up or down the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City, more smoke and mirrors—and another man 16 of 62 voting members of his “party” (and one hell of a party they give) didn’t want returning to host this year’s Globes after the brouhaha his blatantly barbed remarks created last year, Ricky (the wicked wizard?) Gervais. In both lands of Oz, Caucusville and Stardust Fields, it’s as if a stickball game observed by three neighborhood kids determines who goes to the World Series.

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*It’s noteworthy that “big time,” originally a term to describe the ultimate “White House” for vaudeville acts, was introduced as a synonym for “important” or “major” on radio, July 7, 1950, by the preeminent newscaster Lowell Thomas, in reference to the Korean War.