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If You Can't Get a Life, Get a Website

Exclusive commentary by Greg Lewis / WashingtonDispatch.com
June 3, 2003

It's been made abundantly clear lately that Left/Liberals object to others criticizing what they say on the grounds that such criticism is somehow an infringement of their right to freedom of speech. What's missing from this Liberal whine is, as many have pointed out, the understanding that free speech is guaranteed to all Americans. The First Amendment states that "Congress shall enact no law" abridging free speech; it does not say that liberal jerk-offs have the right to decide for themselves who gets to speak out and who doesn't. PETA has the right to promulgate its silly agenda; you and I have the right to point out it's an agenda only a wack-job could love.

Where the issue has gotten cloudy lately is with show business personalities. Natalie Maines and Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon have the right to express whatever political opinions they want to; Americans have the right to show their disapproval by not buying tickets to their concerts and films and by exhorting others to behave likewise.

But one of the interesting questions that has occurred to me is this: "How do you treat the body of work of a professional actress like Susan Sarandon — many of whose movies you've seen and whose performances you've admired — once you realize that off-screen she's not much more than a moderately intelligent, unredeemably self-important gasbag who happens to have an interesting face?"

I'll admit that she's a competent actress. But when you look back on her films (she's made nearly 60 of them), you begin to see, especially in her work of the past 15 years or so, a pattern of choosing on-screen parts which conform to her rather narrow and uninformed political ideology. It's not likely, for instance, that she will ever play the lead in "The Phyllis Schlafly Story," though it would certainly do her (and Hollywood) a great deal of good if she did. It might actually be (to use actor's jargon) a "stretch" for this actress, whose idea of same has to this point overwhelmingly consisted of playing naive, not to say stupid, waitresses, nuns, and bimbos.

When, in order to appreciate Ms. Sarandon's performances, you've got to agree with her politics, then it's my contention that she's failing somewhere. Willing suspension of disbelief does not extend to willing suspension of fundamental values. And the characters she plays have long since ceased to be much more than ciphers useful in manipulating audiences to come around to a rigorously unenlightened political point of view, in defense of which she and her husband have willfully misapprehended and misrepresented the most fundamental of Americans' civil rights.

The flip-side of the issue is something like this: If the Dixie Chicks had anything — anything at all! — to say to me with their music, I'd be tempted to ignore Natalie Maines' stupid comments and her subsequent petulant evasions and buy the group's CDs. If they were anything but three bimbos out to hoodwink audiences and ride their dime-store sexuality to the top of the country charts, I might be interested. But they're not. And if the audience for their music wants them out of sight and out of mind, who am I to object. I support everyone's First Amendment rights.

The fact that some dim bulb of a country singer has caused so much of a stir simply by giving us yet another example of how stupid and uninformed a human being can be is more a comment on our culture than on her lack of intelligence or savvy. To anyone upset by Ms. Maines' comments, I guess I'd just say — exercising my right to free speech — Get a life, Grover! In the grand scheme of things, the fatuous utterances of the Susan Sarandons and the Natalie Maineses and the Janeane Garofolos and the Tim Robbinses don't amount to a sneeze in a sandstorm.

Like PETA, these wack-jobs have been treated to a kind of hothouse existence which hasn't required that they test their "ideas" (to give them more credit than they're due) against any kind of reality. Making movies and being around other people who are utterly dissociated from anything close to "real" life (MTV notwithstanding) do not constitute, in and of themselves, qualification for having legitimate ideas.

You can have thoughts, sure, and you can use your bully pulpit to express them. But don't look at me if those American citizens who liked your performances in "Atlantic City" and "Bull Durham" fail to cut you any slack. The very talents and character traits that make it possible for you to portray losers that a lot of Americans can identify with on screen also make you distinctly unqualified for dealing with the serious issues of the day. A whiner doth not a winner make.

And don't bet the farm that those same Americans with whom some of your on-screen characters "resonate" don't have a lot more common sense than you give them credit for. You don't own history. Your opinions as to the validity of the War in Iraq are really of no consequence. And one of the indicators is that you seem to be dumbfounded when many of those people who have been fans of your acting and your music are actually voicing their opinions, and that they disagree with you.

It must be quite a shock to find out that those "middle Americans," the ones who do the hard work that makes this country the extraordinarily rich and free place it is, actually have opinions of their own. Like most of your entertainment industry cohorts on the left, you're actually revealing a callous and cruel lack of respect for, not to say a total misunderstanding of, the people who have permitted you to entertain them, who have enabled you to live lives they can only read about in the tabloids.

The fact that you, by not being in touch, by not listening to the people who have supported you and rooted for you, have violated their trust, and, further, that you haven't even got a clue that you've done so, is an indicator of just how marginal you're becoming. Thank Heaven we're at a period in history when it's actually possible for those people to have a voice.

It will no doubt take years, and possibly decades, for the movie and music businesses to become responsive to what audiences really hanker after. One thing is certain: If the transformation ever takes place, you won't be part of it. Oh, you may be able to get up on stage and make a fool of yourself singing stupid politicized versions of your hits, as Barbra Streisand has done. But that doesn't count. It's not real. It's not even funny.

In the meantime, you might consider, as T. S. Eliot once wrote, "shoring up the fragments against [your] ruin." To that end, since it's clear that you'll never capitalize on the opportunity to get a life, my advice is, Get a website!

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