Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Julie & Julia

Have you seen the new movie about Julia Child? It stars Meryl Streep as Julia, and is written and directed by Nora Ephron. It just opened this past weekend (8/7/2009).

My wife loves to cook. She gets her kitchen tools from Williams-Sonoma Cookware, her oil and vinegar from Katz and Company, and follows instructions given by Ina Garten and Michael Chiarello. For us, this movie was a “must-see.”

How does this movie make its way onto a blog about anti-Republican culture? You will have to see it to get the full effect, but here are some hints…

--There is a wedding scene, where Julia’s sister gets married. In the scene, the obnoxious relative is a Republican.

--Julie Powell, the person played by Amy Adams, plays hooky from work and is confronted by her boss. He says something to the effect that, “If I were a Republican, I would have to fire you.”

--Paul Child, Julia’s husband (played by Stanley Tucci), is caught up in the McCarthy hearings of the early 1950s. He faces what appears to be a panel of Republican Congressmen in a windowless room, where they inquire as to whether or not he is “a homosexual.”

I don’t think you will see a reference to these scenes in any reviews of the movie. They are meant to be a backdrop; a landscape for the movie.

But they are there, and they are purposeful.

It makes me think of the caricatures that our entertainment industry has profiled over the years. We had Amos ‘n’ Andy, with the na├»ve Amos and the gullible Andy representing the way people with dark skin live. We had I love Lucy, with Lucille Ball showing women behaving in a ditzy fashion.

Over the years, our entertainment industry has become a bit more sensitive in exploiting caricatures of human beings. However, that sensitivity now has a political agenda.

What is the message we see in Julie & Julia? The wedding scene shows us that Republicans are inappropriate and obnoxious. The scene with Julie confronted by her boss shows that Republicans are mean-spirited and vindictive. The Joseph McCarthy inquisition scene displays Republicans as bigoted and homophobic.

It takes something away from the entertainment value of the movie, but yes, Ms. Ephron, we get the message.

UPDATE 1
Thanks, Stacy!

UPDATE 2
Over at GayPatriot, Dan has an earlier and more comprehensive review of the film, noting the "gratuitous slap against Republicans."

UPDATE 6/20/2012:
Douglas MacKinnon writing for The Wall Street Journal (may be behind the paywall) confronts the issue in the context of HBO's "Game of Thrones."  From his article:

The latest example of this comes from the HBO network and its series "Game of Thrones." In one episode, the face of President George W. Bush appeared on a head impaled upon a stake. How proud those filmmakers must have been over their sandbox-like prank.

This type of immature behavior has not only become the norm in Hollywood, many times it's expected. It's almost as if there is an unacknowledged pressure to work in at least one totally out-of-context insult of the GOP or a conservative cause. I could list hundreds of movies and television shows which take these shots but will limit the examples to a few.

Go back and look at the 1983 John Landis movie "Trading Places"—in my opinion, a very well made and very entertaining movie. Except that Landis and company could not resist the chance to take a free shot at Republicans. On the walls and on the desks of the morally bankrupt and even racist Duke brothers are pictures of Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, Dwight Eisenhower and other GOP presidents. This dig added zero to a good film, but Mr. Landis obviously could not resist.

Fast forward to the 1996 movie "My Fellow Americans," starring James Garner and Jack Lemmon. Another fun if underperforming flick. In the middle of this movie, for no reason other than that the writers could, is a quip that comes as a fictional former president (played by Jack Lemmon) is stealing vodka from a hotel minibar. Don't do that, says his wife (played by Lauren Bacall). "It's so George Bush." What a zinger. Bravo.

Staying with the Bush-bashing theme in Hollywood, we can jump to the first "Transformers" movie, released in 2007. Again, only because they could, the filmmakers took a gratuitous shot at then-President George W. Bush by showing him lying in bed on Air Force One wearing bright-red socks and asking a flight attendant to "Wrangle me up some Ding Dongs, darling."

Yes, anti-Republican caricatures continue to be popular in our culture.

UPDATE 6/26/2012:
Nora Ephron has died.

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10 comments:

  1. My daughter and I saw the movie and, aside from the gratuitous political references, we loved it. We're both conservatives and agreed that had they been deleted, the movie would have been even better -- and shorter.

    ...

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  2. You are exactly right with the use of the word "gratuitous", Kitty. We are accustomed to gratuitous sex and violence. I guess it's time to get used to gratuitous politics.
    Sony uses the movie to promote certain products (Did you notice the Vaio laptop?). Nora Ephron seems to be using the movie to promote "her products".

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  3. I wish I hadn't spent $ seeing this since it did bash a political party, which I find divisive for our troubled country right now. Streep's characterization of JC was strong but greatly undermined by a very weak and uninspiring depiction of Julia Powell. Here is something tongue in cheek to watch though (: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LO2eh6f5Go0

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  4. I saw the movie. It was a reflection of the time period. Were the McCarthy hearings in full swing? you bet. This is a period piece and a piece about two real people. So both appear to be somewhat liberal, big deal. Certainly shouldn't deter you from enjoying the movie.

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  5. I'm glad I only paid $1 at Red Box to rent this movie. Nora Ephron doesn't deserve our money, nor does anyone who gratuitously promotes a political agenda in a movie. The slaps at Republicans were disruptive and incongruous to the story. "If I were a Republican, I would've fired you." Oh, please. How inane.

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  6. Just finished watching this movie and couldn't believe the overt liberal bias. Have "they" no shame or more to the point, no talent. If you're going to insult the American majority, one would think all those "know-it-alls" in movie land would have a bit more finesse... But then again, reference Weekend at Bernies, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc.

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  7. I am making a mistake by posting on this site, as nothing said will change anyone's mind here, but regardless of what you think of the movie, it is about two women of a liberal bent. Julia Child has over and over again in interviews and her books references her political stances, and has talked at great length about her conflict with her conservative father and how her experience with Paul Child, a staunch liberal, stood in contrast to that relationship. The guest in the wedding scene wasn't some random "obnoxious and inappropriate" person, he was Julia's father, with whom she had a conflict that was germane to her character and development. As for Julie Powell, she was working in a specific place (in a government aid agency at the edge of Ground Zero) at a specific time (immediate post-9/11 Bush administration.) Think what you like of her politics (and if you on this site read her book you will think far less of them), but they were an important part of her experience, and is relevant. Also I get - I suppose - frustration with the way Republicans are portrayed in entertainment, but to compare your hardship to Amos-n-Andy style caricature is at least laughable if not repulsive.

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  8. Anonymous:

    Your defense of Nora Ephron's work is interesting, and I liked what you wrote up until that last sentence.

    If you believe it is "repulsive" to reference "Amos 'n' Andy" along with "I Love Lucy" as examples of caricature in our entertainment industry, then the initial phrase used in your comment is quite accurate.

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  9. I don't mean that it is repulsive to reference "Amos-n-Andy" or "I Love Lucy" as examples of caricature. I mean that to compare the plight of Republicans who don't like being teased to the reprehensible racism and misogyny these two examples represent is pretty silly. I am a liberal, but I think that those on my end of the political spectrum who call Republicans "Nazis" are making a stupid statement that is not only offensive to conservatives, but also insultingly cavalier about what Naziism really was and is. Similarly, to compare what goes on in movies like "Julie & Julia" to a sobering symbol of American racism during the Jim Crow years is overreaching. I don't care much what you think about Hollywood, but don't put yourself on the back of the bus with Rosa Parks, you know?

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  10. Anonymous:

    Thanks again for your comment.

    Please note that the phenomenon exists: A movie about Julia Child is used to exploit America's cultural dislike of Republicans.

    Was it necessary? Your point is that it is reality and therefore must be put on display. My point is that it is gratuitous and happens frequently (see the ARC posts on "The Conspirator" and on "Fair Game").

    Your characterization that I am seeking the emotional shelter of Rosa Parks is entertaining, but I would more appreciate you coming up with your best example of a non-political movie (maybe one about cooking?) that just happens to inadvertently place the Democratic Party in a negative light.

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