Monday, February 25, 2013

Those Adoring Americans

White House photo by Pete Souza
The Academy Awards had a special presenter last night.  Michelle Obama, with the help of Jack Nicholson, announced the award for Best Picture.
It was midnight (White House time) and Mrs. Obama was in a silver Naeem Khan gown and surrounded by members of the military in dress uniform.  It was all quite natural – just your regular midnight Oscar party.

Or was it?  Seth MacFarlane, master of the unexpected, was the host for the Oscar festivities.  He brought a chuckle to the typically somber Tommy Lee Jones and gave a fanciful welcome to Meryl Streep as an actress needing no introduction.  He seemed primed to take on the rich and the powerful.

But did he?

While Mr. MacFarlane poked fun at pretention and phoniness throughout the evening, he had no comment for Mrs. Obama’s time on the national stage.  Her appearance was cast as a natural and appropriate event.

And what was the “event”?  It was the First lady giving a short speech, with uniformed service members in the background.  The men and women of the military displayed a choreographed sense of awe, with their eyes fixed on the back of Mrs. Obama’s head and frozen smiles in place for the cameras.

It was an instance of the “adoring Americans” staging we see so frequently these days.  Whether it is factory workers, first responders, college students or military members, Americans from various identity groups are used as props for political messaging.  They display their adoration as the cameras roll.

We “get it,” but it still seems oddly inappropriate.  Our military service members, in particular, deserve better than to be used as a prop.

What’s the takeaway from the 2013 Oscars?  I think our entertainment industry has exposed a new reality.

In the 21st century, the only thing it holds sacred is the Democratic Party.

Ann Althouse sees the use of military personnel as props inappropriate as well.

UPDATE 2/27/2013:
Joanna Weiss at The Boston Globe fashions herself as one who seeks out the underlying story in the news.  On 2/26/2013, she pens a column on the Oscar presentation by Michelle Obama and discusses the portent and reaction to Mrs. Obama's remarks, but doesn't mention the staging of Those Adoring Americans.  It's as if they are "so right and natural" that no mention need be made...

UPDATE 4/3/2013:
President Obama upstages his wife by casting Denver police officers as his backdrop.  More Adoring Americans...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Six Themes

Satire provided by Roger King on Twitter
(If you don’t understand the humor associated with the above graphic, please see the coverage of Senator Menendez’s activities by Stacy McCain and the reporting of Senator Rubio’s actions by Courtney Hazlett.)

With Marco Rubio’s GOP response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address, there has been an element of triumphalism in the reaction of the Democratic Party.  Senator Rubio had an awkward moment during his speech when he reached for a drink of water.  The Democratic Party used the occurrence to emphasize that Mr. Rubio is a flawed product.

Just as a political figure with dark skin tone is “not black enough” until he or she is a member of the Democratic Party, the same standard applies to Hispanic political figures.  Unless the individual is a Democrat, he or she is lacking in political legitimacy.

Senator Rubio finds himself at the center of this cultural phenomenon, and Americans are wondering, “Is he ready for prime time?”

Saturday Night Live (SNL) had a parody of Rubio’s “Watergate” moment on Saturday (2/16/2013) and for extra measure, threw in a sketch portraying Jesus Christ as a maniac in “DJesus Uncrossed.” This upped the ante associated with President Obama’s characterization of Republicans as those who “cling to guns or religion or antipathy.”

The “DJesus” segment got the attention of Sean Hannity, who featured it on his television show.  Mr. Hannity cast the blasphemy of the skit as an affront to Christianity.

Unfortunately, he missed the main point: The Themes.

Let me quickly review them for your reference.  There are six of them:
* Republican are bad people (racist, homophobic, and bigoted).
* Republicans are destroying the environment.
* Republicans are harming our children.
* Republicans are stealing from our Seniors.
* Republicans are shredding the Constitution.
* Republicans are turning the economy into a catastrophe.

These are the six anti-Republican messages our culture drives home to Americans day after day.  Surprisingly, Republicans seem unaware of them.  They know there is a “double standard” in American politics, but can’t figure out why it exists.

Take the SNL skit as an example.  The sketch is creative, edgy and irreverent; classic SNL.  And yet Sean Hannity (in perhaps “Rubio Watergate” fashion) goes for the wrong target.  He rises to the defense of Christianity.

Analyze this in the context of America’s anti-gun debate.  Republicans are characterized as killers, or people who actively want to harm our children.  How do Republicans respond?  Rather than point to the scurrilous nature of the characterizations, Republicans defend the Second Amendment!

Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

Our Constitution has legal scholars to defend it.  Christianity has ardent followers to defend it.  The Republican Party needs to concentrate on the task at hand: Counter the themes being used to define Republicans to the American people.

Instead of working the blasphemy aspect, Sean Hannity should have pointed out how SNL is re-working the “Republicans are bad people” theme, casting Republicans as the bitter clingers portrayed so effectively by our President.  SNL uses religion and entertainment as a vehicle, and presents Republicans not only as bigots, but as outright killers!  This is effective, but only if it is not exposed as an obvious use of “The Themes.”

That didn’t happen.  Sean Hannity makes Republicans seem peevish and demonstrably humorless.

Mission accomplished, Mr. Hannity!  (That’s sarcasm.)

The Democratic Party gets to claim a victory with this incident, and it’s another in a long string of victories based on employment of “The Themes.”

We saw a deft working of “The Themes” with the Romney 2012 presidential campaign.  The Democratic Party reinforced the theme that Republicans are bad people, with the 2012 campaign taking it to new heights. Mitt Romney ended up being Electro-Borked!

Americans learned that Mr. Romney would put the family dog on top of the car, place people with dark skin tone in chains, cause Americans to lose their jobs, and kill women with cancer.

Are there more examples?  Well, yes there are!  For every 21st century event in national politics, the themes are there…

No Child Left Behind – “Republicans are harming our children.”

The Affordable Care Act – “Republicans are bad people.”

The Fiscal Cliff; Debt Ceiling; Sequestration – “Republicans are turning the economy into a catastrophe.”

The Patriot Act – “Republicans are shredding the Constitution.”

Medicare and Social Security Reform – “Republicans are stealing from our Seniors.”

Climate Change, Keystone, ANWR – “Republicans are destroying the environment.”

Gun Control, Voter ID, Immigration – “Republicans are bad people.”

CPAC (the annual conference of the American Conservative Union) is being held in Washington next month.  If conservatives are truly interested in fighting back against America’s political double standard, they should study “The Themes” and determine an effective counter strategy.  Ignoring this political threat is insanity.

My hope is that Americans “take off the blinders” and see the instruments being employed by the Democratic Party to change American culture.

It might be too much to ask, but high-ranking Republicans need to lead the way.

UPDATE 2/28/2013:
Bob Woodward has the courage to confront the "Republicans are turning the economy into a catastrophe" theme.  Ron Fournier rises to his defense.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Full Frontal Stereotyping

Helen Hunt, nominated for a 2013 Oscar as Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Have you seen the movie “The Sessions?”  It stars John Hawkes and Helen Hunt in a story about a sexual surrogate treating a man paralyzed by polio.

What’s the headline that will get all the press in the run-up to the Academy Awards?

The film is based on the quest of Mark O’Brien (played by Mr. Hawkes) to enjoy sexual activity even though unable to move his body from the neck down.  While Mr. O’Brien cannot move his limbs, he still has feeling - where it counts.

The movie is groundbreaking from the standpoint of bringing sexuality to the big screen in a novel fashion.  It also has an aspect that will be less talked about: All the male characters are negative stereotypes.

You sense this from the first encounter Mark has with his parish priest (played by William H. Macy).  Mr. Macy brings exceptional depth to the role, but the priest is still a caricature.  The priest – wait for it – has difficulty relating to his parishioners.

Where have we seen that before?

How about Helen Hunt?  Her character (Cheryl) has a family, and the son is a brat.  Her husband, not to be outdone, is self-absorbed and pretentious.  Even the male clerk where the treatment sessions take place is a stereotype.  Like Norman Bates, this motel clerk is thoroughly creepy and inappropriate.

It causes one to wonder about Writer and Director Ben Lewin.  What is he trying to do?

We must pay tribute to the courage of Helen Hunt and to the creativity of the filmmakers in bringing this story to the American conscience.  But why portray male figures in such a fashion?  Why make every male in “The Sessions” - except perhaps Terry the cat - a negative stereotype?

Maybe this is what our culture expects.  We are accustomed to seeing Republicans portrayed in caricature. Cartoons of Republicans depict them as obnoxious, white, overweight males.  Maybe now’s the time human beings of the male gender must be portrayed as dysfunctional.

If you have the opportunity to see the movie and discuss it with friends, see how many are enthralled by the “courage” displayed in the film.

Also see if anyone notices that all the men are jerks.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

No Republicans

Jamie Foxx with daughter Corrine at the 2013 NAACP Image Awards

This past Friday (2/1/2013) NBC provided coverage of the 44th NAACP Image Awards from The Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.  Jamie Foxx (pictured above) received the award for Entertainer of the Year.

The program was presented in prime time to a national audience.  It was a star-studded event with appearances by Halle Berry and Don Cheadle.  Gladys Knight performed “The Way We Were” for the In Memoriam segment.

A local woman, Vice Admiral Michelle Howard (who attended high school in Aurora, Colorado), received the Chairman’s Award for her service and accomplishments in the United States Navy.

Why does this celebration make it to a blog on anti-Republican culture?  It’s because everyone in attendance was a Democrat!

Well, maybe that’s an overstatement.  A more precise statement would be that 95% (+/- 5%) of the guests are affiliated with the Democratic Party.

And that’s remarkable.  An event that celebrates the accomplishments of people associated with the Democratic Party and is attended by people associated with the Democratic Party and is broadcast to a national audience in prime time is not characterized as “political in nature.”  How did our popular media miss that?

Maybe it’s because a national event where Republicans are unwelcome is considered “right and natural.”

Remember back to May of 2012 in the city of Philadelphia.  Is the NAACP simply another “inclusive” American institution where Republicans are not welcome?

The Democratic Party is dedicated to the ideals of ending poverty, ending the scourge of war, and ending personal animosity between identity groups.  It is an inclusive idealism, with one major exception:

There can be no Republicans.

UPDATE 2/22/2013:
Atlanta Black Star reports on gossip associated with Jamie Foxx's remarks in his acceptance speech, where he indicated that people with dark skin tone are "the most talented people in the world."  The concern is that if a white actor made similar comments, it would "probably be the end of his or her career."

The issue, of course, is not racism but political affiliation.  If Alec Baldwin made remarks associating skin tone with ability, his comments would be legitimized.  It's a culture thing...