(Monday, February 24th, 2013)
And the Loser is…
Closing minutes of the Oscars and Jack Nicholson is up to present the award for best picture. He jokes a little in his edge-of-psychosis way, then suddenly turns and looks up at the giant screen behind him— And who do we see, dressed in a fabulous silver-sequined gown, but Michelle Obama, the first lady of the United States. She’s standing there, live, in the White House, surrounded by young, attractive—and what appear to be members of the military—in their best dress uniforms. She makes reads some tele-prompted remarks about the glory of movies, and then opens the envelope to announce the winner of the award for best picture.
We are awed by Mrs. Obama’s glamour, the regal official setting and the gleaming young boys and girls who, we can assume, might be called upon to sacrifice their lives for the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Is there something wrong with this picture?
…May I have the envelope please? Yes! There is definitely something deeply wrong with the image we saw Sunday night—coming not just from Hollywood but our nation’s capitol.
The first thing that occurs to you is to wonder what, exactly is the nation’s capitol? Is it Hollywood or Washington D.C.? Or is that question merely quaint and old fashioned?
The long-time blending of politics and content-free celebrity culture seems to have taken a quantum leap here. Maybe next year, they’ll combine the two scenes into one. The Oscars will take place at The Kennedy Center and the President and the first lady, the Presidential Seal prominent above them, will host the awards ceremony. I mean, if we’re doing this; that is, giving the imprimatur of the head of state to witless narcissism and excess, let’s do it right! Mr. Obama can do a few one-liners about drone killings and Michelle can do a socko version of the Star-Spangled Banner with Beyonce.
Is this the image that the leaders of American popular culture and government want to present to our country and to the world? Millions of people have lost their jobs, have barely enough food to eat and are being thrown out of their homes by a confederacy of banks that make the mafia look like a girl scout troop. The world is succumbing to suicidal global warming, mass starvation and seemingly endless mass murder, and what do we see? –The President’s wife in a dress that costs thousands of dollars. I don’t know exactly what it costs, but one thing for sure, it didn’t come off the rack at Walmart—which is where most semi-impoverished Americans have to buy their slave-labor-produced clothes. I thought we once had a revolution here to throw off the imperial depredations of a monarchy. I must have been reading the wrong textbooks.
The second puzzler is: What if Zero Dark Thirty had won the award? Would we have been treated to the spectacle of the First Lady, coming to you straight from the official residence of the Chief Executive of The United States, surrounded by the brave and handsome warriors of Democracy, giving a blessing to a movie that certifies the effectiveness of torture; indeed, that elevates torturing other human beings to the moral high ground?
Or maybe this surreal scene was just more collusion—conscious or unconscious—between show business and government—the final, fatal blending that turns the business of war, corporate control of the state and crooked, billion dollar back-room deals into packaged entertainment for the addicted consumers of bread and circuses.
If the people behind the scenes at the Oscars and the White House understood that it would have been astoundingly tone-deaf for the First Lady to present the award to Zero Dark Thirty, then you’d have to ask yourself: Did they all know in advance that the Bin Laden Death Circus film was not going to win? And if they knew—who’s running the show here?
We saw the big winners Sunday night, but the big losers were the American people. We remain sitting, like the proverbial frog in a pot, being slowly boiled to death while our culture and our democracy self-extinguish– All brought to you live from Hollywood and the White House, sponsored by Verizon, BP, J.P. Morgan Wealth Management.