Senate majority leader Robert Dole (R-Kansas) recently blamed rappers Ice-T and Snoop Doggy Dogg; Oliver Stone's movie Natural Born Killers; the Tony Scott-Quentin Tarantino picture True Romance; and other controversial artists and art for accelerating America's alleged free fall into social chaos.
The reasoning behind Dole's selection of four very specific targets is interesting to consider. For one thing, both Snoop Dogg and Ice-T instigated what are, by pop culture's fast-twisting clock, some pretty old and moldy controversies; ditto Killers and True Romance, two ultraviolent conversational flash points that haven't occupied movie theaters for many moons.
Next, consider the bread-buttering issue. Dole's curious praise for the supposedly pro-nuclear family True Lies--an immensely entertaining action epic that also, unfortunately, traffics in Arab stereotypes, spousal humiliation, and rampant misogyny--was a blatant sop to its star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, a hard-right Republican and big money donor. Similarly, Dole avoided condemning The Last Boy Scout, Pulp Fiction, The Color of Night, or Die Hard With a Vengeance, despite their combined king's ransom of offensive elements, because they star Bruce Willis, an un-abashed Republican poster boy and guest of honor at countless GOP fund-raising events.
One more thing. If you still doubt that this pseudo-flap says more about money and political influence than about morality and decency, check out the cover story in last week's Time magazine: "Are Movies and Music Killing America's Soul?" The article's conclusion is, of course, "No." I say "of course," because all four pop culture outlaws singled out by Dole either are, or once were, the property of Time-Warner, Inc., which owns the magazine.
Speaking of Time-Warner and conflict of interest, if you still have the June 3 issue of Time magazine, flip to the Arts section. You'll find an exhaustively researched feature on corruption at fashion magazines where, we are told, advertising dollars dictate the direction and extent of editorial coverage. Pretty hard-hitting stuff, until you finish the last graph of that story and jump to the very next one: a two-page The Bridges of Madison County spread that boasts a glowing review of the film by critic Richard Corliss and an even more glowing profile of its director, Clint Eastwood, by Corliss' colleague, Richard Schickel. The film's distributor is Warner Bros. And Richard Schickel has written a new biography of Eastwood to be published this fall by a Time-Warner imprint.
--Matt Zoller Seitz (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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