Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Who is "Hollywood?"

The internet is littered with entertainment-related blogs and entertainment-related sites, where non-Hollywood people love to post (frequently, and with many exclamation points) about how very, very much they do not care about Hollywood, not at all, not one little bit.

Why anyone would go out of his way to seek out sites to which he is so actively indifferent, I don't quite understand.

"Why should I care about Hollywood!? They’re all just a bunch of immoral, filthy rich, far-left idiots who hate America!!!” the comments read (though spelling and grammar tend toward the creative -- not too surprising considering a current cultural climate which derides intellectual achievement as "elitist" and un-American). Generally the commenter will go on to describe himself as a "real" American from the places where the real people with real values live.

For a moment I’ll pretend the question "Why should I care about Hollywood?" is not rhetorical.

First of all, Hollywood is not Tom Cruise. Hollywood is not Paris Hilton. Hollywood is not the .0001 percent of super-rich super-famous people pursued by the paparazzi, any more than "computer programmers" are Bill Gates. "Hollywood" does include a tiny handful of top actors, directors, producers, and writers; sure. But the average Hollywood professional hangs out with the A-listers about as often as the average American hangs out with Congressmen.

Hollywood, actual Hollywood, consists of thousands and thousands of middle-class (if they’re lucky!) people who work very long hours building sets, rigging lights, and doing all manner of unglamorous, grueling technical jobs for which they will never become famous. Most of these people quite frankly have neither the time nor the opportunity (nor, for that matter, the desire) to attend extravagant parties and hang out with celebrities. They don’t endorse political candidates and give interviews in glossy magazines. They don’t live in mansions in Malibu and fly private planes around the world. They get up way, way before dawn and drive to work and get bossed around by supervisors who don’t appreciate them nearly enough. They struggle with stress and fatigue and overwork because they have too much to do and not enough time to do it. They make an hourly wage. They worry about job insecurity and health care and debt. They are Democrats and Republicans; they are the highly-educated and the high school dropouts. They are Christians and Jews and Muslims and Buddhists and non-believers and every religion under the sun. They come from big cities; they come from the Heartland; they come from the Bible Belt; they come from countries all over the world.

Should you care about them because their jobs are hard? No, at least not any more than you care about your neighbor or your husband or your friend or anyone else whose job is hard. Most Americans, after all -- no matter where they live -- have jobs that are hard.

But here's why you should care about Hollywood, if you care about America:

American entertainment is beloved all over the world. Entertainment is a product that America makes better than any other country. But more importantly, it's America's biggest export. Saying you don't care about Hollywood is like saying you couldn't care less if Detroit never makes another car. If you care at all about the American economy, you really SHOULD care about Hollywood. And while many Americans may not like the “values” depicted in hit Hollywood films, consider this:

In almost all (hit) Hollywood films, the good guy wins. The regular citizen fights City Hall and succeeds. The little guy achieves his impossible dream. The villain’s greed is punished; courage and determination are rewarded. The hero risks his own life for others, and saves the day.

Foreign films often have downbeat endings, but American films reflect the unwavering American belief that even the humblest among us, with guts, hope, grit, and ingenuity, can triumph over anything.

That is an American value which transcends all religions and creeds. I believe it makes us a good people, and even a great people.

But then, what do I know...? I, too, am "Hollywood."

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