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article imageOp-Ed: Hollywood Stars Making Headlines in Blockbuster PR Disasters

By Johnny Simpson     Mar 18, 2010 in Entertainment
Is this a Triple Feature or what? First, Sean Penn says to jail journos who call Chavez a dictator. Then, Megan Mullally calls Jay Leno insane for targeting red state viewers. Now, Tom Hanks and Matt Damon star in their PR Hiroshimas. The buzz is red hot!
There has long been a profound dichotomy within the American people's love-hate relationship with liberal Hollywood, and it's all politics. Most Americans are solidly center-right. Hollywood is predominantly (but not all) liberal and/or far left, and in a distinct political minority as such. That is not opinion. That is fact.
It is also a fact that most Americans awe and wonder at such cinematic feats as LOTR: Return of the King, Dark Knight and yes, Avatar, for all you righties who despise the film's politics. The People Have Spoken, and louder than ever. If it's any consolation, I'm one of those righties who despises Avatar's simplistic and extremely moldy Billy Jack in Space meets Dances With Wolves story template. Me, I would have shot Rendezvous with Rama in 3-D. It was available. But Box Office Talks and Bullshite Walks. End of story.
Yet at the same time as we flyover country Americans marvel at such genius-inspired celluloid treasures as the aforementioned and many more, there are times we are confounded trying to reconcile many Hollywood stars' brilliant creative film work with their incredibly brainless public missteps and verbal stumblings. They portend complete detachment from reality as most Americans know it. The Polanski petition. Team Hollywood's Iranian Punking Extravaganza. Duh. Actress Cameron Diaz toting a Mao bag in Peru, where terrorist Shining Path Maoist rebels have massacred tens of thousands. Duh-h-h! How do you reconcile Ms. Diaz's brilliant film work with such a monstrously insensitive cultural gaffe? May as well tote an I Heart Adolf bag in Poland! I'll betcha she's checking in with Berlitz now!
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Lately, however, some major Hollywood A-listers are discovering (perhaps to their eternal chagrin) that they don't have to be fleeing angry citizens in foreign nations (like Ms. Diaz) to know what it feels like to face the torches and pitchforks of riled mobs of the offended. Two-time Oscar winner Sean Penn recently ignited a political firestorm on The Bill Maher Show by calling for the jailing of any journalists in the mainstream media who called Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez a dictator. Mr. Chavez was both humbled and elated by Mr. Penn's defense of him in the media. Well, maybe not humbled. Not really Hugo's style. But elated.
In most blackly comic and ironic fashion for both Misters Penn and Yeller, news surfaced of the blistering 300-page OAS Human Rights Commission report on Venezuela's horrific human rights record, fueling the controversy even more. It is all becoming a very bad PR trip for the esteemed Mr. Spicoli. Even White Sox manager, baseball legend and Venezuela native Ozzie Guillen is riding him like Zorro. Let's see if Mr. Penn jetsets away to his Biggest Fan and Numero Uno Amigo, El Chavista. Escape all the L.A. heat in Caracas!
But Wait! There's More! There always is in Hollywood, isn't there? Never a dull moment. I love this town! The next blockbuster world stage PR production currently tanking in the cineplexes of American public opinion is via actress Megan Mallally, of Will and Grace fame. Ms. Mullally recently produced a boffo PR disaster herself through her napalm-laced comments to a Movie Line reporter, trashing Jay Leno's hosting of Sarah Palin on the jump-started Tonight Show. Palin's appearance was a ratings hit. Ms. Mullally begged to differ:
"Could it be any more bald-faced that he (Leno) is going after the red states? It’s insane. It’s just right out there, full on. Amazing. And she was wearing jeans. (mocking Palin) ‘I’m gonna wear denim! I’m gonna dress it down!' Sarah Palin gives me diarrhea.”
Besides the offensive obscene reference for millions of Sarah Palin fans nationwide, some red staters are interpreting Ms. Mullally's statement to imply that they're all insane, ergo Jay Leno's apparent insanity in appealing to them. That's half Ms. Mullally's audience, perhaps more. Why did she say it? But the biggest question du jour in all of the media and cyberspace involves perhaps today's biggest star, Tom Hanks: why did he call America's honorable war against a vicious and genocidal Imperial Japan a war of racism and terror, implying both sides were equally immoral while promoting a tent pole HBO series on that very war?
U.S. Dauntless Dive Bombers Over a Japanese Ship
U.S. Dauntless Dive Bombers Over a Japanese Ship
Wikimedia/US Navy
The historical record is well-documented and very clear on the Pacific War. In early 1942, under a new and brutal Japanese occupation, the Filipino people hung onto every syllable of white American General Douglas MacArthur's famous proclamation, "I Shall Return." And he and we did, at great cost to our nation in blood and treasure. Filipinos and Americans suffered atrocities side by side in the Pacific War. The Bataan Death March ring any bells? 18,000 Americans and Filipinos dead from starvation or Imperial Japanese butchery, all on a 20-mile food and water-less trail of blood and wanton slaughter to prison camps that were no better.
And do we really need to bring up the Rape of Nanking, the worst single atrocity in WWII now regarded as a genocide? We fought alongside the Chinese, too! Not to mention Pacific Islanders, Malaysians, Indians and my personal favorites, the Oz Landers. And not just because they're white, Tom! They were all our allies against Japan's own Third Reich. We're allies still. What the hell is Hanks talking about? The use of racial epithets like Japs, Nips, yellow dogs and slant-eyes? It was war! Men were and are trained to hate and kill the enemy in combat. Wasn't hard after Pearl Harbor, I'll bet. We had a lot of slurs for lily-white Nazis, too. Krauts, Jerries, Heinies, Huns. That all wasn't racism. It targeted blood-drenched Axis forces. Not civilians.
Brad Pitt in Inglourious Basterds
Brad Pitt stars in Quentin Tarantino's upcoming film Inglourious Basterds, about an army squad of Nazi killers
Courtesy the Weinstein Company
But that leads you to the Berlin Airlift and postwar rebuilding of Japan. We didn't "kill 'em all" or annihilate the "different" Japanese, and we had the overwhelming power to do so. In point of fact, our once-mortal enemies are now vibrant and flourishing democracies. We spend billions a year in their defense, as we have since the end of WWII. And as for Mr. Hanks' "kill 'em all" statement, that was the Imperial Japanese order of battle. They were as fanatical and willing to die as the worst of today's radical Islamist extremists. Here's a manned Kamikaze torpedo. Even the leviathan Japanese battleship Yamato was sent on a known suicide mission near the war's end. A whole suicide fleet sailed with Yamato in Operation Ten-Go. No surrender.
The Shinto were going to ride out in flames like Hitler, perhaps to the last innocent Japanese civilian. They'd already done the same thing all over the Pacific. Scorched earth. Dropping the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs actually saved millions of lives, and not just in Japan. We did what we had to do to win and end that war. During its course, we freed tens of millions of Pacific Rim Asians whom the Imperial Japanese had seized by the throat like the Devil himself. Most are all free nations today as well, except for maybe North Korea. But that's Russia's and China's fault. Look to the South. Which Korea is starving to death under nightmarish inhuman tyranny? The one we've had tens of thousands of troops in for sixty years? Or no?
Sorry, Kim Jong-Il lovers, but it's the sad truth. Has been for nearly sixty years in the DPNK. First Daddy Ironfist, and now Junior with his nuke and missile playset. And that's why I've provided all these extensive historical references as the backstory. To put on full display the essential truths for most Americans as I perceive them. They are all core to what is riling up a lot of center-right America and the blogosphere right now: the real history, as compared to Mr. Hanks' stunning diversion from it. So why did Hanks say it? Especially on the cusp of the release of his and Steven Spielberg's HBO mega-series The Pacific? How can you film a whole war without understanding the heart of it? Horrible PR, especially with veterans like me who know the real history. And it now appears Mr. Hanks may have contributed to The Pacific's poor open. 3.1 million viewers. Band of Brothers opened to 10M, and The Pacific had that blockbuster series for a promo!
Spielberg? Hanks? Total War in widescreen? Barely 10% of HBO's total subscriber base of 30 million. Ouch. Just Ouch. Who can deny that is near death in the Nielsens for such a monumental production on HBO, especially with most everyone in America home or near a TV on Sunday night? Unfortunately for the stars of all three of these blockbuster PR disaster productions, the public opinion box office hasn't closed on them yet. In fact, the lines are still forming around the block. Many are getting deeper around Hanks' nuclear PR hit. Throw in Matt Damon's disastrous Bush-bashing WMD conspiracy flop Green Zone and the nuclear political fire that film is fueling and you have to wonder: is the long-simmering culture clash between centrist America and liberal left-leaning Hollywood coming to a Perfect Storm head? Even revolt, perhaps?
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If I know the American people (and I do know a few mil), the attitudes and expressions of Mr. Penn, Mr. Hanks and Ms. Mullally could not be further from America's majority public mindset, or more offensive to core American sensibilities. As a freedom-loving American, you do not call for the incarceration of media journalists for tagging a dictator as a dictator. And you don't slam a huge segment of your audience just because they live in states of color. That's racism. And you DO NOT promote an epic $250M Pacific War series by bringing the honor and character of the brave American servicemen and women who fought and died in that war into moral question. It's all bad news, both literally and figuratively now. But have no fear, Hollyweird! I'm here to help. From my own intimate knowledge of normal Americans, plus exquisite public manners training from an ex-girlfriend who just took it all too far, I'll try real hard to be the shepherd here.
I would have to say, given the increasingly toxic public atmosphere generated by the Three Lefty Amigos, that it would be in any Hollywood star's best interests these days to follow the model of their Golden Age predecessors: just make great films and STFU. Build a mystique! That's not to say creative film artists in Hollywood shouldn't be free to say whatever words or shoot whatever films they like. First Amendment and their money. They will anyway. I'm not a major player. I have no real voice there. But as Messrs. Hanks and Penn and Ms. Mullally are finding out the hard way, not all free speech is totally free. Some costs big time. And Hollywood depends on Americans from all walks of life for its success in the celluloid and TV markets.
Blockbuster.com changes its Total Access Plan
Blockbuster.com changes its Total Access Plan
Why ask for trouble? Why attack your own ledger sheets? Would it be smart for elected officials to willfully and maliciously offend their core constituents? They are free to in America, of course, but that has a major price come Election Day. Why crap where you eat? I myself would recommend the old and trusted adage, "If you don't have anything good to say, don't say it." How can you go wrong there? May I also recommend Miss Manners as erudite cultural guidance for A-listers as well? Or at the very least, How To Win Friends and Influence People? How about my own rigorously thought-out and apolitical mission statement to creative film artists at Breitbart's Big Hollywood? I designed it to keep Hollywood types out of trouble with fellow films artists and the public, me most of all. They need something. The current PR plan ain't working.
As one last helpful and constructive PR thought to my remaining beloved film industry idols (stick a fork in the three here, they're done), Hollywood celebs should drop the term "flyover country." It immediately taints over 90% of the land mass and population of the United States with a contemptuous and yes, elitist bias. Like you're better than all of us. Do you really need the PR agony Ms. Mullally is suffering right now? Again. Who's filling all those theater seats and controlling TV ratings? Hmm. Curious. As for me, I will continue to say things that may offend some people if it is the truth as I know, perceive and/or research it to be. The truth is my legal defense. And I am an insurgent guerrilla blogger, not a big movie star in the public eye.
Funnymen Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin host the 2010 Academy Awards
Funnymen Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin host the 2010 Academy Awards
ABC
But if I had a film career on the line, I'd be on my best behavior with the American public. Loose Lips Sink Ships. They can sink careers, too. That's not to say Hollywood celebrities can't flap their lips and gums all they like. I'm just sayin'. But I will close with this, Dear Readers. These three PR Titanic contenders will be hard to beat at the box office of public opinion. Not that they can't or won't be beat. Hollywood celebs never cease to amaze me. But how about sticking to film? On that note, will some big Hollywood brainiacs locate their minds and finally get Rendezvous with Rama in the can? You know. That whole awe and wonder thing?
Phoenix Touchdown
An artist conception of the Phoenix Lander touching down on Mars.
Photo courtesy NASA/JPL-Calech/University of Arizona
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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