There are some very good reasons why you should never let actors talk without a script and Clint Eastwood just defined all ninety-nine of them.
His empty chair interview of an imaginary President Obama at the Republican National Convention (RNC) has raised social media ridicule to new heights and made it difficult for me to write this post in a serious manner.
I am not going to go into great depth regarding Clint’s observation that the label 'Conservative', which applies to political beliefs, somehow also relates to personal psychology and, by a small stretch of the imagination, to behavioral values. Nor am I going to spend too much time pondering the fact that when you use an empty chair as a prop the last thing you must do is pretend someone is sitting in it giving you answers.
Instead I am going to focus on some of the questions the star of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
, leveled at his imaginary interlocutor. He mentioned, for instance, that there are 23 million Americans who are out of work and quite correctly called this a disgrace. The natural next thing to do of course would be to examine the kind of policy decisions or circumstances that made this happen and suggest concrete alternatives which the Mitt Romney campaign says will help change it.
This of course did not happen. It didn’t happen not because Clint is less than intelligent, he isn’t, or because he couldn’t care less (I believe he does). It didn’t happen because for all his considerable talents as an actor and a film director Clint is neither a journalist nor a politician.
Without a script to guide him or a film to discuss he was left asking inane questions at an empty chair and making up answers in a painful speech that, entertaining as it might have been, did nothing to produce anything of real value. Web journalist Robert Scoble voiced what many thought when he said in a Google Plus post to his million plus followers that from now on he will interview only empty chairs himself
The coverage Eastwood’s ad-libbing got sidelined the entire RNC
in the social media sphere and raised praise and brought ire in equal measure. The naysayers were quick to point out that bringing a less than well-informed octogenarian actor on stage to talk politics was a kind of euthanasia. Those who supported it pointed out that in one brilliantly subversive move the social media sphere started talking about politics again, at an unprecedented level.
But what of factuality? Somehow in all this noise the wood was totally lost for the trees. Clint mentioned 23 million were unemployed but the U.S. Labor Department gives a figure closer to half that number
. He also mentioned that Obama was responsible for approving the War in Afghanistan, forgetting the fact that by the time President Obama took office in January 2009 the war in Afghanistan was already in its eighth consecutive year.
Then there was the embarrassing senior moment when Clint tried to deduce what exactly it is that attorneys do (one hint here: bifurcating is not it). To his credit Clint did actually say that America is owned by its people and that politicians should really serve the will of the people. By then the crowd was drowning him out with cries for a reprisal of his “Go ahead, make my day” punchline.
Clint’s performance led to the birth of a new hashtag called #eastwooding which has been taken up by thousands of Twitter fans posting pictures of themselves pointing at an empty chair.
Eastwood’s name is a legend for many fans of the cinema. As an actor he has created some of the most memorable tight-lipped action heroes. As a director he has pushed the envelope of creative performance producing films which have artistic integrity as well as popular appeal. Should he be best remembered for the many gaffes in his RNC speech would be the greatest disservice a political campaign could have done to an electorate.