I’ve been writing a lot about Hollywood lately, what with yet another version of The Great Gatsby coming out, this time with Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role of James Gatz. The best Gatsby until now was Alan Ladd, in a 40’s black-and-white movie I saw 50 years ago. Perhaps it was my youth, but Ladd played Gatsby like Shane, the role he’ll always be remembered for. Quiet and unassuming, with hooded eyes and a touch of danger about him, there was a lot of Shane in Gatsby, and vice versa. The worst Gatsby was Robert Redford, a townie playing the college boy playing the bootlegger. The new version will most likely be as bad as the last one, full of cloche hats, flapper dresses, shiny limos, and grand houses. That’s what Gatsby means to Hollywood.
And it gets better. Flipping through the channels some time ago I came across a movie about the two men who first conquered the North Pole. I knew that there was a controversy over whether Cook or Peary got there first around the turn of the last century, so I figured Hollywood—being what it is—compromised in order not to hurt anyone’s feelings. Silly me. According to the movie the first man to get there was an American black man whose identity was kept secret upon his return because of the color of his skin. His white partner got all the credit.
Factual fidelity has never been Hollywood’s strong point, but even poetic license needs some kind of restraint. Why not have a black actor play Charles Lindbergh flying over the ocean and wearing a yarmulke, thus killing two birds. Ditto Neil Armstrong, “one giant motherf–cking leap for manf–kingkind.” By the time you read this the Academy Awards will have Tinseltown’s liberals prancing all over the place because Lincoln is favored to sweep the boards. Honest Abe will not be denied by the honest people who decide who gets the Oscar. The other contender is Argo, with that utterly invented airport finale giving it an extra patriotic boost.
And this is where Iran comes in. The bearded types have been angry with the movies since 300, a cartoon-like film with cartoon-like characters depicting the Greek stand at Thermopylae, came out about five years or so ago. Usually Hollywood shows the Greeks in a bad light—warmongers cuckolded by noble Trojans—but this time the Persians came out very ugly and very badly. With Argo the Iranians are complaining that they are shown to be stupid and that Hollywood has brainwashed its audiences. Well, the Iranians have a point. Hollywood is not about to play fair where Israel or Iran are concerned, although no neocon would ever admit it.
If you think the Iranians are made to look bad in Argo, try to remember the last time when, in an action picture, a Palestinian was not throwing bombs at Israeli children. The irony is that Leni Riefenstahl is always evoked when someone dares to make a pro-Palestinian film or documentary. I watched one, The Lemon Tree, about a Palestinian widow’s struggles to keep her back garden once a powerful Israeli politician moves in and his security detail demands she give it up. The movie was neither anti-Israel nor pro-Palestinian propaganda. It was a story about how far apart the two sides are and how both sides see themselves as victims. It was extremely well done and very touching. There was a discussion following the movie. The audience was mostly Swiss, but the first reaction by the burly and bearded Jewish man near me was to accuse the moviemaker of being Leni baby. I got up and told the ghastly man to keep his mouth shut or else. He walked out, and I emerged as the bad guy.
Let’s face it. Liberal Jews own and run Hollywood, and they are not about to give a Southern sheriff a pat on the back, or a Catholic priest for that matter. The irony is that Israeli filmmakers show the Palestinians in a far better light than any American movie ever has. That’s because the self-hating-Jew label doesn’t work in Israel in the same way it does over here. The Iranians should sit back and relax. Hollywood has been waging war on Southern whites (they’re all secretly in the Ku Klux Klan) ever since the great studio system collapsed in the 60’s. It’s the safest way. Whites, soldiers, cops, family men, businessmen—bad. Blacks, Jews, Indians, Africans, Hispanics, criminals—good.
The fat John Podhoretz, a man who most likely would faint if a firecracker went off near him, accuses Hollywood of not making enough patriotic movies. It makes one almost feel sorry for the place. To have both Iran and Podhoretz against you must be an awful burden.