The baseball strike of 1994 was particularly devastating for a chubby kid like me whose life revolved (revolves) around the Chicago Cubs, baseball cards, the prehistoric chewing gum in packs of baseball cards, and Dairy Queen. (Honestly, how good does a Dilly Bar sound right now?) Some say the sport has never recovered, and that our National Pastime will never be the same again.
But just this month, in the epicenter of American morality, an even more crippling labor strike has left “we the people” hopeless, forced to wander in a desert of our own imaginations.
Demanding an increase in wages, and a cut of the DVD action currently padding Hollywood producer's and Studio executive's bank accounts, back-room writers on the sets of everything from The View to Late Night with Conan O'Brien to Dancing with the Stars to LOST are currently withholding their talents from desperate housewives and obsessive fans everywhere.
Dancing with the Stars, even? Really? Come on, I thought Reality TV was all off-the-cuff? Please don't tell me this means Bob Sagat wasn't ad-libbing all those hilarious commentaries on America's Funniest Home Videos, because I'd have to rethink my entire childhood.
I'd like to make a few observations regarding the situation that the picketing Writers' Guild has left the rest of us in.
First off, it has become abundantly clear that the writers of your favorite show are a substantial (sometimes sole) source of its alleged genius. I think of Larry David writing for Seinfeld all of those years in relative anonymity before landing his own show, Curb Your Enthusiasm, on HBO. Since Curb began in 2000, it becomes more and more apparent each week that it was Larry more than Jerry that made Seinfeld the legend it turned out to be. Of course every successful show needs proper casting, acting, and directing, but the reality is, performance entertainers (like politicians) are typically one-dimensional (e.g. every person associated with Friends).
Which leads right into my second point: it is much more difficult to write a good script than it is to satisfactorily act one out. Extrapolated out into the world of politics and government, this reality is noteworthy when considering our criticisms for current leaders. The reason liberalism continues to fail isn't simply the less-than-convincing leaders who espouse it (or, act it out), but that their script (ideology) is so full of holes and intellectually unsettling as to make one wonder if the writing team from Dude, Where's My Car? had had their hands in its conception.
Third: even I forget sometimes that the thoughts and views expressed and disseminated by the talking heads on television and the Silver Screen are rarely their own. The “talent” and message behind our beloved films and programming emanates from a source deep in the bowels of Tinsel-town. Sometimes, as in the case of Conan O'Brien, a writer gets his chance to live every Wizard of Oz's fantasy by being granted a spot in the limelight to show the world what well-rounded talent they really have. But, this is rare for a reason.
Like a great English teacher who can tactfully offer insight on War and Peace, yet is incapable of penning even a moderately interesting email, actors, performers and talk show hosts possess abilities that, if all writers on the planet were to crash and remain LOST on an island with Others and black smoke monsters, would be rendered as inconsequential as a life-insurance salesmen in Heaven. For every one Dostoevsky there are thousands of 9th grade-teaching “Mr. Curry's”. (Do you have any idea what that “B-” on my To Kill a Mockingbird paper did to my GPA, Mr. C?)
Writing, and the power that ideas “put to paper” can have are largely lost on our visually stimulated culture. Reading the newspaper or a (gasp!) book is archaic in the land of Cable News and Wikipedia. However, a quick peak at history (that thing your public school teacher claims to be teaching you) offers a few important examples of just how powerful the written word can be compared to those spoken (or acted out).
Thomas Paine's Common Sense was the fuel needed for a patriotic fire that would consume the colonies for war with Britain. Karl Marx's Manifesto spawned countless revolutions and prompted countless revolutionaries to (misguided) action. Uncle Tom's Cabin brought slavery to the forefront of American's consciousnesses, Upton Sinclair's The Jungle exposed the dark side of industrialization, and George Orwell's Animal Farm satirically depicted the reasons why Marx and his communistic legions ultimately failed (and will continue to fail, despite what Hillary promises in her latest stump speech).
Which brings me to my fourth and final point: we've always been more influenced by the writer than the actor. We've just forgotten it. We keep telling each other how busy we are, so pre-packaged worldviews courtesy of people with a microphone or behind a camera or in front of an audience seem deceptively more appealing than actually getting our own hands dirty with details.
Al Gore wins every award on the globally-warmed planet (except the highly-coveted “Participation Prize” given at my elementary school to make the uncoordinated and untalented dopes in my grade feel better after yours truly trounced them in every competition on the docket at Field Day), and for what? Reading cue cards off a power point presentation someone else wrote. Why is it that Comrade Gore refuses to debate any other public figure regarding global warming if it is truly his message and he believes in it deeply enough to accept a Nobel Peace Prize for it?
The best example of what I'm getting at here can be seen nightly on The Daily Show with John Stewart. Because his team of more than 15 writers are on strike, the supposed expert on everything from foreign policy to social security reform is currently sitting at home twiddling his smug . Recent polls show a significant number of people under the age of 30 claim to get their news from Rolling Stone (wow!), The Colbert Report (funny), and John Stewart (bad).
I'm in no way insinuating that there is no place for political satire, or that the politicians and pundits I agree with are off-limits from criticism. Important to recognize is the fact that the likes of John Stewart (and yes, even my beloved Stephen Colbert), while funny and camera-friendly, are not the ones coming up with the decidedly Left message propagated on such shows each night.
The people I get my news from (i.e. Michael Medved, Charles Krauthammer, Hugh Hewitt, Rush Limbaugh, and Robert Novak, etc.) not only acknowledge their conservative “tendencies”, but also create their own commentaries, cite their work, and are willing to engage in public, open debates on a daily basis to defend their positions. Say what you want about any of my guys, but they are not afraid to debate and defend their side like the cowards on Late Night tv who love to use their platform to hurl verbal bombs at the Right, but then are safe and free to walk away with a wink-and-a-nod from their brain-dead guest and the approving liberal media.
The writers' strike has exposed even my own assumption that Stewart and Colbert might actually know what they are talking about.
Similar to the awkward feeling you get when another walks in on you and a group of young kids arguing over who gets the last Popsicle, the strike has revealed the voices we take many of our political cues from to be frauds (or at least puppets). If we don't feel silly for caring so much about what stand-up comics and people who pretend for a living think about the War in Iraq or Healthcare Reform, we should.
When conservatives, like yours truly, point out the danger a society can find itself in when its most respected voices are its also its most misinformed, we are arded with accusations of “taking too seriously” what “some dumb actors or comedians say.”
But what are we on the Right to think when the same anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Capitalism sentiments that get such raucous applause on Comedy Central and at the Oscars are being taught in public school classrooms, or can be found on the front pages of most major American newspapers, or are heard on Capitol Hill from the lips of Congressional leaders in the Democratic Party?Tweet
Latest posts by R.J. Moeller (see all)
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- Post-election Thoughts - November 25, 2008
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- Dear Senator Reid and Speaker Pelosi - November 20, 2007
- Methodists Gone Wild - November 14, 2007
- The right to the right to life - October 25, 2007
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- _ _ _ Bless America - October 1, 2007