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Op piece - Why don't you just shut up and act, George Clooney?

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Op piece - Why don't you just shut up and act, George Clooney?

Post by watching on Thu Feb 13 2014, 08:19

Why don't you just shut up and act, George Clooney?
February 13, 2014 - 4:13PM

Tim Stanely


Why don't they shut up and just act? George Clooney is the latest in a tradition of stars who want to play a political role.

Thank goodness for Hollywood: without opinionated actors we wouldn't know what to think about anything. This week, while publicising his new movie The Monuments Men, George Clooney told a press conference that Britain should return the Elgin Marbles to their rightful owners. Greece crafted them so Greece should have them.

By that logic, there are a few things the British would like to get back from the Americans. Namely the English language, the 13 colonies, Benedict Cumberbatch and the 118 minutes spent watching The Monuments Men. Our critic gave it two stars.

George Clooney is emblematic of Hollywood politics. Depending on your view, he is either an informed artist who wants to engage with his audience, or a man who uses his high profile as a platform to unleash uninvited opinions upon the public. Recent examples include Sean Penn advising the UK to surrender the Falkland Islands, Clint Eastwood speaking at the 2012 Republican Convention (he introduced the crowd to an empty chair called "Obama" and asked it why there are so many damn lawyers in Congress), and Roseanne Barr running for president on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket. Roseanne said Wall Street bankers should be sent to re-education camps. She added that she'd behead them if they resisted.

But there is a serious relationship between Hollywood and politics. Shirley Temple, who died this week, was an active Republican and a US ambassador. The Senate now includes Al Franken, a former comedian. And Ronald Reagan was perhaps the most significant postwar president - despite memories of him being out-acted by a chimp in Bedtime for Bonzo.

Sometimes the unwelcome tirades by a few luvvies distract us from Hollywood's genuine contribution to American democracy. To understand this complex relationship requires a little history of how it has developed.

When Reagan first became interested in politics, in the Thirties, Hollywood was by the studio system. Stars were expected to defer to the views of their employers, so much so that the movie moguls sometimes invited them to donate a week's salary to the political candidate of the mogul's choice.

The studios were chiefly interested in making money - so they backed for president whoever they thought might win and keep the government out of their business. When the Warner brothers surveyed the polls in the presidential election of 1932, they switched from Republican to Democrat because they could see Franklin D Roosevelt was way ahead. The Warners lent Roosevelt some star power: Bette Davis, James Cagney and Ginger Rogers were dispatched to shine at his inauguration.

Radicalism did exist, but it was unwelcome - particularly in the McCarthyite anticommunist era. As head of his union, Reagan was an enemy rather than ally of the Left. He once narrowly missed being blown up by a bomb placed on a bus by agitators.

Things changed in the Sixties. The studio system lost its power, the witchhunts subsided. A new generation of actors wanted to define themselves as artists with their own minds. The cultural tumult of the time gave them plenty to talk about. Paul Newman campaigned against the Vietnam War. "Hanoi" Jane Fonda went to North Vietnam. Shirley MacLaine urged women to breed less to reduce population. Marlon Brando conducted "fish-ins" with Native Americans to protest at their loss of lands.

A key turning point was the 1972 election. Old Hollywood rallied around incumbent President Nixon: he played golf, badly, with Bob Hope, Fred MacMurray and James Stewart. New Hollywood backed the ultra-liberal, antiwar Democrat George McGovern. At a Democrat fundraiser in Inglewood, arranged by Warren Beatty and headlined by Barbra Streisand and Carole King, guests were shown to their seats by Gene Hackman, Goldie Hawn, Jack Nicholson and Julie Christie. "I kissed Jack Nicholson," boasted a teenybopper. "Warren Beatty hugged me," said her friend. "I'm a Republican for Carole King," explained a 65-year old man sitting alone.

McGovern found that Hollywood brought cash and attention. But it also brought notoriety. The stars made him seem immersed in far-out ideas that average Americans thought weird. Consider Shirley MacLaine. She put her career on hold to work for the candidate; her commitment was idealistic and admirable. But she also wrote enthusiastically about the Cultural Revolution in China and the liberated women of communist Cuba. Shirley claimed to have had an affair with Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme. She said she became attracted to him when she realised he was a reincarnation of Charlemagne.

Nixon won, McGovern lost badly. But the power of Hollywood's new liberal elite didn't go away. On the contrary, they professionalised, hired full-time political managers and turned themselves into a serious lobby. The talent agencies built whole departments designed to attach stars to causes that might enhance their image.

Politics became part of the language of TV and film. When writer Eli Attie (a former special assistant to Bill Clinton) wanted to invent an ethnic minority presidential candidate for The West Wing, he modelled him on a little-known Illinois state senator called Barack Obama.

Politics evolved into a multi-million dollar business - and to understand its importance to Hollywood, you have to understand its culture. Movies are an industry in which people get ahead through socialising: it's about who, less than what, you know. So if you want to sell your script to Steven Spielberg, one of the best ways to do it is to register as a Democrat and attend one of his fundraisers for President Obama.

This implies cynicism, but the character of the acting fraternity washes over it. It's partly that West Coast sunshine; the warm winds of the Pacific make self-promotion feel philanthropic. Not for nothing are some Californians called airheads. But the air also inflates ego. Imagine a life in which you are always told you are right; surrounded by a coterie of advisers paid a lot of money to adore you, rarely meeting real people for fear of autographs or airborn bacteria. Few stars do what Reagan or Temple had the courage to do, break out of the cocoon and run for office. That would expose them to contrary opinions, and Hollywood people are not used to being corrected. It's, like, so rude.

And therein likes the paradox of Hollywood's statesmen. They mean well and they probably want to do good. Why shouldn't they be allowed to contribute like everybody else? Barbra Streisand's political adviser once told me that a journalist asked her directly, "Why don't you just shut up and sing?" And Barbra replied, "I don't have to give up my passport just because I happen to have good pipes."

George Clooney, likewise, has a right to be heard, and his work monitoring the human rights situation in Sudan is entirely laudable. But the rarefied atmosphere that fosters stars' idealism often makes them terrible politicians. They think that because they've played a part on the big screen, it can be replicated in real life. Clooney plays an art hunter in The Monuments Men, so he suddenly thinks he's qualified to talk about the Elgin Marbles. But because his life is actually detached from the realities of the world, it is probably just as well that he never runs for anything. If he won, the results could be disastrous.

Consider the example of Arnold Schwarzenegger. When he ran for Governor of California in 2003, Arnie ran as a superhero - the Governator. He took the press aboard the Total Recall bus to the Orange County fairgrounds to illustrate his opposition to the state's car tax. In front of a giant steel wrecking ball, he said, "In the movies, if I played a character and I didn't like something, you know what I did? I destroyed it." Then the wrecking ball fell on to a car. "Hasta la vista, car tax!" he cried.

Arnie won the election and he repealed the car tax. It cost $5 billion in revenues and nearly bankrupted California. Life, it seems, is not like the movies.

Tim Stanley's book Citizen Hollywood: How the Collaboration Between LA and DC Revolutionized American Politics, is to be published in May by Thomas Dunne Books.

The Telegraph, London


Link to the Australian republication

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Re: Op piece - Why don't you just shut up and act, George Clooney?

Post by Joanna on Thu Feb 13 2014, 08:30

lol! 
What a boring article, mentioning George's name just
three times at the beginning to catch readers !
 lol! lol! 

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Re: Op piece - Why don't you just shut up and act, George Clooney?

Post by Nicky80 on Thu Feb 13 2014, 09:41

"This week, while publicising his new movie The Monuments Men, George Clooney told a press conference that Britain should return the Elgin Marbles to their rightful owners. Greece crafted them so Greece should have them.
By that logic, there are a few things the British would like to get back from the Americans. Namely the English language, the 13 colonies, Benedict Cumberbatch and the 118 minutes spent watching The Monuments Men. "


 LOL!  LOL!  LOL!  LOL!  LOL! 


Those comments are funny.

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Re: Op piece - Why don't you just shut up and act, George Clooney?

Post by Lighterside on Thu Feb 13 2014, 13:13

I think that all this gentleman accomplished with his rant was exhibiting what a little whiney bitch he can be too!  See, everyone is entitled to an opinion, whether you're an accomplished Hollywood actor or just a hack with an attitude and a computer keyboard that works!  Concentrating 

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Re: Op piece - Why don't you just shut up and act, George Clooney?

Post by lelacorb on Thu Feb 13 2014, 16:33

George has expressed his idea but he is right, and the loser has stolen sifiitico Elgin marbles from the Parthenon and then sold them at the British Museum who paid them too little. I hate to be called the Elgin Marbles, since a 'work of art is called with the name of his thief?

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Re: Op piece - Why don't you just shut up and act, George Clooney?

Post by Lighterside on Thu Feb 13 2014, 16:52

My comment was more a reference to the constant meme, especially here in America, that Hollywood and everyone who works there doesn't have a the same legitimate right, as everyone else, to have an opinion about issues, social or political and voice them without being told to "shut the hell up" because they're nothing more than a "pretty face" who shouldn't have opinions.

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Re: Op piece - Why don't you just shut up and act, George Clooney?

Post by phys major on Thu Feb 13 2014, 17:03

There is a lot more to the Hollywood Washington correlation then just some celebrity  voicing their opinions..the.book sounds interesting.


Last edited by phys major on Fri Feb 14 2014, 02:14; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Op piece - Why don't you just shut up and act, George Clooney?

Post by LizzyNY on Thu Feb 13 2014, 23:57

Nice of him to mention that George's humanitarian efforts are "laudable". He might also have mentioned that George's comments about the Elgin marbles (or Parthenon marbles, if you prefer) were in response to a question from a Greek reporter - not just his opinion put out there because he felt like addressing the issue.

As far as Hollywood's connection to politics is concerned, it really is no different than that of any other business, except that it is more transparent. We would be better served if this gentleman scrutinized the role big business plays in our government with the same zeal that he goes after the Hollywood connection.

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Re: Op piece - Why don't you just shut up and act, George Clooney?

Post by Mazy on Fri Feb 14 2014, 01:09

LizzyNY wrote:Nice of him to mention that George's humanitarian efforts are "laudable". He might also have mentioned that George's comments about the Elgin marbles (or Parthenon marbles, if you prefer) were in response to a question from a Greek reporter - not just his opinion put out there because he felt like addressing the issue.

As far as Hollywood's connection to politics is concerned, it really is no different than that of any other business, except that it is more transparent. We would be better served if this gentleman scrutinized the role big business plays in our government with the same zeal that he goes after the Hollywood connection.


So true which George got an even better look at when his father, Nick decided to run. Politics and big business are the real menus.

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Re: Op piece - Why don't you just shut up and act, George Clooney?

Post by Katiedot on Fri Feb 14 2014, 05:34

Lighterside wrote:I think that all this gentleman accomplished with his rant was exhibiting what a little whiney bitch he can be too!  See, everyone is entitled to an opinion, whether you're an accomplished Hollywood actor or just a hack with an attitude and a computer keyboard that works!  Concentrating 
Absolutely! What a miserable whinger.

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Re: Op piece - Why don't you just shut up and act, George Clooney?

Post by Lighterside on Fri Feb 14 2014, 13:04

@Lizzy & Mazy.....I noticed how artfully he dodged the damage done by the big monied interests in our political arena, by the likes of Koch Industries, the Romneys or Addlesons of the world, or the other Wall Street Bankers, who think they should be able to buy our elections right out from under us, thanks to their boys planted on the Supreme Court by George Bush, who gave us Citizen's United....and "corporations are people too!"  It's making it quite easy for them to put in their own agenda, which is turning back the hands of time and returning America to the "Golden Years" when greed abounded, unbridled by little things like a living wage, workers rights, clean air and water, good public education for our children, the safety net for the poor and the elderly or a "social compact" of any kind.

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Re: Op piece - Why don't you just shut up and act, George Clooney?

Post by LizzyNY on Fri Feb 14 2014, 13:43

Lighterside - I agree completely. I guess Hollywood is an easier target because they are always in the public eye so we can see what they are doing - a transparency that is totally lacking when it comes to the influence wielded by the business community in government. Writing about that would be much more difficult, and if he did a good job of it I suspect publishing would be more of a challenge, too.

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Re: Op piece - Why don't you just shut up and act, George Clooney?

Post by mosaic on Fri Feb 14 2014, 22:29

Lighterside wrote:@Lizzy & Mazy.....I noticed how artfully he dodged the damage done by the big monied interests in our political arena, by the likes of Koch Industries, the Romneys or Addlesons of the world, or the other Wall Street Bankers, who think they should be able to buy our elections right out from under us, thanks to their boys planted on the Supreme Court by George Bush, who gave us Citizen's United....and "corporations are people too!"  It's making it quite easy for them to put in their own agenda, which is turning back the hands of time and returning America to the "Golden Years" when greed abounded, unbridled by little things like a living wage, workers rights, clean air and water, good public education for our children, the safety net for the poor and the elderly or a "social compact" of any kind.

Ab-so-freaking-lutely, Lighterside.

Oil Companies. Defense Contractors. Wall Street. All of them wield a LOT of power in Washington...




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Re: Op piece - Why don't you just shut up and act, George Clooney?

Post by Mazy on Sat Feb 15 2014, 01:53

LizzyNY wrote:Lighterside - I agree completely. I guess Hollywood is an easier target because they are always in the public eye so we can see what they are doing - a transparency that is totally lacking when it comes to the influence wielded by the business community in government. Writing about that would be much more difficult, and if he did a good job of it I suspect publishing would be more of a challenge, too.

Both right and if they keep up their attacks on everyday people,the poor, the minorities, woman etc. before you know it we will go back to woman and blacks not being allowed to vote. Hell they got the Supreme Court also in their pocket. We just have to remember this is an election year.

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