Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Hollywood Propaganda?

If you have yet to see Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, you should try and catch it Monday nights at 10pm on NBC. It’s a great show with some amazing actors (Matthew Perry and Amanda Peet to name just two of a very large and impressive cast) which depicts the struggles of Hollywood heavy hitters—the public's interference in their personal lives, the pressures of network sponsors as well as the social lives of celebrities and producers alike.

It's fun, well written and exciting to watch, but recently I have noticed a few things that have been making my ears perk up with curiosity.

It made me posit the question, "Is Hollywood using propaganda to regain the trust of Christian conservative right?"

I know, Hollywood and Christian Conservatives sounds like a contradiction in terms but hear me out.

The show has begun painting what used to be considered the evil liberal world of Hollywood as just a few people who, sure have made some mistakes in the past but are trying to forge ahead in the name of uncensored media.

Danny Tripp (played by Bradley Whitford) is the executive producer and recovering (recently relapsed) cocaine addict who the audience grows to love for his hard hitting approach to the show and dedication to his best friend, head writer, and all around fuck-up Matt Albie (played by Matthew Perry). Matt Albie and Danny Tripp return to the show after being forced to leave for making controversial criticisms of Bush directly after 9/11 and have returned with new fervor and an interminable desire to make the show better and uncensored in political topics (the show is, by the way, modeled after SNL).

The newly appointed President of the network, Jordan McDeere (Amanda Peet) after entering the show as the bad-ass bitch who bossed around the Network Execs and fostered the growth of the new Studio 60 was in our most recent episode brought back down to reality after an expunged DUI comes back to bite her and is plastered all over the news.

So where is the propaganda? Examine the evidence:

1. A bit called "Crazy Christians" is taken out of the line-up when network execs forcibly pull it, which is the catalyst for the previous executive producer of the show to blow-up on screen resulting in his being fired and Matt and Danny being hired.

2. The same bit is preformed on their homecoming episode despite conflict with the network and their sponsors. What happens? They get great ratings.

3. The two main characters both struggle with substance abuse problems, but we are supposed to put that aside and love them because they have such great personalities (sound familiar?).

4. The News sketch decide to drop a bit which criticizes a high school in a rural town after they pull their performance of Grease (it's too sexual) and decide not to perform the Crucible (it casts Christians in a bad light) because the small town of 4000 people are "Just trying to raise their kids," and "50% of the town works in a bakery which makes bread." Salt of the earth people, and "Why are we making fun of them" etc. bla bla bla.

5. One of the main actresses Harriet Hayes (Sarah Paulson) is criticized for being a born again Christian, and they play on the idea of her spiritual superiority. For example, they are having electricity problems from some sort of natural disaster and they have no idea how to fix the wires which seem to be severed from the power source. So:
Lights are off, "It's just that God loves me and hates you guys,"
"Oh yea prove it,"
Lights go on.

Funny yes, but what are they trying to say?

Inevitably they pull the Christian joke and replace it with a bit about silencers on guns in Minnesota and a bear's reaction to the new law. And yes, it's stupid.

Is Aaron Sorkin trying to say, "Hey, we Hollywood types aren't bad guys, yea we may have made mistakes in the past, yes maybe we poke fun at the president and Christians, but we know when we are wrong and we know when not to go too far."

I'm not quite sure, but it's weird, It freaks me out, and I guess I'm just going to have to tune in to see why this show chooses to be so borderline on issues of religion with the cast and with the jokes they air on "Studio 60."

I love my Bebentze

For all of you who didn't know or hadn't figured it out by noticing the "slight" accent of my fiancee Boyan, yes I am marrying a foreigner.

Within the past week I have commenced my study of Bulgarian, a language as complex and beautiful as a spider web with a alphabet complicated enough to make even the cunning linguist wince with anticipated difficulty. Reading, writing and pronoucing the cyrillic alphabet has proven difficult for me, I even have a big poster board with the alphabet written out in the style of a first grade classroom. But I am truly excited with the idea of being able to speak to my future mother-in-law, even more excited to be able to curse with Boyan in public places.

Never-the-less, I love my fiancee, he is remarkable and so wonderful to me and I thought I should share this with everyone. Yesterday he gave me my birthday present (he says he goes by the orthodox calendar which I know to be not true, but cute anyways) and he got me the wallet I've been drooling over at flax for some time.

Its a long, white leather wallet pressed with alligator imprints and inlayed with pastel, floral asian accents. Truly beautiful.

I am so excited to have him in my life and can't wait to experience all the exciting things to come.

Thank you Boyan. Obichum Te.

He's also incredibly handsome and anyone who has met him can speak of his wonderful character. Aren't I blessed?

China scares me

Let me tell you why...

Besides the fact that millions of American stocks and bonds are now owned by the Chinese government, besides the fact that their population has now been estimated at 1,313,973,713 as of July 2006, and despite the fact that it is now the fastest growing economy in the world—China has insurpassible nationalistic and communist linked robotic citizens who don't seem to care how hard they work to get ahead, nor how their success benefits anyone else but their government.

I admire and fear their work ethic, their ability to work 14 hour days in the fields, sacrifice their entire lives towards a goal of olympic proportions, even their dedication to a culture which has been fostered from a civilization which is now the longest lasting in the history of the world.

Babylon fell, Rome fell, Ancient Greece is only remembered in classical tragedies, but China has remained a mystery to outsiders for centuries and only now do we seem to understand a little bit more into the personalities of the people who have built a country on the sweat of it's citizens and the spirit of their ancient culture.

If you haven't seen Discovery Atlas: China Revealed on the Discovery channel, then you are truly missing out on a beautifully done (maybe overkill on the special effects and over voiced narration, but overall well done) documentary that covers the expanse of china's land and the different groups of people—from northern mongolia, the eastern capital of Beijing, southern rice patties in PingAn and desolate western deserts—from its richest entrepreneurs to it's poorest laborers—it truly captures the heart and soul of China.

The part most frightening was when they showed thousands of boys from ages 4 to 18 practicing syncronised Kung Fu (or WuShu) training at WuShu village. What was a 2000-year-old practice developed by monks for defense and spiritual enlightenment is now used to as training for the army and police. Cut to: hundreds of chinese children in primary school singing the national anthem:

Ye who refuse to be slaves!
With our very flesh and blood,
Let us build our new Great Wall!
The peoples of China are in the most critical time,
Everybody must roar his defiance.
Arise! Arise! Arise!

Millions of hearts with one mind,
Brave the enemy's gunfire, March on!
Brave the enemy's gunfire, March on!
March on! March on! On!

Just a tad bit frightening no? Every minute 34 new chinese children are being born, which is 7 million in one year. They say that if the chinese continue to mulitply and consume natural resources that at the rate they are going we would need an entire new planet earth just to support china in 30 years. Which adds to the recent article in New Scientist which stated that if the earth's population does not curb it's consumption of natural resources and continues to over-populate the world, we will need two additional earths to support the population by 2050.

It is just astonishing to me how hard working they are, how self-less they can be and maybe that is what is scary. They have a spirit and national pride unhindered by communist control and unparalleled by any other country on earth.

It is hard to look past these things and see the beautiful side of China, because it truly is astonishing. I hope that with all their progress their ever-increasing influence on the world stage will be beneficial to western nations.

Otherwise I guess we better start learning Chinese. Ni Hao Ma.