Friday, March 03, 2006

Fluffy Hit Pieces

Not that this needs to be said, but where the hell did the media get the idea that “middle America” is somehow superior or more real than the rest of America?  Sure, I live in Texas, which most certainly is superior to the rest of the country; for reasons both real and imagined.  But Kansas?  Lebanon Kansas?  It may be the geographic center of America, but it sure as hell isn’t the ideological or cultural center.  Hell, I’ve never been there, but I suspect that Lebanon isn’t even the cultural center of Kansas.  In fact, seeing as how the total population of Kansas is over 2.7 million, a majority of whom live in relatively big cities; I fail to see how Lebanon is even representative of Kansas; let alone of some big trend which has alluded Hollywood.

I’m referring, of course, to this CNN “news” story linked to by Atrios, regarding how “out of touch” Hollywood is with “middle America” towns like Lebanon Kansas; with the gimmick being that she actually went to the geographic middle of America to sample middle America.  I’m sure Cronkite would be proud.   I quote:

ANDERSON (voice-over): Far from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood lies Lebanon, Kansas, population 250 people, median age 52. A place where three houses recently sold for a grand total of $11,000 on eBay. Many have asked the question, is Hollywood out of touch with middle America? What better place to find out than the middle of America. This is the geographic center of the continental United States in Lebanon, Kansas.
ANDERSON: The closest theater is 12 miles away in Smith Center, Kansas. One movie theater, one film shown per week, and none of the movies nominated for best picture have played here.

Yep, that sounds just like the typical American, huh.  Median age of 52.  Lives in a town with a population far less than a mid-sized apartment complex.   Only has a one-screen movie theater 12 miles away in another town.  That you could drive for 12 miles and be in a whole other town that was much better than your own.  Sounds just like my life too.  And so it’s easily understood how it’s Hollywood that is out of touch with Lebanon Kansas, and not vice versa.  I mean, sure, most big movie productions have more crew members than the entire population of this town; but this town is in the middle of America.  And that surely counts for something.  FYI: The median age of Kansas is 35.2; while the median age of America is 35.3.

And should we assume that the films which do play at this one-screen theater were not made in Hollywood?  Do they only go for British imports, or do they prefer the added challenge of always reading subtitles (for the record, I have poorish eyesight, but refuse to get glasses, so I don’t usually watch films with subtitles, and because the only films I like to watch dubbed are Jackie Chan flicks, I usually don’t watch foreign movies).  Or are they more into the Bollywood thing?  Because we all know how out of touch all those Hollywood movies are; with their gay sex and hoity-toity liberal mannerisms.  Every film striving to win the coveted Oscar, while disparaging all forms of popular entertainment as “low-brow” and beneath consideration.  

But whatever happened to the days when the Academy rewarded real movies, involving real people and real death?  Like Red Dawn and Children of the Corn; films that represented Heartland people doing what Heartland people enjoy doing; killing commies and worshipping vengeful gods who remain nameless and unseen.  And perhaps my memory is failing me, but I believe that both of those movies won Best Picture; even though they came out in the same year.  Now compare this with a movie like Munich, with all its raunchy gay sex and perverted anti-Bush polemics.  I don’t think they killed a commie in the whole damn movie!

And are the Oscars really about being “in touch” with a segment of our population; be they “real” Americans or some other variant there of?  Or is it about Hollywood folks giving awards to the films that they think are best?  Surely Lebanon Kansas gives out some sort of awards each year.  Should they be considering Hollywood’s preferences regarding the winners of the “Miss Cornplow 2006” or “Least Likely to Murder His Wife and Bury Her Among the Crops” awards?  I think not.  As it is, I believe they said that the movie playing there now is Big Momma’s House 2, and that the new Pink Panther is coming soon.  Are we to assume that the folks of Lebanon would be more interested in the Oscars if those two bombs were up for awards?

And maybe I’m just crazy, but wouldn’t a much easier way of finding out if folks outside Hollywood cared about the Oscars be to look at Nielson demographics of who watches the show?  It’s not like these things are a complete mystery, and it would sure be easier and more informative to look at the data.   Do they consider using “facts” to be a form of cheating or something?  Or is it just more fun to interview hicks from the sticks, pretending that they’re more important than other Americans; while implicitly mocking them for being small-town hicks?  

I mean, the whole thing has a Special Olympics quality to it.  Because CNN Entertainment Correspondent Brooke Anderson is not about to take her cultural cues from the fine citizens of Lebanon Kansas.  And she’s not seriously suggesting that Lebanon’s geographic location somehow makes it a better guide to America’s movie interests.  That’s just part of the gag.  And at the end of the piece, Brooke was just as happy to get out of Lebanon as any of the rest of us would be.  And you can bet that she’s seen every Oscar film at least once and will most certainly be watching on Oscar night.  

The whole piece was just a set-up for an extended comedy routine.  Like when Brooke asks the ladies of the Methodist Church bell choir if they wanted to see Brokeback Mountain; that was a joke.  That’d be like asking rappers if they wanted to see Godspell or The Sound of Music.  This is something a Daily Show reporter would do for a cheap laugh.  Forget about journalism, this isn’t even serious entertainment news.  

And let’s not forget the worst part about this story: That from start to finish, this news-entertainment piece was entirely based on the Red v. Blue Culture War caricature that the Republicans have been pimping for political reasons; and that the media has fallen in love with.  And it also served to further entrench that caricature, by representing an atypical rural town as being representative of “middle” America; and contrasting it with the “out of touch” Hollywood fringe, while pretending as if Hollywood only makes Oscar movies.  The word “deception” comes to mind.  And that CNN did this under the guise of a fluff piece is all the more disconcerting.  

Overall, I think it’s amazing how a hard-hitting news org like CNN is able to turn a fluffy topic like entertainment news into an even fluffier nonsense piece, while simultaneously insulting both urbanites and ruralies, and dividing our nation even further apart.  I guess that’s why they make the big bucks.

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