Needless to say, life has gotten progressively stranger and stranger since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The feeling of safety and assurance we’ve always had as Americans has dissipated. The economy continues to wobble ever more unsteadily, like Keith Richards on a visit to the Jack Daniel’s distillery. Airplanes have become the least popular mode of travel, as fear of flying is no longer relegated simply to neurotics. And even President Bush is giving inspiring speeches. Maybe Pandora’s box has truly been opened.
For the entertainment world, it has truly been a tough row to hoe. After an understandable hiatus, the gears of frivolous industry have started to churn again, and it’s been intriguing to watch. Their first nights back on the air, David Letterman and Jon Stewart, both hosts of New York-based shows, quite obviously had reservations about the nature of their jobs. Both compensated admirably, though, by starting out with honest and heartfelt ruminations about recent events.
Some viewers were surprised that these often sardonic comedians were capable of such sentimentality, but it made perfect sense to me. Comedians tend to be sensitive people and astute observers of human nature. The various network television anchors have done a great job, but because they’re professional to the core, they rarely let their guards down. When Letterman tenuously started his first show back with a speech about his own confused feelings, I think it summed up how a lot of us felt. Even Dan Rather, typically solid and straightforward in his own milieu, had trouble keeping it together in his guest segment later in the program.
As is the way with Hollywood, though, there’s also been an overreaction to the tragedy. It’s admirable that the bottom-line nature of the entertainment industry has been willingly pushed aside, as was evident in the telethon aired for free on all the major networks a few weeks ago. But the level of sensitivity has reached ludicrous heights at times.
Much has been made of the decision to scale back the Emmy Awards this weekend. There will be no tuxes or evening gowns, no red carpet, and little fanfare in the presentation of the awards. If they’re going to do all that, then why not just cancel the event altogether? The only reason anyone watches the Emmys is to see what everyone’s going to wear and to see their favorite shows win. After all we’ve been through in the past couple of weeks, the last thing any of us needs is to watch a live funeral procession featuring the rich and famous; it’s just going to make us all uncomfortable.
In addition to putting the kibosh on several terrorism-themed projects in the worksa wise step on their partmovie studios have been going to great lengths to erase the World Trade Center towers from upcoming features, for fear of upsetting the audience. Yet during a preview of the unintentional disaster film Glitter a couple of weeks ago, there was reportedly a roar of applause and cheers when the WTC buildings ended up in a shot. It’s wise to be aware of the touchiness around the country right now, but as such a reaction demonstrates, the buildings themselves, whether they’re standing or not, are still inspiring icons.
Meanwhile, program directors at radio stations owned by Clear Channel Communications scrambled to make sure certain songs deemed potentially offensive were pulled from rotation. While perusing this list of tunes, I was struck by the ludicrousness of most of the selections. Anyone who would be reminded of Sept. 11 by The Cult’s “Fire Woman” or Alice in Chains’ “Them Bones” must have a serious penchant for morbidity. Neither song is literally about what its title indicates, and as someone who grew up listening to both of them, I can say that hearing them would, if anything, provide a comforting nostalgia for a simpler time. Then again, some people can’t resist the grotesque. I found this out recently when I got in my car to find a classic rock station airing snippets from one of Dubya’s speeches, with Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Tuesday’s Gone” playing tastelessly in the background.
On another front, the more vocal members of the liberal entertainment industry have gotten the wind sucked out of their sails. Most were anticipating a four-year run of trashing Bush and his policies. Now it’s not too vogue to go around firing off barbs about how the president is doing. Politically Incorrect host Bill Maher found that out the hard way when he made some comments on his show about the bravery of our nation’s military.
It probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do only a week after the events, when calls for military action were at a fever pitch. In Maher’s defense, though, all opinions are worth hearing, and he may have experienced the type of backlash bound to come from people in the throes of fear and grief. On the other hand, Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine is asking for a sock in the mouth. Rage has made its bread and butter on socialist propaganda that at times seems like a pose, given that they’re signed to a record label that’s part of a multinational conglomerate. On the band’s Web site, Morello sympathizes with the victims of the tragedy, but spends the rest of the time pointing out that people in other lands suffer these fates all the time. Then he attempts to illuminate the evils of America by drawing a parallel between the terrorists’ religious fanaticism and “our own domestic elite.”
I support Morello’s right to be fanatically insensitive, but this is lamebrained leftism at its worst. Yes, other people live with this terror, but this in no way means that anyone in those buildings or in those airplanes deserved their fate. It’s especially galling that the band’s Web site still has The Anarchist’s Cookbook on its recommended reading list. At that telethon a few weeks ago, Neil Young sang John Lennon’s “Imagine,” and I can’t remember the last time those words hit home so hard. It’s too bad that all the kids looking up to Tom Morello don’t have someone to teach them the merits of nonviolent revolution.
Feel the magick
Harry Potter fever has swung into full pitchagainwith the approaching release of the film version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. There are several ways to begin getting ready for Potter mania redux. For instance, you can purchase the upcoming book Harry Potter and the Bible: The Menace Behind the Magick, by conservative Christian educator Richard Abanes.
Turns out, the Harry Potter books are meant to convert teens to witchcraft. Helping Abanes spread the truth about the Potter phenomenon will be Focus on the Family’s Plugged In magazine, which will scrutinize the entire mania right through the film’s release. (Visit www.family.org/pplace/pi/.) Whew, thank goodness someone’s getting to the bottom of this scam. And to think I thought it was just harmless fantasy meant to entertain 10-year-olds.
“He happens to be the president, Charles, not you.”
“That’s a mistake that will be corrected one of these days.”
Be the first to e-mail the origin of this useless bit of trivia to poplife the shame of your name printed as the winner and some free useless crap from the Nashville Scene!
Previous week’s answer: “I was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar; that much is true.”“Don’t You Want Me” by The Human League.
Winner: Virginia Pryor.
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