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March 15, 2003
Relentless

From Michael Medved in USA Today: "Those of us writing our real-life scripts in the Great American Middle Class ought to feel proud, not guilty, of the private worlds we've built through relentless hard work."

Wait a minute! This guy has a radio show syndicated in 124 markets, he was on a TV show for 12 years (public broadcasting, but still...), he's written a couple best-sellers and eight books in total, he's worked for elite media outlets like CNN and the New York Post, and he's still just middle-class? What is he so damn proud about?

Or maybe, like so many conservative bards of the common man, Medved really isn't so common...

In any case, the USA Today piece from which the quote is drawn nicely illustrates how cravenly (and relentlessly) Medved pimps his most profitable notion: that Hollywood is filled with liberals who are completely out of touch with real American values.

For almost three decades now, Medved has been eating off the idea that Hollywood is bad. In the mid-'70s, he moved to Hollywood to pursue a screenwriting career - and according to his website bio, evil liberals sabotaged it: "Moving to LA to facilitate his work on the book and TV series, Medved became a member of the Writer's Guild of America and worked at several screenwriting jobs - including frustrating projects with Barbra Streisand and the late Henry Fonda."

Around that time, Medved apparently decided to take his revenge against Hollywood, writing the book The Fifty Worst Films of All Time. That book led to three sequels plus movie-reviewing gigs with CNN and then PBS.

Eventually, of course, Medved refined his Hollywood-is-bad theme, forsaking the technical spin he originally gave it for a cultural one. In 1992, he published his book Hollywood vs. America, which includes chapters with titles like "Forgetting the Faithful," "Maligning Marriage," and "Bashing America."

For the last decade, he has elaborated on those themes, except that he doesn't actually elaborate on them: even after ten years of refinement, his critique of Hollywood remains remarkably nuance-free, reductive, and opportunistically distorted.

In his USA Today essay, for example, he issues the following lament: "Given the overwhelmingly middle-class, mostly suburban existence of the American public, why does the movie industry persist in portraying this lifestyle as an unending torment and depicting even our most privileged suburbs as hell on earth?"

To prove his thesis that the movie industry is weirdly, diabolically, doggedly obsessed with the notion that the the suburbs are hell, Medved identifies seven films that he says embody this notion.

And, when you think about it, yeah, he has a point. Seven - seven! - films over a span of only 17 years that contain anti-suburban themes? That's a lot!

Except of course that it isn't, especially since at least a couple of the films he mentions don't really attack the suburbs overtly - they just happen to be set there. Of course there are more anti-suburban movies that Medved doesn't cite, but Hollywood makes hundreds of movies of a year. And how many places are there to set a movie? The city, outer space, and, if Billy Bob Thornton is available, the sticks. If you have a big enough budget to blow things up, you can also set your movie in a foreign country. If you don't, you're left with the suburbs...

And since movies are often about conflict, discontent, aspiration, or, in a word, drama, sometimes stories set in the suburbs don't always have the sunny, upbeat tone of, say, a TV ad for Welbutrin. Thus, if you're patient enough, and dishonest enough, eventually you will have enough examples of the-suburbs-are-hell movies to plug into your Hollywood-is-bad instant essay template.

Were Medved's experiences with Henry Fonda and Barbra Streisand really so psychologically damaging that almost a quarter-century later he still feels compelled to manufacture bullshit as a rationale for bashing Hollywood?

Indeed, as obsessed as Medved claims Hollywood is with the evils of suburbia, he's even more obsessed with the evils of Hollywood. Thanks to that obsession, he apparently has no knowledge of the many positive depictions of suburbia that Hollywood churns out. Is he unaware, for example, of TV shows like 7th Heaven, Everybody Loves Raymond, That '70s Show, and The Gilmore Girls? Did he miss the subtle message of The Family Man?

Similarly, how come Medved makes no mention of the underappreciated novelists, countless punk rockers, and high-school psychopaths who critique the suburbs too?

Is it because they're not rich and famous liberals?

According to Medved, "It makes sense that Hollywood looks askance at upper-middle-class Americans. The entertainment industry offers spectacular monetary rewards on a capricious, almost arbitrary, basis, often disassociated from hard (or decent) work. Many analyses of the liberal activism of the show-business elite point to a vague sense of guilt that attaches itself to grandly successful individuals who may suspect that they don't fully deserve their riches and fame. Feeling restless and uneasy with their privileges, some members of the Hollywood establishment naturally will impute the same ambivalence to other Americans who have achieved material success."

I'm not sure what "analyses" Medved is referring to, but his wife is a clinical psychologist, so maybe he asked her to analyze an Alec Baldwin movie or something.

Personally, however, I'd like her to do an analysis of her husband: doesn't his contention that "the entertainment industry offers spectacular monetary rewards on a capricious, almost arbitrary, basis, often disassociated from hard (or decent) work" sound like the sour grapes of a man incensed over the fact that Barbra Streisand apparently didn't like his screenplays very much?

Myself, I have no psychological expertise, but given how hard Medved works the "hard work" angle, I feel confident enough to make a diagnosis: Medved suffers from an inversion of the "liberal guilt" syndrome, a condition known as "conservative entitlement."

Is watching bad movies and then writing books about them hard work? No. Might watching movies and then talking about them for a minute before giving a thumbs-up or thumbs-down accurately be described as "toil"? No. Does it take much effort to watch movies (or simply read reviews of them) and then discourse upon their moral impact on America? Absolutely not, as I can attest from first-hand experience.

And yet for talking about movies, and not even talking about them in a particularly illuminating or entertaining way, Medved has made a pretty good living and achieved a fair measure of renown. Aware, no doubt, of how arbitrary his success has been, he insists that it is in fact the product of nothing but his "relentless hard work." Feeling restless and uneasy with his privileges, however, he feels compelled to discredit anyone who suggests that there are other factors in life besides "relentless hard work" that contribute to one's success. And thus his relentless attacks on Hollywood liberals.

In the end, it's easy to see why, for the last ten years or so, Medved has been working his Hollywood-liberals-are-evil theme harder than the U.S. shoe industry works Indonesian sneaker-serfs. One, it helps him exorcise his anger over his screenwriting failures. Two, it has proven to be a fairly lucrative way to make a living. And three, it helps him rationalize his own fairly arbitrary success.

If I ever find a theme even half that effective, I'm sure I'll flog it just as relentlessly.

Posted by Greg Beato at 10:26 AM
March 14, 2003
O'Reilly Watch

I saw Bill O'Reilly on The Tonight Show last night. He said if France vetos the U.N. resolution, he's going to call for a boycott of French products.

A while back, of course, when O'Reilly was interviewing Take Back the Media's Michael Stinson about the group's boycott of Rush Limbaugh advertisers, he argued that boycotting was essentially unAmerican: "Be that as it may, isn't -- isn't trying to silence somebody like Rush Limbaugh unAmerican in itself? Doesn't he have the right to say what he wants to say?" (The O'Reilly Factor, 02/03/03)

Then he insisted that he hadn't called for a boycott when in fact he had.

Now, apparently, he has come out of the boycott closet. And while on the Tonight Show he seemed to be saying the boycott had yet to take effect, on his website he is already encouraging people to boycott various French products: "BOYCOTT FRENCH PRODUCTS: We all know France doesn't want the US and its allies to force Iraq to disarm and we think it's a disgrace. Here is a list of French owned companies you can choose to boycott if you disagree with their actions in the United Nations and their approach to the Iraq situation."

In a matter of weeks, then, he has gone from suggesting that boycotts are unAmerican to encouraging the preemptive boycott of an entire country!

Meanwhile, his Tonight Show appearance got even better when Leno asked him if he had a chance to interview Saddam Hussein like Dan Rather did, would he use the opportunity to kill Hussein, even though it would also mean dying himself. O'Reilly seemed startled by the question, but quickly recovered and said, with tangible unconvincingness, that, yes, indeed, he'd give up his life for the greater good of the American people.

Ah, well, that probably won't come to pass. But O'Reilly has already banished Chanel and Loreal from his world, apparently, and how much sacrifice can you ask of just one man?

Posted by Greg Beato at 08:13 AM
March 12, 2003
We Weren't Soldiers

Support the troops!

It is, perhaps, the one sentiment that can (at least intermittently) unite an increasingly divided America. Hawks who insist that the precision-guided turkey shoot we have planned for Iraq poses no great threat to our armed forces nonetheless champion the bunker-busting bravery of the men and women poised to destroy an army of demoralized cowards equipped with used Kuwaiti tanks and rusty Soviet airplanes. Doves who decry the terrible possibility of throwing out thousands of Iraqi babies with the Ba'ath order express only admiration for our heroic soldiers who might be put in harm's way merely to satisfy the whims of venal petrocrats.

Amidst such patriotic genuflection, however, I can't help but think that all these grateful soldier-groupies are being somewhat inconsiderate, perhaps even anti-American, in their solicitude. Indeed, as our 11th highest-rated president once exclaimed, "The business of America is business." And if we ever finally decide to show the Iraqis what a blast democracy can be, it's going to take more than just our armed forces and Our Heavenly Consultant to turn Saddam's fleet of Mirage F-1s into French toast.

According to Fortune, "If and when the shooting starts in Iraq, American companies will be more critical than in any previous conflict, including the last Gulf war...[P.W.] Singer of [the] Brookings [Institution] estimates that during the last Gulf war there was one contractor for every 50 to 100 soldiers. This time around the ratio is more like one for every ten."

True, most of these contractors will be washing dishes, doing laundry, and performing various other ancillary services. But there's no guarantee that such gigs will be completely risk-free, as this passage from the Fortune article suggests: "Can [privately employeed personnel] carry arms? If employees of private companies run from their posts when attacked, are they considered deserters? If taken prisoner, are contractors considered POWs and covered by the Geneva Convention? The answers to those questions aren't reassuring - because the Pentagon doesn't yet have any."

With this in mind, I ask: are the brave men and women of DynCorp, KBR, and any other private military companies (PMCs) staffing the War On Terror's Iraqi franchise any less deserving of our prayers and free porn? Are these courageous privateers somehow less representative of the American spirit than our traditional armed forces, who with their shared living quarters, uniform apparel, and penchant for invigorating work-songs have always had an incongruously communistic aspect about them?

Thanks to the tireless efforts of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Fast Company is replacing Charlie Company as the animating spirit of our armed forces. And as the Pentagon forsakes pink-hued bureaucracy for red, white, and blue entrepreneurism, the New Military is well on its way to becoming as lean, mean, and ruthless as an indictment-worthy corporation!

Alas, the public has yet to acknowledge this transformation. These days, being in the armed forces is sort of like being a celebrity. You get free books, free CDs, free slippers, free foot deodorant. Entertainers like David Letterman and Drew Carey entertain you. Leading journalists like Gideon Yago ask you questions. Jerry Bruckheimer has even cast you in your own reality TV show. If war ever starts, it will be hell, no doubt, but right now it's just a giant beach party.

If you're an employee of a PMC, however, it's a much different story. If you're an employee of a PMC, you get nothing. No TV series. No free crap. Not even a surprise performance from, say, Carrot Top. Not even passionate words of support from fiddling fashion-plate Charlie Daniels. It's almost like Vietnam all over again. And when your work is through and you aren't needed anymore? There's no such thing as an honorable discharge in the New Military - you just get laid off. That's the American way, of course, and you don't become a military temp without knowing the risks involved. But the next time you're supporting the troops, remember that patriotism doesn't always wear combat fatigues: sometimes it comes dressed in business casual too.

Posted by Greg Beato at 12:10 AM
March 11, 2003
Arrested Development

Here's an article about another media violence study. It's starts off with this paragraph: "The Six Million Dollar Man and his fellow TV heroes of the 1970s, Starsky and Hutch, could hardly be considered violent viewing by today's standards. Neither could the Bionic Woman, nor Wyle E. Coyote, but new research suggests their on-screen violence was sufficient to have a devastating impact on some children who watched them."

Later it says: "The 20 per cent of boys who most liked to identify with violent characters were much more likely to grow up to be criminals...The research, which will be published in Developmental Psychology, said adult aggression was predicted by the children's exposure to violence, their identification with aggressive TV characters of their own sex, and a strong belief that violent shows depicted life 'just like it is'."

But does this mean the TV shows had a "devastating impact" on the children? Or just that children predisposed toward violence like violent TV shows? Maybe the actual report clarifies this issue a bit.

In any case, what really caught my eye was this section: "The report warned violence that was rewarded was most detrimental - so Dirty Harry killing a criminal was more likely to incite later violent behaviour than a gruesome murder by a killer who is ultimately brought to justice. Indeed, Dirty Harry could be worse than Hannibal Lecter, according to Margot Prior, Professor of Psychology at Melbourne University. She said the 'good guy' cop eliminating a criminal should be of far greater concern to parents than the patently evil Dr Lecter."

So there you have it. I thought I was just giving the old "violent media inspires actual violence" conceit an ironic twist, but it turns out I was touching upon great psychological truths. Alas, the study doesn't say anything about whether or not any of the children included in it went on to become cops...

(Link via Unknownnews.net.)

Posted by Greg Beato at 09:06 AM
March 10, 2003
we're talking real loud again in America

Charlie Daniels fans might recognize the title of this entry as a lyrical fragment from his song "In America." Alas, it seems that maybe country music fan Tamara Saviano took such sentiments too much to heart.

A Nashville TV station reports: "A woman was fired from her job at Jones Media after replying to an e-mail written by country singer Charlie Daniels. Tamara Saviano worked for Jones Media Networks and Great American Country on Music row for three years. She was fired last Friday for responding to an e-mail written by Charlie Daniels. In his e-mail, Daniels blasted Hollywood and the media for protesting a possible war with Iraq. His publicist, Kirk Webster sent the e-mail to people in the music and media industry. When Saviano got the letter at her personal e-mail address, she wrote Webster and Daniels back outlining her anti-war beliefs. Webster says Saviano put her company name on her e-mail and that's why he called Jones Media. But Saviano says it was clear her e-mail expressed her personal beliefs. Webster says Charlie Daniels had nothing to do with Saviano's firing."

According to a brief bio of Saviano, "For the past decade she has specialized in country music and is currently producing a national television show for the Great American Country network and a syndicated radio show for Jones Radio Network. In her free time, the yellow dog democrat enjoys reading anything and everything about politics. "

I guess she will have some more free time to do that...

And I guess it's time to pour a nice glass of bourbon, crank up Daniels' "In America," and sing along:

"Cause we'll all stick together and you can take that to the bank
That's the cowboys and the hippies and the rebels and the yanks
You just go and lay your head on a Pittsburgh Steeler fan
And I think you're gonna finally understand

And you never did think that it ever would happen again
In America, did you?
You never did think that we'd ever get together again
Well we damn sure fooled you
We're walking real proud and we're talking real loud again in America..."

Bonus: For those people who aren't on Kirk Webster's spam list, here's a sample of Charlie Daniels' thoughts on the "Hollywood Bunch."

Posted by Greg Beato at 05:50 PM
March 09, 2003
Watching the Detectives

If you've ever watched an episode of COPS, you know it's not easy being a police officer. Mostly, you work at night. And mostly you drive around aimlessly and relentlessly, sort of like a cabbie except that all your fares are assholes and you never get a tip. Inevitably, a very drunk, very shirtless man with a competition-ready mullet starts brutally assaulting all known standards of pronunciation and syntax and you're forced to restore order. Sometimes this involves a chase through a dark abandoned field. Other times you just have to hold the hand of a baleful five-year-old staring down the face of his own shirtless, alcoholic future as your partner cuffs his dad. On most occasions, only six to ten of your colleagues will arrive to provide back-up for such maneuvers. After your partner plops the perp in the backseat of your cruiser, you're required to give your colleagues a play-by-play recap of what they just stood around watching, no matter how out-of-breath you are. Alas, you only have five minutes or so to do this, because crime runs on a clock of its own, and somewhere out there, in the dark American night, there are other grizzled boozers determined to drink themselves right out of their shirts.

OK, sometimes it's tougher than all that. People lie to you. People shoot at you. There seems to be a lot of paperwork. If you wear a uniform, there's probably a lot of laundry too. Police work is a tedious, depressing, violent, and spiritually draining business, and those who can do it well deserve respect, gratitude, free coffee, and whatever ministrations the nation's cop groupies care to apply to them.

But along with the good cops, there are bad cops too, of course. And is there anything worse than a bad cop? They're like criminals, only with better equipment and all the advantages of unassailable authority. And it seems like there's quite a few of them working the streets these days.

Here in San Francisco, a department-wide scandal has erupted from the exploits of a rookie cop named Alex Fagan, Jr. While his family members characterize him as a friend to homeless Mexicans and sick children, there aren't a lot of homeless Mexicans and sick children on his beat. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, he has "used force in at least 16 violent encounters with suspects in a 13-month period, sending six of them to the hospital."

To hear Fagan, Jr. tell it, most of the people he arrests are just clumsy. "As I was escorting Smith off the bus, he broke free and missed a step on the bus and fell head first into a tree," he wrote in one report. In others, he explained how doors and curbs inadvertently inflicted wounds on his prisoners.

Unfortunately, it appears that Fagan, Jr.'s tactics are fairly standard operating procedure for the local peacekeepers. "For years, the department has promoted people to high posts who have records of serious department disciplinary action or civil lawsuits alleging brutality, false arrest and civil rights violations," the Chronicle reports. "Annual reports by the [Office of Citizen Complaints] show that it found significant evidence of misconduct in 1,156 citizen allegations against city police between 1995 and 2001. Only two police officers involved in all those cases were fired; an additional 20 received lengthy suspensions."

Of course, on the current scale of cop malfeasance, the rib-cracking and eye-blackening that Fagan, Jr. is accused of barely even rates. In Minneapolis, Minnesota, some American Indians have accused police officers of urinating on a man and assaulting a pregnant woman during a reservation raid. In Tennessee, cops cuffed a gang of suspected robbers that turned out to be a family of tourists, then shot and killed their suspected pit bull that turned out to be a boxer/bulldog. A month later, another Tennessee police officer was arrested on charges of raping a 12-year-old girl.

According to the activist group October 22nd, "the number and rate of people killed by law enforcement agents have jumped alarmingly in this new political climate of increased 'homeland security' and repressive laws." The group publishes a book called Stolen Lives and is now working on a third edition of it. In the 2nd edition of the book, it documented "over 2000 cases of people killed by law enforcement agents in the 1990s." (In contrast, it appears that around 60 to 80 law enforcement officers were deliberately killed in 2002, with a total of 135 duty deaths for the year.)

Go back a hundred years, and there were undoubtedly rogue cops pissing on Indians and raping 12-year-olds then too. But those cops are dead now, so who cares? The relevant issue: why are there so many violent and out-of-control cops today?

I blame Dirty Harry Callahan.

For years now, psychologists, talk-show hosts, and cultural custodians have been debating the connection between violent media and real-life violence. But such discourse invariably focuses on civilian (and usually teenage) violence. Marilyn Manson caused the Columbine massacre. The Sopranos proved that HBO really isn't just TV - it's distance-learning for novice psychopaths. The same goes for Grand Theft Auto III.

But it's not just teenage droogs who get their fix of ultra-violence from electronic media. And no TV series has ever been built around the amoral exploits of a 15-year-old killer. In the cathode universe, week in and week out, season after season, it's cops who are an undertaker's best friend.

Of course, it wasn't always this way. Even in the face of the surliest, late-'60s bacon-baiting, Dragnet's stalwart Joe Friday maintained the demeanor of a robot teaching high school civics. A few years later, he passed the baton to Adam 12's Pete Malloy. Like Carson Daly following Dick Clark, Malloy was The Guy to Friday's Man, hipper, fully motile, but still a genuinely civil servant sworn to uphold the law with fairness, restraint, and faultless manners. Then there was Columbo, sloppier than a sociology professor (no crisp martial duds for him) and packing less heat than a wet match. A hard-boiled gumshoe in the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi, he got his collars without even flashing a gun, much less firing one. And how about Greenwich Village's finest, the multi-ethnic men and woman of the 12th Precinct? Under Barney Miller's watch, toilet plungers were simply props for jokes about Fish's gastrointestinal distress; if someone had wandered into their squad room brandishing a semi-automatic beeper, Miller and his officers would have responded with nothing more lethal than 41 rim-shots.

But while all of these well-behaved, relatively peaceful role models were making television a safe and orderly wasteland, a more troubling figure was patrolling the nation's moviehouses. In 1971, when San Francisco's hippies, homos, campus radicals, and uppity Negroes were twisting the established moral order into a Lombard Street of psychosexual perversion and cultural upheaval, the original Angry White Man took it upon himself to set things straight, right, and uptight again.

Ironically, all the really crazy San Francisco shit (the Zebra killings, the SLA, Jonestown, AIDS) still lay in the future, but already Harry Callahan had seen enough. Hedonism and lawlessness had robbed him of love and sex when a drunk driver killed his wife. Now all he pined for, like a smitten stalker who will not take no for an answer, was order at any cost. Alas, simpering citycrats and Berkeley law professors had forsaken the efficacies of the Ten Commandments for mealy-mouthed legislation that strait-jacketed cops and functioned as soft armor for sickos: when Callahan finally captures his serial killer nemesis Scorpio, the vaguely hippieish, vaguely effeminate sadist is allowed to limp away scot free.

"Where the hell does it say you've got a right to kick down doors, torture suspects, deny medical attention and legal counsel?" the city's district attorney asks Callahan. "Where have you been? Does Escobedo ring a bell? Miranda? I mean, you must have heard of the Fourth Amendment. What I'm saying is, that man had rights."

A year earlier, three thousand miles away, real-life counterculture cop Frank Serpico had accused the New York police department of institutionalized extortion and various other forms of impropriety, but Dirty Harry revealed where the true corruption lay: in such hoary and ineffectual concepts as distributed justice, checks and balances, the presumption of innocence. When the system would no longer let Harry Callahan be a cop, he started multi-tasking, becoming judge, jury, district attorney, and executioner all rolled into one shoot-first-then-shoot-again exterminating angel. In Dirty Harry's final scene, Scorpio gets the .44 caliber sentence he has coming to him, but Callahan realizes he's a dead man too, at least institutionally, so he tosses his badge into the marsh where Scorpio's body is sinking.

Of course, this wasn't really the end of Callahan's career: it was the beginning. Sequels and copycats followed, and Callahan - anti-social, impulsive, pre-emptive, a relentless advocate of magnum force - became the role model for a new generation of cops, both imaginary and real. According to the "Behind the Scenes" notes of the Dirty Harry DVD, "A branch of the Phillippine police asked for a copy of the film to use in their training program." Closer to home, Alex Fagan, Jr. reportedly made the following remark after taking a drunk man into custody: "If this were the '70s, I could have kicked that guy's ass today and sent him on his way like he deserved."

Where does a 23-year-old rookie cop, who presumably spent most of 1979 as a fetus, learn about '70s copwork? Well, from his dad, for one, but also no doubt, from the same laconic guru who instructed lethal tax-cops Ronald Reagan and George Bush.

Callahan's ascent from department pariah to presidential advisor was mirrored only by his acolytes' escalation of his tactics. The official body count of Dirty Harry is just four, with Callahan himself racking up only one kill. By today's standards, that almost qualifies as a pacifist tract. But that's how slippery slopes work, and ultimately, Harry Callahan, genteel torturer that he was, helped popularize the idea that "criminal rights" was such a preposterous notion that it actually legitimized any action against odious beasts like Scorpio. Also part of Callahan's gospel: a healthy disrespect for laws, rules, and multi-lateral decision-making of any kind.

Such doctrine made for a great movie series, but what happens when real-life cops, like those in Los Angeles' Rampart Division, start planting evidence, intimidating witnesses, shooting people without just cause, and selling drugs themselves? Well, then, you've got a hit TV series, of course. And while The Shield's Vic Mackey makes Harry Callahan look like Florence Nightingale, he suffers from none of Callahan's angst over his place in the system. Whereas Callahan was a lone wolf, Mackey is leader of the pack, with all the usual bureaucratic enemies, sure, but also a constituency that extends to all facets of L.A.'s criminal justice system. In other words, Harry Callahan is now the status quo.

As an isolated phenomenom, he was troubling but manageable, a last resort for those rare occasions when a giggling super-fiend straight out of Gotham City was haunting rooftops and hijacking school buses. But now with seemingly every cop harboring an inner Callahan, he's a first resort. And a second and third. Alas, there aren't always enough giggling super-fiends to go around, and thus extraordinary firepower is occasionally unleashed upon a a guy reaching for his wallet, or a guy raising his arms in surrender. And even in cases where force is justified, a certain sense of Callahanesque overkill prevails.

Despite such incidents, however, the appeal of the rogue cop only increases. Michael Chiklis is winning Emmys, and while Clint Eastwood never converted his Dirty Harry shtick into as much real-life political power as he could have, our current national leader, with his make-my-détente brand of foreign policy and his deep contempt for U.N. bureaucrats, is no doubt a fan of Inspector Callahan.

In the end, then, the joke's on Hollywood liberals. For years, William Bennett, Joseph Lieberman, Bill O'Reilly and various others have been urging the entertainment industry to tone down its output in the name of curbing criminal violence. But the Malibu millionaires, safely nestled in their highly securified enclaves, stubbornly insist that there is no correlation whatsoever between their work and the world's ills. Every once in a while, they give us a show like Cop Rock, which suggested that police officers, in addition to being trigger-happy thugs determined to impose justice on the world by any means necessary, also loved musicals. Unfortunately, such multi-dimensional portraits of the law enforcement world are exceedingly rare. Mostly Hollywood has simply churned out malignant copaganda that glamorizes police brutality and normalizes the idea that the only good cop is a bad cop.

Is it possible, at this point, to reverse the damage done? To present alternate modes of copdom that might inspire real-life police officers to act with compassion and restraint rather than aggression? Might Hollywood summon the courage (and the responsibility) to banish the ghost of Inspector Harry Callahan forever and replace it with a kinder, gentler law enforcement ideal like, say, the criminally underappreciated Inspector Harry Hooperman? Dirty Harry, Lethal Weapon, and The Shield maybe be harmless to mature adults, but remember, impressionable cops who lack parental guidance are watching such fare too.

Posted by Greg Beato at 11:54 PM