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Scott Larson





Building façade in Cannes, France

Neo-Clooney

The good news (or bad news, depending on your point of view) is that I am posting early this week. The bad news (or the good news, depending on your point of view) is that I am keeping it brief. I will update you on what I am up to next time.

Even more than usual, I was too clever by half last week when posed the following rhetorical question as a link to my weekly missive: “Here’s a question that absolutely nobody is asking: when will the neo-cons make their own movie about the Middle East?” The answer, according to at least one columnist, is that it’s already happened, and more than once.

I had barely uploaded my thoughts last time when a March 15 Los Angeles Times column by Max Boot came to my attention. Boot makes a very interesting argument. He asserts that, while George Clooney’s personal rhetoric is that of a standard Hollywood liberal, his film oeuvre is a de facto neo-conservative manifesto. As evidence, he cites three films in which Clooney has appeared as an actor. One is Syriana which, he says, “suggests that we should be helping liberal Arab reformers, like the fictional Prince Nasir, just as neocons have been urging.” He’s got a point. That’s what they neocons have said all right. Another is the 1997 thriller The Peacemaker which, to the extent that it has a political sensibility, can be described as anti-terrorist. The neocons, like every other civilized political group in the world, are anti-terrorist as well. Boot’s third example is what he calls a “neocon masterpiece,” David O. Russell’s 1998 movie Three Kings. Once again, he has a point. In that film Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and Ice Cube wind up trying to get a group of 55 Shi’ites to safety from the Ba’athists, at great personal cost to themselves. Curiously, the movie’s plot wound up a half-decade later becoming Bush foreign policy.

I am not sure that Clooney would welcome the neocon label. (While “neocon” seems to have become, for some users, a synonym for right-wing Republicans, I can actually remember back to when the term “neo-conservative” was coined, to describe centrist Democrats like Bill Clinton.) If anything Boot’s little exercise points out how political disputes usually aren’t so much over the ends as the means.

Boot does not elaborate as to whether we can glean from Clooney’s movies insights into neo-conservative positions on vampires (From Dusk Till Dawn), costumed super-villians (Batman & Robin), the weather (The Perfect Storm) or malevolent produce (Return of the Killer Tomatoes!).

-S.L., 28 March 2006


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