Remembering 3 Great Culture Wars From Movieline's First Year
There were all kinds of awesome contretemps dotting the pop-culture landscape during Movieline's first year online, but only a few of them seemed to flare up into blazes you could see from outer space. Some you might have expected (Roman Polanski), some were crazy-making (Paramount's patronizing G.I. Joe campaign), and some were just... crazy (Harry Connick Jr. vs. Australian blackface? Say whaaaa?). But for better or worse, they all helped set the standard for culture wars and other skirmishes to come in the year ahead:
The War: The R-Rated-Smoking Crusade (May 2009 - present)
The Nemeses: American Medical Association Alliance vs. Hollywood; smokers vs. nonsmokers
The Flashback: "Of course, the truest sign of both the Alliance's and the MPAA's hypocrisy and cynicism is that just when they give kids all the credit in the world to not replicate scenes of torture, abuse, mutilation and gunplay -- especially gunplay, that other devastating social ill -- simply no youngster can possibly resist tobacco. It's like sex you can inhale -- irresistible, calming, beautiful and even erotic from the right mouth in the right light. And we all know how the MPAA ratings board feels about sex. And sure, it's deadly as hell. Point taken. But it stills boils down to censorship, just like every other ratings hassle in Hollywood. And censorship always boils down to asking how much these freaks will deny kids any semblance of agency in their lives, all while absolving adults of any responsibility as parents. A Movie Smoking Scorecard? Are you serious? Who's the real bad guy here?"
The Fallout: Commenter mini-riots; continued insurgent offensives from anti-smoking strongholds
The War: Harry Connick Jr. Clashes with Blackface Jackson Family on Aussie TV (Oct. 2009)
The Nemeses: Harry Connick Jr. vs. The Jackson Jive; U.S. vs. Australia
The Flashback: "It wasn't supposed to be like this for Harry Connick Jr. or the iconic Aussie variety series Hey Hey It's Saturday, for whom the midweek show represented a much-anticipated reunion special. But there they were: The Jackson Jive, all Afro wigs and black face paint, led by their late superstar brother, Michael, done up with a pasty clown visage and aviator sunglasses. Not cool, said Connick: ""If they turned up looking like that in the United States, it'd be like Hey Hey There's No More Show," the crooner spat, giving the group a score of zero in the episode's mock-talent competition. (The Aussie judge beside him was much more forgiving, allowing for a smile and a 7.) [...] As if this weren't the year two-thousand-and-freaking-nine. 'If I knew that was going to be part of the show, I probably - I definitely - wouldn't have done it.'"
The Fallout: We'll be sorting through the comments on this thing forever.
The War: The Roman Polanski Culture War (Sept. 2009 -- present)
The Nemeses: U.S. vs. Europe; France vs. Switzerland; Team Polanski vs. Team Extradition; Samantha Geimer vs. L.A. district attorney
The Flashback: "So. Let's see: We've got the artistic and commercial movie establishment going to bat for an undoubtedly tragic figure -- who, rightly or wrongly, never subjected himself to sentencing for having sex with an adolescent girl. (And anyway, we're reminded, it's all about "morals.") We've got the legal establishment swatting them away, demanding vengeful reckoning at all costs, even if it means unmooring an international film festival from its deeply anchored sense of dignity. And then we've got the media establishment swatting them away -- from [Michael] Wolff to Whoopi Goldberg, whose coinage of the phrase "rape-rape" in Polanski's defense might have set feminism back at least 40 years. [...] Even the diplomatic community has involved itself in the matter, with the irate French battling the humiliated Swiss, and both battling Hollywood."
The Fallout: Vitrolic turf battles in the Movieline comments section; ongoing legal skirmishes over 30-year-old alleged judicial misconduct; 78-year-old Oscar-winning-director remains POW.