Hollywood’s Moral Majority acts out?

I almost posted a link to this piece last week. However, I thought at the time that it was — for GetReligion — one of those “dogs that didn’t bark” stories. After all, the piece does not mention the red vs. blue zip code divide or the theme, previously seen in Los Angeles Times stories, that some people in Hollywood might be getting sweaty palms, in an era of crashing box office numbers, about holding a Brokeback Mountain wedding shower.

Oh well. Whatever. Never mind.

Click here and see the amazing predictions late last week by David Carr in the New York Times. So we must ask, what did he know and when did he know it? Or better yet, for this blog, why did he know it? Was this, to dig up that quote from Ken Tucker of New York magazine, a victory for the “insecure, the idiots, or the insecure idiots”?

It will be interesting to watch Hollywood meditate on the meaning of this Oscar upset. As one would expect, Andrew Sullivan and his sparring partner Mickey Kaus are already up and at it.

But Kenneth Turan at the newspaper of tinsel record has already written the rough draft of the Culture Wars talking points for today. His Los Angeles Times piece — was the page framed in black? — gets right to the point. Dang it, is it possible that some people in Hollywood are actually afraid of America? Does Hollywood has a closeted Moral Majority? Is there some Southern Baptist, traditional Catholic or Orthodox Jewish cabal out there on the left coast that we don’t know about? Did Pat Robertson threaten some people?

Turan vents:

Despite all the magazine covers it graced, despite all the red-state theaters it made good money in, despite (or maybe because of) all the jokes late-night talk show hosts made about it, you could not take the pulse of the industry without realizing that this film made a number of people distinctly uncomfortable.

More than any other of the nominated films, “Brokeback Mountain” was the one people told me they really didn’t feel like seeing, didn’t really get, didn’t understand the fuss over. … In the privacy of the voting booth, as many political candidates who’ve led in polls only to lose elections have found out, people are free to act out the unspoken fears and unconscious prejudices that they would never breathe to another soul, or, likely, acknowledge to themselves. And at least this year, that acting out doomed “Brokeback Mountain.”

However, if there are people in Hollywood who are deep into mourning, they may need to remember that it is the season of Lent and, thus, a time for reflection (I dare not say repentance).

As it turns out, the pastors at the Jesuit Urban Center in Boston may be just the men who can feel the pain of all those in Hollywood, New York City and college towns everywhere who are grieving today. Here (hat tip) is a clip from last week’s Ash Wednesday sermon by Father J.A. Loftus, S.J.

I suspect many in this community have already seen Brokeback Mountain. If not see it; if you have, see it again and reflect on the consequences of not being interiorly free, the consequences of not knowing who you really are and want to become, the tragic consequences and subsequent devastation that comes from only living in a “pretend” world. Watch carefully the price of dishonesty in yourself and with those whom you try to love.

Let this Lent be a Brokeback Lent.

That’s all for now. Let us know if you see mainstream journalists and commentators who dig into the moral and religious implications — what a world — of Oscar night.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Michael

    Who had 10:44am in the pool for the first BBM post??? :)

    A couple of comments. I think it was interesting how much the undercurrent of “we are accused of being out of touch” permeated through the Oscars. For every person who cringes at the suggestion, Clooney hit it out of the park by pointing out that being out of touch is what Hollywood does best and maybe they should stop acting like it’s a bad thing.

    As for David Carr’s predictions. Well, they were pretty much what everyone else was predicting. It is possible Carr had it right because he’s a good reporter who understand the industry he covers?

    As for BBM v. Crash. Many newspaper inches will be spent analyzing why it happened. Maybe Crash was a better movie? Maybe Hollywood loves rewarding itself and the city where it exists? Maybe there is more white guilt than straight guilt? Maybe Hollywood realizes the book on race relations hasn’t been closed and that the culture needs to be reminded of that?

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    I just have to give props to my Academy Award nominated friend Amy Adams for looking BEAUTIFUL last night. And yes, I realize that has nothing to with religion.

  • matt

    I am totally thrilled by the upset! I made a fortune (in pretend money) by shorting brokeback oscar options on http://www.hsx.com.

  • Jeff

    OK, full disclosure: i’m an evangelical pastor who thinks of homosexuality as a problem, not an orientation per se.

    I tried to keep an open mind to what was being shown in the movie, which i finally felt like i had to see given the conflicting pictures drawn for me in print.

    What i saw was one guy a bit of an unstable predator, who pressured another lonely insecure fellow into activity he was deeply conflicted about and maybe not even wanting to participate in (it was, in my opinion, impossible to tell from the movie that the Ledger character had any interest in same sex activity beyond a feeling of tenderness and protection for the Gyllenhal character). I agree that the tragedy of the marriages both went into was missed by most commentators, but at most i felt like i saw one possibly (by the film’s own terms) same sex oriented character, and a friendship based on youthful crisis that did not age well at all.

    If Academy voters, both hetero- and homosexual were conflicted themselves about whether this was a movie they felt good about, i can see why even if the aforementioned voters were 100% gay rights and for marriage equality. Discomfort, as Turan puts it, may have been with the setting and the characters, not the “issue” of “do gays deserve the space in society to love each other fully.”

    My dos centavos;

    Pax, Jeff

  • Dan

    George Clooney hit it out of the park if the contest is how over the top you can be in congratulating yourself.

  • Roberto

    Turan is deceiving himself. The idea that Hollywood is homophobic is risible. You know, it’s entirely possible that maybe, I don’t know, voters didn’t think that BBM was the best film. As Mickey Kaus suggested, maybe they thought that the hype was better than the film. You know, BBM is hardly the first mainstream movie about gay men to be nominated: a guy I like to call Tom Hanks won an Oscar 12 years ago for playing a gay man with AIDS.

    Almost as risible is the idea that Hollywood was afraid that giving BBM the Oscar would alienate regular movie-going types. Yeah, right: “I was going to see Spiderman 3 but they gave the Oscar to the gay cowhand movie, so now I won’t.”

    Hollywood is running scared but what’s scaring it is the specter of technology. People are opting to wait for the DVD which they will watch on ever-cheaper HDTVs. Case in point: tomorrow the fourth Harry Potter movie comes out on DVD, less than four months after its theatrical debut. Narnia comes out 4 weeks later, also less than 4 months months after its theatrical debut.

    Mark Cuban, who produced “Good Night and Good Luck” and owns, among other things, HDNET and Landmark Theaters, has called for the abolition of the various windows that determine when movies appear on DVD. His vision, which is compelling, would KILL the current system and hasten the takeover of the niches. That’s great news for a creative Christian working on a small budget but it renders people like Tom Cruise and other “A List” types superfluous. That’s what has Hollywood scared.

  • Nate

    tmatt: The link to Carr’s NYT story is bad. Did they take it down?

  • tmatt


    My bad. There was an extra http thingee that slipped in there….

    Thanks for the heads up.

  • http://www.joe-perez.com/ Joe Perez

    My two cents on tmatt’s question. Not worth much, but judging from the intelligence level of most of the previous comments, the bar is very low.

    Let’s face it. These are secret ballots, and we can only speculate as to the reasons for the outcome, and there is no certaintly. Unless the ballots were eventually open to statistical analysis, nothing definitive can really be known. But one thing we know about all secret ballots: when there’s a discrepancy between what people tell pollsters and what they actually vote, very often a prejudice is at work. People reveal their true feelings in secrecy when they would never say in public. This quite common sense fact tends to support the theory that Brokeback’s loss is, in large part, attributable to anti-gay backlash.

    Mostly in seeking to understand what happened, I listen for industry buzz. I read over a dozen articles today on the Crash upset victory, and the most interesting were reports that the rumor mill has been spinning for weeks of a homophobia-fueled backlast against Brokeback as Best Picture. Rumors have been floating for weeks that older members of the academy and straight men of all ages simply couldn’t bring themselves to EVEN WATCH the “gay cowboy” film. The producers of Crash spent $4 million promoting their film and sent out over 100,000 DVD’s to the members of the SAG. Crash, a film selected by Rolling Stone as the “worst film of the year,” and the recipient of virtually zero awards in an entire season of awards, suddenly became a viable alternative for homophobes. The Academy is more conservative than Hollywood as a whole, so until the old fogies die off, it seems that gays will have a while to wait before a gay-themed film can not only be nominated for the top prize, but also WIN. Given the current mortality tables, I’d give it five years.

  • Ken

    The Oscar story I am waiting to read is based on the fact that I am the only person I know who watched the Oscars. And this is the first time in some years. A co-worker mentioned that he didn’t watch; that was the only talk I heard all day in an office that routinely re-hashes TV shows the morning after.

    “Out of touch”? Of course, as George Clooney so immodestly proclaimed. That’s probably a good thing. The question is whether Hollywood is irrelevant. They might not be quite as self-congratulatory about that.

    It seems to me the religious story is the lack of a religious reaction to BBM. The BBM fans claim homophobia, of course, but the more obvious response is apathy: among Christians, no one really seems to care: Mother Angelica hasn’t launched a crusade, that “God hates fags” guy isn’t marching on ABC World News Tonight; has Focus on the Family done a mass mailing? Have I been hibernating? Again, no one I know has mentioned seeing or refusing to see BBM, and I’m pretty much your average heartland kind-of guy. I’ve just started reading this blog again, so accept my apologies if this is been discussed.

    Fact is, I’ll probably watch BBM in much the same vein as Pastor Jeff (above) when it’s available on my pre-paid service, but the movies I am really anxious to see are Capote and Good Night and Good Luck. Memoirs of a Geisha looks good, too.

  • tmatt


    Pray tell, who is your opening insult aimed at? That is SO attractive and helps your argument so much.

    LA Times is back today with a major piece that suggests….

    The actors and editors voted for Crash.


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  • http://www.joe-perez.com/ Joe Perez


    I’d rather not name names. Just read the comments before mine, subtract completely irrelevant asides, and you’ve got the full list without exceptions, and without naming names. I have no interest in persuading anyone here of anything, and no interest in respecting opinions undeserving of respect, so I speak my piece, not merely as a rational arguer but sometimes just to express my disdain. Arrogant? Sure. But no more so than the disgusting arrogance of the commenters referenced.