Sunday, July 11, 2010

Rated R: Republican in Hollywood (2004)

Rated R: Republican in Hollywood is an hour long documentary by Jesse Moss, who honestly admits his ties to the Democratic Party at the beginning of the film. He describes the impetus for the film as the election of Republican Hollywood icon, Arnold Schwarzenegger, as the governor of California. Moss viewed the timing as ideal to explore issues including whether the liberal reputation of the entertainment industry is deserved, and whether Schwarzenegger is an anomaly (or whether there are other conservatives in Tinsel Town).

To explore these issues, Moss interviews a number of Hollywood conservatives including Drew Carey, John Milius, Lionel Chetwynd, Vincent Gallo, Michael Medved, Pat Sajak, Ben Stein, Sam Haskell and Patricia Heaton. (I have to admit I had not heard of most of these folks before watching the film.) Rated R: Republican in Hollywood seems to do a fairly good job of sensitizing viewers to the apparent difficulties of “conservatives” in the entertainment industry including ideological bigotry that limits career opportunities, as well as the hypocrisy of “liberals” who shun those with opposing political views. However, the film brushes over specific ideology and lumps a seemingly diverse group together as if they were ideologically homogenous.

The interviews rarely give hints as to why the various interviewees are Republicans such that they should be included in the documentary. It is not clear what these individuals actually believe that makes them “conservatives.” Indeed, it is noted that Schwarzenegger himself is not considered to be a true conservative by many due to his stance on hot button issues such as abortion rights. In his interview for the film, Drew Carey indicates he actually considers himself to be more of a libertarian.

For purposes of this blog, I had hoped that the film might explore the motivation of Christian Republicans in embracing the GOP. In that respect, I was disappointed.

Although I disagree with her on many political issues, Patricia Heaton is rather a fascinating person to me, and I was initially excited to see that she was featured in the film. Heaton is probably best known for her Emmy winning role in Everybody Loves Raymond. She has also been outspoken about her Christian faith. She produced the film Amazing Grace, a biopic of William Wilberforce, the English MP whose embrace of Christianity inspired his long fight to end the slave trade. Heaton is a consistent life ethicist, which means she has take “pro-life” positions against embryonic stem cell research, abortion rights, euthanasia and capital punishment. I have read that she apparently supports gay rights to some degree, and is affiliated with Feminists for Life. Nonetheless, her interview in Rated R: Republican in Hollywood glosses over her faith and her reason for affiliating with the GOP. The interview makes it apparent that she was an enthusiastic supporter of George W. Bush, but it is not clear why.

Even more disappointing, the film spotlights Act One, which is described as a Christian screenwriting group founded by a former nun. Moss never explores why this particular group should be included in a film about Republicans. Per their own interviews, the other people featured in the documentary seemed to be well-aligned with the GOP or at least with conservative causes and candidates. But the political affiliations of these Hollywood Christians was just assumed and not actually explored. I was left wondering if all of the Act One Christians were actually Republicans. To me, that would seem an amazing coincidence. As a Christ follower, who has not aligned herself with the GOP, I certainly did not appreciate the film’s apparent assumption that the Hollywood Christians were all Republican. This just perpetrates the seemingly well-entrenched myth that all Christians are political conservatives. In turn, this implicitly feeds the misimpression of many that Christianity endorses militarism and economic Darwinism.

I assume that Moss chose to gloss over ideology due to time constraints with his film. Unfortunately, that decision helps to crystallize Christian stereotypes that have been especially prevalent during and since the presidency of George W. Bush.

Ephesians 4:1-3

“I...urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love, diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds [us].”

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