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Hollywood vs. Politicians… Pick Your Damned Side

August 22, 2011

Good Will Hunting was a great movie; not one I’d watch repeatedly like Saving Private Ryan or Gladiator or Braveheart, but good nonetheless. The problem is that, I think, since that movie, Damon has taken on mostly intelligent roles wherein his character is intelligent–as his character was in Good Will Hunting–and it has crept over from his character mind to his reality mind. That would be okay if his intelligence was that high, but it isn’t. And if there is one thing Americans don’t like in addition to listening to somebody thinking they are smarter than they are (which usually equates to them thinking they’re smarter than everybody else), it’s our Hollywood people crossing over the line into the land of our politician people. As such, we don’t like when stars preach to us. You have to be one or the other.

Ronald Reagan acted, then when into politics. Fine. Schwarzenegger acted, then when into politics, then acted again. No problem. Fred Thompson repeatedly broke the politics/Hollywood rule but was dismissed because he was never a major character in either place. His presidential bid was a lot like his acting career; stand behind the stars, stay quiet, and quickly bow out.

But Mr. Matt Damon has crossed a border that we don’t like crossed. He has become relatively active in politics (like others have done and I believe paid a price for, ala Tim Robins). The problem with the whole thing is this: we ascribe a certain amount of hero glitter to our stars in Hollywood. They are always “good.” We always like them. They become icons after only a few well-marketed movies. All that is fine and typical. The problem is that when they begin to put on their politician faces, we believe we are being sold to by a salesman who stole his selling platform by sneaking in some side door.

Let me explain.

We don’t mind our politicians selling to us. Matter of fact, chances are that if they are in office, they already sold their ideas to the majority of the base that turned out to the booths. We meet them, the very first time, whether through TV or in person or internet ads or even radio and they are selling, straight away. On the very first meeting–on our first exposure to them–they are selling. We don’t mind that.

But when an actor, who has gained our admiration and (somehow) trust suddenly jumps up on a soap box and starts pushing an agenda that clearly serves one or another political party, we feel betrayed. He didn’t come up the hard way, selling, like our politicians did and we know our politicians already took their “beatings” of getting rejected and debated and insulted and having their private lives pretty much exposed by their opponents and government. They have worked on campaign trails, tirelessly, while our actor friends were yelling for makeup to fix their hair on windy days.

So when one of those actors pops up preaching, we are appalled and immediately want them to stop, no matter what they are pushing. You are our hero, actor, because of what you do in the movies. Don’t take that status and think it’ll transfer to the real world, because it will not. Real world heroes, to us, are like the ones on CNN Heroes or other ones we read about in the newspaper who sacrifice greatly to help others.

Mr. Matt Damon is among my very favorite actors. I only own a few “trilogies,” but the Bourne trilogy is one of them. I identify with the character in that series closely and I don’t think another actor could capture the character the way Damon did. So when he jumped up on stage recently at some education seminar or something of that nature (his mother was there, too; she’s a teacher), he made me queasy. He talked to some reporter who was suggesting that he wanted to work hard because he was an actor and he had a huge motivation for working hard since acting certainly didn’t offer job security, which is where he took issue. He then began lecturing her, and the problem came here: he lectured this reporter about what he called an “intrinsically paternalistic view…” regarding “ed policy…”


My Go-Go-Matt-Damon-Idolatry-Gadget snapped in half and crumbled to the floor of my mind. Is he politicking or religioning me? My sentry guns started firing at his image. My radar activated all defense systems and slammed his voice silent in my head in a matter of milliseconds. Is Matt Damon (gulp) preaching to me? Oh, no.

No, Mr. Damon. Don’t preach. If you intend to get active in “ed. policy,” get the hell out of my action movies first. Then, once you’ve taken your beatings from those who have worked a lifetime in education policy and their constituents, if you rise through that abuse and your message gains a following, I’ll give you a look with my politician spectacles on, but not until then. Otherwise, get back to kicking people’s asses and blowing shit up, because that’s what I like you for right now.


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  1. Yeah, I liked Matt Damon in all those Bourne movies (never thought I would); never a dull moment.But I agree – I don't like it when entertainers or sports figures enter the political fray. These are people who have a ton of money and are catered to up the yin yang.They're in a different stratophere than you or I. What could they possibly have in common with regular working stiffs? Hell, they don't even have to go to jail if they break probation or whatever (ask Lindsey Lohan); why, they're celebrities, so they MUST be superior to the masses.Give me a break.Ronald Reagan and Schwartzenegger did it right. (And George Murphy, an actor and friend of Reagan, also did it right, retiring from acting before becoming a senator or representative from California.) And celebrities wonder why a lot of people give them the finger when they try and talk politics?Great post!

  2. Thanks for the comment, Nancy! Agree wholeheartedly on the superiority issue. Real heroes just don't come from Hollywood (irony being that that is one of the very few places true heroes are portrayed…)

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