The Culture Current: Five Thoughts On The WGA Awards
Last weekend, the Writer’s Guild of America held its awards ceremony. And like the rest of this year’s awards season, it got political. So naturally, dear readers, I’m here to offer my $0.02—and believe me (to quote The Don), this is more important than anything Meryl Streep’s said, for the simple reason that screenwriters are absolutely central to the direction of the culture current. They craft the story…and therefore, they control the narrative. Control the narrative, you control the culture—and culture is upstream from politics.
Incidentally, that’s precisely what Aaron Sorkin admitted at the end of his acceptance speech: “The most powerful delivery system for an idea is a story. The men and women in this room—and one just like it in New York—are America’s storytellers.” On an amusing note, he followed up by trying to sound unifying, giving a quick nod to Conservative storytellers…as though he hadn’t just given a pathetic screed against—something about Trump, I think…?
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The point is, Sorkin admitted the importance of screenwriters in the Culture War: in a word, propaganda. Remember the branch of Hollywood investigated the most during the Blacklist era. Dalton Trumbo, Carl Foreman…screenwriters. The fear was that they would mold the popular culture to garner sympathy for the Communist point of view.
Gee, how paranoid.
Anyway, that’s Thought Number One: Storytelling is the central battlefield in the Culture War. We need our counterparts to the likes of Aaron Sorkin. Just not as pathetic.
My second thought involves Patton Oswalt’s opening monologue to the ceremony. Now, it’s no secret Oswalt’s a Lefty. However, it’s no secret this awards season has gotten so political, it’s almost become a joke. So…you might as well make a joke about it! In this case, Oswalt got help from known Conservative James Woods—multiple Oscar-winner whom my generation knows best for playing Hades in Disney’s Hercules. The two of them got into it, ribbing each other and sharing a laugh. And as Oswalt pointed out, “See?! There’s peace!—there’s some peace here! We’re reaching out!”
That, folks, is Thought Number Two: We can get along—even in Hollywood. Just so long as Lefties are open to it. Glenn Beck once noted that he’d once had a good conversation with George Clooney. Things like this can happen—Hollywood is not, in fact, this monolithic entity of “Hollywierd”, to be boycotted and shunned. There are good people there—like James Woods, who’s been very vocal, this past year, about his support for Trump. And if the WGA ceremony was any indication, he’s still a player in the industry.
By the way, Woods himself presented an award that night to Oliver Stone—more support for thought number two, though Salvador may have had something to do with it. Anyway, he made sure to begin his speech with some great lines about his being a Trump supporter in Hollywood: “Very rarely, you find yourselves transformed by a moment. Tonight, I am transformed. If I and thousands of other hadn’t voted for that mother-(bleep)er, this show would be over in fifteen minutes—I could be home watching The Walking Dead right now! So my publicist says, ‘Whatever you do, don’t talk politics’—I says, ‘Okay….’ I show up, and fifteen minutes later, I’m Darth Vader.”
He got applause and laughter. Mind you, he handled himself beautifully. And that’s Thought Number Three: A cool head and a sense of humor gets you through the Culture War. Don’t act like a militant—don’t act like a persecuted minority, even if you are. “Know when to fight and when not to fight,” as Sun Tzu tells us. Be affable and easy to get along with. And be good at what you do. Mel Gibson’s making his comeback as we speak—and he’s doing it by being one of the best at what he does. This season’s given him Oscar nominations for Best Director and Best Picture. I’m rooting for him, this weekend.
Thought Number Four: Push a Lefty hard enough—and they will stumble, topple over, and land with their foot in their mouth.
Okay…Aaron Sorkin. Silver-tongued, sharp-witted Aaron Sorkin—he who garnered the praise of Obama for writing “the way every Democrat in America wished they spoke”. He of the Saintly Liberal Hero spouting off the Sorkin Monologue™. And yes…he delivered one, at the WGA Awards.
Or at least, he tried to. Basically, he got set off by Donald Trump blasting the “mainstream” press as “out of touch”. And so, cue Sorkin try his best to give a classic verbal smackdown—you know, like his Saintly Liberal Heroes.
Basically, the pattern for his speech was supposed to run like so: “If you don’t believe X, you’re not the one who’s out of touch.” X = something Trump supposedly believes.
Look at that pattern carefully…specifically, where the “negatives” are.
And so, in the middle of his Sorkin Monologue™, Aaron said this:
“If you think climate change is a global hoax being perpetrated by unscrupulous Chinese scientists in cahoots with every other scientist in a cunning long con to get grant money, you’re not the one who’s out of touch.”
Well…! Nice of you say, Aaron. Thank you.
I know, he slipped and dropped the “don’t”. Of course, in the very next breath, he did it again:
“If you think The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, NBC News, CBS News, ABC News, and CNN lie with impunity, and that the only trustworthy news source is Fox & Friends—you’re not the one who’s out of touch.”
Hmm. Well actually, Aaron, we like The Wall Street Journal and don’t limit our Fox-watching to the morning—but thanks, anyway. I knew you were too good a writer to be 100% slow on the uptake. Seriously, this is what we call a Freudian Slip….
All right, all right—ribbing aside, I’m a budding screenwriter myself. As such, I know full well one of the things that separate good dialogue from bad dialogue is: Good dialogue should be easy to read without stumbling over your words. If you stumble, the line needs tweaking—simple as that.
In this case, Aaron of all people should’ve known that “If you don’t believe X then you’re not Y” is just asking for trouble. Just remember that line of Bilbo’s from the beginning of the first Lord of the Rings: “I don’t know half of you as well as I should like—and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve!” Cue the cricket chirps as his audience struggles to figure whether that’s a good thing or not….
But before I close, dear readers, “There’s one more thing,” as Lt. Columbo would say. For Thought Number Five, I would be remiss if I didn’t end this with my own Sorkin Monologue™…on Aaron Sorkin:
Okay, Aaron, let me tell you what’s out of touch.
“Out of touch” is when you ruin an otherwise-excellent rom-com by having Michael Douglass rail against guns, lionize the ACLU and call flag-burning a symbol of America!
“Out of touch” is not getting that if President Shepherd were to really make that speech, it would’ve destroyed what remained of his chance for reelection.
“Out of touch” is when you have the press in that scene explode in applause—and then act like that’s not a problem—
Oh, am I stuck on one little movie, Aaron? Okay, let’s move on—
“Out of touch” is not getting that if Private Santiago of A Few Good Men were really that sickly he wouldn’t have made it through Marine Corps basic training.
“Out of touch” is when you base an entire series on the idea that the Ideal Journalist should constantly give commentary on the news, instead of being, you know—objective.
“Out of touch” is when you tell people with a straight face that none of your writing is political—and while we’re at it, Aaron…
“Out of touch” is when you give a political speech when getting an award named for a screenwriting legend who famously made an awards speech denouncing talking politics when getting awards!
That’s out of touch, Aaron—so you better look in the mirror. And until you do, you have no business lecturing the rest of us.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons/Pruneau
License: Public Domain
Eric was raised by Conservative Christian parents, but first became especially passionate about politics in high school, through reading up on economic theory. He also first read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged around this time, for the ARI's essay contests. He now owns a great deal of Ayn Rand's work. Also included in his library are the collected works of Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Ann Coulter, etc.
Eric is no stranger to writing commentary, as the writer of the Conservative Considerations column on CampCampaign.com, and as a film critic and commentator on FlickRev.com. He has also carried on the Conservative tradition of talk radio commentary, as the host of "Avengers of America" for the USF student radio station, Bulls Radio. In the meantime, he is practicing what he preaches: Striving to enter the professional realm of Hollywood, he has already written and directed short films for the Campus MovieFest, which can be found on his YouTube channel, Hard Boiled Entertainment.
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