A British journalist examines the long, troubled romance between Hollywood and America’s political capital.
Stanley (The Crusader: The Life and Tumultuous Times of Pat Buchanan, 2012, etc.) probably meant well with this name-dropping argument that glamorous movie star activism is the key to understanding arcane Washington, D.C., politics. Unfortunately, this poorly sourced, facetious narrative is more indicative of the author’s politics than the nation’s. You have to give him credit for coverage, in that he goes all the way back to old-school Hollywood to examine how moguls like Louis B. Mayer and the Warner brothers traded popularity for political gain. From there, Stanley resurrects the well-worn stories of the Rat Pack’s support of John F. Kennedy and the plethora of celebrities who supported Sen. George McGovern’s spectacularly unsuccessful bid to defeat Richard Nixon, as well as a glancing blow at Arnold Schwarzenegger’s tenure as governor of California: “If only life was more like the movies,” the author writes, summarizing California’s monetary woes. However, most of the book tends to skew toward modern political movements, largely focused on President Barack Obama. In the opening chapter, the author poses the candidate as Batman versus a Mitt Romney as the villain Bane, and he includes an introductory dissection of the infamous “empty chair” incident instigated by that rare celebrity conservative Clint Eastwood at the Republican National Convention, which lends itself to a discussion later on of the cowboy mythology popularized by Ronald Reagan and others. Criticisms of TV shows like The West Wing (an idealized liberal White House) and Modern Family (Hollywood’s so-called gay agenda) come off even more poorly than their celebrity-studded film counterparts. Elsewhere, Stanley shoehorns in references to franchises like Twilight and Harry Potter with little political relevance.
A superficial and unconvincing account that does little to inform readers of the dangers of political reciprocity.