LONDON — Anyone invested financially or creatively in the American entertainment business can be forgiven for wondering about the U.S. showbiz fallout from those millions of Europeans marching Feb. 15-16 against a U.S.-led war on Iraq.
Not to put too fine a gloss on the anger and concern on display, but it’s worth remembering that it was, after all, an actor, Ronald Reagan, who became famously known as “the Teflon president.” And the deflective powers of America’s cultural exports would appear, for the moment, to be holding up well.
Other than a two-day dent in the Euro box office receipts from all those people exercising their right to freedom of expression rather than freedom of entertainment choice, the evidence suggests that the Euros are compartmentalizing their opinions about American culture and politics quite neatly — and to Hollywood’s benefit.
In the past 10 days:
- Eminem’s “8 Mile” has cemented its promise as a Euro B.O. smash, grossing $16.1 million in Germany and hip-hopping past $20 million in the U.K. Mr. Em’s U.K. concert tour has notched sellouts in every stadium and hall it’s booked. If the war plans advance and this kind of separation of Rap and State continues, expect the Euro marchers to soon be wearing Eminem’s about-to-launch fashion line.
- The Berlin Fest, scene of many an anti-Bush/war tirade from top American showbiz figures such as Edward Norton, Dustin Hoffman and Spike Lee, wound up bestowing top prizes to no less than three Hollywood pics: “The Hours,” “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” and “Adaptation.” While no principled walkouts were spotted at the glitzy unspoolings of those pics, along with fest opener “Chicago,” closer “Gangs of New York” and competish pic “Solaris,” an abundance of Euro paparazzi and autograph hunters were.
- The as-expected Oscar bounce for “Chicago,” “The Hours,” “The Two Towers” and “Catch Me If You Can” reverberated across the Atlantic.
- A few days earlier, Brit documentarian Martin Bashir’s tour of Michael Jackson’s unique style of child rearing and interior decoration was a ratings bonanza for ITV and started a fresh round of Michaelmania, pro and con. It’s another key indicator of the Euros’ deft bifurcation of conscience and escapism: i.e. one can be appalled by warmongering American politicians and still be raptly fascinated by baby-dangling American pop stars.
Does this mean that Europe’s ability to distinguish between America’s political leadership and its entertainment offerings will continue to favor U.S. showbiz, no matter what happens in Baghdad? It’s possible. But as any proud American frying pan owner will tell you, even the finest Teflon can wear out eventually.