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Rising above celebrity: Lionel Chetwynd

If Hollywood is the most significant cultural force around, then does it have any real political clout — or no clout? In a town where the political values of the average individual are far left of center, this is the question Steven Kotler posed to Ben Affleck, Warren Beatty and Lionel Chetwynd, three of the industry’s most politically active denizens. What follows is Chetwynd‘s answer.

The reason Hollywood has no real political clout is because it’s a one-party town. There’s no real mystery. When you wear your heart on your sleeve everyone already knows your opinion. It’s like yeah, yeah, yeah, now tell me something I don’t already know — but that doesn’t happen very often. People in Hollywood tend to toe the party line, so then it becomes a question of motivation. When someone like Sandra Bullock comes along and responds to (the Hurricane) Katrina (disaster) with her money and time and clout without trying to draw any attention to herself, it lends her a lot of moral authority. But when actors show up in Louisiana with their own shotgun and their own personal photographer, well, people are going to start wondering where politics ends and publicity begins.

There’s also the problem of people in the industry taking themselves so seriously that whatever they have to say about politics comes off as self-important. And the whole thing gets amplified and worsened because the general American public sees a stream of information from shows like “Entourage” and (cabler) E! that says a career in entertainment is built on showing up in Hollywood and getting really lucky. Why should anyone listen to someone who seems full of themselves, but whose road to success wasn’t built on hard work, but instead on random chance?

I think all of this has become fortified in the public’s mind as of late by the new, and seemingly obligatory, reference by actors and filmmakers to their politics in their products. If you watch “Boston Legal” or any number of other shows or movies there will be a not-so-subtle message included. But if 52% of the country have learned to discount anything political that comes out of Hollywood and if 48% already agree with you — well, haven’t you simply gelded yourself? Plus, it used to be, if you look at the films of Sturges or Capra — both of whom were liberals and (made) political films — the evil that infected the country was an aberration. Willie Stark was a bad guy and he was defeated by a good guy. But the way things get presented now, the evil isn’t an aberration, the evil is America. And that’s just not an opinion the vast majority of the general public agrees with.

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