President-elect prefers to write his own script
Forgive me while I reduce the transformative events of the past week to a showbiz truism:The triumph of the Obama-rama is a stirring reminder that a great show, superbly packaged and marketed, can still triumph over all adversity. And what does this mean to Hollywood? For one thing, it may pull back this curtain of gloom that has hovered over the community in recent months. The causes of gloom are understandable: The pathetic economy. The stalemates around the world. The death throes of Bush America. The net effect has been a pervasive defeatist attitude that has sucked the energy out of the media and the entertainment community. Maybe now we can hear an occasional “yes we can” emanating from the executive suites, rather than a “no we won’t.”
* * *A reluctant star Here’s the irony: Though the Obama victory has excited and energized the Hollywood community, it’s likely that the Obama administration itself will maintain a wary distance from the mandarins of showbiz. There will be no Clinton bear-hugs to the stars and power players. Bill Clinton eagerly embraced the glitz and power of Hollywood. The White House became a favorite stop-off for Hollywood’s elite. From the moment he found himself deified as an instant rock star, however, Barack Obama seemed to recoil. He did not covet celebrity. His unique hold on the public seemed to transcend mere celebrity. Bill Clinton loved being a star, with all the perqs that it entailed. Obama wanted to be a movement, not a star. He apparently got his way. Hence, while we won’t see movie stars hanging in the Oval Office, what might return is the symbolism of Washington as a positive force in our culture. In the Bush years, the White House has become a metaphor for America’s decline and isolation. Now, perhaps, its youthful, well-educated inhabitants may re-create a hint of the Kennedy aura — one of optimism and hope. Even Obama doubters admit to one astonishing phenomenon: The election of the new president has instantly transformed the world’s opinion of the United States. Hollywood, like so many key sectors of the economy, is desperately dependent on its acceptance in the international market. It’s nice to have friends out there, not enemies.
* * *Whatta show! A final irony: Barack Obama may not want to embrace Hollywood, but Hollywood’s practitioners are steadfast admirers of his showbiz instincts. Or at least those of his key aides. Time and again, Obama’s key appearances have been masterfully produced and orchestrated, Hollywood execs observe. From the staging of his Denver acceptance speech at the massive football stadium to the final Chicago speech, Obama’s presentations were perfectly lit, the sound was superb, the staging impeccable. “In terms of stagecraft, the Obama team deserves some sort of award,” the production chief of one studio told me last week. “These guys are consummate pros.” So while Obama may not be courting Hollywood, he’ll nonetheless find the star-makers have decided to hunker down in his corner.