Creeping blur between movie and documentary
TORONTO — My favorite movie is "The Sound of Music," which I've seen more times than a grown woman should freely admit. But even when I was 10, I suspected that the baroness could not have handled being dumped by the captain with as much dignity in real life as she managed on screen. I knew it was a movie, not a documentary.
It is unfathomable that so many seem unable to distinguish between entertainment and history where the two-part miniseries "The Reagans" is concerned. I haven't seen even a short clip from the series, but I've heard what we all have. Some of it seems inoffensive - Nancy telling Patti not to wear jeans in the White House. Heck, my mum probably wouldn't want me wearing jeans there, either. Some of it seems libelous: Turning the former president's slowness to recognize the seriousness of the AIDS epidemic into his damning the victim, for example.
If not for the fuss surrounding "The Reagans," I probably wouldn't have heard of it or watched. Now I'm keen to see if it lives up to its infamy.
If the series is as vituperative and slanted as suggested, it's also unfathomable that it should surprise anyone. An anti-Reagan smear job coming out of vacuous, leftish Hollywood? An anti- Reagan smear job starring the husband of Barbra Streisand, known for fawning over Bill Clinton and her passionate views on Iran ... oops, she meant "Iraq"?
Friends, fans, and colleagues of the Reagans have every right - indeed every responsibility - to defend the couple and boycott CBS. Advertisers have every right to withdraw from the show.
This isn't censorship or a conspiracy, as many liberals complain. It's just a free market. And it is truly tasteless for such a series to be made when Ronald Reagan is too ill to defend himself, and his wife too busy caring for him to respond. But we're talking about entertainment executives here. Minds like these graced us with "Average Joe" and "Fear Factor." Why expect good taste or concern for anybody's feelings? It's never happened before.
This spring CBS ran a miniseries about Hitler. It was criticized for going soft on the Teutonic lunatic, portraying him as a wounded artist. I knew, therefore, that it would enrage me - so I didn't watch. Given the news that CBS has bravely shipped "The Reagans" off to their very own television gulag, their pay-network Showtime, one wishes Hitler's old buddies in South America had complained that he wasn't being portrayed as the misunderstood fella they loved.
Still, the Hitler movie was only a movie. It might behoove us more to focus on how our nightly network news is presented, or on what TV offers us overall.
As a Canadian, it is of greater concern to me that my tax dollars pay for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, a network I find irrationally anti-Israeli and anti-American, than if a slanted movie about one of our leaders gets made.
Surely Americans have loftier matters to tackle than a silly Hollywood misrepresentation? What about NPR? PBS? Do you like what you help pay for?
I spent most of the 1980s in high school and university, blissfully uninterested in US politics. But a recent reading of Ronald Reagan's letters revealed to me a more complicated and thoughtful person than all the jokes suggest.
I'm now rather a fan. But a fan who thinks "The Reagans" is just a TV show and that our attention could better be focused elsewhere.
• Rondi Adamson's conservative social commentary appears frequently in the Canadian press.