by Stephanie Herman
TED TURNER SAID recently, of his wealth, Id rather use it for the benefit of mankind... than spend it selfishly. Im a socialist at heart. If thats the definition of socialism, its a wonder the Soviet Union ever collapsed.
Actually, socialism is a bit more complicated. Extending far beyond the desire to help others, Hollywood politics, if crystallized, would establish centralized economic controls and limited freedoms that havent been shown to be terribly helpful to anyone besides high-level government managers.
Since the 1930s, when Trotsky was all the rage, artists and entertainers have consistently tempted cognitive dissonance in supporting socialism. Hollywood is, after all, an industry that benefits enormously from economic capitalism and freedom of dialogue. Why reject their greatest assets?
Could it be that, like Turner, most entertainers limit their definition of the theory to mere altruism, ignoring the destructive effects of large government? Maybe its Zahavis Handicap Principle at work, spurring our nations rich and famous to publicly compromise their own self-interest to impress the herd. Perhaps its simply per capita Hollywood guilt, for which socialism can be a handy pacifier. Guilt, though, doesnt evoke passion, and Hollywood is passionate about leftist politics.
The theory of socialism must fill a need for entertainers that even fame and fortune cant satisfy. But what?
THE SOCIALIST MECHANISM has a pleasing, almost lyrical prelude; it never starts out as a totalitarian thought. Nobody embarks on the socialist road whistling Orwellian hymns or worrying about someday burning dissenting books at 451 degrees Fahrenheit.
To thinkers just starting out, socialism represents cooperation and kindness and a strong social tapestry. It represents humanity. It represents, oddly enough, the way I was raised by two capitalist, free-market, patriotic conservatives.
Our small family of three enjoyed a communal lifestyle, as most families do: We lived according to the common good. We shared in the overall prosperity of the family, which meant collective ownership of all income, from Dads paycheck to my babysitting money. We also shared in the family work; Mom and Dads shares were more valuable, while my share was usually forced upon me.
Do I regret being forced? Not now; it was good for me to nourish the dog, scribble out my homework, and abuse our spinet piano for 35 minutes every afternoon. It was also good to eat food that a ten-year-old like me could never pay for. It was socialism at its finest.
Freedom? That would come later. While I was young, my parents were authoritarian heads of state. They were not my equals; they governed me, enforcing the law and managing the distribution of our wealth. Which was fine; I needed that control. I was a happy, little proletariat of one.
Yet, it was in the midst of my socialist upbringing that I was first nudged toward capitalism, or independence. In school I was encouraged to compete: to surf the grading curve, to score points in basketball and field hockey, to respect others when the game involved winning friends. Maturity and capitalism were intertwined; growing up meant depending less on my parents, and more on myself. In this sense, capitalism was a rejection of youth.
To Hollywood, though, youth is a religion lip collagen its holy water; the tummy-tuck, a sacrament. Prudence, epiphany and sensible shoes flop at the box office in comparison with meaningless pre-pubescent kisses. Even script writers like Felicitys Riley Weston have felt the pressure to depreciate their biological maturity by almost half.
Perhaps Hollywoods obsession with socialism is an obsession with youth.
And yet, Hollywood has been instrumental in overhauling the socialistic rearing of children. What began as cinematic pandering to young, romantic movie-goers slowly evolved into a political campaign to free children from authoritarian rule.
In the 60s, bumbling parents were trapped by the conniving behavior of stealth pre-teens. In the 70s, young Bess Lindstrom called her mother Phyllis, right in front of Aunt Mary. In the 80s, commercials aimed at nine-year-olds ridiculed parents and inflated young egos.
Psychologists and politicians soon followed suit. Journal articles claimed it was too creatively stifling to tell your kids no. Parenting magazines sold the hot trend of toddler choice, in clothing at least. And just a few years ago, Hillary Clinton saw a need to decentralize parental authority, dispersing it out among the village.
Sure, its harmless enough for a two-year-old to pick her own outfits, but the political basis of toddler choice and all-yes parenting has been the liberation of the young American proletariat. Hillarys parental decentralization a tenet of capitalism is merely the capstone of the socialist homes transformation into a bonafide free-market system. No rules, no regulations. No curfews. No limits.
Why inject capitalism into the home? Because children usually reject the methods used to rear them. A rich mans son, for example, is likely to abandon his stuffy name and family fortune to marry a commoner; Ryan ONeal and Dudley Moore taught us that much.
As expected, the youthful rejection of capitalism began to emerge in the 60s and 70s. As kids encumbered by their own freedom came of age, a shift in their outlook was captured by The Who: If I swallow anything evil, put your finger down my throat... Young adults were ready to become the children they never were. The crushing responsibility of toddler and teenage choices was just something else to outgrow; it was time to rely on others for a change. These kids were tired of the ways of capitalism. They were primed and ready for a quick lesson in socialism.
And Tinsel Town was only too ready to preach the politics of perpetual youth, erecting an alter to juvenility reminiscent of the grotesque pig tails framing Baby Janes red-lipped and wrinkled face. Still, Hollywood had won a cultural victory, souring kids early on responsibility and freedom, while delaying the youthful delights of dependency and entitlements as long as possible.
After all, you cant vote socialist until youre at least 18.