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What the Golden Globes brouhaha does — and doesn't — tell us about liberals

Posted by Jesse Singal  January 19, 2011 02:03 PM

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rg.JPGI love this story about how, in the wake of Ricky Gervais's inflammatory performance during the Golden Globes the other night, conservatives are now hoisting him up as a hero of anti-Hollywood rebellion:

Had Gervais "been as relentless in ripping apart Sarah Palin, her young children, Jesus Christ or George W. Bush, today the comedian would be celebrated as 'edgy' and 'courageous'," noted John Nolte, editor of the Andrew Breitbart website Big Hollywood.


The U.K's right-leaning Daily Mail weighed in via a lengthy, positive analysis of Gervais' performance that was headlined: "Bravo, Ricky Gervais! A risque' attack on self-loving Tinseltown."

"The flock didn't know what to do because it had never encountered such risky mockery," author Quentin Letts wrote, praising Gervais for his rebellious performance.

"Hollywood and its power brokers hate a rebel. It is a place of groupthink and almost terminal political correctness."

On Sunday night Gervais earned himself a cult following around the world, Letts opined, as "the man who went to Hollywood and told them what a bunch of self-regarding boobies they are."

In one sense: agreed! This wasn't worth freaking out about. But the specifics of Letts' and Nolte's arguments are less than half-baked.

They're writing about Hollywood, so one would think they follow the subject, at least a little. But you wouldn't know it from reading their analysis. The idea that Gervais would have been called "edgy" or "courageous" for engaging in ultra-stale ridicule of George W. Bush or Sarah Palin (or, um, bashing Jesus Christ, which I guess is something Hollywood stars do?) is a joke. No one would have lauded him taking aim at such routine targets. Even more of a joke is the notion that the stars were aghast because they "had never encountered such risky mockery" — mostly because of the sheer volume of Hollywood-mockery that comes from... Hollywood!

There's probably no better gauge of what is and isn't acceptable mockery than the late-night talk shows — these, after all, are the shows that millions of Americans from different background fall asleep to every night. They can't afford to be overly risque. (Okay, technically speaking some of them broadcast from New York rather than Hollywood, but certainly culture-warriors on the right would lump them in with the Tom Cruises and John Travoltas of the world as Part of the Problem.)

These hosts are constantly mocking Hollywood stars. Every night, such mockery constitutes a good chunk of their opening monologues. And this ribbing takes place in movies as well: "Team America: World Police," a major Hollywood blockbuster from 2004, lampooned Hollywood at every turn, as did "Tropic Thunder" more recently, albeit in a different sort of way.

Short of living in a cave, it would be hard to come to the conclusion that Gervais got the reaction he did because Hollywood is averse to any sort of criticism.

Here's my folk-psychological theory: Letts and Nolte have trouble seeing "the left" as anything but a monolithic entity, a huge, evil mass of folks who all have the same views and would never dare criticize each other. Therefore, despite evidence to the contrary, the only explanation that fits their worldview is that Hollywood has never before been insulted like this and is reeling from the punch.

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ABOUT THE ANGLE Online commentary and news analysis from the Boston Globe. The Angle is produced by Rob Anderson and Alan Wirzbicki. You can follow Rob on Twitter at @rcand.

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