Because Monday was a slow news day, the media were reduced to flogging the Best Picture mix-up as the "worst Oscar disaster ever!" While I’m sure that Rob Lowe and Snow White were grateful for that (in the same way Jimmy Carter must be grateful to Barack Obama), it was hardly a disaster on an epic scale. You’d think Hollywood could recognize a real epic disaster, having produced so many of them.
The presenters were handed the wrong envelope, but it was corrected before the show ended and the ushers started waking the audience. Sure, it was embarrassing for the “La La Land” folks who were down to thanking their dog walkers when their award was yanked away. But in the grand scheme, it was a snafu over which of two movies few people saw anyway got an ever-more-meaningless trophy. I’ll bet there were more people on stage than paid to see “Moonlight” -- and just like its ticket buyers, probably half of them wished they’d stayed home.
But there was a genuine Oscar “disaster,” one that Hollywood would rather not talk about, and that’s the TV ratings. The producers actually thought that warning us it would be the “most political Oscars ever” with wall-to-wall Trump bashing would make more people tune in. Guess again.
In 1998, the year the megahit “Titanic” won and the non-political Billy Crystal hosted, viewership topped 55 million. Thanks to all the smug lectures and virtue-signaling nominations of dreary PC films nobody wanted to see, this year’s audience plunged to below 33 million. That sounds yuuuuge, but it was 4% lower than the previous year, which was itself part of a steady, multi-year decline. This year marked the second-lowest-rated Oscars in history only because the lowest ever was in 2008, a presidential election year, when Jon Stewart hosted. Sense a pattern?
Critics will blame it on the rising number of entertainment options, like video games and YouTube stars, but one reason they’re rising is that they don’t start out calling half of their target audience fools and bigots. No, if the Oscar ratings are a disaster, then, to borrow the Obama-era term for “terrorism,” they are a “manmade disaster.” Or to put it in more clinical terms, they are symptoms of an epidemic infecting every common cultural touchstone of American life: the politicization of everything. And the infection is being spread deliberately by the “progressive” left, the Typhoid Mary of divisiveness.
Americans have always had political differences, but we put them aside after elections, shook hands and got back to our lives. Those lives included many things that we all talked about around the water cooler the next day. Sure, they were basically meaningless (even in 1952, did anyone seriously think “The Greatest Show on Earth” was the Best Picture of the year when “Singin’ In The Rain” wasn’t nominated?) But they gave us all something to bond over, a common topic for fun debate without any rancor. Now, thanks to the left’s endless campaign to inject politics into every nook and cranny of life, here’s a far-from-complete list of some safe common meeting grounds Americans have lost:
1. Awards shows – We used to root for our favorite films, albums or performers to take home an Oscar, Grammy, Emmy or Golden Globe. Now, we’re expected to endure pompous lectures about racism, immigration policy and movie actors being “migrant workers” (the kind who fly first class and stay in mansions.) Half the audience is supposed to sit there as their intelligence and integrity are insulted on their way to finding out which movie nobody saw was deemed PC enough to be honored (in case you haven’t seen it, which I’m assuming you haven’t, “Moonlight” is about the lifelong struggles faced by an impoverished, bullied, abused, gay, black kid who grows up to be a drug dealer. To steal a line from “American Dad,” they should’ve named the main character “Oscar Gold.”)
Instead of urging members to cool it with the political grandstanding that’s killing their industries, award show producers encourage it. For instance, Grammy producers claim that 90% of musical genres (jazz, folk, gospel, blues, classical and more) have to be shunted off to an untelevised afternoon ceremony because there is simply no room for them in prime time. Yet they had plenty of time for a mass same-sex wedding that had nothing to do with promoting music. As one critic said, you could practically hear the TVs switching off all over Middle America.
2. Sports – The only great controversy in football used to be whether you were a Cowboys or Redskins fan. Now you can’t even say the Redskins’ name without being swarmed by a leftist Twitter mob. Players who should be on their knees thanking God that they were born in America where they could become fabulously rich playing football instead take a knee during the National Anthem to show their contempt for America. To see the results, look at the TV ratings. At least we still have the Super Bowl as a unifying event, but not for lack of trying to ruin it. Leftists are still furious at Lady Gaga for not turning the halftime show into a 20-minute anti-Trump diatribe.
3. Late night shows – Americans used to doze off after picking up a few Johnny Carson jokes to repeat at work the next day. Johnny was careful to poke fun at both sides without ever getting too nasty or partisan. Jay Leno continued that practice. These days, the closest to that is Jimmy Fallon, who is liberal but at least tries to keep it secondary to entertainment. Then there are Steven Colbert, Seth Meyers, the Daily Show, John Oliver, Samantha Bee and all the rest of the hive mind, offering an endless litany of DNC talking points barely disguised as punchlines.
Colbert is getting great press now because his nightly assaults on Trump have caused a “ratings surge.” That “surge” has pushed his audience up to almost 3 million viewers. By comparison, Carson’s final week averaged nearly 19.5 million viewers. On a typical weeknight during his heyday, he drew up to 14 million. Yes, there were fewer alternatives then. But if there had been, what do you bet Johnny would’ve found a way to beat them that didn’t involve alienating half of America? Even now, many viewers are escaping the relentless anti-Trump barrage by watching Carson reruns on Antenna TV.
4. Holidays – Don’t you miss the days when every Halloween costume didn’t have to be pre-approved by some self-appointed PC inspection committee? When you could say “Merry Christmas” without getting a cease-and-desist letter from the ACLU? And enjoy Thanksgiving dinner without having some niece or nephew home from college hectoring you about Obamacare with talking points from a MoveOn.org pamphlet? Here’s a tip: Don’t try to badger a middle class taxpayer about how he should love Obamacare while he’s holding a carving knife.
5. Parades – Parents now have to stand at the ready to cover kids’ eyes on Columbus Day or the Fourth of July, when the gay sexual liberation float made out of over a million condoms passes by.
This could go on and on, but you get the point: virtually every activity Americans used to share, from grabbing a cup of coffee to attending a town hall meeting to buying a bottle of perfume, is being systematically undermined by the injection of politics (I'm not talking about merely being inclusive of all views; I mean the people who insist on shoving their views into everyone's face). You can’t even escape to social media: half your friends do nothing but repost insulting political memes and unfriend you if you block them.
As trivial as these shared events are, their loss is significant. All these seemingly unimportant rituals and traditions make up our common pop culture and bring us together as Americans. Losing them is like cutting the threads that hold a patchwork quilt together. And this separation of us all into warring identity groups is quite deliberate. The “divide and conquer” strategy is what the left sees as its ticket back into power.
When I was doing my TV show, I had some of the most liberal celebrities as guests, from Rob Reiner to Melissa Etheridge. We always had friendly, gracious, enjoyable conversations and found areas of agreement, from free speech to music education. These days, we’d probably never have those discussions because they’d get so much hate mail from the left as soon as word of the booking got out that they’d cancel (look at the venom Jimmy Fallon is still getting just for treating Donald Trump with the same basic respect accorded any other guest.)
We the audience need to speak up and vote with our dollars and eyeballs, to let the political termites know that we won’t allow the further erosion of these seemingly trivial but important common cultural crossroads. Oscar host Jimmy Kimmel seems to agree; he urged the celebrity crowd to take a minute to talk calmly to a conservative person-to-person, a sentiment that got a big round of applause before they went right back to bashing Republicans.
Maybe they've just been in the bubble so long, they've forgotten how to speak to anyone without turning it into a political rant. So in hopes of bringing us together, here’s a simple step-by-step guide. Write it down and keep it in your pocket if you like:
When you are in a conversation or at an event that has nothing to do with politics, and a divisive, partisan, wildly inappropriate political thought occurs to you, just…
(A.) Don’t say it. And…
(B.) Repeat (A.) as needed.
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