The cultural campaign
By JAMES PONIEWOZIK
Politicians and the news media may think they are the stars of the '04 election season, but from Michael Moore's film to Bill Clinton's My Life, it's really the entertainment and publishing industries that are driving much of the debate.
Given that liberalism is the lingua franca of Hollywood and the arts community, it's no surprise that much of what they will be sending our way in the coming months aims to provide the President with something less than a feel-good experience.
More than one political movie is turning up the Fahrenheit this election season. Among the documentaries, Bush's Brain builds a brief against adviser Karl Rove; Uncovered: The War on Iraq deconstructs the war's rationale; The Hunting of the President, co-directed by Bill Clinton confidant Harry Thomason, assails what it calls a long-term right-wing campaign to destroy Clinton; Control Room looks at Iraq as seen by Arab news channel al-Jazeera. Meanwhile, John Sayles' fictional Silver City gives us Chris Cooper playing a corrupt and familiarly fumble-mouthed gubernatorial candidate.
Be it Al Franken and Janeane Garofalo on liberal radio network Air America, Howard Stern fulminating against the FCC or Chris Rock calling Bush a liar in an HBO special, political and often anti-Bush commentary has replaced "White guys can't dance" jokes as comedy's mainstay. And while Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, right, professes to be nonpartisan, it has lately become a one-stop source for lacerating criticism of the war in Iraq (or as The Daily Show has called it, the "Mess O' Potamia") and the Administration in general.
After Sept. 11, Aaron McGruder's The Boondocksmorphed from a socially minded strip about kids and race into a pen-and-ink tirade against the Administration. One scathingly personal series about Condoleezza Rice got the strip banned from numerous papers. Liberal war-horse Doonesbury has unsurprisingly taken on Iraq, but a fresher (and more Rrated) critique comes from Get Your War On (online and in Rolling Stone), written by David Rees using clip-art drawings of cubicle workers sniping at the war.
Moore may detest Bush, but at least Moore supports gun control. In the novella Checkpoint by Nicholson Baker, a man named Jay, who has a gun, sits in a hotel room and hashes out a plan to assassinate Bush. (It's illegal to threaten the President in real life but not in fiction.) The title refers to a real incident in which an Iraqi family was gunned down by U.S. troops at a checkpoint. In the graphic novel In the Shadow of No Towers by Art Spiegelman (Maus), the cartoonist ruminates on feeling equally terrorized by al-Qaeda and by his own government. And many authors, including Stephen King and Joyce Carol Oates, contributed to The Future Dictionary of America, which includes definitions like "cheney [chay´-nee] v.i. To parlay one cushy job into another, esp. via personal connections."
Copyright © 2004 Time Inc.