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Commentary Last Updated: Aug 21st, 2006 - 00:53:49

Ban the actors from the ideal republic!
By Luciana Bohne
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Aug 21, 2006, 00:51

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"Liberal" Hollywood has done it again! It has come out in favor of imperialist terrorism against legitimate resistance movements, showing that it is eager to protect careers and is terminally stupid as well as morally congealed:

I wonder how long one can last by living in self-imposed cultural exile in one's own country. The question has haunted me for some time. Never read the papers. Cancel magazine subscriptions. Avoid almost anything the American publishing establishment peddles. Try not to stay too long at social events, lest you hear some otherwise rational professor spout some atrocious media lie or vulgar reduction as fact. Cancel the subscription to the symphony series: can't listen to Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" played against the backdrop of a flag the size of Lebanon.

I haven't watched television since the Thursday after 9/11, when my daughter called to say that if I watched television I would "get sick."

In truth, I hadn't watched much before, so I was completely flabbergasted by the immediate calls for revenge, war, and blood.

The news readers sounded like barking dogs howling at the moon! The thirst for blood lay heavier than grief. As a classics teacher, I recognized the emotion as "rage." "Sing me, o Muse, the rage of Achilles that cost so many lives to the Achaeans," so starts "The Iliad," and I wondered if rage had become the quintessential American emotion, the only one that muscle-bound America is allowed to emrace. All other emotions might be for "sissies."

Rage, of course, is a blinding, exploding fireball of homicidal proportions, blotting out reason, compassion, and mourning. The rage of Achilles, for example, culminates in a self-forgetting orgy of cruelty that ultimately offends the gods. In his rage, he forgets what he's fighting for, who he is, and what he has really lost in the name of which he's defiling the enemy, Hector's martyred body. For more than a week he can't sleep or cry over his dead companion's loss. All he craves is vengeance and his own destruction.

Homer ends "The Iliad" with a funeral, not the victory of the Greeks, which will come soon. He ends it on the most mournful and most understated note in all of literature, "They buried Hector, tamer of horses." With that grace note, we see all that lies before the people engaged in the conflict: the destruction, enslavement, and rapine of enemy Troy and the return of the Greek heroes to a land abandoned for 10 years to the conspiracies of usurpers, to fallow fields, and to bankrupt treasuries. They go home, in fact, to the hatred of wives, who plot to murder them. Their sons have become social parasites, drinking, whoring, and brawling in their or their allies' palaces. Their dogs expire at their feet after one last, faithful look. They find nothing of what they left behind (even Odysseus has to fight to regain his throne).

The land for which they fought is no more. Their victory is pyrrhic.

Soon, their civilizations crumble with their palaces. They disappear from history, as the "Dark Ages" descend, which makes writing disappear. Not even words remain to remember they existed.

Such are the wages of vengeance and war, all of Greek literature tells us.

Next to such a profound vision of the tragedy of war, what is Hollywood to me? An entertainment trash bin -- a Roman-style Colosseum which plays out the fantasies of sex and violence to feed a nation incapable of grieving, of walking in the shoes of sufferers, above all of learning the healing redemption of suffering.

Of remembering.

So, I don't see movies made by Hollywood, the ideological factory of pathologies of power, dominance, and cruelty. It does not surprise me that Hollywood actors know so little of politics, history, morality. This is why they are famous. This is why they are worshipped. This is why they are rewarded.

Plato famously said he would ban poets from the ideal republic. People reading him, even today, are shocked that he should say anything so philistine as to ban those our culture educates us to respect but ignore. Well, in the age of Plato, the poets were the right arm of tyranny. They authorized it, sang praises to it, and were well paid for it.

And that's Hollywood actors today. They are allowed to make "controversial" movies focusing on subjects the American Christian Taleban frowns on (how utterly and completely heroic!) -- a plethora of provincial subjects of interest only to sexist, racist, Puritan America, a staggering portion of which believes in the

reality of the Devil! Talk of bronze-age mentality! For this they are given Oscars for "courage" -- as if they had just discovered a cure for cancer or AIDS, instead of merely portraying someone who died of them. They expose racism. How daring, 50 years after Hollywood ignored the civil rights struggle! They portray feminists climbing the corporate ladder and joining the military! Hurrah for feminism, so deftly co-opted to serve abusive institutions!

O, brave new world that hath such creatures in it who can't say no to the box office! Fifty years from now, they'll portray American lawyers saving Muslims from Guantanamo-like gulags!

Or maybe not. It depends on the political climate.

Now these social reformers in the entertainment industry have decided to become overtly political, embracing the very issues that will secure their careers in the bosom of the powers they help to sustain through the cult of their personality, through their grotesque fame, and through their abject subservience to the powers-that-be.

By all means, ban the actors from the ideal republic. They are the conformists, the opportunists, and the circus-animal-performers of a culturally debased land.

Luciana Bohne teaches film and literature at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. She can be reached at

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