George Clooney's Rules for Living,” Esquire, December 2013
Well, I suppose that the publicist for George Clooney finally persuaded him to the contrary, because four years after this Esquire rant, the actor-director opened his own “George Clooney Official” Twitter page. Nevertheless, Mr. C. must have warned that he would strictly limit his involvement, because the tweets and retweets consist mostly of pictures of himself and his wife, with minimal commentary.
Every other day, if not more often, Clooney must nod his head over his foresight of nearly a decade ago. Though hardly shy about expressing his opinions, he knows that old-time movie stars loomed large for a reason other than the big screens of the Golden Age of Film: that overexposure removes the mystique invested by fans.
Moreover, as someone who admitted to Newsweek 10 years ago that his past life of substance and and womanizing precluded a life in politics, Clooney knows all too well the perils of going online and venting to the world before you’ve had time to think it over and calm down. Even if you’re not a party animal but simply love the sound of your own voice (an occupational hazard in the entertainment industry), you run a big risk of looking stupid.
Bette Midler, that means you.
You’d think that the singer-actress would have learned her lesson from three years ago, when she tweeted that women “are the n-word of the world,” or especially last year, when she mocked Melanie Trump’s accent and called her an “illegal alien”—in both cases, sparking a backlash that led the outspoken entertainer to issue uncharacteristic apologies.
But here she was at it again this week, when frustration over Joe Manchin’s opposition to the “Build Back Better” social spending plan of the Biden administration led her to lash out at the Democratic Senator from West Virginia for wanting to keep all Americans like his state: “Poor, illiterate and strung out."
Less than an hour later, Midler was backtracking with a tweeted apology to West Virginians (“Surely there’s someone there who has the state’s best interest at heart, not his own!”)
No matter. In politics, this would have been considered a gaffe, a statement that, for anyone not named Donald Trump, would have halted any possibility for further advancement.
In entertainment, plenty of people feel that she was right the first time. And therein lies the problem.
Statements like Ms. Midler’s only reinforce the conviction of many in Red America that liberal elites are condescending and unworthy of support (even someone like her, who has funded programs for neighborhood revitalization and wounded veterans). She made it that much harder to move back into the Democratic column a state that had once firmly backed the New Deal.
An additional history lesson might be in order here. Ms. Midler, like all non-indigenous Americans (including me), are descended from groups who, for the longest time after arriving on these shores, were “Poor, illiterate and strung out.”
Maybe she should get a copy of Oscar Handlin’s The Uprooted so she can better understand how alienated and resentful the recipients of taunts such as hers felt in the 19th century—and how belittling those remarks remain to the underprivileged and marginalized of this country, whoever they are and wherever they live.
(The photo of George Clooney accompanying this post was taken at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 9, 2011, by Ed Van-West Garcia.)
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