Saturday, June 23, 2012

Obama Courts Young Hollywood

It seems like only yesterday that President Barack Obama was in Los Angeles ensnarling traffic and pocketing a record-setting $15 million in Hollywood campaign donations at George Clooney’s fundraiser for him. But last week he was back again for a two-day whirlwind tour of Tinseltown’s moneyed elite that included five more fundraisers.

Before heading off for a breakfast last Thursday that concluded the trip, Obama met privately at the Beverly Hilton with two dozen hot young Hollywood stars, enlisting their aid for his re-election campaign. The meeting was part of Obama’s “Young America Effort” to enlist a new wave of younger voters like the ones who helped propel him into office the first time around.

Among the starry-eyed actors who were awed by Obama the demi-god were The Avengers star Jeremy Renner, Glee actress Dianna Agron, Star Trek's Zachary Quinto, Southland's Ben McKenzie, The Fantastic Four’s Jessica Alba, Scrub’s Zach Braff, Superman Returns’ Brandon Routh, Lost’s Ian Somerhalder, Bryan Greenberg, Adam Rodriguez, Jared Leto, Kal Penn and Sophia Bush. If many of those names aren’t familiar, rest assured that they are very well-known to the young audience Obama hopes they will reach out to on his behalf.

This meeting came on the heels of a national TV ad for Obama’s reelection campaign, which aired during the MTV Movie Awards and featured Sex and the City actress Sarah Jessica Parker. How the 47-year-old Parker manages to appeal to a young audience is one of many Hollywood mysteries, but in any case, she invited people to enter for a chance to win a seat at a fundraising dinner she and Vogue editor Anna Wintour are throwing for Obama in Manhattan.
“The guy who ended the war in Iraq, the guy who says you should be able to marry anyone you want, the guy who created 4 million new jobs. That guy — President Obama — and his wife Michelle are coming to my house for dinner on June 14,” Parker says to the camera with a straight face. Ended the war in Iraq? Created 4 million new jobs? Genuinely supports gay marriage? Parker is either utterly delusional or a better actress than I give her credit for. In either case, this is the message Hollywood disseminated to the vast and largely uncritical MTV audience.

She goes on to encourage viewers to go online for a chance to win tickets to the event. “So go right here right now because we need him and he needs us,” she says. She’s only half-right: America certainly doesn’t need Obama, but he does indeed need Hollywood. And he’s got them in his pocket – whichever one he keeps his wallet in.
Last Friday, the event co-host Anna Wintour, the model for Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada, was featured in her own online video urging viewers to enter the contest. “It will be a fantastic evening and you can join us,” Wintour says in her haughtiest accent. “We’re saving the two best seats in the house for you… Sarah Jessica and I both have our own reasons for supporting President Obama and we want to hear yours, so please join us.”

What a crock. Parker and Wintour couldn’t care less what the unwashed masses think. These Obama supporters move with the richest and most elite crowd in the world, and yet somehow it is Romney’s wealth that is under media scrutiny.
Wintour looks as if she’s doing the video at gunpoint. Fidgeting and rushing through her lines, it couldn’t be more obvious how distasteful the thought of mixing with the hoi polloi is for this most supercilious 1%er.

Shortly after the pre-breakfast meeting concluded, the social media frenzy began. The attendees began tweeting and sending out Instagrams documenting the event. Somerhalder tweeted: “The 21st century... Let's do this” – a message just meaningless and hopey-changey enough to serve as Obama’s new campaign slogan. Soon after, he gushed, “Just spent my morning w/this man talkn green energy, a better America & being a young American – wow.” Few empty buzz phrases send thrills up young Hollywood’s collective leg better than “green energy” and “a better America.”
Never heard of Somerhalder? That’s the problem – many on the right tend to be indifferent or even scornfully dismissive of the entertainment industry, ceding that crucial cultural battleground to the left. Millions of young people around the world do know Somerhalder and his cohorts at the meeting, and they eagerly soak up the political enthusiasm, however facile and thoughtless, of their idols.

Hollywood-based gay rights activists organized two of Obama’s five L.A. fundraisers. “The fight on behalf of the LGBT community is part of a broader fight for all Americans,” said Obama at a Beverly Wilshire gala and dinner. What hypocrisy – Obama spent three and a half years of his term opposing gay marriage before his attitude conveniently “evolved” in time to kick off his reelection campaign.
The gay community apparently holds no grudge about that. It has poured $8 million into Obama’s coffers through March. He didn't even specifically address the gay marriage issue at the gala, but that apparently didn’t faze the LGBT donors, who felt that his position was implied: “He said it the minute he walked onstage,” said J. Edgar screenwriter Dustin Lance Black.

Among the Hollywood attendees in the crowd of 600 were CBS CEO Les Moonves and his wife Julie Chen, hostess of The Talk, Will & Grace creator Max Mutchnick, former boy-band singer Lance Bass, gay icon Cher and her, uh, offspring Chaz Bono, Modern Family actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson and his partner, Malcolm in the Middle producer Todd Holland and his partner, Star Trek actor George Takei, and representatives from Lionsgate, Hulu, Disney, and HBO. Some of the guests donated up to $25,000 each to Obama's campaign for face-time and a photo op with the most media-obsessive president in history.
Following that event, Obama traveled by motorcade to a $25,000-a-plate dinner at the Beverly Hills home of gay Glee co-creator Ryan Murphy. The seventy donors there included actresses Julia Roberts and Reese Witherspoon, Banana Republic/Gap president Jack Calhoun, The Simpsons actress Yeardley Smith, Rob and Michelle Reiner, Southern California DNC co-chair John Emerson, and Hollywood agents, executives, and Glee actors.

While too many conservatives turn up their nose at Hollywood and surrender the culture war to the left, Obama is busy securing the support of history’s greatest propaganda machine. The right needs to recognize this power and find a strategy to fight for equal engagement in the cultural arena – or risk losing the war.
(This article originally appeared here on FrontPage Magazine, 6/13/12)