Bozell Column: Cultural Winners and Losers, 2011

The depravity of our popular culture and our eagerness to shred traditional values manifests itself every day. Lady Gaga, the top-earning woman in the music business and deemed by ABC’s Barbara Walters to be one of the “most fascinating people,” has a new vocation in mind. She’s  announced she wants to become an ordained minister of the Universal Life Church so she can marry two gay male friends.

Lady Gaga is as unattractive, in every sense of the word, as her name is stupid. She welcomed Easter with a single called “Judas” (“I’m still in love with Judas, baby”) and arrives at Christmas as Reverend Gaga. This is the same “instant online ordination” that TBS late-night host Conan O’Brien used in November in a disgusting scene to “marry” two gay males live on his television show. Gaga and Conan are two of the real cultural losers of 2011. Here are some other winners and losers: 

Loser: “The Book of Mormon,” the ghastly hit Broadway musical from the perpetually immature makers of “South Park.” Most media outlets celebrated it as “brilliant” – so spouted so-called drama critic Jake Tapper on ABC. But Wall Street Journal critic Terry Teachout put it best. “It’s flabby, amateurish, and very, very safe.” Safe? Trashing the Mormons? Yes. “Making fun of Mormons in front of a Broadway crowd is like shooting trout in a demitasse cup...on the subject of imitation courage, let it be duly noted that if the title of this show were ‘The Quran,’ it wouldn't have opened.”

Winner: Disney and its reissue of “The Lion King” in theaters as a 3-D feature. Seventeen years after its screen debut, it opened in mid-September and grossed more money in ticket receipts in its first rerun weekend (more than $30 million) than the three genuine new releases combined. It grossed more than $94 million in its three-month revisitation, despite many families already owning it on DVD.

Loser: The Fox show “Glee,” which seems to be losing all its popularity in only its third season. After its 3-D concert movie came in 123rd for the year (with a gross of less than $12 million, about 12 percent of the take of the “The Lion King” remake), its third season lowlight was a preachy episode about the loathsome and overrated idea of virginity in these modern, enlightened times.

Loser: NBC’s “The Playboy Club” and MTV’s “Skins.” Both shows promised to scandalize audiences and bring in younger viewers by the truckload. Both of them were so badly made they turned off viewers as well as advertisers by the truckload. Both shows have been deposited at the town dump.

Winner: Ben Shapiro, for his book “Primetime Propaganda,” which laid out a long history of Hollywood’s propagandizing (and censorship of conservative actors and producers) that he mastered despite being only 27 years old. Shapiro’s stories of leftist intolerance (actors like Fred Thompson aren’t exactly welcomed on the set of TV shows like “Law & Order”) was eye-opening. 

Winner: Fifteen-year-old high school wrestler Joel Northrup, who caused a national controversy for taking the old-fashioned position that it was disrespectful to enter a wrestling ring with a girl at the state tournament in Iowa. Although he entered the tournament with a commanding 35-4 record, Joel forfeited rather than violate his religious principles against Cassy Herkelman. This conflict could repeat itself in a few months, and no one should doubt he will make the same stand.  

Loser: Adam Mansbach, the author of the children’s picture book titled “Go the F*** to Sleep.” Designed to make underslept parents laugh, it makes “comedians” like Mansbach sound desperate for a cheap laugh. Barnes & Noble helpfully recommended to buyers other tomes in this genre. They hope you’ll also enjoy other literary works of high art like “S— My Dad Says,” “Farts,” and “[A-Words] Finish First.”

Winner: Emilio Estevez, for stepping outside the Tinseltown comfort zone to make a love letter of a film called “The Way.” No studio chief was going to green-light a movie about Christian pilgrims hiking the “camino” to the shrine of the apostle James in northwestern Spain. But Estevez made the film anyway, and cast his father Martin Sheen in the lead role.

Estevez told the EWTN network that “Hollywood is a very difficult place to be earnest and be heartfelt. And I am not interested in making films that are anything but. There’s a lot of vulgarity in films. There’s a lot of violence, casual sex – things that make me uncomfortable watching – and I’m not interested in perpetuating that message.”

That deserves another ovation at year’s end.

Brent Bozell
Brent Bozell
Brent Bozell is the Founder and President of the Media Research Center