How Can You Connect Nasty Movie and TV Plots to GOP Debates?

How can a nasty funeral plot on “Two and a Half Men” and the global-pandemic movie “Contagion” and the ugly tone of the Charlie Sheen roast be compared to the Republican debates? Brent Lang of the entertainment-media blog The Wrap somehow accomplishes it. 

“The overwhelming pessimism that gripped America throughout the end of summer and the dawn of fall has cast a shadow across the cultural landscape,” Lang explained. “It may not have been planned that way, but either through scheduling happenstance or from a sincere desire to reflect our times, the movies and television shows that have aired or premiered in recent weeks collectively form a howl of rage and discontent.” And, then so does the GOP:

Behind all these downbeat diversions was the troika of Republican presidential debates that took place over the last four weeks. In one, Congressman Ron Paul implied that a person who had opted out of the private insurance market should be left to fend for themselves if they got sick -- that was greeted with cries of “yes” and applause.

Not to be outdone, Rick Perry experienced an equally rapturous response from the crowd, after moderator Brian Williams reminded viewers the Texas governor had overseen 234 executions.

Is it any wonder there's all this ill-feeling?

According to the a study in Rasmussen Reports, a plurality, or some 46 percent, of Americans believe the nation’s best days are in the past. A mere 34 percent maintains the best days have yet to come.

The economy is teetering on the brink of a double-dip recession, while President Obama finds himself dealing with three foreign wars and an unemployment level that is stubbornly fixed at 9.1 percent.

It’s not just that people are worried about the future; they’re angry about the present, too.

After months where boy wizards and battling robots whisked moviegoers away from their troubles, the national disillusionment slowly started to seep into the multiplex.

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Lang said “don’t expect the misery to stop anytime soon.”

As [actor Michael] Shannon told TheWrap: "There can't be a lot of people on planet Earth right now who feel like things are going great. Everybody is feeling powerless, and feeling like everything's so fragile, and it could all fall apart at any second."

And the light and fluffy diversions keep coming. In place of the tale of rugby victories and racial reconciliation he painted in "Invictus," this year’s Clint Eastwood biopic, “J. Edgar,” focuses on the life of one of the most reviled and corrupt figures in American history, J. Edgar Hoover.

But wait, there's more: Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants” centers on a cheating wife who falls into a coma (it’s a comedy!); “Shame ” concerns sex addiction; and would-be blockbuster “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” offers up such a full buffet of rape and incest that it’s being billed as “the feel bad movie of Christmas.”

Political drama “The Ides of March,” meanwhile, is so laced with arsenic that star and director George Clooney said it couldn’t have worked just a few years ago, when everyone was still grooving to strains of “Yes we can.”

“You know, we were in pre-production on this film in 2007, before the Obama election,” Clooney told Parade Magazine. “And then we realized that a good portion of the country was elated with what happened in that election, so we had to shelve the movie until people were cynical again. I didn’t think it would be quite this quick.”

Lang concluded with the political crash of Barack Obama depressing Hollywood: “Certainly, the vessel for the country's hopes has crashed. And don't look to find any new ones on the movie or TV screens.”

Earlier at The Wrap: "Is Hollywood Bailing on Obama?"

[Hat tip: Dan Isett]

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis