Arts & Culture » Juice

Hooray for Hollywood



Wanna make more money? Sure, we all do. But lots of us are lazy, drunk, unimaginative, noncommittal, weird, unemployable or convinced that some fat guy already ate our slice of the pie. Getting rich will always be a sweet dream, but those of us whose talents lie more in the area of air hockey don't seem to stand a chance. There are lots of people slouched in front of the TV right now wondering how they could make some money watching TV.

Well, dreams do come true.

The Supreme Court just refused to throw out a case that could make us all rich as sultans and tie up the court system until Y4K. In 1995, Patsy Byers was shot in a convenience-store robbery. Her family, contending that the shooters were inspired by the movie "Natural Born Killers," wants to sue Oliver Stone, Time-Warner Entertainment and others for making the flick. The high court says this case can proceed.

I saw "Natural Born Killers." The only thing I've ever shot was a photograph. You have to have a kernel of psycho in you in order to get it to pop.

Still, although I think the Byers' case is wrongheaded, dangerous to free expression and makes the criminal into a victim, I kind of hope they win. For therein lies our big fat nest egg, a mansion we can build on the bones of a Hollywood that has done us wrong.

Fault lines

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If they win, that's a message that none of us are responsible for being able to tell a script from a set of directions. Pop culture? You're soaking in it, and you can blame any dumb idea you've ever had on it. Because it wasn't your idea. It was their idea. The director made you do it.

For example, I grew up watching "Bewitched," where everybody drank martinis like water and made it look like fun. Sure, my parents drank, and that could have influenced my own penchant for liquor, but I wouldn't say they made it look like fun. (They also could sing "You are my sunshine" and make it sound vaguely antagonistic.) So I'd have to blame "Bewitched," and I can sue the network for my shiny new liver when I end up on the transplant list, because it wasn't my fault. I saw it on TV.

See how easy it is? There are infinite dumb ideas you can blame on the movies. Every flopped business can cite the falsehood "If you build it, they will come," and sue Kevin Costner. Every scrappy underdog who hangs in there, fights on yet stays stuck where he is for life can sue anyone from Sylvester Stallone to The Bad News Bears for not offering the disclaimer, "One in a million underdogs makes it; we don't make movies about the others." The estate of Gene Roddenberry will be bankrupt in 20 minutes when it's sued by all Trekkies for loss of social life, atrophied musculature and reducing their sexual chances to those of an overripe tomato in a blender. Any guy who gets arrested for soliciting prostitutes has false advertising in his favor. He thought they'd all look like models for Playboy, instead of like Hugh Heffner with four teeth and a crack habit. All those gorgeous movie stars have wrecked the beauty curve, and anyone who has been tucked, sucked or whittled down by a surgeon is owed medical costs. So you crashed your skull running into the side of a mountain, even though you painted a black archway on that mountain, and then a train came roaring out of your painted archway and ran you over? Man, the Warner Brothers owe you big time.

Picture perfect

Then there are the love stories. If influenced solely by real-life couples, most of us would dodge emotional entanglement like a saw-toothed bear trap, or at least expect something more realistic from relationships. But no. As kids we see Prince Charming literally pick up his dream girl and take her away from drudgery and singing mice. Most boys later discover a dream girl isn't something you cart off like a dead deer tied to the roof rack. And girls realize that guys who look like Prince Charming only pick up each other. On film the right people find each other in two hours, you know who's right for them by their theme music, and time freezes where everyone is happy. False starts, date nerves and abject terror are "charming" and not "hell."

Even "Moonstruck," in which Nicholas Cage tells Cher, "We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and love the wrong people and die," ends with proper unions made, long-pained hearts mended, and the guy who got dumped for his own brother toasting that brother's engagement 10 minutes later. This false advertising should pay for a lot of therapy, stalking fines, elaborate dates and post-parting booze binges. Watch a commercial for "The Other Sister." You'll be convinced that even retarded people are getting luckier than you.

We've all been told that spending too much time staring at a screen would make us as stupid, weak and easy to kick around as soccer balls. So what? Now we could be rich soccer balls. In a litigious country, nothing succeeds like complete, utter failure.


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