Wednesday, July 13, 2005

TV train wreck

“Despite almost universally dreadful reviews … the new reality series ‘Being Bobby Brown’ has emerged as one of the biggest new shows in Bravo’s 25-year history. Why do so many people want to watch a ‘90s R&B has-been and his haggard, drug-addicted pop-star wife … shamble from jailhouse to courtroom to luxury resort, all for the benefit of a camera crew? Do you really need to ask? …

“Brown and Houston are simultaneously larger than life and as regular as they come. They’re coarse and vulgar and unapologetically greedy. …

“Draped in headscarves and brandishing a cigarette, the skeletal Houston seems constantly on the edge of a ghetto-diva breakdown; she snaps at fans to leave her alone … and bursts into tears at the mere mention of her late father’s name. But it’s hard to feel sorry for Whitney, with her raunchy mouth and throaty, cackling laugh. …

“Brown has no qualms about trading on his wife’s greater star power to augment his own. … [H]e introduced himself to the Dalai Lama thusly: ‘Mr. Lama? Mr. Lama? I’m Bobby Brown. I’m Whitney Houston’s husband.’ Displaying a similarly delusional miscalculation of his level of fame, he told USA Today: ‘We’re two powerful entertainers that are in love.’”

Dana Stevens, writing on “The Greatest Love of All,” Friday in Slate at

Al Qaeda history

“Ever since al Qaeda declared war on the West, the Crusades have been forced back into our consciousness as part of a longer historical narrative weighted heavily in favor of Islam. The radical Islamist invocation of the Crusades serves two purposes: to rally Muslims to the cause of jihad against Judeo-Christian civilization, and to undermine the legitimacy of resistance to it. Islamists know exactly how to exploit post-imperial, post-Christian guilt — the West’s Achilles’ heel. By placing the Crusades at the heart of the relationship between Islam and the West, they intend their war on terror to be seen by both sides as a justifiable response to Western aggression. …

“[T]here is a real danger that the al Qaeda school of historiography (as we may call it) will triumph. In the reflexively anti-Israel and anti-American attitudes of many Europeans, in the mindless celebrations of a movie like ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ … it already has.”

Daniel Johnson, writing on “How to Think About the Crusades,” in the July-August issue of Commentary

Getting better

“Is Hollywood, long a liberal town, becoming more of a conservative town? People here have been asking this for years, but it kind of begs the question. More than anything, Hollywood is a deeply hypocritical town — a place where, as conservative screenwriter Lionel Chetwynd has long maintained, ‘the liberalism stops at the studio gates.’ …

“Hollywood’s famous liberalism is less a carefully considered political point of view than a vague policy of cultural feel-goodism. A disapproving phrase you get called a lot here if you’re conservative is ‘mean-spirited.’ Maybe that’s because actors typically want to find the nice side of even villainous characters. …

“‘Things are getting better,’ [Mr. Chetwynd] said. ‘It used to be that terrorists in movies and TV shows all had to be neo-Nazis. This year on “24,” not only are there Middle Eastern terrorists, the second enemy are the Chinese.’”

Catherine Seipp, writing on “Out and About,” Tuesday in National Review Online at

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