- The Washington Times - Friday, March 25, 2005

The president of the Motion Picture Association of America says Hollywood must build a bridge to the Republican-controlled Congress in order to deflate perceptions of a liberal bias.

MPAA chief Dan Glickman, former secretary of agriculture under President Clinton, borrowed one of his former boss’s metaphors yesterday in describing efforts to shrink the divide many see between blue Hollywood and moviegoers in the red states.

“There’s no question in the general world there’s the perception that the entertainment community is to the left of the country as a whole,” Mr. Glickman told editors and reporters at The Washington Times yesterday. “I’ve got to build bridges with the people who run the show.”

The former congressman dismissed the notion that the movie industry acts as one entity, but admitted that’s precisely how the public reacts whenever a handful of liberal actors back Democratic candidates.

Mr. Glickman said the industry’s likely shift to more family features is a fine start. That smacks of good business sense, too, since PG and PG-13 films consistently outdraw R-rated fare at the box office.

He also promised to continue battling film pirates with a combination of legal salvos and technical savvy. The moderate Democrat promised to work with Republicans on matters of movie piracy and indecency.

Some will argue that even today’s PG-rated films can be too much for young children. A Harvard University study released last summer showed a “ratings creep” over the years in which an R-rated movie back in 1994 might get a PG-13 stamp today. Most films aimed at the kiddie set, for example, can’t resist flatulence humor or other below-the-belt gags.

Mr. Glickman said Hollywood can’t take all the blame.

“There’s been a culture creep in our society for the last 40 or 50 years,” something he said the current ratings can handle. “The ratings system does a good job of describing what a parent should know.”

He described the rating committee as a group of 15 to 20 concerned parents who count each offensive moment and then debate the film’s maturity level.

PG-rated fare offers more than just comfort food for parents leery of the next wardrobe malfunction. It sells a softer side of the American experience to international markets.

“Movies are the way you tell the world what you’re about,” said Mr. Glickman, who took over for MPAA institution Jack Valenti in September. For too many cultures, the message reads loud and clear that Americans are a violent, hedonistic lot, something reinforced whenever a “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” or “Reservoir Dogs” goes international. The best American films, he said, echo the freedoms we enjoy and the character of our citizenry.

Audiences overseas remain receptive to our cinematic exports, no matter how much they may disagree with our foreign policy.

“Even with all the stuff happening in the world, our international box office keeps going up,” he said.

The one market U.S. movies have yet to crack is China, a land where only 20 foreign films are allowed into theaters per year.

“This market can and will open to us,” he said. “If they want to be a part of the community of nations, they have to open up in this area.”

Mr. Glickman knows his way around the Beltway, having served as a congressman and Cabinet member, but he brags that he still pays to see movies and admits his home entertainment center is hardly state of the art.

Having spent his formative years watching double features in his Kansas hometown, he considers himself a movie fan first and foremost.

“You’ve got to like this stuff to do it,” he said.

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