Tina Fey Voices Palin Parody Pangs; 'Idol' Voting Needs Reboot

Wednesday, 13 Apr 2011 02:22 PM

By James Hirsen

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The Left Coast Report: A Political Look at Hollywood

Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. Scarlett Johansson Steps Out for Planned Parenthood
2. Gas Is Up, Moviegoing Is Down
3. Tina Fey: Palin Parody May Have Hurt My Sitcom
4. Pop Lyrics Sing of a New 'Me Generation'
5. Is 'American Idol' Voting Flawed?
 

1. Scarlett Johansson Steps Out for Planned Parenthood

When Republicans threatened to cut federal funding for Planned Parenthood's abortion biz, the group sent out a cry for help to Hollywood.

Scarlett Johansson answered the call and is now officially speaking on behalf of the organization. She appeared in a YouTube video posted by Planned Parenthood, which urges people to sign a letter protesting the GOP's budget bill.

Predictably, the message focuses on the smokescreen that the group exists to further women's health.

Johansson's video script includes the following: "A cancer that goes undetected. A sexually transmitted disease left undetected. A woman unable to get the birth control she needs to plan her family and take control of her own destiny,"

The truth is that although Planned Parenthood provides birth control, cancer screenings, breast exams and STD testing, almost all of its "services" for pregnant women are abortions.

It could be that Johansson is doing penance for acting a while back in the pro-life themed movie, "The Island."

In any event, she should read the group's fact sheet, which states that in 2009, while serving 7,021 prenatal clients and referring 977 parents to adoption services, it performed 332,278 abortions.


2. Gas Is Up, Moviegoing Is Down

In his first speech to Hollywood industry insiders since becoming head of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), Christopher Dodd, the former Connecticut senator and architect of the 2008 financial crisis, delivered a message of comfort about the state of the movie business.

Dodd, the recipient of discounted mortgages himself, spoke to cinema owners in Las Vegas about the downtrend in theater attendance.

"I for one do not believe the sky is falling," he said. "Yes, people have a wider variety of entertainment options these days. Yes, gas prices have gone up. But you have seen attendance ebb and flow in the past, and I believe audiences will be coming back to our theaters to see our films because there really is no parallel to the incredible experience that we, together, provide."

It is significant that Dodd mentioned high gas prices, because the energy policies that the Obama administration is imposing on the American people will make it very costly indeed to drive to the multiplex.

The MPAA needs to take note. In 2008, Steven Chu, energy secretary for the Obama administration, said, "Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe."

It may be hard to believe, but it's true. When talking about gas prices, Chu really used the word "boost."

Should the boosting occur, it would mean that we would be paying the European cost for gasoline, which is around $10 a gallon. That's apparently A-OK with Obama and Chu, if it will coax folks into buying more fuel-efficient vehicles.

The energy secretary reiterated this policy to Fox News' Chris Wallace last month. When asked about the unprecedented upward spike in gas prices, Chu said that the high prices were "a reminder to Americans that the price of gasoline over the long haul should be expected to go up just because of supply and demand issues. And so we see this in the buying habits of Americans as they make choices for the next car they buy."

Translation: Only those Americans who follow the dictates of the Obama administration and buy a plug-in clunker will be able to afford to drive to the local movie theater.


3.Tina Fey: Palin Parody May Have Hurt My Sitcom

Tina Fey may have been the darling of the left for her Emmy-winning impersonations of Sarah Palin on "Saturday Night Live." But the comedic actress-director is now expressing regrets about her Palin pokes in her new book, "Bossypants."

As a matter of fact, Fey suspects that mimicking the former Alaska governor may have hurt the ratings of her NBC sitcom, "30 Rock."

"Some may argue that exploiting Governor Palin and her family helped bring attention to my low-rated TV show," Fey writes in an excerpt published in USA Today. "I am proud to say you are wrong. My TV show still enjoys very low ratings."

"In fact, I think the Palin stuff may have hurt the TV show. Let's face it, between Alec Baldwin and me there is a certain fifty percent of the population who think we are pinko Commie monsters," she adds.

Julianne Moore is next in line to portray Palin in HBO's upcoming TV movie, "Game Change."

"I'm imagining it will be a very different tone," Fey told Access Hollywood. "She's a great choice. She's a great actress. If she needs my wig, I have it. It's at 'SNL.'"


4. Pop Lyrics Sing of a New 'Me Generation'

If popular song lyrics can indicate underlying social attitudes, what are they saying about society today? According to a study published in the journal, "Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts," the message is that we have become more narcissistic.

You may recall that the 1980s were sometimes referred to as the "Me Decade." It could be that we have become even more self-centered since that egocentric period. Researchers examined the most successful song lyrics and determined that they "now include more words related to a focus on the self."

A team of researchers, led by University of Kentucky psychologist C. Nathan DeWall, analyzed the top 10 songs in the U.S. for each year between 1980 and 2007, as ranked by Billboard magazine.

Using a word counting program, the research team discovered that first-person plural pronouns such as "we" and "us" decreased over the span of the analysis, while first-person singular pronouns such as "I" and "me" were used more often.

Words reflecting anger or anti-social behavior such as "hate" and "kill" became more prevalent, while words linked to social activity, including "talk" and "share," decreased.

DeWall does not view pop music as a cause of increased narcissism and social isolation, but he and his colleagues view it as reflecting the trend toward self-absorption.

Psychological processes and pop culture content "mutually reinforce each other," they write.


5. Is 'American Idol' Voting Flawed?

Are voting problems plaguing "American Idol"? The voting process of TV's most successful show is coming under scrutiny after the elimination of Pia Toscano, which got the social networks abuzz with posts from shocked fans, many of whom claimed that sexism played a part.

Pia, a crowd pleaser and music-critic fave, provided the viewing audience with some of the most consistently professional performances this season. Not only was Pia expected to be one of the finalists, she was thought by many to be the one who would win it all.

When "Idol" host Ryan Seacrest revealed that Pia received the lowest number of votes, the audience groaned and yelled, "No!" Jennifer Lopez burst into tears, while the two other judges, Randy Jackson and Steven Tyler, expressed bewilderment. Tyler even uncharacteristically scolded the voters, saying that their "lack of passion was unforgivable."

A host of celebrities, including Tom Hanks, Ashton Kutcher, and Jessica Alba, jumped onto their Twitter accounts to comment. "Don't have an IDOL habit, but how could the USA vote Pia off? I may be done for the season!" Hanks wrote.

Kutcher tweeted, "Who are the people that vote on American idol? That's just crazy!"

Alba asked, "Who's mad about Pia? I think she's got a promising career ahead of her. Girl can sing her butt off and she's stunning."

The prior week the show had sent away Naima Adedapo and Thia Megia. With the elimination of Pia, it became the fifth consecutive time a female contestant had been unable to receive the votes necessary to continue in the competition.

In addition, no female has won "Idol" since Jordin Sparks four years ago. And now, only two women remain: Haley Reinhart and Lauren Alaina.

The odds, of course, now favor a male winner. This has led distressed "Idol" viewers to speculate that young female fans, the same demographic that created the Justin Bieber phenom, are swaying the overall vote.

"Idol" producers may have to re-examine the voting rules in order to maintain the show's credibility. The current rules allow voters to utilize the "Idol" website to cast up to 50 votes. If fans are voting for contestants via their phones or by texting, they can vote as many times as they wish without limitation. This affords contestants with devotees, who are motivated enough to repeatedly vote, the chance to remain in the "Idol" race.

The rules could easily be changed to emulate the tried and true democracy principle of one person/one vote. The technology exists to limit each computer IP address or phone number to a single vote.

Still, there is another issue this year that relates to the judges. When Simon Cowell exited the show, he took his acerbic candor along with him. The current three-judge panel has taken a much more positive approach with contestants. This has lent a sweetness to the show that many find appealing.

For the artists, such an atmosphere is extremely encouraging and a confidence booster. On the other hand, some critical guidance may be falling to the wayside in an effort to avoid stifling creative juices.

Randy, Jennifer, and Steven certainly favor an upbeat approach. At its heart, it is a difference in philosophy and style of interaction. It suits them well, and the opportunity for viewers to witness their camaraderie is a bonus.

However, this means that criticism, in all of its forms, must come generally to contestants' ears via the musical mentors, who do not hold as much weight with participants or the voting public.

It turns out that Simon's honest and sometimes brutal remarks may have served an important function, that of directing voters to performers who most deserved their attention, and ultimately their votes.

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