What's most striking about the reaction to the academy's choice of Stewart as host is how intense, and how immediately political, it's become. It's hard to imagine such a sustained and feverish discussion of most other likely choices for the gig: Whoopi Goldberg? Ellen DeGeneres? Jay Leno? But apparently, to be a red-blooded American, you must have a strong opinion on Jon Stewart as Oscar host 2006.
Political, Stewart? I mean it's not like he's ever interviewed a politician. Oh wait, he has. It's not like he has admonished pundits for being partisan. Oh wait, he has. I am not particularly astonished that this has gotten immediately political. Everything is political it seems like these days, because everything is George Bush's fault, except when it's Cheney and Rove's fault. I'm not really picking at Ms. Steven's astonishment, what got my goat were her three catagories of reaction.
1. Yay! From the Jon-Stewart-walks-on-water school (which includes lefty bloggers and a lot of crushed out girls on LiveJournal), there is unalloyed celebration: Finally the academy does something right, he will make the show worth watching for the first time in years, etc.
2. Jon Stewart has sold out. The blogger Ron Mwangaguhunga, proprietor of the gossip site Le Corsair, accuses Stewart of "lounging at the Chateau Marmont with Scarlett Johannson" and asks why he isn't volunteering instead to host this year's White House Correspondents' Dinner.
3. The choice of Stewart is proof that Hollywood is a seething vortex of Bush-bashing liberals (read: Jews). The code for this viewpoint is the use of Stewart's real last name, Liebowitz, which he once told 60 Minutes he dropped because it sounded "too Hollywood." This joke has now been turned against its teller, as anti-Semitic knuckle-draggers attempt to "out" Stewart for the very Jewishness he's constantly alluding to on his own show.
So I toddled over and read the comments and find guess what? Maybe one or two allusions to the Liebowitz joke. So Ms. Steven's "read: Jews" commentary seems like more of a projection of stereotypes than anything else. Of the many, many, many liberal Hollywood bashing discussions I have read or heard among conservatives and conservative Christians, Jews are not a factor. Even in the criticisms of Spielberg's new movie Munich, a movie about Israeli Jews and terrorists!, the complaints are centered on leftist tropes rather than feverish concern about Hollywood based Jews. Conservatives shake thier heads over an equivalence drawn between terrorists killing atheletes and Moussad agents killing terrorists; not much attention is given to racial identity. Put another way, if Spielberg's heritage is clucked over, it is because most Christian conservatives hope that Jews realize they are not the enemy.
If I were to catagorize the comments I would thus:
1) Yay! Jon Stewart is the funniest thing ever.
2) Nothing can save the Oscars from thier slide to marginality because Hollywood is a pack of liberals (read: those who do not care about traditional societal building blocks like religion and marriage)
3) Conservatives are evil, Jon exposes those corrupt liars with biting wit.
4) Poor Jon, it's bound to be a difficult, thankless, tedious job.
I like the Daily Show. I find Stewart funny. Sometimes I sit and correct the "news" that issues from the desk while Dear Husband shakes his head. What I appreciate about Stewart and the Daily Show is that while they have a relentlessly leftist tilt to the show, they aknowlege it and still skewer sacred cows of the left. The "Coot" War last week between Ted Stevens (Coot-Alaska) and Robert Byrd (Coot-West Virginia), fabulous.
I hope Stewart revitalizes the Oscars. I hope that he is funny and takes great pot shots at such a self congradulatory industry. I will tune into his opening monologue, a good bet to be the most entertaining portion of the evening. I just will not hold my breath that it will remain funny. No reflection on Stewart, Hollywood continues to marginalize itself because it usually ignores or belittles those of us who place importance on religion and other traditional societal building blocks.
Now go check out Island Passage and thanks to James.