Tuesday, September 22, 2009

From Chance the Gardener to Joe the Plumber

Today in Slate, I argue that Hal Ashby’s best movies—culminating in his masterpiece, Being There—are deeply political.
Unlike Network—made four years earlier and based on the fear that one man could amass enormous influence on the airwaves—Being There suggests that television's real threat is the way it scatters our attention among random stimuli. As Eve says in the clip above, we now have too much information, and it's all become "a muddle." Which is precisely why Chance—mistaken by Eve's husband for an economist named Chauncey Gardener—can rise to prominence by obliviously spouting platitudes like "as long as the roots are not severed, all will be well" and "growth has it seasons." Soon the president of the United States is echoing his remarks, and Chance himself is invited to share his wisdom on the talk show circuit—a trajectory that, at this point, feels sadly familiar.
Read the rest.

(Above, Chance the gardener watches television.)