Last night's Oscars ceremony vividly demonstrates that global warming is on the minds of everyone in Hollywood - but it's just a plot point compared to its political backstory.
The "documentary" praised by Academy voters, An Inconvenient Truth, has racked up big box office, thanks largely to the presence of former Vice President Al Gore. In the film Gore argues that human activity is the prime contributor to global warming, and attributes disasters like Hurricane Katrina to us - to our cars, our factories, our lives. Gore, on hand for the ceremony, pleaded with audiences after the film won the award for Best Documentary, that global warming isn't a Republican issue, or a Democratic issue, but a moral one.
Only, it isn't. Global warming has passed out of the realm of political and logical discussion. It's up there now with abortion, gun control and Clarence Thomas - we've lost any ability to talk about it rationally as Americans because of the sides that have been drawn. It's only a moral issue if you're on the wrong side - presumably, for Gore, if you don't accept his logic or his hypothesis.
A slick, anti-glamourous piece of propaganda, Truth is at its core like those laughable personal hygiene movies played for your edification in eighth grade. Critic Tom Shales says it's little more than Gore delivering a lecture on what he believes global warming will do to the Earth. But it's more insidious than that. In its best light, Truth puts another nail in the coffin of the documentary as an impartial snapshot of a historical moment. I've seen big chunks of the film on YouTube and not one second I've seen has been devoted to the possibility that man is not responsible for global warming. There's no balance - and for me, no credibility.
Worse, its indirect but clanking condemnation of the Bush Administration is a tired echo of the 2000 election, which Gore lost. This film clearly would not have been made had Gore won the Electoral College - and Hollywood, indignant in its hatred for Bush for whatever reason, has hoodwinked Gore into becoming their public face.
In that way, the film really serves as an extension of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 - a slick weapon to draw again George Bush. It's telling that the joke by host Ellen DeGeneres that got the most applause was one that played on Gore's popular vote tally in 2000 - an election he lost because the American electorate does not directly elect its presidents. How many attendees at the ceremony would have applauded a film that dispelled the global-warming hypothesis? None - because that movie never will be made. How many would have laughed at an election joke made at Gore's expense?
Hollywood likes to pat itself on the back, but the irony of the awards couldn't have escaped them. Thousands of celebrities and assistants and stylists flown in from around the world to congratulate themselves for their own work. Limousines idling for hours so that perfect entrances could be stage. Not hours, but weeks of car trips, plane flights, round-the-clock and round-the-world shipping, all devoted to planning the perfect image for four hours of bloated television. Which will be nominated itself for an Emmy award.
A real contribution to "saving the Earth" might be to save us all from the kind of one-sided polemics the real Truth wouldn't have anything to do with.