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Pop goes the politics

There is a famous saying that goes, “politics is Hollywood for ugly people.” Well if this is true, then the one thing we can take from 2004 is that either politics got a whole lot sexier, or Hollywood is just getting uglier.

Politics and pop culture intertwined like never before. You couldn’t see one without the other. And as the country has become more and more divided, it seems that their choices for escapist entertainment were equally partisan.

The year did begin on an ominous note during the biggest even of the year — the Super Bowl. What later became known as Nipplegate became a huge political football that was happily scooped up by every politician seeking reelection.

Because of the fear of fines and another football controversy in the form of a towel dropping “Desperate Housewives” skit on Monday Night Football networks around the country became too afraid to air an uncut version of “Saving Private Ryan” on Veteran’s Day.

Of course the two biggest stories of the year were at the multiplexes. For the red states, there was what may be described as the world’s only uplifting snuff film in “The Passion of the Christ.” For the blue states, there was the partisan polemic “Fahrenheit 9/11,” an indictment of the Bush Administration and of people combing their hair with spit.

Both “The Passion” and “Fahrenheit 9/11” broke plenty of box office records and together made more than $800 million.

However, Michael Moore wasn’t the only person building entire films based on half-truths and open-ended questions. It could be said that 2004 was the year of the political documentary as a seemingly endless number of documentaries either attacked the President (“Bush’s Brain”) or attacked those attacking the President (“Fahrenhype 9/11”)

It was also a big year in the world of television news and politics. First, it seems liberals decided to fight fire with fire in the AM radio scene with the launch of Air America — a destination for liberal political talk. After a very rough start, it appears that the little upstart made a big enough dent in the stranglehold conservative talkers have on airwaves to stick around permanently.

In 2004, it seemed, the most respected news organization in the country was Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” Stewart wasn’t done there however. He also helped pen a best- selling book and delivered the nail in the coffin of CNN’s “Crossfire.”

Stewart was such a big hit all year that CBS decided to get into the fake news business themselves when they based a story criticizing president Bush on obviously forged documents. In another instance of a journalistic hack job the Sinclair Broadcasting Group tried to force its affiliates, many in swing states, to air a partisan documentary in the guise of a news story attacking the anti-war activism of John Kerry.

Not only was politics invading entertainment, entertainment was invading politics. The red state / blue state mentality was primarily focused at the Hollywood elite.

Many celebrities became outspoken political commentators and those from the “flyover states” used Hollywood as a perfect example of wacky left-wing thinking. Perhaps most famously when Whoopi Goldberg told a series of profanity-laced jokes about the president.

Many Americans became enraged because this typified the values of the Hollywood “lefty loonies.” Why Americans haven’t been mad at Whoopi Goldberg for years simply for being painfully unfunny still remains a mystery.

Yes, it seems everything that was entertainment was highly divisive and political in 2004. Red state or blue state, “The Passion” or “Fahrenheit 9/11,” Rush Limbaugh or Al Franken, paper or plastic, Jessica Simpson or Ashlee Simpson — each faction had its choice. And those that saw the world as a little less clearly defined were left out in the cold, hoping the ugly people would go back to Washington and off of our television sets and our stars would get back to providing escape from all the messy politics of the country.

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