The Elevator Pitch

The elevators in the Beverly Hills building where the Lear Center’s world headquarters is located are fitted with little screens provided by the Captivate Nework, where driblets of news are accompanied by dollops of advertising. “Captivate” is a good word for describing what players in the attention economy, from entertainers… More

Dumbing Down Democracy

A premise behind a lot of what we do at the Lear Center is the idea that a well-educated, well-informed citizenry is good for democracy. This Jeffersonian concept — it used to be called a “liberal” ideal, before partisan warfare made that word a left-right term — is especially relevant… More

Knowing the Difference

Plato took a dim view of artists. They were, he said, illusionists, imitators who fooled people into thinking that what they saw was real. A trompe l’oeil painting of a bunch of grapes could deceive a bird, who would peck at it; even if a person realized that it was… More

Executions As Entertainment

Usage Nazis, en garde! “Hung” is what pictures are, and drapes, and — by his own account — what Howard Stern is not. “Hanged” is what Saddam Hussein will be, says Aref Shahin, chief judge of the Iraqi appeals court, and just in time to be the warm-up act for… More

Paranoia and Patriotism

Early in November 2006, two days before the midterm elections, many in the UK celebrated the 401st anniversary of the attempt of Guy Fawkes to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Because Fawkes and his co-conspirators were Catholic, his thwarted plan helped expand an already widespread English fear of Catholic… More

The Queen’s English

Have you seen The Queen? Great film in general: documentary-fictionalized mix, History Channel with behind-the-scenes tidbits, wonderful performance by Helen Mirren, etc. But towards the end I was knocked right out of the suspension of disbelief by an odd ambiguity in the writing. Unfortunately enough it comes out of the… More

When Is a Slap-Down a Slam-Dunk?

When it comes from the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page. The WSJ’s Hanukah gift to FCC Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein is a bit of a pistol-whipping for their insistence that the proposed AT&T-BellSouth merger doesn’t create a company that extorts protection money from Web sites that want fast… More

Primary Politics as Entertainment Marketing

In Hollywood, it’s called a teaser campaign, and it’s designed to build buzz. Launching a new movie, unless it’s a sequel, is like launching a new brand, and the first step is to make people aware of its existence. In Washington, if you’re running for president, the first step is… More

Horror as Entertainment

If Braveheart and The Passion of the Christ were Mel Gibson’s bachelor’s and master’s in gore-as-good-times, then Apocalypto is his Ph.D. “Scenes of Graphic Violence and Disturbing Images” – the advisory in the R-rating box – doesn’t come close to warning viewers about rivers of blood, severed heads, beating hearts… More