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Mr. Spicoli becomes a diplomat(37 posts)

Mr. Spicoli becomes a diplomatDougSloan
Dec 17, 2002 7:25 AM
Come on, can anyone take this guy seriously? Mr. Spicoli? What is it with these actors, who think they become experts on foreign policy as soon as they make some money acting?

I present the new winner of the Nobel Peace Prize:

Dec 17, 2002 7:42 AM
maybe he's grown up a bit?

I do think it's funny when people stick their noses in to places where they have little experience, training or education (even if I agree with them) - at least their involved and partaking in the great feast of democracy

for an unsurprisingly positive take on Penn's trip you can read:,2763,861348,00.html
fair pieceDougSloan
Dec 17, 2002 7:50 AM
That's probably the most objective Guardian piece I've read.

I did not realize that he's breaking the law by going there. It would serve him right if the government denied him re-entry. "You like it so much? Ok - stay."

This guy's an idiot, apparently thinking purely on an emotional level. I think the fact that all these stars are against the President on this is actually a good sign. Also, I think part of what is going on is Hollywood still stunned and pissed over the 2000 election, and determined to do everything possible to undermine Bush. Predictable.

fair pieceMJ
Dec 17, 2002 8:03 AM
there's certainly a gulf between Hollywood actors and Bush - not so sure about "Hollywood" which must sell their product to mainstream America

still while Penn is decidedly on the other side of the table you must admit he has some valid points which could easily be espoused by a libertarian

it would be funny if he was denied re-entry - that would be a story and almost worthy of an honourable mention by the Darwin Awards

as an aside -
every time I travel to the states (as I will this Saturday) I am asked where I have been since last in the US - my standard response is "most of eastern and western europe" which covers all the bases in case I forget something - despite this I'm usually specifically asked if I've been to Iran or Iraq to which I usually respond - "as they are not in eastern or western Europe I have not been to Iran or Iraq"
Dec 17, 2002 8:12 AM
You know, if Penn and his cohorts were espousing libertarian philosophy, and consistently so, I'd pay attention. However, if he just opportunistically takes a position coincidental with the libertarians, he doesn't have much credibility in my book. I don't think his views are principal or ideology based, but rather are purely emotional or political (anti-Bush/Republican/conservative). Probably doesn't hurt that he's getting tons of publicity out of this, too.

Dec 17, 2002 8:46 AM
Doug, you have it exactly correct on Spicoli and Hollywood in general. These are not the same kind of Hollywood "stars" as existed in World War II. They commonly are a clique of the most politically correct and generally leftist feel-good types in the world. Spicoli, Martin Sheen, and Michael Moore (sp?)are all typical of a certain crowd, and probably worthless if worse comes to worse.
I'd preferMJ
Dec 17, 2002 9:03 AM
if we could return to an insutry that tolerated the McCarthy enquiries/witch hunts - I'm sure the world would be a much better place then eh...
Don't knowSteveS
Dec 17, 2002 9:37 AM
Actually, I am too young to remember "the McCarthy Era", but I bet if I do a bit of research, we would find that some of those accused were actually Communists, a very real enemy at the time and for virtually all my life. (Seems like Daniel Schorr was actually a communist at one point in his life, but I am not certain on that.)

Did they, the communists, have ill-will towards the democracies of the West? Absolutely. We now know somewhat of the extent of communism's abuses to the Soviet citizens, far more than Solzynethsin's (sp?)writings told, and then later Pol Pot in Cambodia. If there is doubt to how life was in Communist Eastern Europe, we just have to check in with the Romanians, Czechs, Poles, etc. I feel certain they will clarify the threat that Communists posed the West.

For those who were innocently and falsely accused, that was most unfortunate that they were black-balled. They weren't sent to a Gulag or executed and buried in the Zoo. (like the estimated 11,000 Stalin era bodies found in Moscow a number of years ago). And, after this time frame ended, the falsely accused became either martyrs or darlings to those of the leftist leaning. They survived as did America.
what? are you seriouslyMJ
Dec 17, 2002 9:53 AM
justifying McCarthy and attacking communism? you need to move on - really you do - you also need to do some research into McCarthy and the witch hunt before you think it was as you described it here

while you're at it could you look in to Edgar Hoover and explain how his sense of fashion was less of a threat than some left leaning hollywood types

just a minute HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHA (still laughing out loud at your post)

next thing you know you'll be justifying Japanese internment during the second world war and who knows what else

get a grip
Doug and others, please!!!!!!eyebob
Dec 17, 2002 11:27 AM
Let's all set aside our you're either with em' or against em' mentality and actually look at what's being done with such a trip. Let's not assume that he "knows nothing" because maybe he does (I don't know this but I'll wait to see, or better yet, actually let him speak to the issue before ripping him). Bono's work with famine relief/AIDS awareness in Africa is credibly received by many different governments including our own. He's contributed significantly to the effort and has sincerely raised awareness. What would we say now if we'd all apply this same type of thinking 20 years ago when Bob Geldof's Band Aid (where Bono got his inspiration)? Sean Penn is simply using his influence as a public persona to get attention for a cause that he probably cares a lot about. Why rip him? Walk a mile in their shoes first.

maybe he could do a new filmMJ
Dec 17, 2002 9:09 AM
called the incidental libertarian?

I don't think it's opportunism but rather the horshoe effect of hard left and hard right meeting - like on the recent draconian terror legislation in the US

you shouldn't knee jerk reject his position on any given issue because he's not ideologically sound

I do agree his POV is purely emotional

from what it reads like he looks worried by the publicity potential - anyways - he's not likley to be in any mainstream hollywood blockbusters as director, writer or actor
amazingly fairmohair_chair
Dec 17, 2002 8:10 AM
I think what draws celebrities to this kind of thing is that they can get the kind of access that most of us can't, plus they typically have the time and money to make it possible. If you or I go over to Iraq for the same purpose, do you think we would get to meet with the Foreign Minister? Not likely. Do you think anyone would listen to what we had to say while we were there or when we got back? Again, not likely.

My initial reaction was oh no, another Hollywood type (Penn actually lives in Marin County) on another silly mission to criticize the government. I was pleasantly surprised to see that he didn't take the cheap shots I expected. And the thing is, Penn is right. The sanctions have unquestionably hurt the people of Iraq. At some point, someone in the government needs to recognize that 10 years of sanctions haven't had any positive effect, and maybe a new strategy is needed that will target the leadership rather than the people.
I agreeDougSloan
Dec 17, 2002 8:13 AM
>maybe a new strategy is needed that will target the leadership rather than the people.

You nailed it.

Though I think Penn is an idiotColnagoFE
Dec 17, 2002 9:00 AM
He has the right to speak his mind and use his fame any way he sees fit--just as you do. If everyone thought Rush Limbaugh is the voice of reason we'd be in big trouble.
Dec 17, 2002 1:36 PM
I'm against war in Iraq, but I think Penn was unwise to show up in Baghdad, certainly foolish and selfish ("so the blood won't be invisible on my hands"). It's too easy to see him as a dupe for Iraq's propagandists.

Too bad Penn didn't insist to visit Saddam's palaces so he could draw a contrast between the poverty he was shown and to where Iraq's income is funneled. Unfortunately, he didn't; thus it's difficult to consider his opinions and conclusions coming from anything but a tainted point of view.

And that sums up my problem with people like Fonda and Penn immersing their fame and celebrity into serious matters - they invariably end up looking like amateurs.
oh geez, Doug. I've got two words for you.bill
Dec 17, 2002 2:09 PM
Ronald Reagan.
Attack the position, not characters that the guy has played, for heavens sake. It was cheap when applied to Reagan, and it's cheap now.
Hell, Gopher was on the Hill (and well-respected) for years. Sonny Bono did a fair job, too (better than his wife, anyway). There's talk of Arnold Schwarzenegger running for Governor. Clint Eastwood as mayor of Carmel. Charlton Heston as head of the NRA and national conservative leader.
Come to think of it, funny how most of these Hollywood types turned activist have ended up as conservatives.
Sort of gives the lie to the Hollywood as liberal thesis, dontcha think?
not the sameDougSloan
Dec 17, 2002 2:33 PM
Ronnie proved himself well before becoming president, from union leader to governor. He stood for something, too, and didn't appear to be simply capitalizing on his popularity. If there ever were an ideological president, he certainly was one.

Some actors go into politics and some are conservative. Some aren't. In any event, we all well know that the vast majority of them, at least the ones making their positions known, are liberal bent (with no denegration necessarily intended). Also, simply because some are successful at politics, that does not automatically qualify every other actor to become an international statesman.

The position I was attacking is the fact that these actors apparently believe we care what they have to say, that we are going to listen, or that they matter at all, purely because they are actors. They tend to be single issue sorts, too, other than simply anti-Republican.

Sure, this is cheap. But is it accurate? Probably. I haven't heard Penn say anything much more meaningful than Spicoli would have; he just removed "dude" from his spoken vocabulary.

By commenting you prove that you do care.eyebob
Dec 17, 2002 2:50 PM
That's why a celeb will do it. Because we do care what they say, wear, think, drink, eat, and how they vote.

Everyone cares except me of course.

I thought that Penn's letter to the Post rather well reflectedbill
Dec 17, 2002 3:21 PM
what I might say if I had $56,000 to say it. It was not crazed. It asked more questions than it recited polemics. It was actually pretty cool. Wasn't seditious or inflammatory. Have you read it?
So, because Penn said what pretty much what I would say, I can't get lathered up about it. I guess that makes him brilliant, even, right? Actually, he has been one of the more thoughtful actors/directors out there, his marriage to Madonna notwithstanding, so I think that he was more than a blind pig finding an acorn.
The guy thought that he had something to say, bought a soapbox because he could, and said it. If you don't care what a citizen has to say, well, don't, I guess, but don't denigrate him without addressing his position.
I agree...Jon Billheimer
Dec 18, 2002 8:39 AM
...that if you're an actor or some sort of sports celebrity that you believe your views are special, more interesting than others' views, and that you have a right/privilege to influence others' behaviour or views. This is a sort of narcissism and egotism that our media/entertainment-driven culture promotes. After all, collectively we are always telling these people that they are special, privileged, and important, so many of them take on the mantle of self-importance. In my opinion, from that point of view Penn's trip and comments are worse than banal. (This has nothing to do with my own political views concerning Iraq.)
You guys are really harsh. They do it because they can. Theybill
Dec 18, 2002 10:47 AM
do it because everyone has to be somewhere.
Why am I posting now? Because I want to. Does anyone care? Who knows? Do I care whether anyone cares? Should I? Or should I just go ahead and express myself?
Celebrities, like it or not, have leadership attributes, either by virtue of their innate drive and focus, which they needed to become celebrities, or by virtue of their celebrity. Or both. So, they use that leadership for something they believe in. This is wrong? They have some capital in their persona that they spend on doing, in their view, something good. What's wrong with that? In fact, what's not laudatory about that? It may be narcissistic and egotistical, but that's true of any politician, for heavens sake. If you don't think so, you haven't met very many. Isn't it more egoistic to sit around and do nothing, because you could do that, too, and live very happily?
Is Sean Penn's taking a stand any different from Charlton Heston's rising to the top of the NRA? I'm not saying that Heston doesn't believe in what he's doing, I'm just saying that Sean Penn does, too, and I can't believe that Heston's role doesn't have something to do with his big booming voice and iconic status as Moses. And his raw celebrity.
He used it; good for him.
And, you all have made no distinction between Sean Penn and Ronald Reagan. I'm not saying that they are the same, but you haven't distinguished them.
re: Mr. Spicoli becomes a diplomatemptyhanded
Dec 17, 2002 3:43 PM
I think the most interesting, and alarming aspect of this is the fact that people care what Sean Penn thinks just because he is a talented actor and director. (to characterize his career as Spicoli is hardly fair, though I think he was great in that role as well).

It's like the actors all signing a letter to george bush trying to persuade him not to start a war with Iraq. I can understand political activism, I can understand using fame and money for a cause you believe in, but please. Like a letter with twenty famous people's signatures is an appropriate way to rally opposition to the war? Like George is going to read that and say, "well hell, if Julia Roberts thinks that, maybe I should reconsider. she does make $20 million a picture." why not rally public support in a more meaningful way?

It's almost as ridiculous when after 9-11, everyone seemed to turn to the rich and famous to give meaning to the event. Raising money is great, but I don't need George Clooney to put such a tragedy in perspective for me.
I certainly don't disagree with everything you've said, and Ibill
Dec 17, 2002 4:05 PM
particularly like your take on celebrity grieving after 9-11. But, if someone who happens to have vast popularity and the means to bring it on home takes a stand, why shouldn't he be able to do it? Is that stand any less valid than, for sure, yours or mine? What the hell? Take leadership where you can find it. Celebrities have sold a lot of things over the years in recent memory, including war bonds, the draft, conservation, civil rights, anti-war, anti-draft, right-wing agendas, guns, left-wing agendas, anti-landmines, AIDS relief, debt relief -- it's the way of the world.
Truth is, a lot, not all, but a lot, of these people actually are exceptional. In addition to maybe looks and a soupcon of talent, what has made them successful is drive. Mostly drive. That works in any milieu.
Penn has <i>been</i> to Iraq. Have you?czardonic
Dec 17, 2002 4:24 PM
Relative to most of us, he has every right to opine on the topic.
Oh please...VertAddict
Dec 17, 2002 9:03 PM
Just because I go across the border and get a guided tour of Great Falls, Montana doesn't make me the Canadian authority on American culture and politics. Furthermore, what would the people I see in Montana have to tell me about the situation in the inner cities of Los Angeles or Houston? Or problems the farmers in the midwest might be facing? Or what might be happening in New England?

I'd get a much better broad picture of what's going on in the US from sitting down with a copy of Newsweek or US News for a couple of hours. So don't tell me Penn is some kind of authority on Iraq because he got the two day guided tour.
but I'm sure he "feels their pain" nmDougSloan
Dec 18, 2002 7:00 AM
You're assuming that this trip is his only exposure. (nm)czardonic
Dec 18, 2002 10:38 AM
But you're criticizing him for something he never said -- hebill
Dec 18, 2002 10:53 AM
never said that he's an expert. He has a point of view and he expressed it. He then friggin bothered to expend a fair amount of time, money and energy to investigating his opinion -- more than could be said for anyone on this board spouting off on anything beyond Ksyriums vs. Neutrons. And that's even questionable.
It bothers you that Penn has this platform to say things you don't like to hear. Fine. I get jealous of people with two-car garages, too. But I don't think that they're bad people. People with SUV's, that's a different story.
I have a theory about celebrities...VertAddict
Dec 19, 2002 1:24 AM
They make an insane amount of money for something that really isn't hard work or very technical. They have cognitive dissonance because they know the effort they are putting into what they do is not remotely correlated with the compensation. As a result, deep down they feel a sense of shame about making such a fortune for something which is of debateable value to society.

To compensate, they do two things:

(1) They put on awards shows where they make a great spectacle of the importance of entertainment to the fabric of our society, and
(2) They take some of their easy-earned dollars and spend it on a cause of their choice, so they can look in the mirror and feel like they have done something worthwhile for society. I think it also helps them feel like they are still in touch with the common person.

To answer that, I can only quote King in Platoon: "You have to be rich in the first place to think that way."

Having said all that, I don't despise celebrities, and I think my theory helps me understand why almost all of them have some cause they rally to. I understand that Penn has his opinion like everyone else and should be allowed to express it. You're right, though, I don't happen to agree with his opinion and what does bother me is that due to his status as a celebrity he can afford and is afforded something the rest of us are not. That is, a soap-box to stand on in the media and express his no-more-valid-than-the-next opinion to the world, a chance the rest of us never get.
So how can we get the CEO's making hundreds of millions whilebill
Dec 19, 2002 6:32 AM
stock goes through the floor to feel the same sense of shame? Why don't they, for heavens sake? Because they're really worth it? Or because they have a less well-developed sense of shame?
couldn't resist.
The really maddening thing about Sean Penn? Robin Wright bore his children. The Princess Bride remains one of my favorite movies.
how do you know they don't?DougSloan
Dec 19, 2002 7:57 AM
Seems like you are assuming "rich CEOs" don't give to charity. Maybe they do, without making a spectacle of it. Bill Gates has given over a billion, I think.

My gripe with this is not necessarily what they have to say; it's their arrogance and narcissism that makes them believe, apparently, that they have any credibility on any subject other than movie making, any more than you or I.

To answer your other question again concerning Ronnie, I'd argue that at least as of the time he became president, he was a proven politician, leader, and statesman. With two terms as governor of California, president of the Screen Actors' Guild, he certainly had some public credentials as of 1980. He expressed a clear and consistent ideology of strong defense and lower taxes. He was looked upon by millions of Americans (with whom you may or may not agree) as inspirational and confidence inspiring, particularly after some dark years under Nixon, Ford, and Carter. It is ludicrous to attempt to lump Reagan in with Penn, as if they are both merely outspoken actors. Even if Penn has in the last week said something worthy of listening to, or might become more of a statesman in the future, he's only about 1/2 of 1 percent of a Ronald Reagan. Like him or not, you must admit that Reagan was a strong, inspirational, ideological leader.

You're coming at this from the wrong end, Doug. To comparebill
Dec 19, 2002 9:29 AM
Ronald Reagan as President, in his sixties and seventies, with Sean Penn in his early forties, is, you are correct, no comparison. But to compare Reagan in his thirties and forties with Sean Penn in his thirties and forties is a much more interesting comparison. At that time, Reagan was a not terribly well-respected actor, and, even though he had been President of the Screen Actors Guild, well, I will defer to what Jim Garner said about him. Garner, who was Vice President of the Guild when Ronnie was President, I believe, said, "Dutch Reagan? I've known him for thirty years and he's never once had an original thought." I forget what else he said, but it more damning with faint praise.
Reagan's appeal remains a mystery to me. Every day I picked up the paper for eight years I shook my head in disbelief. I guess I can now aknowledge that he was an effective leader and that all he hath wrought is not terrible, although the arms for hostages thing and his support of the military and paramilitary right wing in South America is really inexcusable.
My point about the CEO's was not that they might sometimes even do some good with charity, etc., but that, when compared to Hollywood money for nothing, they ain't all that different. No one can tell me that most of these guys are anywhere near worth it. No how, no way. And to pocket it while shareholders suffer, well, that is shameless.
Interesting point...VertAddict
Dec 19, 2002 9:21 AM
That is an interesting question. I'm going to make a couple of generalizations, but here goes:

(1) Compared to acting, becoming a CEO generally takes a much longer period of much harder work and contribution to a company before you get the job.

(2) CEO's can also see the value their work holds for society. I know the lefties on the board won't agree, but the fact is a well managed company creates jobs, wealth, tax revenues, and useful products for society.

(3) Furthermore, a CEO's job entails an immeasurably heavier burden of personal responsibility and risk, which he/she needs to be compensated for.

So I wouldn't see why they would feel shame in the first place.

Finally, as Doug indicated, there are many CEO's who do a massive amount of philanthropy, but unlike celebrities may be more likely to just contribute money and not go around beaking about their cause in the media, and therefore we may not hear about it. You just have to think of the Rockefellers and Gates for prime examples of this.

Oh, one last thing: if CEO's by chance contribute to "right wing" causes like the furthering of free trade, (such as the CEO of the penultimate company I worked for), those causes would not be considered worthy ones by the left wing media and celebrity culture anyway. In fact, that might be considered downright evil. They would certainly never put the kind of value on it that they would on Sean Penn's visit/views on the potential war in Iraq.
Celebrities -- Is there anything they don't know? (nm)LO McDuff
Dec 18, 2002 6:35 AM
Right on, Homer. nmDougSloan
Dec 18, 2002 2:22 PM
I wonder if Doug et al who dismiss Sean Penn asOldEdScott
Dec 19, 2002 5:57 AM
some kind of moron have ever really listened to him talk? I've seen him on Charlie Rose, couple of other places, and he seems thoughtful, intelligent, not at all some shrill mush-brained lefty like Barbra Steisand. I can't even detect any real 'left wingism' in him at all.

This whole thing has been distorted wildly, everywhere from this thread to the Iraqi press. Guy's got an interest in a major public policy issue, guy goes to check things out, guy shares his observations. Guy happens to be a celebrity and gets some attention. But guy's an American citizen and he OUGHT to be engaged. Whether you agree with him or not, it's a GOOD thing.

Hell, what would you prefer -- that he stay in his Hollywood manse snorting coke all day like some 'stars?' If anything, Sean Penn the real person is the anti-Spicoli.
He's an enigmamohair_chair
Dec 19, 2002 2:18 PM
I have heard him talk, which is rare because he is publicity shy. He's a brilliant actor and director and knows his craft extremely well. If you want to see an awesome film, rent his film "The Pledge." He doesn't appear in it, he only directs.

He has definitely grown up since the marry Madonna/beat up photographer days, and with that he became a much more private man, moving out of L.A. completely. That's one reason why his going to Iraq is so strange, because he does not court publicity.