Paul R. Lehman, Eastwood’s antics a matter of subjective intrepretation

September 9, 2012 at 11:55 am | Posted in Bigotry in America, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, fairness, Hollywood, justice, Prejudice, President Obama, Respect for President, whites | 1 Comment
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The classic song by Sly and the Family Stone “Everyday People” has a line that states “Different strokes for different folks,” and this line came to mind when reading the various reactions to Clint Eastwood’s appearance at the Republican National Convention. Those reactions revealed a world of differences among people who witnessed the same event but came away with different reactions. Regardless of the many reactions, Eastwood’s performance showed ignorance, stupidity, and arrogance.

The reference to Eastwood’s performance being ignorant is an assessment of him not knowing what was expected of him at that time. In effect, appearing before the audience during prime time carried a certain degree of importance to the organizers of the convention. Their expectations included a boost in support for their candidate by this famous movie personality. Evidently, no one told Eastwood about the expectations, so he went on stage and improvised for twelve minutes with an empty chair. For the organizers of the convention, television time, especially prime time, was important for the party to get its message out to as many viewers as possible, so to have twelve minutes during prime time go for naught was not an effect use of time. According to some reports, Eastwood did not inform anyone as to what his plans were nor did anyone from the convention meet with him before his entrance on stage with the chair. So, the reference to ignorance points to a lack of information by Eastwood and the people responsible for the stage participants. Because no one knew what to expect from Eastwood, everyone was surprised by his performance.

Eastwood’s performance as reported by theDaily offered a sampling of remarks from a number of people. For example, Todd McCarthy, a critic for The Hollywood Reporter said “It was very bizarre.” He added that “To see this wackier thing happen is not in line with his super-cool personality that we’re used to.” Film critic Roger Ebert noted that “Clint, my hero, is coming across as sad and pathetic.” Ben Affleck noted that “Even though I disagree with his politics, I’ve seen far more boring speeches in my day.” Many other comments were given and they all represented a variety of reactions that reflected the uniqueness of the individuals.

To say that Eastwood’s performance showed stupidity would be an understatement in light of the time and place he presented it. Since no one but Eastwood knew what was going to happen, no one was prepared for it. Since no one was prepared for it, time was wasted in the viewers trying to grasp just what was happening. If Eastwood was to use his celebrity to enhance Romney’s candidacy, he selected an ineffective avenue of approach to accomplish it. One must ask the question “what was the payoff in the performance? Everyone witnessed the same spectacle of Eastwood on stage talking to an empty chair. Each individual had the opportunity to draw his or her conclusion about what was witnessed and it effectiveness. To many people, it was thought to be stupid and a wasted of time.

Some time after Eastwood’s performance we learned that he arrived at the convention about fifteen minutes before he was to go on stage. He had no prepared speech or notes with him. Just before he walked on stage he asked one of the stage workers to give him a chair. He walked on stage with the chair and proceeded to start a dialogue with an imaginary President Obama. These actions reflect an arrogance that defies logic and just plain common sense, not to mention disrespect and absurdity. The show of arrogance comes from the willingness to assume to berate the President of the United States like a child being given a “time out”, for whatever reason. Why would any person believe that placing any president in that position would garner respect from the performer? The effort indicated a total disrespect for the office of the President and a lack of understanding of how both he and the imaginary President might be perceived.

In adding insult to injury, Eastwood impugned the integrity of the President by engaging in a dialogue that suggested the President used profanity in making a reference to Mitt Romney. This action was totally out of place and inappropriate for Eastwood. However, we must assume that he felt comfortable in doing it because of his celebrity that places him about regular folk and gives him license to do things regular folks cannot or would not do. We still wonder about the purpose of the performance and the effect it was supposed to have on the viewers. We wonder if Eastwood was affecting a character from one of his many films or was he being himself. Either way, his lack of respect for the office of the President reflected poorly on him.

Some people might question the reasons for criticizing Eastwood and /or his performance since it only involved him having a conversation with a chair. His performance can be and was taken on a variety of levels and depending on the interpretation of the individuals and how they viewed the action and words, an assessment was made. The statement “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder” provides an example of subjective interpretation, meaning that the criteria for making a judgment comes from the beholder. That being the case, we can understand how some people might have interpreted Eastwood’s performance as a biased attempt to denigrate, disrespect, and dishonor President Obama, to “put him in his place” which meant an African American, regardless of his position, below and behind this European American celebrity.

Since subjective interpretation rests with the individual, we can simply go back to the words of the song to underscore the reality of “Different strokes for different folks. And so forth, and so on….”


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  1. I believe the intent whether the vehicle was to be humor, satire, or drama ultimately was to denigrate the President and thus uplift his opponent using Mr. Eastwood’s legendary star status and prowess. Not only did it fail to uplift the President’s opponent, a vast majority of the people around my water cooler held the belief that the “Eastwood – empty chair” debates were overwhelming won by the empty chair!

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