Oh, Peggy, you jokester.

Peggy Noonan, former Reaganite and chief speechwriter for George H. W. Bush, has to be the only dingbat left in America who can write a column called Boy in a Bubble where the boy in question is not George W. Bush, but is instead George Clooney.

In “Boy in a Bubble: What George Clooney doesn’t know about life,” Noonan takes on the Oscars, and dedicates an entire section to the naïveté of the silly hayseed who had the foolish idea to make two movies this year—one about back-room oil industry deals in Washington and one about McCarthyism—and then give an Oscar acceptance speech in which he declared if that made him out of touch, he was proud to be so. Clooney, says Noonan,

…treats his audience as if it were composed of his intellectual and artistic inferiors.

And because they are his inferiors, he must teach them. He must teach them about racial tolerance and speaking truth to power, etc. He must teach them to be brave. And so in his acceptance speech for best supporting actor the other night he instructed the audience about Hollywood's courage in making movies about AIDS, and recognizing the work of Hattie McDaniel with an Oscar…

Mr. Clooney's remarks were also part of the tinniness of the age, and of modern Hollywood. I don't think he was being disingenuous in suggesting he was himself somewhat heroic. He doesn't even know he's not heroic. He thinks making a movie in 2005 that said McCarthyism was bad is heroic.
From there, Noonan goes on to blather some codswallop about how “the Clooney generation in Hollywood” has experienced media rather than life and how Good Night and Good Luck is “unnuanced, unsophisticated, unknowing.” Let’s pass by the fact that “unnuanced” isn’t actually a word, and that Clooney grew up in Kentucky, not in a television studio, and get back to this whole heroism thing.

I’m not convinced that Clooney thinks he’s a hero—but whether he does or not, I do. And it’s because, unlike Noonan, I don’t live in some fairyland where Hattie McDaniel got an Oscar because everyone was reading Gone with the Wind and “taboos are broken by markets, not poses.” (Jeezy creezy, conservatives really do think “the market” is the answer to everything, don’t they?) I live in a place where men walk up to perfect strangers in grocery stores to discuss Black. White., and where a viewing of Brokeback Mountain changes someone’s mind, and where the best discussion anywhere in the media of America’s fucked-up, oil-drenched relationship with the Middle East was not in the Wall Street Journal, but in a movie made by George Clooney, and where the best commentary on media responsibility and what happens when our government goes batshit insane was also in a movie made by George Clooney. I live in a place where the government tries to amend the Constitution to permanently render the LGBT community second-class citizens, and the president stays on vacation while poor black folks drown and starve, and we collectively ignore an entire continent that desperately needs our help, while people like George Clooney make movies like Brokeback Mountain, Transamerica, Crash, and The Constant Gardener, all of which serve to remind us how much we fail people, no matter how much dirt is swept under the most optimistic rug in the world.

So, yes, I consider George Clooney a hero. Not just because he peers at the dirt under that rug, but because he stood up on behalf of all of us who join him in his dirty work, day in and day out, and said that we ought to be proud that we do.

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