14 Feb 2006

Brokeback Dreaming

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Mickey Kaus diagnoses a continuing pattern of self-deception in the MSM coverage of the theatrical run of Brokeback Mountain:

Touches the Heart of the Heartland! I hadn’t realized, until someone tipped me off, that Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 had exactly the same marketing strategy as Brokeback Mountain, the gist of which was “Hey, a film sticks it to the conservatives but it’s playing in the red states!” This is the now-familiar Heartland Breakout meme. Moore boasted that his movie was big “in every single red state in America. … It sold out in Fayetteville, North Carolina.” As with Brokeback, the press bought into the story. In 2004, Time magazine wrote:

You would have expected Moore’s movie to play well in the liberal big cities, and it is doing so. But the film is also touching the heart of the heartland. In Bartlett, Tenn., a Memphis subuurb, the rooms at Stage Road Cinema showing Fahrenheit 9/11 have been packed …

1. The Heartland Breakout Meme seems like B.S.: Fahrenheit wound up reaching about the same number of theaters–approximately 2,000 at its widest distribution–as Brokeback. But Byron York, for his book The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy, got hold of confidential movie-industry data showing that, contrary to the Heartland Breakout scenario, Fahrenheit had done the vast bulk of its business in the usual blue state urban centers (and in … Canada). It had almost uniformly underperformed in red state cities–including Time’s Memphis, where the audience was more than 50% lower than you’d expect given Memphis’ share of moviegoers. Some enterprising reporter should get hold of similar data for Brokeback, once its run is over. Do you want to bet they show the same insular, blue-state dominance? The only difference would be that Fahrenheit 9/11 (at $119 million) was much more popular than Brokeback, measured in box office.

2. The Heartland Breakout Meme seems like B.S. of the sort that consistently hurts Democrats (and others who believe it): B.S. is B.S.. Bloggers are allowed to point it out (he says defensively)–especially if it’s B.S. the mainstream press has no particular interest in pointing out (because it kills the story, or because they’ll seem homophobic).** But this B.S. falls into a special category: the sort of gratifying myth that in the past has helped lull liberals (and gay rights activists who may or may not be liberals) into wild overconfidence.

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