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Movie Star Morality: Clint Eastwood and the Republican Convention

Clint Eastwood has an iconic image as an actor, and is an even better director. But no one would ask him to be a spokesperson for the "Theology of the Body. I teach a contracts case in which one of his former lovers, Sondra Locke, claimed that Warner Brothers hired her as a director on a "pay or play" contract--either they would use her services or pay her fee--without the intention of ever using her at all. Her fee was billed to Eastwood's next movie. It was just a cost of keeping Eastwood's personal life from derailing his professional life.According to the Wikepedia page, Locke's personal life was rocky with him too--she had two abortions and a tubal ligation in four years. And she's just one of many.Now we've all heard about Eastwood's famous skit "The Old Man and the Seat" (as Jon Stewart called it) at the Republican Convention. But what I'm surprised about is that no social conservatives made a peep about the invitation to him to speak there itself. It's not just his personal life. He was the force behind "Million Dollar Baby"--an engrossing movie that appears to endorse euthanasia in very difficult circumstances.Now, I'm not saying he shouldn't have spoken--I myself endorse a broad speakers' policy everywhere, at Catholic universities and at political conventions. What's interesting to me, however, is that even the people who are in favor of vigorous monitoring programs for speakers on life issues didn't raise this as a question AT ALL. And it does seem to be more of a serious question than the skit itself.Why is that? Is it because in our culture, movie stars are like the old Greek gods--normal moral norms just don't apply to them? I've often thought that we could go through Edith Hamilton's book on Greek mythology or Ovid's Metamorphoses and cast various movie stars according to the descriptions of the gods depicted there.

About the Author

Cathleen Kaveny is the Darald and Juliet Libby Professor in the Theology Department and Law School at Boston College.



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Eastwood would probably be a real pain to have at a seder.

Ah, yes, the irony of it all: The party of family values has a skit on the final day of their convention by Clint Eastwood, who has been described as a "serial womanizer" and has fathered at least seven children by five different women (only two by a woman to whom he was married).Go ahead, make my day.

Yep That Democrats are squawking & hissing so much about (against) Eastwoods talk speaks volumes. He really ruffled their feathers, which was part of the point in the first place.Good job Clint Eastwood!:-)

The liberal blogosphere has had a term for this for years: IOKIYAR (It's OK If You're A Republican).Republicans can get away with practically any behavior that they condemn in the rest of us.

Actually I think most Democrats were pleased that Eastwood's rather eccentric performance seems to have garnered more headlines than the nominee's acceptance speech. A bit like the star of the movie being upstaged by the comic sidekick.I like Eastwood the filmmaker a good deal, but when I've watched excerpts on the web, I get the sad and anxious feeling I had while helping elderly relatives with Alzheimer's disease.

Ronald Reagan is revered as a god with a fervor that other mere mortals like Nero and Augustus Caesar would envy. The family-values party has never cared that he was divorced.

On the other hand, the Republicans cannot sing the praises of this skit too much lest they be shown to be hypocritical.Much was made of Eastwoods subtle reference to a vulgarity that he had coming from President Obama, (who is not known as a Nixon in that regard). I think that the gesture (finger across the neck) made by Eastwood when he was talking about removing the president from office was uncalled for.If it is true that Romney was the one who invited Eastwood to appear at the Convention, what was he thinking? What do he expect? Certainly, not to be upstaged.

What struck me most was that Romney and his minions did not have the guts to insist on 82 year old Eastman being vetted. [the geezer's giving them the finger was too theatening] Then they tell us how tough they will be they will standing up to Putin, China, Iran.. ...what a giggle

"But what Im surprised about is that no social conservatives made a peep about the invitation to him to speak there itself."I think that's a fair observation. If I had to guess, social conservatives did not make a peep because Eastwood's appearance itself was a surprise. There was no advance notice, so no opportunity for anyone (outside the Romney campaign insiders) to object.Once he did appear, having not professed any pro-choice or pro-euthanasia views, the skit itself dominated the conversation.

I don't think anyone thought about it--I think movie stars are held to a different standard in this country--by both liberals and conservatives.That's my point, I guess.

Until seeing this, I knew virtually nothing about Eastwood's personal life (nor about any other Hollywood types - I generally don't watch or read things that are devoted to their doings). I imagine that he was invited because his persona as projected through his acting roles is very roughly equivalent to what John Wayne's was for an earlier generation: tough, two-fisted, self-reliant, plain-spoken, quick on the draw - the sorts of traits that some conservatives like to lionize, and like to see as symbolic of America herself. Whether he is anything remotely like that in real life, I don't know, but he must have an artistic side to have such successful acting and directing careers, and apparently other Hollywood folks work with him despite his right-of-center politics.I understand he is Catholic, but his characters' relationship to the church in Million Dollar Baby and in Gran Torino seem pretty ambivalent. But whether that has anything to do with his real life faith, I have no idea.

And what about the deafening silence of feminists in the Democratic party regarding the behavior of Kennedy, Clinton, Edwards and so many others?

Jim Pauweis:"I understand he is Catholic.. ." I am interested in your source.

Jim Pauwels; " I knew virtually nothing about Eastwoods personal life " this means you have the credentials to get a good temp job on the Romney campaign (-:

Patrick Molloy; "the deafening silence of feminists in the Democratic party regarding the behavior of Kennedy, Clinton, Edwards and so many others?'Thanks for not mentioning Tom Jefferson.. (-:

Thanks for not mentioning Tom Jefferson.. (-: or FDR.

Clint Eastwood is not a Catholic (though he played one in the movies!); he was raised in a Protestant home and apparently has indifferent religious views now. Assuming this is in any way a credible site: I understand it, Eastwood's appearance was apparently kept secret after the Romney people invited him, which thwarted any protest social conservatives might have made. I assume Paul Ryan knew he was coming, but my guess is that he felt he had to go along with it (as he has gone along with Romney's not-quite-kosher views on abortion). There's an interesting piece about Eastwood's appearance and how his movie persona has been used by the GOP here: neighbor across the street had an old folding chair in front of his house right after the speech with "Nobama" painted on the back. I had to laugh in spite of myself. Especially since I'll be canceling his vote out in November.

I guess, to answer Cathleen's question more directly, the GOP was welcoming Eastwood's movie personae rather than Eastwood personally. Plus, he's an old man, and once someone gets old, people tend to see them as somewhat dim, harmless and endearing by default.Little do they know, hee hee hee.

Abe- You just need two empty chairs, is all.Like Jean said, maybe they really like his movies (I mean really who doesn't like the Sergio Leone trilogy). Go Clint.

Do we really think that Eastwood's appearance was kept secret so as to thwart any protest by social conservatives? That is the Romney base. If they were true to that base, they would not have invited him at all. I have not investigated all bloggers of such a base but I will bet that none protested his presence after the fact. Why? They love that tough guy, in your face, kind of guy.No, I think it was kept secret to build up suspense for the last day of the convention.

Ok, I guess I stand corrected. (Helen, it may have been the Internet, or my faulty memory, take your pick as to which is more, or less, reliable :-)). Now I have to look at those scenes with Catholic priests in a different light.

"Do we really think that Eastwoods appearance was kept secret so as to thwart any protest by social conservatives?"No, I don't. The appearance was kept secret so as to crank up excitement for Dirty Harry and Walt Kowalski.I meant only to suggest that IF socially conservative conventioneers had known about the appearance ahead of time, perhaps they might have balked at the choice and suggested someone else. As it was, everyone accepted Mr. Eastwood with all the appearance of enthusiasm.

"Once he did appear, having not professed any pro-choice or pro-euthanasia views, the skit itself dominated the conversation."Rumor has it that James Carville and Howard Dean orchestrated the entire thing.

I understand he is Catholic.. .Wow! If that is true I'll have to change my opinion of him. After all, we Katlicks gotta support each other's sins, don't we?I'm sure he'll support my sinful life with a great deal of vigah. I do feel like a piker, though; there has been no illegitimate issue from my efforts. Oh, well.

Clint Eastwood is popular with conservatives because, with very few exceptions, the characters he portrayed were limned with certain traits: Courage, integrity, getting things done, and he never played an out-and-out bad guy. Also, and here I'm guessing, because he wasn't a Hollywood party guy. Jim Pauwels is on point about his being a later generation John Wayne, also revered by conservatives. That his personal life was a mess is not in dispute; but beginning with the Dirty Harry series, many American (and Catholic) conservatives were willing to overlook the character flaws. I wish the flaws were imaginary, but there it is. And, hey, he once brought his 92-year old mother to some awards ceremony. And you know what? Maybe that's the biggest reason of all he is loved, warts and all.

Clint as Catholic? You're confusing him with Arnold.

"... and he never played an out-and-out bad guy." I dunno. I feel kind of conflicted about "Hang 'Em High."Working class Democrat guys like my dad and neighbors loved John Wayne and Woody Guthrie, and saw nothing weird or inconsistent in that. Here's a clip from a documentary that has some bits from Wayne's 1974 appearance at the Hasty Pudding awards. No doubt the guy could be charming and affable:

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