So far we've covered the creation of the MPAA and how it evolved into an organization with two jobs: Run the movie ratings system, and act as a lobbyist.
They are failing miserably at both.
First, let’s look into how the MPAA went from being a major Washington power broker, to a near non-entity to America’s leaders.
Jack Valenti ran the MPAA during its golden age of influence because he was a masterful lobbyist. However, he stayed too long at the fair, believing himself to be indispensable. When, after a reign of 38 years, he eventually did retire, his indispensability was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Valenti hadn’t groomed anyone to take over after him, and being a power player at the nexus of Washington and Hollywood is not something you can just take a class in. Such a job requires connections, and either inborn talent, or an extended apprenticeship to foster those connections. Valenti’s immediate successors apparently had neither. His first successor Dan Glickman, a former Democratic congressman and agriculture secretary, came and went with hardly anyone noticing outside of inspiring some police work against internet video pirates.
Glickman left the position in 2010 and was replaced by retired Democratic Senator Chris Dodd. Unlike Glickman, Dodd was noticed, but not for any good reason.
Mostly, his tenure at the MPAA has been noted for poorly constructed pieces of anti-piracy legislation that causes outrage among anyone who takes the time to read them, and the inability to get that legislation made into laws.
The MPAA also has a hard time just getting heard by congressmen, and some reports that they can’t even tempt politicians with free movie screenings at MPAA’s Washington DC headquarters.
Why is that? Hollywood represents a major industry that’s an important part of the even larger media-industrial complex that influences culture worldwide, so you’d think that members of congress would be eager to kiss the MPAA’s ass.
However, that is not the case and the reason for it can be found in the metaphor of eggs and baskets. In case you don’t know America’s government is based on a two party system, the Democratic Party, and the Republican Party. Jack Valenti was a Democrat, but he was a master of playing both sides of the proverbial aisle regardless of party affiliation, and could count on at least getting a friendly ear from members of both parties. Glickman was also a Democrat, but was such a comparative non-entity that while he may not have been guaranteed a friendly ear from both parties, he could at least count on not making any lasting enemies.
It’s a different story for former Democratic senator from Connecticut; Chris Dodd. For most of living memory Dodd was known as the most partisan senator in the legislative branch, he attacked Republicans regularly and with a level of vitriol that went beyond politics as usual, and there isn’t a piece of legislation with his fingerprints on them that Republicans do not loathe with the white hot heat of a thousand suns.
We also can’t forget that Hollywood not only views Republicans as evil incarnate, but regularly portrays them as repressed hateful hypocrites at best, and deranged genocidal Nazis at worst. Which means that Republicans already have a dislike for the entertainment business. Which means that picking someone Republicans hate with enough passion to power a large city as your Washington mouthpiece means that you’re not going to get very far with them.
“But what about Democrats?” you ask furrowing your brow in a feeble attempt to understand. “Shouldn’t they get along great with Dodd and the MPAA?”
And the answer to that question is: “Why should they?”
You see the secret of being a good lobbyist is to go to politicians and be able to say: “If you do this for me, the people I represent will be do this for you?” It’s all about quid pro quo, you scratch my back, and I will scratch yours.
Right now the Democratic Party doesn’t have to do anything to get their back scratched by Hollywood. The Democratic Party gets over 90% of all votes, donations, and political endorsements by people in all levels of show business. Getting back to our eggs and baskets metaphor, Hollywood has put all of their eggs in the Democratic basket.
This egg/basket situation is unlikely to change during our lifetimes, so the Democrats know that Hollywood is what the British call a “copper-bottom” constituency. Which means they don’t have to do squat to keep Hollywood’s votes, endorsements and donations coming in.
So a lobbyist that is hated by one party, and completely taken for granted by the other party in a two party system is a failed lobbyist indeed.
Next time, the disaster that is the MPAA ratings system...
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