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Medved, in ‘Right Turns,’ assesses his former liberal mindset

SEATTLE (BP)–An outspoken voice for conservative issues, family rights and the need for godly reverence, Michael Medved is one of the few famed examiners of pop culture and the political scene whose perspective is distinctly Right-minded. But that was not always the case.

A self-proclaimed liberal activist at Yale during the turbulent ’60s, Medved once pictured the Left as the sole protectorate of mankind.

Endorsed nowadays by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, William Bennett and Dr. Laura Schlessinger, his college friendships included Hillary Rodham and others who went on to affect the liberal climate of the political scene.

As Ann Coulter proclaims on the dust jacket of Medved’s new book, “Right Turns: Unconventional Lessons From a Controversial Life,” the cultural analyst/film critic has sat at the dinner tables of forthcoming leftist politicos. Being an accepted member of their group at the time, Medved was afforded an opportunity to gather insight into their thinking, unknowingly gathering future ammunition for dissecting their arguments.

Medved writes in Right Turns that his once-liberal perspective, though nurtured in his youth by those who revered any progressive outgrown of the New Deal, was not formulated by the discontent associated with the Flower Power generation. In “The Wild One,” Marlon Brando played a leather-jacketed rebel without a cause, so anti-establishment that when asked what he’s rebelling against, responded, “What have you got?” This was never Michael Medved’s attitude.

It becomes evident in his book, published by Crown Forum, that Medved’s ideals were not based on rebellion for rebellion’s sake, but on what he thought would bring justice to the common man. His interest in the rights of others, once prodded by liberal causes, underwent a decidedly conservative revolution when he began to doubt the effectiveness of a liberal bias in bringing change. Anti-God, anti-America thinking are destructive and disastrous building blocks for solid social reforms, he now believes.

Devoid of tell-all antics used to exploit, Right Turns contains a tapestry of thoughtful anecdotes that reveal a life searching for truth and civility. That said, Medved doesn’t take himself too seriously. With an affable writing style, he conveys an incisive rendering of his social and religious development.

“I didn’t shape my biography to fit my conclusions,” Medved writes, “but I have shaped my conclusions in response to my biography.”

Through wit, humor, self-revelation and an intellectualism tempered with humility and gentleness, Medved has penned a well-reasoned exposé of members of the Left as well as a thoughtful argument for conservatism. But this isn’t just a look at politics. Medved also is forthright about his devotion to his Jewish faith and reminds readers that we were created by God, not the other way around.

During a recent phone interview, Medved was candid and thoughtful concerning liberalism in Hollywood.

Q: John Wayne was a staunch Republican, yet liberals such as Kirk Douglas, Henry Fonda and Lauren Bacall respected him. Nowadays, does it seem like there’s more of a polarization between conservatives and liberals in the motion picture industry?

Medved: There is, and partially because conservatives have become so rare. It used to be that a number of the biggest stars were outspokenly conservative. Not just John Wayne, but Jimmy Stewart, Gary Cooper and many other huge stars were openly Republican. Today, it’s extremely rare for major stars to identify themselves as Republicans or conservatives. And about half of them who do become governor of California.

Q: Is there a form of blacklisting of conservatives in the film industry?

Medved: The blacklisting that goes on is subtle and difficult to pinpoint. But it does exist. Not the kind of blacklisting that involves some kind of formal enumeration of individuals who are now not going to get jobs. But political affiliation does affect the social networking that is so crucial in Hollywood. In other words, somebody who is an open conservative is probably less likely to get close to Steven Spielberg or to spend a weekend with the Weinsteins (filmmakers Harvey and Bob Weinstein).

Q: Is there a point where we conservatives should refuse to support the film work of those determined to belittle our way of thinking? If not, how do we make our voice heard?

Medved: The most important thing for conservatives to do is evaluate the work, not the individual or the personality. Ultimately, only God can judge the human heart or the human being. It’s our job to judge a given movie or television show that we choose to see. Every time a particular film comes out, we must consider the messages that this film is sending. For example: Steven Spielberg is one of the most outspoken, passionately committed liberals in Hollywood. He’s given literally millions of dollars to causes that I despise. However, he also made a resounding patriotic movie called “Saving Private Ryan.” Everyone involved with that movie from top to bottom happened to be liberal, but the movie sent messages that you can only consider to be conservative. It seems to me that the right response to that is to urge people to see that movie. Not to endorse everything that Spielberg does, by any means, or to endorse Spielberg the person, but to endorse his work.

It seems to be that making a list of people and deciding whether or not you like a movie based upon the off-screen politics of the individuals is a very dangerous game. Let me give you a current and controversial example: Clint Eastwood has been identified as an icon of the Hollywood right wing. He was at one time an active Republican. Clint has a movie out right now (Oscar-winner “Million Dollar Baby”) that in my opinion sanctions and sympathizes with assisted suicide. Now, that’s an issue I feel passionately against. Does that mean that I hate Clint Eastwood all of a sudden? No, not at all. It just means that this given movie needs to be evaluated on its own terms, rather than making some kind of attempt to judge Clint’s overall personality or contribution.

Q: What happens to an ultra-liberal like Ron Silver (“Reversal of Fortune,” “Blue Steel”) who switches allegiances from the Democrat to the Republican Party?

Medved: Ron has always seen himself as an activist and somebody who cares about issues. His transition to the Republican Party and campaigning for President Bush was not so much a radical change for him as it was an expression that these things he cares about are actually better achieved with this particular political orientation.

But in terms of Ron Silver’s future, he’s a character actor. He may be overlooked for some roles he may have formerly gotten, but he won’t stop working. He’s too well-established. The subtle blacklisting, that of social networking, is not so much a factor for established names like Silver or Bruce Willis. But it becomes a big factor for young people just starting out.

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  • Phil Boatwright