CyberAlert -- 11/18/1997 -- Entertainment Edition: Touched by the Left; Abortion Required

Entertainment Edition: Touched by the Left; Abortion Required

Today, another examination of politics in television entertainment put together with the help of MRC entertainment analyst Melissa Caldwell. -- Brent Baker

1. The CBS family drama Touched by an Angel takes up for the Hollywood Left. "Joe McCarthy won, and God lost" as "fear of communism shattered a lot of lives."

2. Murphy Brown moves from marijuana to Arianna Huffington.

3. ABC's The Practice puts the firm's lawyers on the pro-life side, against the wishes of a pregnant woman.

4. Aaron Spelling's company tells a Melrose Place actress to get an abortion if she wants to star in the Fox show.

1) A late September episode of the CBS drama Touched by an Angel (Sundays at 8pm ET) featured a story line favorable to the pro-life viewpoint. (See the October 10 CyberAlert.) This past Sunday the show more than made up for that drift to the right with a plot directly from the Hollywood Left's imagination as the angels try to fix the evils resulting from the blacklisting era. While even many conservatives would agree that Senator McCarthy's tactics went too far and hurt some innocent people, communism did exist, represented a genuine threat and was advocated by many in Hollywood.

In the November 16 episode of the family-oriented drama, however, there were only victims of lies. No one was guilty of anything, MRC analyst Adam Pogash concluded after watching the program.

The family friendly show revolves around three angels who intervene in people's lives in order to convince them to do what is correct. In the latest show, Monica, one of the angels, is assigned to Libby Glaser, a powerful Los Angeles talent agent who is working to have her blacklisted father's credit restored to the films he wrote in the 1950s. Libby blames the blacklisting for her father's suicide.

As the show opens Andrew, another angel, explains the blacklisting to Monica: "It was a product of the Cold War. It was a time when fear of communism shattered a lot of lives and families, like Libby's. You know it all began with naming names, People who were even accused of being Un-American, they lost their jobs. Friends betrayed friends, marriages were broken apart and Libby's father, Bud Glaser, he couldn't work for the last six years of his life, at least under his own name."

Later, angels Tess and Monica are discussing how it could be that an innocent man's life was destroyed by the hearings, merely by having his name turned in by his friend, Clive. Tess insists: "Some movie people were given the chance to testify in secret, clear their name without a lot of publicity. So Clive just told them the lie they wanted to hear." When Monica asks how Clive could have betrayed his friend like that, Tess responds: "Fear, baby. That committee had him good and scared. Clive did it to save his career." Monica asks "If Bud wasn't a communist, why didn't he just clear his name and tell the truth?" Tess tells her: "Well Bud tried to, but in those days people weren't looking for the truth, they were looking for names." In fact, recalling how she worked as Bud's maid in the 1950s, Tess asserts that was a time "when freedom was not reining through the land."

Apparently being concerned about the evil of communism -- a system that is responsible for the ruthless killing of millions of people -- doesn't fit into this equation. Replace the word "communist" with "Nazi" and one doubts if being concerned about identifying its adherents would be so blithely dismissed in prime time.

The show concluded with Libby Glaser accepting an award for her father as his name is restored. She declares: "The blacklist was a terrible thing. Friendships were destroyed, families were destroyed, lives were destroyed. And all because people were afraid to tell the truth, to live the truth. We can't let that happen anymore, because if we do, it means that Joe McCarthy won, and God lost. Bud Glaser wrote the movie you are about to see, 'Salvation's Child'. It asks the question 'What if we weren't free to believe in God?' It was written in a time when many of our freedoms were in jeopardy. The freedom to think, to love, even the freedom to forgive. Tonight, you have not just restored credit to my daddy, you have restored the truth, and now he is finally free. I thank you for that, and I thank God."

Of course, in communist countries there is no freedom to believe in God or to express your thoughts.

2) The creators of Murphy Brown (Wednesdays at 8:30pm ET) took a break last week from praising the Clinton administration and the wonders of marijuana, to revert to their Bush-era fondness for making fun of conservatives.

In the episode which aired November 12, a conservative socialite named Athena Killington (a la Arianna Huffington) makes a faux-pas during a TV interview when she refers to Murphy as "The caviar communist whose backwards moralizing is nothing more than a tumor on society." Her comments aired the same day that Murphy, a TV reporter in the sit-com, went public with her breast cancer. As the shallow, image-conscious Athena Killington put it, "It seems as though my ill timed remark has dug me into something of a hole. And as a result, Athena Killington got a down arrow from Newsweek magazine. And even though they may be the mouthpiece of the liberal media, it still hurts."

The entire episode, notes the MRC's Adam Pogach, is dedicated to bashing the conservative movement. The underlying theme is that conservatives are heartless, uncaring, hypocrites. Murphy is invited to a party hosted by Killington because Athena thinks it would be a good PR move for them to be photographed together after the fateful "tumor" remark. Athena, who has just written a book about turning 50 when she is actually 57, pleads with Murphy not to reveal her secret: "You can't tell anyone, it will ruin me. Don't you understand? My political credibility is my currency. Please allow me my one affectation, allow me my little white lie, the way you allow all those immigrant children to speak their native tongue."

Meanwhile, our liberal heroes have many opportunities to make jokes at the expense of conservatives. For example, Murphy says of going to Athena's party: "I don't know why anyone would want to eat shellfish at a party thrown by the geisha girl of the conservative movement, and her husband, Elmer Fudd." In reference to Athena's 50th birthday party, Murphy says "Yeah, Middle Ages, that's just what she would have this country referred to if she had her way."

3) ABC's The Practice (Saturdays, 10pm ET) has departed from the Hollywood Left in its treatment of some controversial issues this season. The October 25 episode, for example, offered a unique plot to explore the issues of "life" or "choice," but largely delivered a startlingly pro-life message. The ABC drama is centered around a struggling Boston law firm best know for using questionable tactics to help its usually guilty clients escape penalty.

In the October 25 show a happily married couple are expecting a baby. The mother is well into the pregnancy when her doctor informs her that the child will probably not survive if carried to full term, and the baby's best chance for survival is if the mother has a cesarian. The mother (who definitely wants the baby) because of her religious beliefs refuses to have the intrusive surgery, stating that she has an understanding with God, and He will help her baby survive. Her doctor and her husband want to force her to have the cesarian to save the baby's life, and are certain that she almost wishes the court would force her to have the cesarian, but know that she will not cave on the issue unless forced to. The husband retains the law firm, hoping it can win a court order forcing his wife to have the cesarian.

The episode delivers some brief, almost obligatory pro-choice rants, as in the following exchange between two of the firm's lawyers:

Eleanore: "Lindsay, I'm trying to save a baby here."
Lindsay: "You're going to court arguing that a woman has no right to control over her own body."
Eleanore: "Lindsay, I am pro-choice, This case is not about pro-choice." Lindsay: "Tell it to the mother."

But, that sentiment is more than balanced by many life affirming statements. For example, Helen, a prosecutor for the District Attorney, and Lindsay get into a discussion about the issue a short time later. Helen argues: "Don't you think if a woman agrees to incubate a child, she's got some kind of duty towards its safety?....I never bought into that 'My body, my right' stuff, not completely. I mean, if a person wants total dominion over her body, she perhaps shouldn't decide to let another person grow inside it."

Earlier, the father of the child takes Eugene, his lawyer, to the maternity ward of a nearby hospital and shows Eugene the newborn babies. His client points out a premature baby and tells Eugene "The point is, my boy is exactly the same age as that one. He's just as viable, just as healthy. The only difference is that one's on the outside. There's no other difference. Just he's on the outside." Eugene tells him "Unfortunately, there's another difference. This child has rights. Until your boy is actually born, he doesn't. That's the law." The father replies "Yeah? Look at him. Now you tell me that law doesn't need to be adjusted."

Later, arguing in court, Eugene begs the court to consider the child "If she doesn't have this procedure very soon, the baby will die. Does the child enjoy any civil rights here?" The judge tries to correct him "There is no baby, there is a fetus." Eugene replies "A viable fetus. Nine months in term...the law says she has no right to abort in the third trimester, that means the courts have recognized that a viable in-utero baby has some rights...A baby's about to die...can't we all just take the time to give it a thought?" The opposing council argues "the law is not exactly muddy here, he has no paternal rights before birth, and she can not be forced to have a c-section. There's nothing gray to consider." Eugene then presents a drawing of a third trimester baby in the uterus, and urges the court to "consider him."

The judge eventually decides that the court cannot force a woman to have a medical procedure if she refuses it, and on appeal, the superior court upholds this finding saying that while it is their wish that Cynthia (the mother) save her child, to force her to do so would be repugnant to the Constitution. After the court declares its finding, Cynthia's doctor, who has been present during the hearing, shouts: "You poor martyrs. How heroic of you to stand up for our Constitution. The law was supposed to protect the weak, that baby is a human being, and your defense of our hallowed Constitution amounts to murder. That's a high price to pay for freedom, you heroes."

4) Pro-lifers fare better on-screen than off. MRC news analyst Steve Kaminski caught an illuminating AP story carried in the November 11 Las Vegas Review Journal. It reported that actress Hunter Tylo, hired for a role on Fox's Melrose Place, was fired from the show after she got pregnant. Tylo has filed a lawsuit for wrongful termination. Her attorney argued in his opening statement at the Los Angeles trial that the production company, Spelling Entertainment, had months to re-write her part to conceal the pregnancy, as they did for the show's star, Heather Locklear.

Tylo's attorney asserted that Spelling Entertainment President Jonathan Levin asked Tylo's manager, "Why doesn't she just go out and get an abortion? Then she can work."

-- Brent Baker