Sorry, Bob Dole, we Americans just don't have enough boycotts to go around.

November 29, 1995|By Mike Littwin

LIKE BOB DOLE, I haven't seen "Money Train.

Unlike Bob Dole, I don't need to.

Anybody with even the slightest connection to the popular culture knows exactly what the movie is like. It's a comedy-action buddy movie, meaning lots of cool stuff blows up, people jump off and/or onto trains, there's plenty of cartoon violence, spaced nicely around wisecracks from the appealing co-stars, and everybody -- at least everybody who lives -- lives happily ever after.

In other words, it's standard holiday movie fluff, doing pretty good box-office, and would have attracted no particular attention except that a couple of sociopaths set fire last weekend to a New York subway token booth, just like in the movie.

Where real life differs from the movie, the booth attendant is seriously injured. And now Bob Dole and the other neo-Puritans, out to make some serious political hay, are condemning "those who work in Hollywood corporate suites" for promoting violence.

Candidate Dole, who has trouble making headlines, raced to the Senate floor to bash the movie. In fact, Dole's entire campaign message seems to be composed of three themes -- I'm not as old as I look; Phil Gramm is too ugly to be president; Hollywood is ruining America.

Now Dole is calling for a boycott of "Money Train," which, if Dole weren't a major politico and maybe our next president, would be hilarious.

Boycott "Money Train"? Is he serious?

Why not boycott Bugs Bunny while we're at it? Why not blacklist Yosemite Sam?

Look, I'm all for boycotts. As an example, I refuse to buy any product using frogs in its commercials.

But if you want to call for a boycott of products that injure America, boycott polluters. Boycott cigarette companies. Boycott lite beer.

The funny thing is, the people who wrote "Money Train" didn't invent this firebomb-the-tokens-guy motif. There were nine -- count 'em, nine -- such incidents in the five years before the movie. This was art imitating life, not the other way round.

I wonder what Dole considers acceptable Hollywood fare. I rounded up a couple of famous plot lines to see if they'd pass muster.

In the first, the kindly king visits one of his lords, who decides, at his wife's bidding, to stab the kindly king in the heart. For good measure, he then kills his rival's wife and kid. In a memorable scene, the lord's wife goes nuts. Finally, on the battlefield, a man born not of woman separates the murderous lord from his murderous head. This is the plot line of a play called "Macbeth" by a guy named Shakespeare, who killed off more people in his day than even a guy named Tarantino.

How about this one? This dude Jason deserts his old lady, and she's steamed. Jason marries another woman, and, as a wedding present, the first wife burns the new wife to death. The second wife's father, in trying to save her, dies in agony himself. And we're just getting started, bloodlust-wise. The house goes completely quiet when the offended wife murders the two children she had with Jason. Then she goes nuts. Recognize this oldie but goodie? It's "Medea," from 431 B.C. I wonder if the Greeks thought to boycott.

Clearly, we live in a violent society. It was violent before there were movies, or at least that's what I've gathered from the westerns I've watched.

For sure, we did have several presidents knocked off before the advent of popular cinema. In the case of the actor/assassin John Wilkes Booth, he shot Lincoln and then shouted "Sic Semper Tyrannus," possibly thinking he might someday get a gig in "I, Claudius."

When Mark David Chapman killed John Lennon, he was reading "The Catcher in the Rye." Should we boycott coming-of-age books?

David "Son of Sam" Berkowitz said he was given instructions by dogs. A canine boycott?

Susan Smith killed her kids for a guy. Get rid of men?

Maybe O. J. read his "Othello." Or maybe he'll have the time after he catches the real killers.

Jeffrey Dahmer predated "Silence of the Lambs." He was making his own sick art.

The guy who shot Rabin, and the guys who shoot the abortion doctors, say they were inspired by the Bible, which also played a large role, I believe, in the Crusades. I know Dole doesn't want to boycott the Bible.

Sure, there are copycat murders. People watch movies, read books, talk to dogs and then do sick things. But consider this: American movies play around the world -- our culture is our principal export -- and yet our murder rate is five to 10 times higher than your typical Western European country.

Why the difference? I know. Maybe it's something in our popcorn.

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