Three Classic Movies That Explain Hillary
At this stage, only Hollywood can provide us with useful psychological insights.
Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign to make a presidential silk purse out of a political sow’s ear has finally transitioned into embarrassing absurdity. Her consultants’ oxymoronic advice that she “be spontaneous” and show more “humor” and “empathy,” and her uncontrolled giggling while being interviewed on CNN have taken us to the point where sober and judicious analysis is no longer adequate. Only Hollywood can provide us with useful psychological insights. Here follows Hillary analyzed through three film classics.
The Narcissism of an Aging Star Deservedly Forgotten: Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Gloria Swanson plays the has-been silent movie star Norma Desmond, who manipulates broke screenwriter Joe Gillis, played by William Holden, in order to resurrect her long- moribund career. Desmond’s creepy attempts to turn back time to her glory days as a star––vamping around her Hollywood gothic mansion in clownish makeup as she seduces Gillis–– bespeak a surreal obsession with her own passé greatness, one fueled by her refusal to admit that she has no talent for acting in the talkies. She expresses her delusional narcissism in one of the greatest lines ever written for the movies. When Holden comments, “You used to be big,” Desmond answers, “I am big, it’s the pictures that got small.” Desmond stays in her fantasy world to the end, speaking the immortal lines “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up” as she descends her grand staircase on her way to the insane asylum.
Hillary Clinton is the political Norma Desmond. She was “big” in the 90s, when she was touted as co-President to her satyr husband and cooked up Hillarycare as proof of her gravitas. She played the role of the feminist First Lady to perfection, and then ruined the performance by swallowing her feminist pride to “stand by her man” when his sordid serial adultery came to light and humiliated her before the world. After that she played an Acela corridor celebrity rather than being a politician of achievement, winning a gimme Senate seat in New York, then parking herself as Secretary of State so she could at least stay in the news.
But she never “starred” in either of those roles. She did nothing of note in the Senate, and bombed at State by overseeing some of this country’s worst foreign policy disasters. Now she thinks she’s ready for her close up in her next role, as President. But just as Norma Desmond had no talent for talking pictures, Hillary is utterly devoid of any of the talents of personality––especially likability, warmth, and charm––that her husband had in abundance. So she must live in the lost Golden Age of the 90s, and stake her claim to the presidency basically on the symbolic milestone of being the first female president. Hillary’s constant, surly air of disappointed entitlement and monstrous self-regard recalls Norma Desmond’s classic line. “I am big,” we can hear Hillary saying as she scans her plunging polls, “it’s the people who got small.”
Malignant Ambition That Will Say and Do Anything: All About Eve (1950)
The Eve of the title is Eve Harrington, an aspiring actress who insinuates herself into the life of aging Broadway megastar Margot Channing, played by Bette Davis in one of her greatest roles. In service to her relentless ambition, Eve lies incessantly, making up a four-hankie biography to cover up her sleazy past and confect a rags-to-riches story that will be catnip for the press. To achieve her goal of stardom, Eve does and says anything, and betrays every trust. Despite the kindness shown her by Channing and Karen Richards, wife of Broadway’s hottest playwright, Eve tries to seduce their husbands to advance her career. But in the end she suffers brutal humiliation at the hands of acid-tongued critic Addison Dewitt, who before her big debut exposes her lies and says, “You’re an improbable person, Eve, and so am I. We have that in common. Also a contempt for humanity, an inability to love and be loved, insatiable ambition––and talent. We deserve each other … and you realize and you agree how completely you belong to me?” Eve will be a star, but at the cost of selling her soul to DeWitt.
When it comes to deception, Eve’s got nothing on Hillary. For 25 years now she has fudged, spun, nuanced, and outright lied. About how she parlayed a $1,000 investment into $100,000 profit by betting on cattle futures: “I read the Wall Street Journal.” About how she and Bill left the White House “dead broke” and “in debt,” and “struggled to piece together the resources for mortgages for houses,” as she told Diane Sawyer. This tin-eared sob story (most of us have a house and a mortgage) reminds me of Birdie Coonan, Margot Channing’s cynical assistant, quipping about Eve’s fabricated biography, “What a story! Everything but the bloodhounds snappin’ at her rear end.”
And don’t forget her despicable lies about Benghazi. In the presence of the dead Americans’ coffins and families she blamed the attacks on an obscure Internet video, when she already knew it was a preplanned terrorist attack. And there’s her current scandal, the private server and unencrypted email account through which she illegally passed classified intelligence. It was very likely hacked by the Russians, Chinese, and who knows who else (“There’s no evidence of that!” she said on CNN with lawyerly sophistry). And she patently lied about the personal account when she claimed she acquired it because she didn’t want to carry two devices, when in fact she possessed an iPhone, iPad, mini iPad, and a Blackberry.
As for doing anything to succeed, how much lower can it get than taking the public humiliation inflicted on her by her husband’s serial adultery? At least Eve sacrificed her dignity to ambition in the privacy of a hotel room. And don’t forget the Clintons’ vicious hounding of Bill’s paramours, including siccing the IRS on them and hiring an “investigator” convicted of racketeering and known for questionable methods, not to mention the burglaries, threatening phone calls, and other intimidation tactics unleashed on Bill’s victims, who were all smeared as liars, psychos, and hustlers. Indeed, Hillary committed the gravest feminist sin in service to her relentless ambition, “blaming the victims” of Bill’s sexual assaults, something utterly shameless for a candidate decrying the “war on women” and saying, “It’s not enough to condemn campus sexual assault. We need to end campus sexual assault!” Like Eve, Hillary has “a contempt for humanity, an inability to love and be loved, insatiable ambition”–– but not Eve’s talent.
That’s where Norma Desmond and Eve Harrington are different from Hillary. Norma Desmond was a talented silent movie actress, and Eve has real acting talent and ends up a big Broadway star. Hillary’s only achievement has been marrying Bill Clinton, her only talent that of survival. But our next movie character fits Hillary’s public persona like a glove.
The Therapeutic Totalitarian: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
Nurse Ratched, brilliantly acted by Louise Fletcher, is the head nurse who oversees the patients in the mental institution Jack Nicholson’s Randle McMurphy gets himself sent to for evaluation so he can avoid jail. The prankish, free-spirited McMurphy quickly becomes Nurse Ratched’s nemesis in a battle of wills he ultimately loses. Novelist Ken Kesey and director Milos Forman no doubt intended Nurse Ratched to represent the conservative “establishment,” but these days she better embodies the progressive left. Like the progressives, her need to control everything that she viscerally dislikes because it challenges her self-righteous authority is hidden behind her calm and soothing demeanor of therapeutic concern for the welfare of her charges. Yet behind the mask is the face of raw power, the lust for domination and the intolerant compulsion to destroy everyone who flouts her arbitrary rules. Hence she must be the enemy of the freedom and autonomy McMurphy represents, for individual freedom is the most lethal enemy of tyranny.
What better embodiment of Nurse Ratched can one find than Hillary? Like Nurse Ratched and all progressives, Hillary’s policies require the iron fist of state coercion wrapped in the velvet glove of therapeutic concern for “women’s rights” or the “stagnant middle class” or “strengthening families and communities” or “hedge fund managers pay[ing] lower taxes than nurses” or protecting democracy against the “unaccountable money” corrupting our politics. But we all know what she is really about––power, the power to enforce her vision of human good on the rest of us whether we like it or not, and make a fortune along the way. Just consider her solution to “our dysfunctional political system”––a Constitutional amendment that “revises” the First Amendment so it doesn’t “define speech too broadly,” a recipe for limiting speech progressives don’t like.
And just as Nurse Ratched uses the ward guards, electro-shock therapy, straitjackets, and psychotropic drugs to enforce her tyranny, Hillary will use the courts, the schools, and the government bureaucracies and their regulatory power to impose her progressive vision on the rest of us. And if the people don’t like it? As Nurse Ratched says when McMurphy refuses to take his medicine, “If Mr. McMurphy doesn’t want to take his medication orally, I’m sure we can arrange that he can have it some other way. But I don’t think that he would like it.”
Similar to Norma Desmond, Hillary is a political has-been, her narcissistic sense of entitlement just as delusional, and her attempts to remake her persona by changing her hair or showing “more humor and heart” just as cringe inducing as Desmond’s grotesque seduction of Joe Gillis. Like Eve Harrington, Hillary will say and do anything to gratify her obsessive-compulsive ambition, including public humiliation and betrayal of her feminist principles. And like Nurse Ratched, she masks her libido dominandi with soothing therapeutic nostrums. She’d make a great character in a movie, but I don’t think we would like her as a president.