ONTD Political

Conservatives decry Fonda playing Reagan

Take a liberal icon, cast her as a revered figure of the right, and what do you get? Actually, quite a predictable reaction.
With the news last week that Jane Fonda is the choice to play Nancy Reagan in Lee Daniels' film "The Butler," one commentator declared to Megyn Kelly on Fox News, "Hanoi Jane has no business playing Mrs. Reagan."

The former first lady's press secretary, Sheila Tate, called the choice "ludicrous."

Variety's Jeff Sneider, who broke the casting news, says he got nearly 200 irate emails, many unprintable.

When it comes to the Hollywood left's foray into progressive politics, it doesn't take much to trip an alarm on the right. Tap a liberal figure to play a conservative role, and, you're hard-pressed to muffle the sound of sirens. Such casting controversies seldom have to do with performance, often start with very little information about plot, and ultimately don't seem to impede success. Moreover, the attention they engender can raise a project's profile.

In 2003, CBS' plans to run miniseries "The Reagans" triggered such a furor that the network shelved it from its schedule and moved it to Showtime. Contributing to the controversy were suspicions over the casting of James Brolin as the Gipper, and the fact that he is married to another showbiz figure who doesn't shrink from progressive stands, Barbra Streisand. The project still went on to win Emmy nominations for miniseries and Brolin and Judy Davis.

More recently, in the lead-up to "Game Change," Julianne Moore argued that her portrayal of Sarah Palin was sympathetic, even as fans of the former Alaska governor zeroed in on the fact that the actress had contributed to Democrats. The film went on to be a success with critics, and drew 2 million viewers in its initial showing, the most for an HBO original movie in eight years.

There are some parallels in the case of "The Kennedys," the miniseries produced by conservative Joel Surnow. The project was slammed on the left, and by some historians, and eventually shelved by History channel, but after finding a new life on Reelz channel, got some traction on the awards circuit, winning an Emmy for actor Barry Pepper.

In the case of "The Butler," Fonda's deal isn't in place yet, and the movie is still in the final stages of financing, according to Sneider's story.

A spokeswoman for Nancy Reagan had no comment on the casting, other than to say that they are not participating in the project and were not aware of it until last week.

The former first lady herself was a polarizing figure when she was in the White House, "a lightning rod," as she noted in her 1989 autobiography, "My Turn." She wrote that Robert Strauss, a Democratic party elder statesman, told her, "When you first came to town, Nancy, I didn't like you at all. But after I got to know you, I changed my mind and said, 'She's some broad!' " She replied, "Bob, based on the press reports I read then, I wouldn't have liked me either."

Reagan is not the central character in the film. Rather, it's based on Wil Haygood's 2008 Washington Post story about Eugene Allen, a White House butler from 1952 to 1986. In that story, which the Post ran shortly after Barack Obama's election, Allen was actually quite flattering to Reagan and her husband, noting that the First Lady invited him to a state dinner for West German chancellor Helmut Kohl. "I believe I'm the only butler to get invited to a state dinner," Allen told Haygood.

But with Fonda in the role, it likely makes no difference what the movie says about the former first lady. As Kelly noted on Fox News, "there isn't a day that goes by that I don't get emails about Jane Fonda."

Fonda still is active in abortion rights and women's rights issues, and appeared at an antiwar rally in Washington in 2007, yet participates in nowhere near the type of stir-the-pot activism of yesteryear. She's apologized several times for being photographed on a Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun in her trek to Hanoi 40 years ago, and last year wrote on her blog that she would "regret to my dying day" the incident, offering a lengthy explanation of the trip. She also wrote that she was well aware that she's long been a "convenient lightning rod" for conservatives, maybe even a means to energize their base and raise money.

In other words, if the makers of "The Butler" weren't expecting blowback, they better get ready for it.


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erunamiryene 2nd-Apr-2012 03:35 pm (UTC)
As Kelly noted on Fox News, "there isn't a day that goes by that I don't get emails about Jane Fonda."

I'm sure you do. No, really! All Jane Fonda, all the time.

... Even if that IS true, perhaps your viewers need to jump ahead a few decades? Just a thought.
makemerun 2nd-Apr-2012 04:32 pm (UTC)
I completely believe her. My grandparents send me email forwards all the time.
crossfire 2nd-Apr-2012 03:52 pm (UTC)
masakochan 2nd-Apr-2012 03:55 pm (UTC)
Not surprising. I'm pretty sure that my grandparents (mom's side) refuse to watch any movies that have celebrities that they know are Liberal.
mirhanda 2nd-Apr-2012 06:47 pm (UTC)
I have to admit, I will avoid movies by and/or with people I find odious child molesters. Roman Polanski and Woody Allen, for example.

I won't watch John Wayne movies either, even though he's dead. He made zillions portraying the all-american he-man, and yet was a draft dodger in WWII, a war that left my grandfather damaged beyond repair (and who was drafted even though he was in his late 30s and had FOUR children.)

So anyway, I guess I can't tell conservatives they should watch movies with people they dislike.

Edited at 2012-04-02 06:47 pm (UTC)
beoweasel 2nd-Apr-2012 04:01 pm (UTC)
Conservatives were 'joking' that if a movie is made about Jane Fonda, Steve Buscemi should play Fonda. Because yeah, that's totes the same.
angelus7988 2nd-Apr-2012 04:26 pm (UTC)
Wait, what?
(no subject) - Anonymous - Expand
layweed 2nd-Apr-2012 04:19 pm (UTC)
lol irony
makemerun 2nd-Apr-2012 04:33 pm (UTC)
I seriously thought that this was an April Fool's joke and they meant Ronald, lolomg.

But srsly, it is no secret that Conservatives don't understand what acting means.
sunoftheskye 2nd-Apr-2012 04:38 pm (UTC)
IKR? Jane Fonda is the perfect casting.
little_rachael 2nd-Apr-2012 04:43 pm (UTC)
Conservative butthurt is the best thing to wake up to.
(no subject) - Anonymous - Expand
poetic_pixie_13 2nd-Apr-2012 05:07 pm (UTC)
profbutters 2nd-Apr-2012 10:25 pm (UTC)
Points for the hyena .gif.
atomic_joe2 2nd-Apr-2012 05:18 pm (UTC)
Its a bit like when Meryl Streep played Thatcher and Helen Mirren played the Queen, they both said their own points of view jarred with those that they were playing. Its just a job to most of them I think.
sesmo 2nd-Apr-2012 06:20 pm (UTC)
Did the Conservatives in Britain freak out about a liberal playing Thatcher?
ook 2nd-Apr-2012 05:31 pm (UTC)
Here's a better photo of Nancy Reagan. Jane Fonda actually looks a lot like Nancy.

Edited at 2012-04-02 05:32 pm (UTC)
georgeslymaniv 2nd-Apr-2012 07:31 pm (UTC)
I don't think they look alike at all. They have the same lack of eyebrows going on, that's about it.
beuk 2nd-Apr-2012 06:18 pm (UTC)
dammit now I have this song stuck in my head.

ultra_obscene84 3rd-Apr-2012 03:12 am (UTC)
<3 I sing it all the time.
lovedforaday 2nd-Apr-2012 06:46 pm (UTC)
The right will use Jane Fonda as a bogey man long after she's dead at this point.
madman101 2nd-Apr-2012 07:46 pm (UTC)
i side with the cons

orrin hatch bears a much more striking resemblance
bestdaywelived 2nd-Apr-2012 08:41 pm (UTC)
This made me cackle, because my terrible grandfather HATES "Hanoi Jane", and this will make him angry. FUCK YOU, GRANDPA! He went AWOL during the Korean War, and uses his deployment as an excuse to rip on Asian people, so f him.

It also will piss off my FH's grandparents, who I also hate. They'll probably hear about this on O'Reilly and call him this week to talk about it. Sigh.
ealasaid76 2nd-Apr-2012 09:45 pm (UTC)
Of course! Hanoi Jane portraying Nancy? Oh the horror! LOL

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