If conservatives had any doubts that Hollywood was a propaganda arm of the Democratic Party, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd did her best to dispel them in a recent piece. Claiming that the White House was giving "top-level access" to filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal as they research their upcoming movie about the killing of Osama bin Laden, Dowd wrote that "the White House had outsourced the job of manning up the president's image to Hollywood" and that the film's scheduled release date — one month before the 2012 presidential election — was "perfectly timed to give a home-stretch boost to a campaign that has grown tougher."
For Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), a frequent critic of President Obama's national security policies, Dowd's column must have seemed like a gift. He quickly fired off a letter to the CIA and the Pentagon requesting an investigation into whether the Obama administration had divulged secrets about tactics or assets to the filmmakers. There's nothing to suggest it has, or that it has given Bigelow and Boal any greater access than military and government leaders have been granting to Hollywood for decades. But more interesting than King's allegations is the question of the film's timing.
Bin Laden's killing ranks among the most important achievements of Obama's tenure. If Bigelow, director of the Oscar-winning "The Hurt Locker," makes a movie that glamorizes the president's role, it could be seen as a feature-length campaign commercial — or as some conservative critics are calling it, an "October surprise" tilting the election Obama's way. That's certainly what Dowd implied. Bigelow and Boal counter that the movie will chronicle the efforts of three presidential administrations to capture Bin Laden and that his defeat was "an American triumph, both heroic and nonpartisan, and there is no basis to suggest that our film will represent this enormous victory otherwise."
Well, OK … but there's still the issue of timing. Why release the film on Oct. 12, 2012, just 25 days before the election, if not to influence the outcome? We suspect we know the answer, though it won't satisfy anybody in the conservative blogosphere. Sony Pictures, the movie's distributor, is a lot more interested in making money than in backing Democrats, and the run-up to an election — when Americans are fired up about politics and current events — is the ideal time to maximize box-office returns on an action movie rife with politics and current events.
As far as we know, there won't be any October 2012 premieres for feature films about the personal triumphs of, say, Mitt Romney or Michele Bachmann. But if somebody wants to produce one, that's OK with us.