If a man can have a wild assortment of sexual affairs and pay no
price for it, why not a woman? That is the question put with dreadful
solemnity by the new movie “The Contender.” The woman in question is
about to be appointed vice president of the United States. Should her
sexual escapades make any difference? Why can’t a woman vice president
mess around as much as a man? Should the American people have any
objection to a slut as vice president?

“The Contender” says absolutely not. (The case of Gary Hart is
scrupulously not considered.) In the very last minutes of the movie,
incidentally, it turns out that the woman is not a slut after all, but a
pure and wonderful creature. The reason why there is a misunderstanding
is that, on her way to confirmation as vice president, Laine Hanson
(Joan Allen) has been unwilling to answer any questions whatsoever about
her private life. They would be an invasion of her privacy, she
declares stirringly — although it turns out that she could have
answered with a simple “no,” as she never did participate in a gang bang
when she was in college after all. But, as she is a woman of high
principle, she refuses to answer the question.

Wow! Now there’s really high principle. Sen. Hanson (for she is a
senator) will not allow her privacy to be violated, you see. Nor will
she tell any lies. When asked at a hearing if she believes in God, she
answers with no equivocation, “No.” “I’m an atheist.” So, the American
political system is tested by the appointment as vice president of a
female thought to be a gang-banger and an atheist. I told you this was
a daring movie. “But don’t you believe in anything?” she is asked
during the hearing.

Why, of course she believes in something, she declares. She believes
in “here,” she says, indicating by hand gesture the room in which the
hearing is taking place. Anything else? Well, she believes in
“choice,” “civil rights,” “affirmative action,” “equal pay for women,”
— continuing with the most politically correct list of objectives I’ve
seen in quite a while.

The curious part about all this is not the political correctness of
Sen. Hanson’s agenda, but that she offers it as a kind of replacement
for religion, a godhead. Nor, amid all her moralism, does she descend
to anything as vulgar as the Bill of Rights. All kinds of riffraff
believe in the Bill of Rights, but Sen. Hanson’s agenda is far more
elevated. If it recognizes the divine inspiration of any gospel, it is
the Gospel According to Saint Gloria (Steinem), which begins with Saint
Gloria compelled to wait on tables at a Playboy Club. This, I suppose,
is her penance for all humankind. Jesus is crucified and Saint Gloria
has to do the “bunny hop” at a Playboy Club.

Getting toward the end of the film, the president (Jeff Bridges)
convokes a joint session of Congress to confirm the first female vice
president. He makes a speech against Laine Hanson’s enemies strongly
reminiscent of a celebrated speech made against Joseph McCarthy at the
height of Hollywood’s anti-Communist purges. Asks Mr. Bridges, “Have
you no shame, sir?”

In fact, the whole screenplay leaves no doubt that anyone who opposes
a female atheist and gang-banger as vice-president is on the same moral
level as Joseph McCarthy. That seems to be the whole point of the
movie. Because it should be remembered that, although Joseph McCarthy
was unquestionably a demagogue, Hollywood at the time had its share of
Marxist-Leninists — people who were completely disloyal to the United
States. I would not put atheists and gang-bangers in the same category,
whether male or female.

When I was invited to see an advance screening of “The Contender,” I
was told it was a White House drama comparable to “The West Wing,” “An
American President” and “Dave.” What I saw was a movie as morally
nuanced as “Little Red Ridinghood.” The candidate for the first female
vice president of the United States and all starry-eyed feminists are
Little Red Ridinghood. Their opponents are the wolf. Now who can call
a story like that slanted?

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