Anatomy of a Column
eggy Noonan was sitting in her kitchen, and mumbled “it’s morning in America” to the life-size cut out of Ronald Wilson Reagan (“the greatest president of the last half of the last century, probably the greatest president ever”) as she quaffed her orange juice. “Vodka, “ she giggled, “it’s not just for breakfast.”
Peggy stumbled to her feet, her ample calves being sore from last night’s singalong with “West Side Story” down at her favorite new watering hole, The Chelsea Pier, where she had decided in a madcap moment to play the role of Anita and hoofed-up a storm. Her nemesis the 6-foot Nancy Reagan (“complete with five-o’clock shadow, just like the real one”) had played Maria. Noonan was amused to note that she was still wearing her 1950s-era skirt with petticoats, and had a big bow in her hair, slatternly drooping to one side.
Noonan turned to Dutch and reported sadly to her old boss,
The new “West Side Story” is, so far, a box-office flop. Steven Spielberg’s much-anticipated remake of the landmark 1961 musical received rave reviews and has been called a masterpiece. Yet its first weekend theatrical release yielded only $10.5 million, which Variety called “a dismal result for a movie of its scale and scope.”
Noonan hummed off key Somewhere —hoping Ronnie would get the hint— and continued, pondered why the new version isn’t a smash hit:
What happened? The entertainment press has offered possible explanations. With new coronavirus variants emerging, people don’t feel comfortable in theaters. The audience for musicals skews older, the demographic with most reason to be timid. It’s the casting: No one’s ever heard of the stars. Ticket prices are too high. People are out shopping. Who wants to see a remake of a classic? Maybe the audience for movie musicals is simply over.
There’s probably something to all of these.
The speechwriter in her rose from the shallow depths of her soul and she declared what really went wrong with the film:
One is that some who’d be part of the movie’s natural audience might not have gone because they assumed it would be woke because most of what comes out of Hollywood is woke, and they experience wokeness as a form of intellectual and moral harassment. People don’t want to see something they love traduced, so they’d stay away.
The Dutch cutout grinned at Noonan, and addressed her. “Peggy, “America” the song Anita sings is as woke as it gets, it’s all about American ideals and failure to achieve them. It’s probably the most American song ever.”
Noonan’s hand, ever birdlike, fluttered up to her pearl necklace, a gift from the great man himself, and blushing agreed with him:
It’s not woke, it’s wonderful.
(New Readers: The Further Adventures of Peggy Noonan is a sometimes feature of lo! many, many years where we parody the much-quoted Reagan hagiographer Peggy Noonan to try to understand the genesis of her Declarations column in the WSJ. We do not know if Noonan really knows the words to “Somewhere”, but to paraphrase the Great Writer herself, “Is it irresponsible to speculate? It would be irresponsible not to.” – Bacardi Lifetime Achievement Winner, Peggy Noonan, Wall St. Journal, April 2000.)