Contemporary television melodrama isn't my usual fare, mainly because invariably the bad guys will do anything for a buck and the good ones are good simply by meaning well for the downtrodden. But NBC-TV's recent showing of the two-part soap opera The Golden Moment had the plot to intrigue the cultural anthropologist in me, if not the aesthete.
Actually, the plot of the movie is a variation on an old familiar theme: American boy—a cowboy to boot—trains for the Moscow Olympics, in the most arduous of all events, the decathlon. At an early US visit by the Russians, he meets demure and entirely wonderful gymnast, and they promptly mistake having a joyful time as deep romantic love. From then on the question is, will the cowboy make it to the games?
No mere athletic ambition motivates our young sensitive stud. He has heart, unlike the man everyone must beat, a fellow who is called the black shadow and who is so obviously being primed for major media and related exploitation once he wins the gold that only the crassest of commercialists wouldn't look askance at this rendering of the essence of Americana. (Ed McMahon has the role of the greedy businessman in this one, evidently trying to live down his decades of pitching anything to us on TV in his real life.)
Now the story isn't worth a lot of telling, believe me. There is just one element of it that needs to be said good and hard. Its politics, the bit of it we get here, is vile. After the all-so-wonderful Russian gymnast wins her gold, and our hero, who did make the games and won the silver, the two discuss their prospects for togetherness. From the bozo who wrote this script we get a monologue on loyalty to family, community, and country—in this case the good old USSR—which only a true-blue fascist (outside of, of course, a communist) could appreciate fully.
After our sobbing gymnast explains why the two infants—which is the only way to look at the mindless characters these two play—cannot join because she cannot possibly leave her country to which she owes all so much and defecting from which would be oh such a heinous betrayal, one cannot escape the thought that NBC-TV concocted this atrocity before the US team had to withdraw, somewhat on the order of a burnt offering to the Kremlin. The insult embodied against all the Einsteins, Nureyevs, Baryshnikovs, and thousands less famous who had the courage to risk life and limb to flee tyranny is so gross, so blatant, that it overshadows the flick's attack on American capitalism via the bit with Ed McMahon and "the black shadow."
If anyone ever believed that help toward the realization of freedom is going to come our way via NBC-TV, forget it. All these folks seem to know is how to denigrate themselves and their own best friend, the free society, for thirty pieces of silver.
Tibor Machan is a senior editor of REASON.