The trouble with Mrs. Eastwood and Company
Ever a late convert to trends, I have overcome my aversion to reality shows. I don't watch them regularly and I don't PVR them, but I tolerate them. Now, sometimes, after an exhausting week, nothing cleanses my mental palate like an hour or two of the Kardashians dishing about marital problems while looking incredibly bored and playing with their hair extensions.
During a recent channel-surfing-while-vacuuming occasion, I came upon a new reality show with a premise that made me really, really sad - and sent me frantically searching for the more comfortable waters of Ice Loves Coco.
That new show was E! network's baby: Mrs. Eastwood and Company.
Now, the protagonist Dina Ruiz (aka Mrs. Eastwood) is not the worst of the lot. A former TV reporter and current manager of Overtone, a boy band from South Africa, she seems downright meritorious compared to most of her reality TV brethren. She's also charming, with a folksy, no-nonsense quality. She says things like: "When my husband and I got married, I was 30 and he was 65. If you don't think that's weird, check your pulse."
The problem is, of course, that said husband is Clint Eastwood. Yes, Dirty Harry himself. He of "serious, respected director" fame.
He's the man behind epic, sweeping American dramas about feisty underdogs and sad, troubled "winners" -- depicted in grim shades of black and blue. He's the man who has Morgan Freeman, Hilary Swank and Matt Damon on speed dial. He's the man who might be accused of being boring, didactic and sentimental in his filmmaking, but never of being flippant.
'He's more than an actor-turned-director...He's an icon of American filmmaking. He isn't Ozzy Osbourne and he isn't Bruce Jenner'-- Deana Sumanac
Judging from the first episode, Clint limits his appearances to cameos -- normal family things like attending a wedding with Dina or sharing a hug with his teenage daughter, Morgan.
Here's the rub: I don't want to know those things about Clint Eastwood.
I don't want to know about his pet pig. I don't want to know that another daughter (from a previous relationship with Frances Fisher) looks like a spoiled brat as she declares: "I'm Francesca and I'm an Eastwood girl."
In my mind, when Clint chastises his children, he offers one of those memorable one-liners of his that puts them in their place. Or perhaps he gives them that one look -- tough and weathered and disappointed by life -- that makes them vow never to misbehave again.
This isn't the Clint I picture him from his movies and it's not the Clint I've encountered on the red carpet. While promoting Hereafter at the Toronto International Film Festival a few years back, he tore himself away from the film's star Matt Damon and the crowd of media because he spotted the great Roger Ebert, queuing like a normal person waiting to get into the movie. At the time, the critic was recovering from cancer surgery that required removing part of his lower jaw.
Clint rushed towards Ebert and hugged him like a long-lost brother. He spoke in concerned tones with Ebert's wife, Chaz. Needless to say, the couple wasn't waiting in line after that.
Mrs. Eastwood & Company stars, from left, Dina Eastwood, Morgan Eastwood and Francesca Eastwood. (Evan Agostini/Associated Press)
He's more than an actor-turned-director who exudes a strong silent masculinity. He's an icon of American filmmaking. He isn't Ozzy Osbourne and he isn't Bruce Jenner. Here is a man whose very fame rests, and has always rested, on him being so darn serious.
Perhaps Clint did not like this reality show idea. Perhaps his wife, having spent her 30s and 40s raising his children and neglecting her own career while he was making movies, finally said: "I want my own show! I have a personality, and I want people to know about it."
While I like this possibility, I also realize that Hollywood marriages aren't like our real-life partnerships: things like "public image" and "mystique" are real currencies for Hollywood couples. Could you imagine Catherine Zeta-Jones doing a show without Michael Douglas' consent? Exactly. There goes my theory. Clint must be into this.
Does a reality show -- albeit one in which he is culpable only by association -- mean he is no longer the Clint of my imagination? Of course not. But does Mrs. Eastwood and Company sully his brand? In my mind, the answer is yes, big time.
In terms of actor-turned-directors and the kind of influence they wield, the only person of equal stature to Clint is Robert Redford. Tell me this: would you take Redford as seriously -- from his Sundance Film Festival to his efforts to stop the Keystone Pipeline -- if you saw him in a reality show?
As Mrs. Eastwood says: "If you think this isn't weird, check your pulse."
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