By now moviegoers are used to the amusing sight of TV news anchors and local on-air reporters used as props in fictional dramas, playing themselves. It’s a cute bit of meta, a concept that blurs fantasy and reality when, say, Larry King or Chris Matthews plays along, commenting on a made-up character as if he or she were real, while counting on name recognition and audience admiration of the Playing-Himself’s actual celebrity to complete the circuitry of the joke. I’m never comfortable with this sightgag in even the most innocuous of situations; to me it’s all too easy a demonstration that journalism, with all its vaunted pride in independence, is separated by just one Hollywood cameo from the entertainment it purports to cover with integrity. But most of the time I shrug off the cheesiness of the gag because, hey, it’s Larry King, for heaven’s sake. We’re not talking about Walter Cronkite here.
But now comes Iron Man 2, in which Christiane Amanpour has a passing cameo as Christiane Amanpour, instantly recognizable as the world-famous, highly respected CNN reporter who is primed to take over in August as anchor of ABC’s serious news-analysis show, This Week. And I felt my heart turn to palladium, just like Tony Stark’s high-tech ticker. Et tu, Mme. Amanpour? I know it’s a small thing, I know it shouldn’t matter, I’m sure the fine journalist had fun and her participation probably thrilled her 10-year-old son, and I have no doubt the lark in no way interferes with her ability to report fairly on an entertainment business story involving a comic-book superhero, let alone to interview the President of Taiwan. When I write more fully about the movie next week, Amanpour’s gig won’t even get a mention.
I just wish she had said no, and kept reality separate from comic-book fiction. So I wanted to mention that now. I take it this doesn’t bother you the way it does me…does it?