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cultural vandal | by maryann johanson

should a movie critic be America’s top pundit?

Forbes.com has rated the pundits, and guess who comes out on top?

While the results show that plenty of cable talking heads like Bill O’Reilly, Lou Dobbs and Geraldo Rivera score highly, the most powerful pundit in America is veteran film critic Roger Ebert, who appeals to 70% of the demographic and whose long career makes him well known to well over half the population. A longtime writer for the Chicago Sun-Times, he’s been offering up his cinematic views on television with partners Gene Siskel (from 1975-1999) and Richard Roeper (since 1999) for 32 years.

Um, what?

Look, I love movies and all, and I think there are important things to be said about them, and even important things to be gleaned from the most popular movies about where our society is at, but still: Is it me, or is there something very, very screwy at work, particularly in these politically and culturally contentious times, when America’s top pundit is not someone who is dealing primarily with the absolute disaster the U.S. is mired in?

Worse:

Ebert leads a list we compiled by scoring candidates on awareness and likability measurements among respondents within the demographic gold mine of advertisers–those between the ages of 25 and 54, with a college degree, making at least $50,000 annually.

So it’s the best educated and best off, financially, who esteem Ebert over all other pundits, the very people you might think would have some interest in, oh, I dunno, some NPR guy or something.

Could there be a reason Ebert punditificates the bestest, or whatever?

Ebert, despite being limited to print reviewing over the past year as he battles cancer, is viewed by the public as intelligent, experienced and articulate, the three most common traits associated with the top 10 list. And his widespread appeal makes sense. Unlike political pundits who bring a liberal or conservative voice to the table, his strong opinions are generally confined to individual movies. Hence, he’s not drawing cheers from half the population and jeers from the other half.

Oh, dude: if you’re not pissing people off with your movie reviews, are you really doing your job?

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