Hollywood might be lean and mean, but it wields “soft power”

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The downside to being a hyperpower with no exports other than pop culture? Not everyone likes being force-fed Nicole Ritchie and Lindsay Lohan.

(Come to think of it, neither do Lindsay or Nicole, by the looks of them.)

Anyway, next week’s New York Times Magazine offers an interesting criticism of America’s growing “soft power” from Josef Joffe, the publisher-editor of the German weekly Die Zeit.

“Now shift forward to the Cannes Film Festival of 2004, where hundreds of protesters denounced America’s intervention in Iraq until the police dispersed them. The makers of the movie “Shrek 2” had placed large bags of green Shrek ears along the Croisette, the main drag along the beach. As the demonstrators scattered, many of them put on free Shrek ears. “They were attracted,” noted an observer in this magazine, “by the ears’ goofiness and sheer recognizability.” And so the enormous pull of American imagery went hand in hand with the country’s, or at least its government’s, condemnation.”

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Given that the war in Iraq is going even more spectacularly than it was in 2004, and considering the French police are planning on going on strike at this year’s Cannes, we’re wondering what new Hollywood tchotcke will become the standard-bearer for anti-America dissent.

“Over the Hedge” racoon masks? “Wolverine” claws? Silas the Albino Monk cowls?

The mind boggles.