A lot of ink’s been spilled over Oliver Stone‘s allegedly “sympathetic” portrayal of the current White House incumbent, though I’m wondering if sympathy has anything to do with what’s actually going down in W. Since desperation seems more the point: “How can I turn this presidential horse’s ass into a viable dramatic character, with issues people can relate to and connect with in a straightforward, empathic way. Because there’s no interiority to speak of, just an ambulatory version of Oakland, California, so where’s the emotional hook? Decisions, decisions—sweetheart, get me rewrite!”

Not about history then, or personal biography or fidelity to fact, but how to make a vacancy seem substantial. A dramatic problem, in other words, not a political one, and for Stone the solution’s as simple as it is, in the final analysis, devastating: make that vacancy transparent, like a modern version of Candide. Ergo George W. Bush, last innocent in a roomful of cynics and scoundrels, the only one at the security briefing who never quite gets the drift. Like the hermaphrodite baby in Fellini Satyricon, an innocent monstre sacre who needs to be cosseted and coddled, so he can blithely go on whistling through apocalypse (like Voltaire’s Lisbon earthquake) and everyone else just rolls his/her eyes or shuts down nonaffirmative discussion. Which, at least in Condi Rice/Thandie Newton‘s case, never gets started in the first place.

One obvious problem with this strategy—”To the pure of heart all things are pure”—is that Mr. Transparency can’t be allowed to know more than what comes out of his mouth. But everyone else can—implying that everyone else is guilty, of complicity with the compromised and monstrous that one extremely benighted individual doesn’t even know exists. But which is more insulting to the biographical subject—an innocence to “save the appearances,” the very possibility of drama, or just applying the hatchet directly? Which you could argue Stone does anyway without ever blowing his cover. “Moi, not evenhanded?—but look how likable I’ve made the guy!”

A different kind of “innocence,” like transparency with a vengeance. Or maybe it’s misunderestimation.