It has been a tough 6 months for Hollywood. When a long-in-existence sex scandal involving Harvey Weinstein was revealed last October the entertainment complex has been shaken with how to grapple with a monumental problem: Common Americans were lecturing that industry on being socially forthright. That is not their place! Hollywood is supposed to lecture us on what is appropriate behavior!
The irony of course is the denizens of Dream Land are long known to be operating a pit of sinful inequities, so their desire to tell us what is morally upright is a mixture of amusement and intolerable repugnancy. What has become commonplace is that when Hollywood is found to be in violation of social comportment their reaction is to then condemn the rest of the nation as being out of line. Look at the past few Oscar ceremonies as an example.
Two years ago the social scolds who constantly berate us on racial issues offered up a slate of Oscar nominees so monochrome in appearance that it spawned a hashtag — #OscarsSoWhite. A number of celebrities came forward to decry this reality, and the nation was of course condemned in the process. Somehow when Hollywood exhibited white privilege this was held up as proof that the USA was a “racist nation”.
Likewise they reacted when the issue of female pay disparity came up. The cannard of females being paid $0.77 on the male Dollar of course took root in Burbank. However when the focus was turned back on Hollywood it revealed their own pay discrepancies, as well as women holding a fraction of the the positions of power in the studio system. Again, this was used as a cudgel to bludgeon how we as a country marginalized women.
The Weinstein scandal has been tougher for them to pawn off on the rest of us. For one, the mogul’s sexual predations confirmed the long-standing cliched practice of “The Casting Couch” in the industry. Second, Harvey was found to be at this practice for decades, which was open knowledge to many who work in the entertainment field. This was a problem they were aware of, and permitted — there was little hope of foisting this unacceptable behavior on the collective nation.
Following a couple of months of mounting names being drummed out of the entertainment business for decades of previously acceptable behavior it was apparent that as awards season approached something had to be said. At the Golden Globes the celebrities pretended to care by dressing in black gowns, and they invited female rights activists to join them on the red carpet. One thing they didn’t do: invite the actual actresses who had been victimized by the industry.
With each successive ceremony they revised the message, until for The Oscars they did the correct thing and brought out the very ladies who helped break open the Weinstein scandal — and then managed to spin the entire issue into a different narrative, almost instantly. It began respectfully enough, as Ashley Judd, Annabella Sciorra, and Salma Hayek came out together, a trio who have directly been impacted by Weinstein’s acts. Yet as there was a feeling of bravely addressing the issue something else transpired.
For one there was no direct mention at all of the activities, and neither Weinstein nor any other aggressor was named. Sciorra opened things by saying, “Hi, it’s nice to see you all again, it’s been a while.” This referenced the fact that she had effectively been blacklisted following her traumatic episode. However that was the closest they would get to directly addressing the 600 pound rapist gorilla in the room. Soon they began to introduce the upcoming video, which would address the various new faces and demographics being represented in film.
The montage was a series of interviews with a mixed bag of film makers representing a new diversity of Hollywood, and it was essentially instructing the audience to be accepting of these various new faces and voices. Greta Gerwig was displayed as a female director, for example. Then actor/writer Kumail Nanjiani came up and explained that he was always able to enjoy movies with straight white dudes, so straight white dudes can now watch movies starring him — “And you’ll relate to that. It’s not that hard, I’ve been doing it my whole life.”
So…wait. What happened to the sex scandal discussion?! In a flash we went from tacit acknowledgement of severely bad behavior within the gates of the studios to immediately into a segue that could have been entitled “How to watch movies with different types of people: An Audience Primer”. This was a doubly amazing piece of brazen celluloid because if there is an issue with minority groups finding their way onto the screen, it rests with the studios.
The message here is not subtle; “We’re putting diverse roles on screen — you rubes are going to have to accept this change!” It was pathetic deflection. The industry has been caught fostering deeply disturbing behavior, for decades, and they are content to posture as if they addressed the problem even while it attempts to focus instead on the audience being rooted with a resistance to race and gender roles.
This attempt is all the more pathetic based on their own examples. Look at the films presented in their montage displaying these new roles. “Wonder Woman” was a blockbuster last summer. “Black Panther” is currently setting box office records. Even Nanjiani’s small independent film, “The Big Sick”, was a surprise hit out of Sundance last year. None of this is of a particular surprise. These were popular titles.
This should then become readily apparent to studios. Audiences have accepted these diverse roles, meaning the implication that we need to be more accepting is garbage, so you can save the lecture. Once you get your own house in order maybe then you can counsel others, but until then you better be busy fixing your own damned mess.
Now, about that sex scandal…
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