A TIMELY LESSON ABOUT
I suppose it’s a positive sign that we can still be disgusted when we hear about some mogul abusing the beautiful women of La La Land. But this is really nothing new.
Gorgeous girls have always faced coercive sexual pressure. Movietown history is replete with tales of open-secret relationships, unacknowledged offspring, wild bacchanalia in the Hollywood Hills, and much else.
Consider the strong advocacy for abortion among the celebrity set. There may be more than Feminist devotion in play.
I’ve met people in the entertainment industry who struck me as genuinely fine human beings.
Others? Not so sure. But then my interactions with them were too brief to allow for more than surface impressions.
The one thing I know is that a public image or on-screen persona can’t be relied upon to tell you much about what someone is like in private life.
In particular, acting is the craft of creating a character. The best actors are those who can mask their true selves. Some of the performers we enjoy most have had terribly sordid stories attached to their names. That’s as true for the stars of yesteryear as it is for those of today.
And it goes as well for people behind the camera.
The Weinstein scandal — and perhaps an even bigger one about Hollywood pederasty that’s beginning to emerge — breaks at a time when certain segments of the entertainment community are claiming a “prophetic” role on the nation’s political scene.
Nary a day passes without some actor, comedian or studio kingpin decrying the imperfections of Donald Trump. He has plenty, to be sure, but it’s no small irony that he once moved comfortably in entertainment circles. Where was the criticism then?
Beyond the Trump-bashing, celebrities have taken to crooning the America-is-inherently-racist song that’s Number-One right now on the social-criticism Hit Parade. For instance, actress Ashley Judd has proclaimed that she wishes to be thought of as…
“a ‘non person of color,’ to designate my whiteness in contrast with ‘person of color.’ It could help address the inherent flaw in whiteness as the default standard….”
She noted that non-white is a commonly used “negating word” in our “white-centric world” which often precedes talking about race and ethnicity. And she wondered if it might be edifying for her…
“to experience what it may be like to have my personhood negated before a conversation even gets started?”
Well, it’s an interesting point, and one that’s not without a certain insight. But I detect a faint whiff of hypocrisy. Given Filmdom’s hyper-competitive atmosphere, how many of her roles would Ashley feel might have been better played by actresses “of color.”
Judd’s analysis of racial nuance in language is deep thinking compared to a tweet from actor Jim Carrey — he of the rubber face and over-the-top characterizations. Speculating on a planned Donald Trump speech, he wrote…
“Tonight in West Virginia @realDonaldTrump is expected to EAT A BABY on stage to the delight of his zombie base.”
That “zombie base” presumably being the denizens of uber-hick West Virginia, many of whom have no doubt paid good money to watch Jim Carrey films over the years. But then, Hollywood long ago decided its audiences deserve little consideration and no respect.
In a blog post of awhile back I quoted conservative talk show host Michael Medved speaking at a Hillsdale College symposium in the early 1990s…
“America’s long-running romance with Hollywood is over. For millions of people, the entertainment industry no longer represents a source of enchantment, of magical fantasy, of uplift, or even of harmless diversion. Popular culture is viewed now as an implacable enemy, a threat to their basic values and a menace to the raising of their children. The Hollywood dream factory has become the poison factory.”
After citing Medved’s words, I observed…
“While Medved was right about the public’s reservations, it really can’t be said that ‘America’s long-running romance with Hollywood is over.’
“What can be said — mumbled with a tone of bewilderment and a scratch of the head— is that no matter what Hollywood contrives to throw at us, people persist in going to the movies and squandering years of life glued to the small screen.”
That’s the real problem.
We’ve recently observed how leaders of the National Football League are having second thoughts about anti-anthem protests conducted by their players. A combination of lowered game attendance, falling TV ratings, and a steady drumbeat of public criticism has forced a reconsideration of their previous hands-off stance.
It’s tempting to think that the entertainment industry is susceptible to similar pressure. But I’ve seen too many failed reform campaigns and boycott efforts to expect much effect. The Hollywood moral culture (or immoral culture, if you prefer) is too deeply engrained. And the craving of entertainers to be taken seriously is too well fed by political posturing and virtue signaling.
What I believe we need is something much more basic — and infinitely harder — a general realization that the people you see on screen aren’t necessarily worth watching. Not because they aren’t talented, but because you can’t assume that they are admirable.
I would also hope for a broader awareness that even if a film or TV show is funny or engaging or thought-provoking, it isn’t necessarily good for you to view it. In fact, the very qualities that draw you into the story might be undermining your moral fortitude and clarity of judgment.
Now … of course … naturally … I must confess that my expectations here are limited.
I’m realistic enough to understand our cultural preoccupation with entertainment and the endless fixation on the lives of so-called celebs. Additionally, I know that people are, to say the least, not always eager to let discernment interfere with their desire to be amused or titillated.
Bette Midler expressed this reality in the 1988 film, “Beaches,” when her fame-hungry actress character described a show in which she was being cast…
“It’s tacky, it’s vulgar, and it will make me a star.”
Or, to paraphrase an observation by the famous journalist and curmudgeon, H.L. Menken…
Nobody ever went broke underestimating the good taste of the American public.
The Harvey Weinstein debacle provides an opportunity to think about the kind of people who create the movies and TV shows we watch. And who somehow believe they are morally empowered to judge the social and political views of their fellow Americans.
Remember poor, sad, fallen Harvey Weinstein the next time you want to fill an empty hour.
Weigh carefully whether you will really benefit from seeing this particular Hollywood offering, and if you really wish to support the personalities involved.
Then go read a good book.
Here’s a link to the Weinstein revelations in The New Yorker…
Apparently, author Ronan Farrow had some difficulty getting an outlet to publish his article. That says a lot about how the major corporate media tend to protect their own, especially those who share the same political preferences (Weinstein has been a big Hillary Clinton supporter). Breitbart News examines some of the efforts undertaken to kill the story…
There seems to be no limit to the pompous twaddle spouted by our so-called celebrities. A good example is Robert Redford’s advice that Donald Trump should step down for the good of the country. Interviewed in Esquire, Redford’s criticism was really directed at American voters…
“You can’t blame him for being who he is. He’s always been like that,” Redford said of Trump. “He’s our fault — that’s how I see it. We let him come to where he is. I’m not so interested in blaming him; that’s being done enough by others.”
“I’m more interested in: How did this happen?” he continued. “We’ve lost our moral foundation, which allows us to go this far over. We’re the ones who let that happen. We should be looking at ourselves.”
Well, examining one’s conscience is always cleansing. But I somehow I don’t believe Redford would include himself and his Hollywood confreres among the penitent…
A rare conservative in Hollywood, Pat Sajak, host of TV’s “Wheel of Fortune” (and incidentally, a member of the Hillsdale College Board of Trustees), tweeted a beautiful retort to show biz self-righteousness…
“OK, let me explain this again: We’re celebs. We’re wiser & more empathetic than you. We are famous. Please take our opinions more seriously.”
For a longer perspective, film critic Nick Schager surveys the Hollywood “casting couch culture” and how it has enabled Harvey Weinstein and others like him. Writing in the Daily Beast, Schager observes that…
“Weinstein was allowed to operate like this, and for so long, because the industry has been all-too-comfortable with the very notion of the casting couch, as if it were a historic Hollywood staple on par with Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and Sunset Boulevard.”