No, this isn’t about Harvey Weinstein per se; he is but the latest in a long string of issues where Hollywood (used here as a proxy for the movie/TV industry as a whole) cannot seem to see its own hypocrisy. People in Hollywood tend to get the large part of their fame from literally pretending to be somebody else. (Yes, I know, it’s called “acting.”) When Hollywood decides to get political, though, they tend to be virulently against anything representing conservative principles and values. The “why” behind that is multi-facted: liberalism sounds more compassionate at first blush; those mean, nasty conservatives are the ones against our edgier art; I’m surrounded by these people and I don’t want to rock the boat.
Whatever the motivation, though, the Weinstein scandal exposes just another area where Hollywood claims to advocate one thing, but their product and actions contradict themselves.
On screens large and small, guns are everywhere. The criminals have them, the police have them (though sometimes the police are the criminals), and the really good guys can use them to fight for good (think Jason Bourne, or the Taken franchise). Yet, more than 9 out of 10 denizens of Hollywood are pro gun-control legislation, to the point where blood was still drying on the pavement in Las Vegas when they began beating that drum again. (I don’t even have time to get into the entire “silencer” thing; I think that they think those work the way they do in the movies, not the way they actually do.)
Well, Hollywood - you’ve shown us how things get resolved. Bringing in the firepower is the way you fix situations.
Hollywood got on the glow-bull warming train a long, long time ago, and has amplified every doomsday and “man is killing the planet” claim that came along. They are so impassioned about this that they attend global conferences about this pressing issue… in their private jets, the mostly-least-efficient way to get there. Their primary homes are large mansions, and they usually have vacation homes as well. (This isn’t simple envy; I’d live in a mansion and get away to my vacation home too - if I could afford it. I just wouldn’t claim that I’m saving the planet from a death sentence while doing it.) The logisitics required to produce a blockbuster movie are staggering - yet they use them time and again, to line their pockets.
Actions speak louder than words; you say it’s a problem, but your behavior tells us otherwise.
Speaking of lining one’s pockets…
Hollywood is greatly concerned with the topic of income inequality. I mean, it’s just not right that women earn 77 cents on the dollar as compared with men! (Well, except for the fact that, in reality, that number was poorly calculated when it first came out, and even that same flawed calculation gives a larger number now.) Yet, Hollywood continues to have very few female leads, and even when they do, there are often also male leads, who are earning double or more for the same film. It may be hard for us to think that there’s really that much difference between $5 million and $10 million.
It’s not just gender issues, either; at every opportunity, they support government programs to give things away, whether it’s medical care, food, or tax exemptions. Of course, it’s the government giving this things away, not them; compared to more conservative parts of the country, charitable contributions are low. In fact, what often passes for “charity” in Hollywood are dinners where the actual stars simply show up; the thousands-per-plate prices are paid by the well-connected but lesser-known people.
Plus - these folks amass their millions off the backs of the ~$10 ticket prices paid by average people. As a generally free-market guy, I’m not faulting them for extracting the value they believe society places on their craft. It does seem to me, though, they could be a bit more magnanimous instead of deriding the very people whose money has given them such a comfortable and fabulous life.
There is one place where actress salaries outpace actor salaries - the adult film industry. Which leads us to…
We’ll talk about Weinstein, et. al. - but let’s look at some history first. For years, decades, Hollywood has ridiculed those of us who have bemoaned the increasing vulgarity and explicit sexuality, telling us that a) it was artistically necessary to advance their story; b) it’s just a fictional story; and c) lighten up, you prudes! Now, I am not unaware of the balancing act between showing enough for people to get the point and not becoming gratuitous (this doesn’t apply exclusively to sexual content). If two people are kissing at the end of a date, the screen fades to black, and the next scene are them both in PJs at the breakfast table - does that not advance the story just as much as an extended scene with nudity, thrusting, and noises?
Traditional sexual morality has never been Hollywood’s interest. At times, the portrayals are setups to show the negative consequences of those actions; more frequently, they’re either just straight titillation, or they’re done by characters for whom we’re now rooting. Their private lives mirror their art; in fact, the term “Hollywood marriage” describes a union of two beautiful people which will only last until the next opportunity comes along.
The “casting couch” has become legend, and enterprising women decided that they could use their assets to break through that way, literally sleeping their way to the top. It’s a terrible thing to spell out that way, but facts are often terrible. Hollywood is not alone in this scenario; business, politics, and sports also have their stories of powerful men who used women for their own pleasure, maybe with the promise of preferential treatment or advancement. I’m glad that they are starting to see that this is a bad deal, but are you the ones telling us conservatives that we have a “War on Women” because we don’t want the government to pay for killing a baby in a woman’s womb?
I doubt anyone from Hollywood is reading this, and it’s already longer than I’d set out to write, so I’ll wrap this up here. I’m glad that a lot of people are coming forward to tell their stories and condemn Harvey Weinstein; it would mean a whole lot more if they had done so before it became trendy to do so. In summary, here’s how I see the recent action taken by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences:
An organization, whose members still include Roman Polanski and Bill Cosby, decided to expel Harvey Weinstein.
This is the first (or last, depending on how you’re reading these) entry in the series “2011 Year in Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous.” 2011 may go down in history as one of the craziest yet. It’ll be tough to narrow it down to just a few things to keep this at a reasonable length - but, we’ll try.
Occupy Wall Street
For me, this was an easy pick. This movement, starting in the fall and continuing in some cities to this day, stands for… well, that’s part of it. They claimed inspiration from the Arab Spring, but had the minor detail that they weren’t under an oppressive regime. They boldly proclaimed that they were the 99% of income earners, railing against the income inequality between themselves and the top 1%. The phrase “I am the 99%” became one of their rallying cries. The main problem with the movement, however, was the absolute lack of a goal. What did they hope to accomplish? A list was posted online, but then others said that this list was not right. I addressed some of the issues surrounding that in my #OWS, Educate Thyself series, so I won’t re-hash that here.
Some claimed that this was the liberal’s response to the conservative Tea Party movement of 2010. However, their rap sheet grew rapidly, including rape, homicide, public indecency, and disturbing the peace. Public health concerns grew over these encampments, evidenced by a tuberculosis outbreak in Atlanta and “Zucotti Lung” among New York’s occupiers. This was no Tea Party. As some within the group tried to organize, others worked against organization, which led to confusion all around.
Then the time came to evict these protesters, which led to even more ridiculousness. Some mayors were more adamant than others, and some even spoke against their own police forces. Pepper spray flew in many cities, and on the campus of the University of California Davis. Occupiers in Portland are trying to shut down ports. As winter sets in, many of the camps have closed, but the aimless angst continues. The needed conversations regarding ridiculous executive compensation and police tactics will likely be drowned out by the shouting.
The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)
This is a late-breaking entry, but it still happened in 2011. This bill gives the US Government the right to redirect Domain Name Service (DNS) entries for sites that host or participate in software piracy to a different site, similar to the ICE domain seizures that have been happening for a while now. There are many problems with this idea (which may sound good to some, on the surface). First, this breaks the DNS system, particularly the upcoming DNS Secure (DNSSec) protocol, which aims to prevent the DNS cache poisoning attacks that are becoming quite prevalent. Secondly, the concept of seizing an entire domain over suspected (not proven) activity circumvents due process; many large sites are approaching common-carrier status, and apart from DMCA take-down notices, aren’t able to police or censor their content. It completely misses the point of how the Internet works. Creating a system like this just invites abuse, which is ironic, considering the law purports to be trying to fight it.
The main forces behind this legislation are the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), two organizations who have shown themselves clueless as to how the Internet works time and time again. This brings in the biggest problem of all. This is the equivalent of the horse-and-buggy lobby writing laws against cars, to ensure their continued existence. There were many fine buggy crafstmen, I’m sure, who were put out of work by these new horseless carriages. Those craftsmen who chose to adapt and learn new skills were successful; those who sat on the sidelines were not.
The RIAA and MPAA have fought tooth and nail against technology for decades. (Anyone remember DAT?) They are slow to adapt. It was said that FM radio was going to kill record sales, because people wouldn’t buy them when they could hear the music for free. The cassette recorder would kill album sales, because people could record music themselves. The VCR would kill movie sales, because people could record movies from TV, cable, and LaserDiscs. They’ve proved themselves on the wrong side of technology at nearly every turn, and they’re wrong here. Their current efforts are doing two things - frustrating people like Tom Merritt, who want to comply with the law, and encouraging piracy.
Back in 2008, a young girl named Caylee Anthony disappeared in Florida. Her mom reported her missing, and a half a year later, her remains were found. Through the police investigation, the clues they found all pointed toward one conclusion - her mother Casey had killed her and hidden her body. I won’t recount all the details for that - you can see them at that link. It’s not ridiculous, it’s just sad.
The ridiculous parts of this, though, were plentiful. The first was the “Trial of the Century” hype; this was, to some extent, a self-fulfilling prophecy. The media should cover the story, they should not be the story. The trial should have been covered, but the circus that was the trial was absolutely ridiculous. The second was Casey’s behavior. Her daughter is dead, she knows about it (according to her testimony), yet she’s out partying like there’s no tomorrow. Even if that were her regular M.O., I can assure you that if one of my children is missing, I wouldn’t be occupying my usual schedule. The third was her defense - Caylee died in the pool, and she was too scared to call the police, instead dumping the child’s body and instigating a huge manhunt for this child. Really? And her parents supported her in these claims! The fourth was the verdict - not guilty. There was so much wrong with this case, even if there wasn’t enough for capital murder, there were lesser charges that were also found not guilty.
The narrative is drama-filled, Casey is an attractive young lady, so this story is probably not done. I wish it were. I hesitated on putting her on this list, because attention to people like this only encourages them.
This seemed to be the year when many folks found out how Twitter works the hard way. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) tweeted a picture of his (let’s just say “namesake”) to a follower. Instead of using a direct message, which is private, he simply typed an @ symbol followed by the follower’s name, which is public to whoever views his timeline. He claimed to have been hacked; these claims were refuted, and he admitted to sending the message, as well as to many indiscretions against his newly-pregnant wife. He resigned his seat in the wake of this.
Other celebrities had trouble with the filter that’s supposed to sit between the texting fingers and the brain. Gilbert Gottfried tweeted jokes about the Japanese tsunami, and was dropped as the voice of the AFLAC duck. Ashton Kutcher tweeted his support of Penn State’s Joe Paterno in the wake of Paterno’s firing, which he later clarified once he learned the reasons behind. Alec Baldwin explored a New York mayoral run via Twitter, and ended up canceling his account after being booted from an airline flight for failing to turn off his iPad. His reason? Words with Friends. And, early in the year, Twitter was one of the places where Charlie Sheen’s epic breakdown unfolded, giving birth to the hashtag #WINNING.
As with all of these reviews, this is nowhere close to an exhaustive list; but, that’ll do. Some of these are ongoing; we’ll hope and pray that if they make next year’s list, it’ll be on the good list due to their dissolution.
Continuing the tradition started last year, I’m writing a three-part series “2007 Year in Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous.” And, as I did last year, I’ll post them in reverse order so they’re in the right order when they’re done. Without further ado…
Global Glow-Bull Warming
During 2007, the global warming movement was exposed for the political, not scientific, issue that it is. As with any movement which sees its power diminished, its adherents ramped up their rhetoric; and, in many ways, the movement has become a parody of itself. In April, Sheryl Crow suggested limiting how much toilet paper we use at each sitting, and suggested we wear “dining sleeves” - devices on which we can wipe our mouths, then remove them and replace them with a clean one. (I’m not sure if the extra water for that laundry offsets the lack of a paper napkin - and wouldn’t cloth napkins do the same thing?)
Carbon offsets were also shown to be next to useless. Carbon offsets, for the uninitiated, are fees one pays to a company which claims to do something “environmentally friendly” to offset one’s carbon emissions. (If that sounds familiar, it should - I believe this technique was pioneered by the Roman Catholic church under the name “indulgences.” Can’t stop sinning? Just get forgiveness beforehand!) A group of three environmentally-conscious people (not right-wing fanatics) created a site called CheatNeutral. It aspires to create a network of fidelity to offset those who cheat on their significant others. It illustrates the point beautifully - ten faithful people mean nothing if you’re the one being cheated on.
In October, Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on global warming, including his film An Inconvenient Truth. Inconveniently, though, many of the claims made in his film have been debunked. Also, a site called Surface Stations shows some of these temperature monitoring stations - these are the stations whose readings have been used to claim that temperatures are increasing. However, many stations are by air conditioning exhausts and other heat-producing structures. Finally, in December, at a UN conference in Bali on global warming, the man leading the negotiations broke down and cried. It must be rough to see all that power slipping away.
Never-Ending Political Cycle
I won’t talk much about this, because I’m pretty much tired of it just when it becomes time for it to actually happen. Do we really need a 2-year period of time to pick our next President?
This could probably be a ridiculous item every year, but this year seemed especially ridiculous. Earlier in the year, after Anna Nicole Smith passed away, a circus erupted over the paternity of her young daughter. I don’t even know where to start - if every one who claimed that they were the father had a relationship with her that would result in a child in the timeframe where it would be believable… Sheesh.
Train wrecks all over - Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears… Even Britney’s sister got into the fray. The biggest problem I have with all this is the amount of press they get, distracting people from other important issues. But, I don’t know whether to be more exasperated with the media for putting out the information, or the people who give it such good ratings that they keep pumping it out.
That’s enough ridiculousness for one year - up next, the bad…
I’m going to be writing a 3-part series of posts entitled “2006 Year in Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous”. I’m posting them in reverse order, though, so that once all three are out, you can read from top to bottom and it will read correctly. Plus, that saves the best for last. So, without further ado, here are my picks for the most ridiculous things of 2006.
On May 1st, the issue of illegal immigration became the subject of a massive rally. Across the nation, legal and illegal immigrants did not show up for work, but rather took to the streets to march for “immigrant rights.” It infuriates me greatly how much this issue is misrepresented. First of all, no one (generally speaking - there are bigots everywhere) doesn’t want legal immigrants here. From Germany to Japan to Mexico to Brazil, from Poland to South Africa to France, any legal immigrant is welcome, as well they should. What the proponents of illegal immigration are doing is equating illegal aliens with legal immigrants. It is true, we are a nation of immigrants - but with the current situation in the world, forcing foreign nationals to abide by our immigration procedures seems to me to be a simple security no-brainer.
Thankfully, this day did not achieve what it set out to achieve. Many groups of people made a point of purchasing lots of goods, and patronizing businesses that were open on that day. In fact, as one pundit points out, the main point of the protests (that America’s economy needs illegals working in it) was proved false. And, in the last month, raids at Swift meatpacking plants have proved this again, as hundreds of legal Americans are applying for the jobs that are now open. (Note that in that last story, they still use the term “undocumented workers” - grrrr!)
Back in March, allegations were made by a stripper who performed at a party for the Duke University lacrosse team that she had been raped by three people at the party. There were many, many overreactions to this charge, as there always seem to be when sexual allegations occur - the accused become guilty until proven innocent. The season was canceled, and the coach resigned. As news began to leak about the case, allegations were made that the accuser was less than honest, and had actually had consensual sex later in the evening - hardly what a rape victim would do. There was also news that DNA collected did not match any of the accused lacrosse players.
This month, the stripper has had a child - a child whose DNA does not match any of the accused. District Attorney Mike Nifong has now dropped the charges. At the time, he had been accused of filing these charges as an election-year stunt; and now that some have been dropped, those who made those accusations have been at least partially proved right. However, none of this gives the team back what was taken from them; and, these baseless accusations of rape only serve to weaken the charge against the next alleged perp - a perp who might actually have done something illegal.
(Links: None - this is a family website!)
It was a banner year for the paparazzi, who managed to not only continue their tradition of invasive photographs of celebrities, but also photograph the nether regions of Paris Hilton, Lindsey Lohan, and Britney Spears. While none of these women have been role models for many, many years, I guess they are now serving as role models - of what not to do. I don’t follow pop culture all that closely (although I have been known to catch an episode or two of Best Week Ever) - much of it seems to bring one question to my mind, over and over again, that being “who cares?” But for those of us with children, who want them raised apart from this, we have to care a little.
That’s not really all the things I found ridiculous about 2006 - but, those are the biggest ones that came to mind. Here’s hoping the list is smaller in 2007.