Darkness behind the silver screen
One of the most telling tales of modern Hollywood is North Korea’s hacking of Sony Pictures’ internal emails a few years ago. This stunt was in retaliation for Seth Rogan and James Franco’s goofball comedy “The Interview” and exposed embarrassing secrets that ultimately led the resignation of Sony co-chair Amy Pascal. But it had more to do with the mockery of President Obama’s race than the lampoon on Kim Jong-un and a fictional assassination. One cringe-worthy email conversation revealed an assumption that President Obama would prefer movies starring black actors.
Faced with the threat of public release of more hacked emails — and more dark secrets coming out — Sony caved in and initially cancelled the world release of “The Interview.”
With the recent emergence of sexual harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein and other Tinseltown figures, we get to understand the depth of depravity and sick sense of entitlement of this industry. Hollywood’s condescending attitude toward its broader audience is apparent. It mocks the American culture by assuming that Americans have facile and narrow tastes. By American culture, I’m not just talking about New York and Los Angeles, but all of that “flyover country.” Yep, that’s what they call middle America. It’s like Howard Stern casually undermining Guam’s creative talent. Not cool.
Surprise blockbuster hits such as “Slumdog Millionaire” “The Passion of the Christ” and maybe even the new movie “Wonder” show that a good movie doesn’t have to be an established intellectual property or a genre picture to succeed outside the art house circuit in coastal markets. “Wonder” is about a boy with a disfigured face, ironically coming from an industry obsessed with perfect looks and impossible body types. It’s a big success but not typical. Hollywood time and again pumps out endless sequels, Transformer movies and Roland Emmerich/Dean Devlin blandness with further and further diminishing returns, at least domestically. This persistent pattern betrays not only an arrogance, but a true cultural and values disconnect.
Sure, some dismissed the greater assertion of an out of touch, corrupt and unhealthy Hollywood. Just a few rumors or bad apples. Then along came Harvey Weinstein. The revelation of that scandal was more overdue than my college library books. Weinstein is a name that’s sure to go down in history among monsters like Bernie Madoff and even Charles Manson. Weinstein and his “cult” of protectors and lawyers destroyed lives, careers and threatened dozens, maybe hundreds of others.
Then came similar allegations against Kevin Spacey, coming from pretty much everyone that had professional (or unprofessional) contact with him. Next came director James Toback, with 38 women accusing him of sexual assault or harassment. Don’t forget, former 80s child star Corey Feldman has said he was abused by multiple men in a pedophile ring that also targeted his co-star Corey Haim, who eventually succumbed to substance abuse.
Many so-called A-list stars came out with stories of rampant harassment when they were starting out in Hollywood. They aren’t outliers. Some have said “Well, this is true in every industry, it’s not unique to Hollywood.” I beg to differ. I think the scale of the problem here is unique to Hollywood due to its lack of morality and its hyper-competitive atmosphere. Sure, sexual harassment and other forms of abuse happen in every industry. But just like not every restaurant with sanitation issues has deadly botulism, not every industry has the same scale of problem with sexual harassment.
The great irony here is that Hollywood seems to never tire of criticizing the values and lifestyle of hardworking Americans, who pay their taxes and pay for the tickets that bankroll Hollywood. They never tire of telling us how to live and to change our values to suit their so-called progressiveness. But when I see them driving a Prius and taking private jets to a vacation home, I can’t take their waving fingers seriously. They need to keep their fingers and everything else to themselves. It’s time this industry is exposed for what it is, for its long-hidden crimes and for the damage it has done to our culture. It’s time to hold them accountable in every way possible. Hollywood loves a good dystopian drama, but all they need to do is hold up their phones and take a selfie to get the most dystopian setting ever.
A self-confessed news junkie, Joseph Meyers is a longtime resident of Tamuning.
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