Shiva Bhalla

Shiva Bhalla

Why Americans Don’t Want Life Lessons from Hollywood

October 5, 2017

The New York Times reports about “decades of sexual harassment allegations” against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein announced he intends to sue the paper, but also issued a statement declaring, “I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it. Though I’m trying to do better, I know I have a long way to go.”

A few weeks ago in the Morning Jolt, I wrote: Hollywood and the performing arts community in general, which loves to celebrate its own progressivism, feminism, and overall shining virtue, is still notorious for its “casting couch.” Last month, Equity, the United Kingdom trade union for actors, issued a manifesto declaring, “No sex act should be requested at any audition.” The need to state that rule is rather revealing. This is one of the reasons many people recoil when Hollywood gets too preachy or self-congratulatory about its own virtue. The entertainment industry brings together enormous amounts of money, concentrates enormous amounts of power, places exceptional value on attractiveness and appearances, oftentimes turns a blind eye to drug abuse and other self-destructive behavior, oftentimes cultivates a lack of accountability for antisocial behavior, and keeps almost all of its members in gated communities, gated and walled workplaces, far from the reality of daily life for the rest of the country. It touts itself as fantasy-land, and one of Hollywood’s favorite subjects is how corrupt, sleazy, and ruthless Hollywood is behind the glamorous image: Sunset Boulevard, The Player, Mulholland Drive, L.A.

Confidential, Swimming With Sharks, Get Shorty, Tropic Thunder, Barton Fink, and many more. If the place is such a hypocritical, corrupt, sleazy cesspool… why should anyone turn to Hollywood for moral instruction? Back in 2006, when accepting an Oscar, George Clooney contended Hollywood was more progressive, caring and fair-minded than the rest of America: Finally, I would say that, you know, we are a little bit out of touch in Hollywood every once in a while, I think. It’s probably a good thing. We’re the ones who talked about AIDS when it was just being whispered, and we talked about civil rights when it wasn’t really popular. And we, you know, we bring up subjects, we are the ones—this Academy, this group of people gave Hattie McDaniel an Oscar in 1939 when blacks were still sitting in the backs of theaters. I’m proud to be a part of this Academy, proud to be part of this community, and proud to be out of touch. Clooney did not mention that when McDaniel won her Oscar, she was not seated with her co-stars. The event was held at the Ambassador Hotel, which did not permit blacks; an exception was made for McDaniel.