You have to hand it to Hollywood—it’s got chutzpah. The holier-than-thou instinct must truly overpower any sense of decency and morality among its luminaries as they mount their pulpits to lecture the world about the only recently discovered horrors of sexual inequality. Like the convict who finds religion after being sentenced and then proceeds to judge all the world around him, Hollywood now presents itself as some sort of vanguard in the fight against sexism.
Sorry, but America ain’t buying what you’re selling. And maybe that’s what’s really eating you.
For years, you’ve ordained yourselves the high priests of the culture. For years, you’ve sexualized our girls and created lower expectations for our boys and men. You’ve created an industry that we all now understand is awash with the decadence, moral rot, and a self-deception that can only come from years of arrogant self-righteousness that is immune to honest self-examination.
You’ve lived lives of hedonistic excess all the while sneering at those who attempted to live sincerely. You’ve spent years on the therapist’s couch convincing yourselves that you’re good people all the while mocking modestly lived lives and now you feel entitled to lecture the rest of America about . . . anything? Physician, heal thyself! No amount of black cloth can cover your shame.
What Kind of Tent Revival is This?
True to Hollywood’s self-deceptive nature, the whole of the Golden Globes broadcast was presented as a solemn Confiteor, but its sole purpose, truly, was to attempt to confer self-absolution through the exercise of judging others. It was a giant revival tent with Elmer Gantry projecting his own moral failings onto his congregation. The Globes were a set piece designed to proclaim to the world Hollywood’s virtue all the while putting it above those poor rubes at home watching.
It comes as no surprise to anyone that the people on stage don’t actually care about those at whom their stylized sermons are directed but, instead, were engaging in a therapeutic tutorial on method acting. What’s amazing, however, is that I think Hollywood managed to convince itself of its own righteousness—the actor doing his own stunt work always imagines he’s the hero. With each subsequent philippic, the players protested a bit too much. The angry and rousing admonitions came across for what they were, the false pretense of morality under the guise of accusation.
Instead of finding a moment for penitence and self-reflection, Hollywood’s leading lights seized the stage and the occasion to project their tired screeches at us, as if from a megaphone, to let us know they are very, very disappointed in American society.
Yes, they all knew for years and let it happen, but now that we know, the players are trying to mask their shame, shift blame, and hide from responsibility by loudly pointing at everyone else. It’s our fault, I guess, that Weinstein hired a private security firm to cover up his messes. And it’s our fault that the industry kept quiet about it for so long. It’s surely society’s fault that pedophilia is an open industry secret, and It’s certainly our fault that they continue to support Roman Polanski and that Rape-Rape is different from just rape when it’s merely a drugged 13-year-old girl who’s been violated. Like Weinstein, who blamed the ’60s and ’70s, Hollywood can’t really accept culpability, but instead needs to indict society at large.
I guess it’s in the industry’s DNA. Instead of engaging in real and difficult internal change its members would rather lecture others. Priest, save thyself!
It’s All About Power
Hollywood’s moral self-assessment and sense of worth seem to be determined less by how its denizens act, than by its understanding of its power and perceived duty to convince the rest of us how we should act. Hollywood morality, such as it is, is guided above all else by the myth of its own virtue. That “virtue” is, of course, nothing more than power. It is measured by its perceived ability to change the behavior of others.
Hollywood’s luminaries seem to be extremely adept at telling people what to do, all the while being uniquely unable to do themselves what they insist ought to be done. They are expert at preaching tolerance out of one side of their mouths while being intolerant of even the slightest dissent. They cast stones (indeed, boulders) at the slightest appearance of sexual impropriety while winking and nodding in private as they live in expensive Baccarat and Lalique homes built on foundations of decades-old sexual excess and inequality and surrounded by high walls that keep out the stones and gazes of others.
They play at authenticity in order to convince everyone else to be authentic. The trouble is, most people who aren’t in Hollywood are already leading fairly authentic lives—the essential characteristic of which is to not spend much time fretting about authenticity. It’s the actors and would-be mythmakers—bereft of much that is real in their lives and divorced from the reality of a non-storied life—who must seek authenticity because everything around them is so plastic. It’s not just a first world problem they’re grappling with, it’s a First-World entitled-artist problem. It’s no surprise, therefore, that one of the biggest challenges an actor has is to play a regular person.
Put another way: Of course they don’t practice what they preach; they’re not the kind of people they’re preaching to.
The entertainment industry peddles a mythos but tends to confuse mythos for ethos and manages, like the method actor who can’t quite shed his last role, to believe that the façade it has just put on is the real thing. But for a town whose zeitgeist is so deeply defined by its ability to peddle the shallows as depth and the façade as the reality, it should come as no surprise that showbiz people would eventually come to believe in their own illusions. To wit: “Hollywood has the best moral compass.” And so, what we saw up there at the Golden Globes were people who honestly convinced each other to believe themselves to be an oppressed class speaking truth to power, and not what they really were; accessories and accomplices to a moral depravity the likes of which normal people can’t even begin to imagine without the help of a Hollywood movie.
The Audacity of These People!
For an industry so rife with sexism, pedophilia and hedonism to hijack our time and the national discussion with long-winded admonitions and moralizing jeremiads about equality and propriety borders on psychopathy and speaks to a narcissism and lack of internal self-reflection that knows no bounds. An industry that can boast of more sexual assault and inequality than almost any other probably ought to have some shame in seeking to lecture the rest of the populace about these subjects. But it does not. The Audacity of Chutzpah indeed.
As long as Hollywood’s self-reflection is directed outward and places more value on external signals rather than actual virtue, it will never change. Instead, it will trade one vice for another as it continues to deceptively convince itself that the character it is playing for the cameras is actually its true self.