Film & TV

The Oscars Introduce Hollywood’s New Party: The Unpleasant Party

Regina King arrives at the Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles, Calif., April 25, 2021. (Chris Pizzello/Pool via Reuters)
Reflections on a bizarre evening hosted by political replicants

Actress Regina King strutted her way to the Oscar ceremony as its hostess, slammed her statuette on the lectern, and then announced, “If things had gone differently this week, I would have traded my heels for marching boots.” It was yet another uncalled-for endorsement of the Derek Chauvin guilty verdict. She told TV viewers, “I know that a lot of you people at home want to reach for your remote when you feel like Hollywood is preaching to you, but as a mother of a black son I know the fear that so many live with, and no amount of fame or fortune changes that, okay?”

The presumption of fear, like the presumption of guilt, is not “okay.” King assumed a Michelle (“When they go low . . . ”) Obama posture of dishonest arrogance. Her boot reference came from that patronizing Barack Obama speech to the NAACP, “Take off your bedroom slippers. Put on your marchin’ shoes!” But by wearing a sequined, crystal-adorned, Louis Vuitton custom-made gown, King flaunted her distance from ghetto mothers grieving the loss of their lawless sons. (Those class differences were also confirmed when she boasted about Academy attendees’ privileged COVID protocols.) King’s prologue demonstrated Hollywood’s self-importance. Her ultimate message: I don’t care if you don’t like my pomposity.

So what if nobody likes King’s films — One Night in Miami, If Beale Street Could Talk — or her HBO series Watchmen? Oscar night was the moment she chose to assert race-gender scorn. King’s macroaggression followed the intimidation (and implicit racism) adopted by the New York Times’ Maureen Dowd, whose Oscar column, one day before, derided her colleagues among Hollywood’s media elite as “the fetid pool of replicant white guys.” It’s amazing to see the far-left media defame its own in a bizarre manner that merely serves to empower themselves — as in political comic Bill Maher’s recent role as phony Hollywood scold. Dowd doesn’t dare describe “replicant” Hollywood blacks who, like Regina King, flaunt their race-gender partisanship.

We need to recognize the partisanship inherent in the media’s unwavering attention to politicized institutions such as the Oscars. The affront goes further than the grandstanding speeches. But even those have become increasingly arrogant, such as the harangue given by the Best Live Action Short winner with the suspicious name Travon Free (a Daily Show comedy writer and co-director of Netflix’s anti-cop paranoid horror comedy Two Distant Strangers). Free announced, “Today the police will kill three people. And tomorrow the police will kill three people. And the day after that, the police will kill three people, which amounts to about a thousand people a year. And those people happen to disproportionately be black people.” Free’s rhetorical overkill matched his dyed-blond afro hairstyle, signifying the proud, irresponsible indifference to decorum (and facts) that runs through most Hollywood content, ruining it for everybody.

Even actress Marlee Matlin, grinning idiotically, joined the industry’s carelessness when her awards presentation went outside the film industry to salute “a cellphone video taken by a young woman named Darnella Frazier that became a catalyst for change.” We should realize from such instances that these filmmakers are not good Samaritans with sympathy and insight into human experience. Instead, they are the most easily swayed, politically gullible, and potentially dangerous messengers imaginable. They’ve been given the privilege of addressing the public, and it’s a privilege they abuse.

Their ideological arrogance feeds into their custom-designed vanity. They’re vapid, like teenagers eager to conform. This makes them more assertive than ever, but it doesn’t make them good filmmakers. It only guarantees that they throw dull, unpleasant parties.

Don’t be confused by the Oscars’ disingenuous political party, thinking that Hollywood is innocuous and welcoming to conservatives, or that it means to amuse rather than indoctrinate and intimidate. Its product refuses to entertain while its meta events such as the Oscars affront those who are naïve enough to beg it for escapism. Robert Altman’s great Nashville introduced the concept of the Replacement Party. Think of Hollywood and its inhospitable replicants — from Regina King and Maureen Dowd to Travon Free, Marlee Matlin, and even Bill Maher — as the Unpleasant Party.

Armond White, a culture critic, writes about movies for National Review and is the author of New Position: The Prince Chronicles. His new book, Make Spielberg Great Again: The Steven Spielberg Chronicles, is available at Amazon.

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