Politics & Policy

Hollywood’s Failure

I agree with some of what Jim Geraghty says here about last night’s Golden Globes smug-fest. But there is one circle of that hell which it’s worth acknowledging, the better to understand the cynicism, suspicion, and dislike with which so many people now view events like the Golden Globes and Oscars.

It centers on the problem of Hollywood’s ever-growing preachiness. Not content with trying to entertain the world, over recent years Hollywood has increasingly presented itself as seeking to improve the world. If you take Hollywood at its own estimation, then it ought now to do what other institutions and individuals do when they are found to have been preaching one thing and doing another: slink away and keep quiet for a bit.

What was so obnoxious about last night was not just the whole industry trying to turn itself into a victim, or idiocies like the $300 jumper saying “Poverty is sexist,” but Hollywood’s decision to respond to the last few months by doubling-down and promising to preach even harder. It is as though a church rocked by a scandal responded by saying, “We’ve got the message, and we’re coming back with an even more hardcore version of what we preached at you before.”

For example, if I were Oprah Winfrey and had been chumming up to Harvey Weinstein only last year, I might have spent this year in a more reflective mood. Instead we had the “A new day is on the horizon” stump-speech, which suggested there had in fact been no reflection at all, just a raid on the cliché-vault. It reminded me of any number of terrible speeches, where people who are flailing around to reassert their moral standing crowbar in a quote from, say, Anne Frank, knowing that people are unlikely to talk over them — or boo — if they’re quoting Anne Frank.

Not that she was ever at any risk of being booed inside the room, but that’s what Oprah did last night, using Rosa Parks. And, like a lot of people watching, I didn’t want to hear about people everyone agrees are moral heroes. I wanted to hear some explanation for why this roomful of the wealthiest, most beautiful and privileged people on the planet — people who constantly lecture everybody else on “standing up” — couldn’t even stand up to the person who was sitting next to them this time last year. Introducing new elements like the sour misandry of Natalie Portman (who scalded the “best director” category for being full of men) doesn’t quite make up for that failure.

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