Hol­ly­wood: Why so se­ri­ous?


One wonders what Joan Rivers, for­mer host of the tele­vi­sion show Fash­ion Po­lice, would have made of the black dress code for the Golden Globes cer­e­mony.

Would this icon­o­clas­tic comic have dared poke fun at the turnout of the great and the good women of Hol­ly­wood dressed in their black sea of wid­ows’ weeds? I’d like to think that Rivers would have had the balls to call out the new pu­ri­tanism on the red car­pet. But in the present ugly mood swirling the lat­est cul­tural rev­o­lu­tion, even she might have been lynched.

For years we’ve seen fe­male ac­tors proudly strut­ting their stuff in ‘gowns’ (as the Amer­i­cans call their froufrou frocks) that have left lit­tle to the imag­i­na­tion. Plung­ing neck-lines, see-through fab­ric, and hem-lines with slits to the thigh and waist have been the norm for decades.

This year, not only were the women dressed in a uni­form of black but the de­signs were markedly more mod­est. Flesh was out-out-out, and cov­er­ing it up, save for the odd shoul­der or two and a mod­icum of cleav­age, was in-in-in.

Now that the black­out has dom­i­nated the Golden Globes, what state­ment dress code is left for the Os­cars? Per­haps an army of fe­male ac­tors in red bon­nets and cloaks as worn in The Hand­maid’s Tale? Per­haps sym­pa­this­ers to the cause may don or­ange prison over­alls to show that or­ange is the new #Metoo black?

In the olden golden days of Amer­i­can award cer­e­monies, the act­ing com­mu­nity kept to the script of be­ing en­ter­tain­ers – blank can­vases and empty ves­sels whose job it was to in­ter­pret the cre­ative mes­sage. Now ev­ery­one has a po­lit­i­cal point to score and set­tle, and the sig­nalling of it has moved from the wear­ing of a lapel rib­bon to a themed cos­tume.

Award cer­e­monies’ ac­cep­tance speeches have not been lim­ited to an ac­tor or di­rec­tor speak­ing about their craft. Once on the podium a winner can be­come saintly and sanc­ti­mo­nious, be­liev­ing their wise words to be glob­ally in­flu­en­tial.

Af­ter the Golden Globes and Oprah Win­frey’s de­liv­ery of a pow­er­ful speech, di­rec­tor Steven Spiel­berg en­dorsed Win­frey as a pos­si­ble Demo­cratic presidential can­di­date. Win­frey, he said, was highly ar­tic­u­late and would know how to build bridges and lead Amer­ica to­wards an em­pa­thetic fu­ture of mind­ful­ness.

Call me a po­lit­i­cal party pooper, but the idea of Oprah Win­frey run­ning for the pres­i­dency leaves me cold. I can see the at­trac­tion of putting the great com­mu­ni­ca­tor up against the self-pro­claimed great ne­go­tia­tor, but where is Win­frey’s pub­lic ser­vice and deep knowl­edge of po­lit­i­cal process? Isn’t this ca­sual dis­missal of those who have done the hard yards in pol­i­tics in favour of celebrity what landed us with the mess of Don­ald Trump?

Hol­ly­wood al­ways takes things too far and takes it­self way too se­ri­ously.

Re­cently, ac­tor Meryl Streep thanked those first women who came out against Har­vey We­in­stein, say­ing they had changed the 21st cen­tury. This was dur­ing an in­ter­view where she was ques­tioned by a reporter about ac­tor Rose McGowan’s claim that Streep had turned a blind eye to We­in­stein’s sex­ual abuse of young women.

McGowan, who al­leges she was raped by We­in­sten, a claim that We­in­stein de­nies, has at­tacked Streep for her si­lence, say­ing it was part of the prob­lem. Streep de­nies know­ing any­thing of the abuses, even though We­in­stein’s pro­cliv­i­ties were ap­par­ently com­mon knowl­edge.

And so the purg­ing by the #Metoo move­ment has be­gun. Rem­i­nis­cent of the Rus­sian com­mu­nists who held pe­ri­odic re­views of mem­bers of the party they thought had joined, only to be on the win­ning side, now the great Streep has been la­belled an un­de­sir­able.

Mean­while, a group of 100 em­i­nent French women, in­clud­ing ac­tor Catherine Deneuve, have de­plored the flood of pub­lic ac­cu­sa­tions prompted by the We­in­stein scan­dal.

‘‘Far from help­ing women to be­come in­de­pen­dent, this in re­al­ity serves the in­ter­ests of the en­e­mies of sex­ual free­dom – re­li­gious ex­trem­ists, the worst re­ac­tionar­ies, and those who be­lieve in the name of Vic­to­rian moral­ity that women are chil­dren with the faces of adults.’’

The group of French women, whose num­ber in­cluded jour­nal­ists, psychiatrists and in­tel­lec­tu­als, were care­ful to say that the post-We­in­stein awak­en­ing to abu­sive men was jus­ti­fied.

By all ac­counts, We­in­stein is a sick man, who in­tim­i­dated women into hav­ing sex with him, or in­flicted him­self upon them. It’s good he has been outed and oth­ers of his de­gree of of­fend­ing have been found out and ex­posed.

But there are oth­ers who are be­ing dragged into the We­in­stein slime and are hav­ing their lives ru­ined be­cause of rel­a­tively mi­nor acts of mis­placed flir­ta­tion that can­not be cat­e­gorised as se­ri­ous sex­ual of­fences. Putting them in the frame de­tracts from the se­ri­ous of­fend­ers. But a lynch mob is bay­ing for blood, wants scalps, and to hell with the con­se­quences.

I just hope along the way to jus­tice this doesn’t af­fect a women’s free­dom to dress how she wants, and to en­joy ex­press­ing her sex­u­al­ity. We don’t have to tone our­selves down and be­come nun­like. That would mean the nasty men have won.

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