The dark heart of Hol­ly­wood


The Herald on Sunday - - WEINSTEIN SCANDAL -

THE rev­e­la­tions about sex­ual preda­tor and movie mogul Har­vey We­in­stein have ex­posed the dark, beat­ing heart of Hol­ly­wood. The al­le­ga­tions that have emerged serve as a re­minder that while the Amer­i­can film in­dus­try may try to present it­self as pro­gres­sive, it is at its core a deeply ugly and un­pleas­ant realm. The truth has been hid­ing in plain sight all along – the movies which Hol­ly­wood pro­duces are stained with sex­ism, racism and hate.

The movie in­dus­try, and the films it pro­duces, were never re­ally lib­eral at all. For ev­ery Broke­back Moun­tain or Won­der Woman, there have been many more movies that have stunk of misog­yny, white supremacism and a de­light in crush­ing any­one not white, male, straight and mid­dle class. Look back into its his­tory and we can see how fre­quently the movie in­dus­try has sup­ported prej­u­dice. Here, the Sun­day Her­ald delves into Hol­ly­wood’s past, and digs up the films which show just how tainted Tin­sel­town re­ally is.

WHITE SUPREMACISM The Birth Of A Na­tion (1915)

YES, the first block­buster in cin­ema his­tory – orig­i­nally called The Clans­man – re­ally did ro­man­ti­cise the Ku Klux Klan. Cre­ated by DW Griffith, it is rarely now screened pub­licly, fre­quently pick­eted and sub­ject to boy­cotts. The film, which many credit for in­vent­ing nar­ra­tive cin­ema, the movies as we know it, was also a de­plorable piece of racist pro­pa­ganda cre­ated to re­as­sure Amer­i­can whites of their pri­macy and fire up ha­tred of black peo­ple. It cli­maxes with Con­fed­er­ate sol­diers, clad in white sheets, res­cu­ing white woman Lil­lian Gish from a sex­crazed black mili­tia. A ti­tle card reads: “For­mer en­e­mies united in their de­fence of their Aryan birthright!” Most of the main black roles were played, grotesquely, by white ac­tors in black face. The NAACP protested it, but still au­di­ences lapped it up, and it held onto box of­fice records un­til Gone With The Wind (hardly a high water­mark in race re­la­tions it­self) was re­leased in 1939. It is still widely con­sid­ered the most racist movie ever.


THOSE jive-talk­ing black crows sing­ing to Dumbo may seem not so very much worse than the many other racial car­i­ca­tures that lit­ter Dis­ney films (happy slave Un­cle Re­mus, for in­stance, in Song of the South, or the hye­nas in The Lion King), as they sing, “I’d be done see’n about ev­ery­thing when I see an ele­phant fly”. But what makes this the most shock­ing of Dis­ney car­i­ca­tures is that some­one seemed to see fit to call the chief crow Jim, a name that at that time would only have evoked one thing – the Jim Crow racial seg­re­ga­tion laws. And that re­ally doesn’t seem some­thing to joke about in front of the kids.

DO­MES­TIC VI­O­LENCE The Quiet Man (1952)

THERE are plenty of films, of course, with much darker scenes of vi­o­lence or abuse, but there’s some­thing in the light-hearted, comic tone of the long scene in the John Ford clas­sic The Quiet Man, in which John Wayne drags his wife, played by Mau­reen O’Hara, across the coun­try­side, oc­ca­sion­ally slap­ping and kick­ing her, that seems to say all too much about a nor­mal­ity of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence. Worse still, they are fol­lowed by a whole bay­ing crowd, one of whom of­fers Wayne a stick to beat her with.

TOR­TUR­ING WOMEN The Birds (1963)

“HE was a misog­y­nist,” Tippi He­dren said of Al­fred Hitch­cock in 2012. And The Birds does in­deed look like a film that is all about tor­ment­ing women, but es­pe­cially He­dren’s char­ac­ter. Fa­mously, in or­der to get a re­al­is­tic per­for­mance out of her, he locked He­dren in a room with live birds. But The Birds is still not as bad as Marnie, the

film in which Hitch­cock took the star he was ob­sessed with, and put her in a role as a klep­to­ma­niac who is re­pulsed by sex and raped. As Richard Brody has put it: “Marnie is a woman who is oth­ered to the van­ish­ing point.” He de­scribes the film as “sick”. Hitch­cock also al­legedly made sex­ual ad­vances to­wards He­dren, and when she re­fused and asked to be let out of her con­tract af­ter Marnie a year later, he ef­fec­tively ended her ca­reer. On hear­ing the We­in­stein al­le­ga­tions, He­dren last week said: “This is noth­ing new.”

CA­SUAL SEX­ISM Goldfin­ger (1964)

JAMES Bond films have never been known for their en­light­ened ap­proach to fe­male char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion. But, even for the Bond fran­chise, Goldfin­ger rep­re­sented a real low. For starters, the film took em­pow­ered les­bian Pussy Galore (Honor Black­man) and put her through what looks very like a rape scene, in which “no” is in­ter­preted as a “yes” and even her judo throw isn’t enough to knock back the preda­tor 007. “Skip it,” says Galore, when Bond makes his ap­proach, “I’m not in­ter­ested.” Not only does she seem to be telling him “no” but also that she’s gay. Nev­er­the­less, Bond fol­lows up by ask­ing: “What would it take for you to see things my way?”

“A lot more than you’ve got,” replies Galore. But be­fore we know it he has her pinned to the hay, and though she fights back, the scene, at the very last minute, sug­gests that she re­ally wants it (Bond has “turned” her).

Bad as this is, it’s not Goldfin­ger’s only crime. It has, as film critic Peter Brad­shaw has put it, the “most sex­ist scene in cin­ema his­tory”. When Felix Leiter turns up to find Bond in what he de­scribes as the “good hands” of a masseuse, Bond dis­misses his fe­male com­pan­ion al­most the mo­ment he has in­tro­duced her. His ex­pla­na­tion? “Man talk,” he says, be­fore he promptly slaps her on the ass to send her on her way.

PREDA­TORY OLDER MEN Man­hat­tan (1979)

IT’S hard now to watch this film, in which a 42-year-old Woody Allen dates a 17-year-old stu­dent (played by fresh­faced Mariel Hem­ing­way) given all we now know about the di­rec­tor. The claims that emerged in the early 1990s that Allen had sex­u­ally as­saulted his adopted daugh­ter Dy­lan – al­le­ga­tions that Allen has re­peat­edly de­nied – as well as the rev­e­la­tions that he had taken nude pho­to­graphs of SoonYi Previn – the adopted daugh­ter of then-part­ner Mia Far­row – whom he later mar­ried, leave the film un­palat­able. It also doesn’t help that in her mem­oir, Out Came The Sun, Mariel Hem­ing­way even claimed that Allen had at­tempted to lure her to Paris once she turned 18. “I started to see that he had a kind of crush on me,” she said, “though I dis­missed it as the kind of thing that seemed to hap­pen any time mid­dle-aged men got around young women.”

HU­MIL­I­A­TION OF WOMEN Re­turn of the Jedi (1983)

IT’S hard to be­lieve it, but, yes, Ge­orge Lu­cas did turn the bold fe­male heroine of his kids’ space saga into a sex slave in a gold bikini chained to a gi­ant, wrin­kled slug. The late Car­rie Fisher her­self crit­i­cised the out­fit, ad­vis­ing new Star Wars ac­tor Daisy Ridley: “Don’t be a slave like I was … You keep fight­ing against that slave out­fit.” How­ever, she has also said: “What re­deems it is I get to kill him [Jabba], which was so en­joy­able.”

DATE RAPE AS COM­EDY Six­teen Can­dles (1984)

IF you want a shock re­minder of just how ca­su­ally sex­ist, ho­mo­pho­bic and racist the 1980s was, a binge ses­sion of John Hughes movies should do the trick. Of them all, how­ever, Six­teen Can­dles has got to be the most shock­ing, partly be­cause it hap­pens to fea­ture the car­i­ca­ture of a Chi­nese stu­dent Long Duk Dong, but also be­cause it treats the idea a teen girl who is so in­tox­i­cated she’s passed out and un­able to give con­sent as ma­te­rial for com­edy. Ro­man­tic lead Jake dis­cusses his conked-out girl­friend and ob­serves, “I could vi­o­late her 10 dif­fer­ent ways if I wanted to”. His friend, the Geek, re­sponds: “What are you wait­ing for?” Jake then puts his girl­friend in the car with the Geek, telling him to drive her home and “have fun”. Th­ese days we’d call that date rape: back then, it ap­pears, it was just a bit of a laugh.

HO­MO­PHO­BIA Ad­ven­tures in Babysit­ting (1987)

THE teen movies of the 1980s pro­vided plenty in the way of ca­sual ho­mo­pho­bia and “fag-rib­bing”, but one scene from Ad­ven­tures In Babysit­ting stands out. In it the young sis­ter of the fam­ily, dressed in a Vik­ing hel­met, muses “Thor’s my hero.” “Thor’s a homo,” says her brother, Brad, and a squab­ble en­sues. She says: “Is not.” He keeps say­ing: “Thor’s a com­plete homo.” “Take it back, Brad,” she says, en­raged. “Take back what you said about Thor.”

PROS­TI­TU­TION CEL­E­BRATED Pretty Woman (1990)

ORIG­I­NALLY planned as a cau­tion­ary tale about the hor­rors of the sex in­dus­try, this star ve­hi­cle for Richard Gere and Ju­lia Roberts treated pros­ti­tu­tion as fine ca­reer choice which could nab a lucky girl a rich man. One of the most morally dis­grace­ful films ever made.

OLD FASH­IONED MISOG­YNY She’s All That (1999)

THE need for a woman to put on some slap, change, or even get a full style makeover, to be good enough to nab a man has been an en­dur­ing theme through­out movie his­tory, from My Fair Lady to Grease – a film which also made it clear that girls should “put out” no mat­ter what. How­ever, what made She’s All That – pro­duced by Har­vey We­in­stein – so shock­ing was that a film like this, in which a pop­u­lar jock bets that he can turn an or­di­nary geeky girl into a prom queen, was made not all that long ago, in 1999. Beg­ging the ques­tion, when are we go­ing to see the end of all that?

EX­TREME MISOG­Y­NIS­TIC VI­O­LENCE The Hate­ful Eight (2015)

THIS one’s from that old pal of Har­vey We­in­stein, Quentin Tarantino. The Hate­ful Eight is an Amer­i­can Civil War film in which the only sig­nif­i­cant fe­male char­ac­ter, Daisy, is sub­jected to re­lent­less ex­treme vi­o­lence, called a “di­a­bol­i­cal bitch”, a “ly­ing bitch” and a “mean bas­tard”. As AO Scott, critic for the New York Times, put it: “She is the film’s scape­goat and punch­ing bag and, above all, its ex­cuse for its own imag­i­na­tive fail­ures. At a cer­tain point, the n-word gives way to the b-word as the dom­i­nant hate­ful ep­i­thet, and ‘The Hate­ful Eight’ mu­tates from an ex­plo­ration of racial an­i­mus into an orgy of elab­o­rately jus­ti­fied misog­yny.”

An­thony Michael Hall in Six­teen Can­dles and, left, in Richard Gere and Ju­lia Roberts in Pretty Woman

Abov: Jen­nifer Ja­son Leigh in the Hate­ful 8 and Car­rie Fisher Princess Leia, be­low

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