Hollywood, a town built on sexual indulgence, nepotism, drugs, and narcissism has declared itself the perfect authority to clean up the nation’s pervasive culture of sexist exploitation and inequality. An odd choice for Sheriff. It’s only slightly less comical than watching alcoholic beverage companies encourage people to drink responsibly, while basing their entire business model is predicated upon the precise opposite. Everybody loves a good moral posturing.
That the rich and privileged will hold great administrative sway in any form of governance goes without saying. People of means will always mean more. The robber barons, oil magnates, bankers, and politically connected class will inevitably have a seat at the legislative table. The economically powerful will unduly influence the fashioning of laws and edicts designed to keep the trains running on time and the natural order quite naturally in their favor. The human species can’t rid itself of its animal kingdom genetics. The lions will never suddenly cede control of the jungle to their prey. The day the gnus believe the cheetahs are letting them use the watering hole free of charge is the last day those gnus will ever taste thistle. Nature is extremely consistent.
Wealthy celebrities hold asymmetrical influence in social and political circles. Through a combination of fame, fundraising, and media muscle, the class of people who have distinguished themselves by being attractive, sexy, and able to recite lines on camera have fashioned themselves a rather large soapbox in the town square. While these surgically enhanced and egotistically divine figures have worked themselves into positions of virtual power, the question remains, can they truly move hearts and minds?
At the beginning of the 1960’s, John F. Kennedy declared a vision to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. It was an inspired bit of coaching. Jessica Alba, Ben Affleck, and Stephen Colbert can testify before Congress, Jennifer Lawrence, Alyssa Milano, and Joss Whedon can tweet political messages, but can they create the groundswell of inspiration to move the will of any significant number of people? Can they have even close to the impact of a JFK, an MLK, or a Billy Graham when it comes to moving millions of people to change their way of thinking, motivate in entirely new directions, or dedicate themselves to a higher calling?
While Hollywood expounds upon the gamut of virtuous living isms — environmentalism, racism, gun-ism — this is the year of sexism. Actors need a theme and a motivation. None too complex. Sexism and gender inequality works for Hollywood for the somewhat ironic reason that there are so many women working quite successfully in the business. Imagine the sexism in the coal mining industry is far worse, but the couple or three ladies buried underground forced to listen to penis jokes probably don’t have three million followers or a professional publicist. Crude come ons from a fat producer you’ve agreed to meet in a Beverly Hills hotel room simply isn’t as eerie as the same happenstance at 1,500 feet under mineral ore deposits.
With the decision to publicize something everybody knew was happening for twenty plus years with Harvey Weinstein and women, the #MeToo hashtag was born. The pound sign emblem for every woman who’s ever been sexually assaulted, harassed, or been catcalled, a rather broad domain of victim statuses. In the very announcement of the hashtag led movement, hundreds of female actresses, producers, and filmmakers compared their struggle to that of the female migrant farm workers in the nation. A bold analogy, even if you ignore the 1,000:1 differential in pay scales. So, the same, but also one thousand times better off in a capitalist republic.
As the #MeToo hashtag quickly diluted from dreadful stories of attacks by the corpulent pig who founded Miramax to “a guy at the office once looked down my scoop neck top”, a mightier hashtag would rise to take its place. #TimesUp. The Time’s Up movement suggests there’s a fraternal cabal among the men of the entertainment industry to deny women positions of power. Anything is possible, though the town itself is inundated with subservient beta males the likes of which exists truly nowhere else in the nation. That’s the straight male population. Gay men dominate numerous important positions of power in the industry, as again, truly nowhere else in the nation. Not that gay men can’t be sexist, though the claims are never made aloud for fearing of crossing streams of protected classes.
It’s possible some relevant numbers of men are meeting in the backs of cigar shops to plot the permanent understudy role of women in the industry. Though the prevailing evidence remains that ambitious, greedy, ill-mannered males have climbed to the top of the sector’s food chain by sheer force of being perfect for this particular industry. Only months before Weinstein was outed to the public at large, he was receiving numerous and sundry humanitarian based awards from the same people who now claim to be his vehement detractors. If you’re a cop who gave Al Capone Citizen of the Year Awards, you’re not allowed to be the one to cuff him when his time runs out.
The Time’s Up movement exists in a series of facts blended with myth blown into a media circus as only Hollywood can do. All the while the select Hollywood and celebrity elite allowed to freely employ the movement’s name insist it’s not about them, but about struggling women “out there”. Though these valiant messengers remain only able to make mention of their own plights.
One of the necessary attributes to reach the top of the show business fish bowl is an instinctive willingness to step on others on the way up. Nice girls finish last. These aren’t evil people, they are deluded people with immense wealth and privilege desperately seeking a route to nobility. They are not akin to Lord Grantham allowing the grand estate to shelter injured commoners during times of national strife. The British aristocracy is honest about the antiquated class system; they see helping out others as the gentry being dutiful toward the plebeians. The Lord assists the pig farmer; he doesn’t imagine he and the pig farmers are equals in toil. Would the farm hand listen to Lord Grantham extoll the virtues of the simple life? That speech would never be given. This is the difference between old money and new money — generations of self-reflection.
Emma Watson personifies the massaged self-importance of social media age public movements, #TimesUp in particular. She’s the blend of British blue blood and American pop-feminism that makes this all possible. Born in Paris, the daughter of British attorneys, she moved to Oxford to attend elite prep and boarding schools at age five after her parents split up. She immediately took up private acting classes and theater schools, performing in plays until her casting at age ten in the first of numerous Harry Potter franchise films. Those roles would see her earn in excess of fifty million dollars over the course of the following decade. She’s an undoubtedly smart young woman and an extremely solid Hermione Granger. Still, something akin to a brilliant stroke of good fortune among her many well-heeled London child actor competitors.
Watson became an outspoken feminist at or about the time her tenure on the Harry Potter film series ended. She insists she’s always been “woke” to the gender discrimination both in language bias and the manner in which she was sexualized from a young age based upon her film work. Of the latter, there is no doubt. The entertainment industry promotes the sexualization of child actors with reckless abandon. Though there’s no evidence to suggest a gender bias in this exploitation regard. The sickening tales of both molested, screwed up, and otherwise abused child actors contains as many male victims and female. Perhaps even slightly tilted toward male victims as they are less likely to share their experiences, for rightful concern nobody would believe them. Kevin Spacey’s young teen conquest is a prime example of so many more.
There’s something in the human spirit that either strives for self-sacrifice, or in the case of narcissists, the desire to be seen as selfless. It’s not a black or white matter. There is much grey in the grey matter game of Freudian over-compensation. You can be a bit of both. Watson went looking for a cause and a title that comes with causes in the form of the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. If your title sounds made-up on the spot, it probably was. The UN has taken to handing out honorary ambassadorships to high profile celebrities, most notably Angelina Jolie.
Watson’s mission was to improve the lives of women around the world. It’s a prototypical UN mission, because it has no measurement for success, but luxurious parties are involved. There’s no doubt Watson’s intentions are true, which makes it all the more painful to see her present speeches detailing plans such as her He for She campaign, which radically calls upon men to push for women’s equality. The dearth of men supporting gender equality being the reason why tribal women in sub-Saharan Africa are customarily beaten and raped by their husbands as well as why Jennifer Lawrence only made twelve million dollars on a film she did four years ago while her male co-star made fifteen.
For the Golden Globe Awards in 2018, Watson dressed in the #TimesUp called upon black-only designer garb. Color schemes represent a key component of the protest visuals. By pure coincidence, Versace tailors nicely in charcoal. Watson was one of the number of Time’s Up leading ladies who brought along minority activists as their plus-ones to the event. There was actually a meeting where ten extremely well-off white women decided that they’d each bring a street activist woman of color as their date and this would provide stunning evidence of the diversity of their struggle. The obvious “plantation” metaphor never once crossed the minds of any participant at the meeting. Watson brought Marai Larasi, a black British anti-violence against women activists. The decked out and bejeweled gala version of “So, I was talking to my black friend the other day…”.
This total lack of self-awareness helps explain the blind fervor of the social messaging. It’s very much faith-based. In religion, the dogma precludes the need for analysis or reflection. Everything is an edict to conformity. Where there is no formal religion, such as in Hollywood, people will invent their own. There’s a need in the human soul for both order and moral superiority provided by central control.
Since ending her Harry Potter role, Watson hasn’t been noted particularly highly in movie acting circles outside of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast last year, which she assured the public had received a feminist revision from herself, the actress. Watson still merits the celebrity status for invites to the star-studded Oscar after-parties, hosted by numerous magazines that have contributed to female body shaming and eating disorders on an infinite multiple of any male originated comments.
To the big evening this week, Emma Watson flaunted a Time’s Up tattoo on her right forearm. Or more accurately, a “Times Up” tattoo, since in addition to being overt in her nobility signaling, she forgot the apostrophe in the matter of grammar. Hashtags don’t allow for punctuation marks; English language tattoos are not so forgiving.
The Times Up [sic] tattoo was the perfect representation of the entire big Oscars evening of Hollywood insisting upon its magnanimity. The tattoo was showy, obvious, a purely superficial gesture, and ultimately, not even permanent or real. It sums up the resistance by multi-millionaire insiders — thin.
We have arrived here because of guilt. Incredibly privileged people of any decent bearing feel an immense amount of guilt. In the old days, an indulgence to the Church would help alleviate this sense of random good fortune while others suffered about you. Also, quite conveniently, a guaranteed spot in heaven. In 2018, those indulgences are purchased with hashtags and commitments to causes poorly defined, injudiciously interpreted, and lacking any personal skin in the game. An Inquisition is the perfect vehicle for restoring feelings of wholeness in purpose.
The tragic wealthy celebrity irony is that rank and privilege so casually borne will never be laudable forms of accomplishment to the masses. The kid in coding class might find inspiration from Bill Gates, but not for the manner in which Gates retweets stories from the Huffington Post with thumbs up emoji chains. Second co-lead in Woman Woman or The Martian is simply not the same as building Microsoft, let along saving millions of lives in Africa with vaccines. Steven Spielberg maybe. He makes movies. Nobody gives a whit what his oft-leading man Richard Dreyfuss has to say about anything, And that was even before we found out Dreyfuss was a serial groper of the fairer sex.
A struggling actor might elicit an ounce of compassion; a $100 million dollar actress with multiple mansions and a bogus booming skincare line not the same. This is a fact of the nature of man that has yet to pierce the densely fashioned bubble around the Hollywood elite. You can be wealthy and fortunate and living the good life and you can even honestly care about those without, but you’re simply not apt for leading from the front. You’re not relatable. You not only come from different worlds, you intentionally strove to be a part of a different world. You chose a path in life to lead you to self-serving fame and fortune and grandiose superficiality. Like an honest man going to Washington, whatever you were when you started, now you’re a political hack. You were a decent hardware store owner, now you’re a Congressman and truly unloved. It’s the nature of the beast; your deal with the devil. Like the recent winner of the MegaLotto drawing who regretted her new lack of anonymity. Tough luck.
From a practical standpoint, actively engaging and helping out one less fortunate person than yourself is worth ten thousand likes to a hashtag cause. Which informs the very reason the hashtags and henna tattoos and shoutouts and social media likes and color-coordinated gowns and open letters and Oscars triumvirate of plastic surgery scarred face speeches exist. Because real work is hard, and more germane to the celebrity void-filling process, lacks public recognition. If the cameras are off, does the event really even occur?
Histrionically declaring you’re about improving the lives of some vague masses of unnamed demographic members inevitably results in limited to no results. For those you claim to represent. For you, living in the limelight, the benefits may be truly magnificent.