When it comes to critically analysing Hollywood and its celebrities, Bill Whittle is perhaps one of the most insightful and entertaining commentators. In one of his Youtube videos – the one that largely inspired this article – he refers sarcastically to Hollywood celebrities as “those celestial beings who watch over us in our sleep” and “divine messengers […] warning us of our transgressions…” That video is certainly worth watching. Indeed, those in Hollywood have much to say about how the rest of the world ought to live, and it’s almost always their examples that we should follow. With that in mind, let’s take a look at these role models of divine human behaviour.
1) Jennifer Lawrence and the ‘wage gap’
By now, Jennifer Lawrence’s complaints about being paid less than her American Hustle co-stars are well known. She largely attributes her lower salary to the fact that she is a woman but, in fairness, does accept part of the blame for her failure to negotiate better.
The only problem is that she didn’t get paid less than her co-stars – not if one accounts for how much work each actor put into the production. As demonstrated in a Breitbart article from last year, standardised for the number of days worked, Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper both earned about $55 000/day. Lawrence actually got paid the most out of all the stars, earning close to $66 000/day; her indignation is completely unwarranted. If anyone would be justified in complaining it would be Amy Adams, who earned around $28 000/day, but as these numbers reveal, she wasn’t short-changed (if you could call it that) on account of being a woman.
Lawrence’s failure as an individual – and not as a woman or member of some other arbitrary group – to negotiate a higher salary is her problem and hers alone – and even if her ability to negotiate wasn’t so poor, it’s not immediately clear how the rest of the women in America (or the world, for that matter) would be better off. After all, the dealings of Hollywood are hardly seen as a business model for the rest of the economy. Nonetheless, such is the logic of contemporary feminism.
2) Obama’s tears
Much could be said about Obama crying during one of his recent press conferences on gun violence, but for now the point of interest is the response to his tears. When it comes to politicians crying, nothing is more indicative of Hollywood’s double standards than Comedy Central’s The Daily Show.
When Obama cried, Trevor Noah had nothing but praise for him and his authenticity. He even suggested that you were only human if the sight of Obama crying burdened you with heavy emotion. Following a clip where one news commentator suggested that Obama may have used a raw onion to prompt his tears, Noah indignantly responded, “Are you f* kidding me?”
Does The Daily Show treat all instances of politicians crying this way? Well, not exactly. When former Speaker John Boehner cried during one of his televised interviews, Noah’s predecessor, John Stewart, tore him apart. His colleague on the show even commented that John Boehner can “go from zero to snot in 6.4 seconds,” for which she gave him the name ‘Captain Blubberpants’.
Those in the entertainment industry are right to point out that Boehner’s waterworks have often been hilarious. But what’s astounding is the fact that they consider it inconceivable and unpalatable that anyone would dare suggest that Obama’s crying was anything less than deeply sincere and laudable.
There is clearly a double standard here: for effectively the same issue – namely the well-being of children – one politician is lionised when he cries, while the other is mocked. It’s no secret how this bias arises: many celebrities, including Trevor Noah (who identifies as a ‘progressive’), are vocal in their support for values and policies associated with the political Left.
Liam Neeson, the lead actor of the Taken franchise, regards the ability of US citizens to own weapons as ‘crazy’, and actors including Jamie Fox (star of Django Unchained) have been featured in videos calling for more gun control. There are numerous such examples; one Youtuber very meticulously juxtaposed one of these videos featuring Jamie Fox and others, with scenes from some of those celebrities’ movies. There is a glaring hypocrisy exhibited by those who earn millions of dollars portraying gun-related violence on screen, but think that people should not be able to own guns for personal protection.
But even if the anaemic counterargument is used that the depictions of gun violence in movies aren’t related to real violence, there is still one other aspect to consider. Many supposedly anti-gun celebrities personally use armed guards for protection. At this year’s Golden Globes, heavily-armed guards patrolled the red carpet.
Of course, it must be noted that not everyone in Hollywood exhibits these contradictions. One of the best examples is Clint Eastwood, who once said, “I have a very strict gun control policy: if there’s a gun around, I want to be in control of it.” Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie both favour the use of guns for self-defence. Ice-T (the famous rapper) not only supports the Second Amendment, but also understands the philosophical reasons for its existence – something that fewer and fewer American citizens seem to do these days.
4) Climate change and environment
Nobody epitomises the climate change hypocrisy more than Leonardo DiCaprio. The creator of the climate change documentary The 11th Hour is known to own multiple properties, fly frequently, and spend his off time on large yachts. In the contemporary lingo, it could be said that he uses more than his ‘fair share’. At a climate change rally in 2014, a PJTV correspondent took him up on this, but when the questions got uncomfortable, a member of his entourage promptly cut her off, and the actor ignored her.
One of the trendy ‘green’ vehicles amongst celebrities is the Toyota Prius. The production of these cars requires more energy and produces many times more emissions than that of normal cars. In addition, the mining of rare-earth metals (which are used in hybrid cars) in China causes significant environmental damage – but since the damage is localised, most of the Prius drivers will never be affected by it.
5) Class warfare and capitalism
John Stossel said it best: “[Hollywood] may sneer at profit, but they sure do chase it!”
Leading the charge against capitalism and stoking the flames of class warfare is documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, whose net worth is reported to be around $50 million. This proponent of Cuban-style socialised healthcare and economic socialism also sued the producers of his documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11, for millions in additional profits to which he believed he was entitled. One wonders how much of his wealth has been distributed to, say, the members of the Occupy movement, of which he was a vocal supporter.
Michael Moore is a small-timer compared to Star Wars creator George Lucas, who has a net worth of over $5 billion. Ever-critical of the country whose (relatively) free-market system allowed him to accrue that wealth, Lucas based the cute and furry Ewoks in Star Wars on the Viet Cong – the communist guerilla fighters in Vietnam. By implication, the Galactic Empire was representative of the US. Certainly, there is much debate to be had about the foreign policy of the US, but Lucas’ depictions and underlying message lend credibility to people fighting for a system under which he would be able to make neither films nor money.
Fortunately, some of the celestial beings are here to teach the rest of us to be temperate. As Breitbart reports, ‘one-percenter’ Leonardo DiCaprio – who starred in The Wolf of Wall Street and has a personal net worth of over $200 million – flew by private jet (see ‘Climate change and environment’ above) to the World Economic Forum in Switzerland to lecture world leaders about greed.
As with the guns issue, many in Hollywood amass fortunes vilifying ‘capitalism’ in their movies and in the media, but fail to see the irony of using a market-based system of exchange as a platform which enables them to do so.
The analysis presented here says nothing about the actual issues – whether there should or shouldn’t be gun control, whether capitalism has merits, and so on. Rather, the sole purpose of this article has been to consider the extent to which the professed values and actual behaviour of those in Hollywood are consistent with each other. The issues and examples are certainly not exhaustive. They are representative, though.
In his video, Bill Whittle asks, “If not they, then who can remind us of how far we […] have fallen, and how far we have yet to climb out of our life in hell?” As he notes, if not for their lecturing the rest of us on how to improve the world, Hollywood celebrities – like the corporate CEOs everyone chastises – would just be fat-cat millionaires.
The reality is that Hollywood and its celebrities are not some benign, foreign entity about which we don’t really care. Here in South Africa, many of our social and political convictions are imported from, or at least influenced by, Hollywood. As such, we should stop passively accepting the half-baked hypocritical nonsense they are putting down; rather, we should tackle it head-on.