Brett Ratner's Oscar debacle: Hollywood hypocrisy?
Is everyone in Hollywood a big fat hypocrite? According to the conservative blogosphere, the answer is a resounding yes. A host of critics on the right are saying that the Academy has gone way overboard in firing--whoops, make that accepting Brett Ratner's resignation--as the producer of the Oscars for his comment that "rehearsal is for fags."
Andrew Breitbart's Big Hollywood website has been mercilessly mocking the showbiz establishment over the last 48 hours, with Big Hollywood editor John Nolte leading the charge. Arguing that Hollywood is guilty of a double standard, he blasted away:
We’ve spent years watching leftist Hollywood attack the identity, values, beliefs and everything held dear by over half of this country. For decades they’ve mocked, lied, demeaned, snarked, stereotyped, and flown their flag of bigotry like the Hollywood résumé enhancer it is. And never ever forget that leftist Hollywood has celebrated, defended, and bestowed honors upon a craven piece of scum who drugged, raped, and sodomized a 13 year-old girl. But here’s what finally has these same hypocrites in a sanctimonious tizzy: “Rehearsal is for fags.” Remember that in leftist Hollywood, you can call the Pope a Nazi, joke about killing a mother of five named Sarah Palin, and relentlessly mock and stereotype Southerners as toothless, inbred sister-humpers eager to make you squeal like a pig. Oh, and feature films can revolve around the mocking of Christians. But, BY GOD, don’t you dare tell a joke that includes a gay slur. Spare me, you hypocritical bigots.
Film critic Kyle Smith, in an op-ed piece in the New York Post, hit on the hypocrisy issue as well, arguing that Hollywood is all worked up about one F-word when it happily endorses another one:
Hollywood continues to freely denounce as ''fascists' those who (for example) think government spending should return to approximately the level of three years ago. Example: Woody Allen has the Woody Allen character in "Midnight in Paris" castigate "Republican Tea Party crypto-fascist airhead zombies."... And [Alec] Baldwin called columnist Michelle Malkin "a world class, crypto fascist hater" during a discussion of the execution of Troy Davis. Are all Americans who support the death penalty fascists?"
Howard Stern, who had Ratner on his radio show for some frank frat-house-style sex talk the very day Ratner issued an apology for his gay slur, has also weighed in, ridiculing Hollywood for practicing "confusing morality," adding that "this is the same industry that wants Roman Polanski to be forgiven for raping a 13-year-old girl, that it's time he be let back in the United States. I'd hang him by the [testicles]."
At the risk of sounding like Herman Cain, I have to say that this is a case of apples and oranges. Conservatives are so eager to rail against Hollywood hypocrisy that they've already created their own alternative reality when it comes to what actually occurred during RatnerGate. In fact, Ratner was not done in by making a gay slur. He apologized and the motion picture Academy publicly accepted it. It was only after the Academy heard what Ratner said on the Stern show, where he boasted about his prowess at oral sex and discussed his sexual encounters, that support for Ratner melted away when it became obvious that the Oscar producer was far too crass and immature to handle the job.
If all Ratner had done was make a gay slur, he'd still have his job, just as Tracy Morgan, who made even more alarming remarks about gay people in a stand-up routine, still has his job on "30 Rock." This is hardly an example of "gay terrorism," as one of the many cranky Big Hollywood commenters described the events. If the gay PC police really have so much sway, then why did Universal Pictures, who took all sorts of heat earlier this year from gay activists complaining about a gay electric car joke in "The Dilemma," end up keeping the joke in the movie? (A movie, by the way, produced by Brian Grazer, who's taking Ratner's place as Oscar producer).
Conservatives keep bashing Hollywood for, as Nolte put it, having "celebrated, defended, and bestowed honors" on Polanski, despite his having raped a 13-year-old girl. It's true that Polanski won a best director Oscar for his film "The Pianist." But he earned the Oscar for his work, not for a horrible act he did more than 30 years ago. I don't hear anyone defending Polanski -- the industry people I've spoken to see him as a sad, self-destructive guy, not a hero. It's worth remembering that the same Academy that gave Polanski an Oscar also gave a honorary Oscar to Elia Kazan, even though lots of liberals found what he did in his private life -- informing on his friends before Congress -- a despicable act. But the work, in both cases, trumps any personal transgressions.
The bigger point that conservatives seem to miss is that the Oscars and Hollywood are two different institutions. In Hollywood, pretty much anything goes, as long as your movie makes money. But the motion picture Academy holds people to higher standards. In fact, it's exactly the same kind of institution that conservatives would normally admire, being an organization that holds its members to high standards. You won't see the actress who called the pope a Nazi presenting an award, nor would you see the movie that stereotyped Southerners winning a best picture statuette.
The Oscars are old-fashioned to a fault, which is why when the Academy discovered that its producer was running around, acting like an over-sexed teenager, it gave him the bum's rush. For all its flaws, the Academy is one of the few institutions in Hollywood that spends most of its time worrying about the C-word: class.
-- Patrick Goldstein
Photo: Producer Brian Grazer, left, with director Brett Ratner at the "J. Edgar" premiere in Hollywood. Credit: Fred Prouser / Reuters