A year ago, Meryl Streep delivered an impassioned political speech at the Golden Globe Awards. Her speech was largely hailed as an act of dissent by the mainstream media and liberal elite. This year, Hollywood A-listers once again graced us with their political engagement by dressing in all black as an act of solidarity with sexual assault victims and to fight gender inequality. Their goal was to continue the conversation that started months ago. Those who joined the crusade included Hollywood’s heavy hitters: Jessica Chastain, Emma Stone, Reese Witherspoon, among many others.
Celebrities who openly celebrated known child rapists (looking at you Meryl Streep) promised a night of “change” and oh, did they deliver. If you want to know what activism looks like to celebrities, look no further than the Golden Globes. Evan Rachel Wood urged attendees to form a circle around predators. Seth Meyers delivered a politically infused monologue referencing sexual misconduct, Trump, and racism – the three most beloved topics in Hollywood. Some celebrities even brought activists with them as their dates, proudly showing off that they too, are politically hip with it. It was a grand evening of self-indulgence. Some celebrities also sported a ‘Time’s Up’ protest pin, displaying their support for this new Hollywood initiative. Because as we know, celebrities will stop at nothing to make everything about themselves.
Time’s Up on Deploying Western Savior Tactics
The Time’s Up movement includes hundreds of celebrities who will donate money to fund legal aid for poor women being abused in the workplace. In other words, it is your regular ol’ case of class-savior complex à la Oscar Wilde. Throw money at the poorest under the assumption they cannot take action themselves, thereby removing their sense of agency. It is a typical savior tactic employed by the West that reinforces dependency and provides temporary solutions to a systemic problem. In this case, it is a problem that cannot be solved by out-of-touch, ego-infused celebrities. Various conscious capitalist campaigns function in the same way. Despite what the latest celebrity humanitarian might say, these methods of creating change have only ever been successful in virtue signaling and moral narcissism.
The launch letter of Time’s Up reeks of the same class-based tactics to serve the underprivileged. ‘To every woman employed in agriculture who has had to fend off unwanted sexual advances from her boss, every housekeeper who has tried to escape an assaultive guest, every janitor trapped nightly in a building with a predatory supervisor, every waitress grabbed by a customer and expected to take it with a smile, every garment and factory worker forced to trade sexual acts for more shifts, every domestic worker or home health aide forcibly touched by a client, every immigrant woman silenced by the threat of her undocumented status being reported in retaliation for speaking up and to women in every industry who are subjected to indignities and offensive behavior that they are expected to tolerate in order to make a living: We stand with you. We support you’, the letter states.
This campaign assumes that working-class women cannot stick up for themselves. Lest these outraged celebrities forget, all social movements have been won by ordinary people: the civil rights movement, suffrage movement, labor rights – each and every one of these movements have been won by the working class. And they will continue to be won by the working class. We don’t need hashtags and grandstanding, we need an active political movement. People don’t have time for empty gestures – celebrities can keep their hashtags, thank you. The rest of us will continue attending town halls, lobbying government, writing letters, and rallying our communities to create tangible change.
Time’s Up is a self-indulgent campaign spurred on by the patronizing #MeToo movement that was largely fueled by finger wagging, the demonization of men, and the proud embracement of victimhood. Reputations were destroyed because the most benign gestures, wolf whistling and knee touching, were labeled as assault. Matt Damon was caught in the crossfires when he made rational, reflective comments addressing the above. His comments instigated a petition to remove him from Ocean’s 8. Anyone who dare speak out critically is treated with the same contempt as the accused rapists and labeled as ‘victim blamers’. Women who came forward were pleased with using trauma-based narratives when claiming victimhood on the most minor casual advances. The #MeToo movement devolved into an anti-male grievance fest, normalizing mob behavior and infantilization of accusers. There was no room for open discourse and dialogue.
(Some) Pushback to Hollywood Hypocrisy
All hope was not lost. Some of Hollywood’s elite were more enlightened than others. Rose McGowan dared to speak out about the Hollywood hypocrisy and she too was shunned, even by her seemingly close friends. Other well-known figures who agreed with Rose were also undermined by the Hollywood Faux Feminists. Pamela Anderson pointed out the obvious: Harvey Weinstein’s reputation was very well known in Hollywood – it was considered common knowledge, even to Z-listers. There are online forums littered with stories about Harvey dating back several years, along with celebrity interviews, TV and movie references, and an Oscar joke to boot. When Rose accused Meryl of knowing about Harvey’s vile ways, the former was admonished. Yet when other women came forward making bold sexual assault claims, their stories weren’t questioned. Reputations have already been slaughtered by the self-righteous without any form of due process. It’s not far-fetched to believe that Streep knew about Harvey all this time. After all, her and many others publicly supported Roman Polanski and Woody Allen.
The media often portrays this dogmatic fight for gender equality by throwing generic trauma-ridden words such as ‘brave’ and ‘courageous’ – often catering to the powerful elite, to create that emotional narrative and drive the message home. These ‘feminist’ movements (and I use the term ‘feminist’ loosely here) are not the first symbolic, patronizing gestures that we have seen coming from the liberal elite. They happen all the time. Hillary Clinton’s presidential platform was wholly dependent on identity politics while her political platform served more as an afterthought. Clinton garnered wide celebrity support, despite the many contradictions and hypocrisies that seeped out of her campaign. She fought for gender equality yet she used her own gender as a way to gain special treatment and votes exclusively from women. Her female supporters were quick to whip out the pitch forks whenever Clinton the Feminist Cheerleader was challenged.
The corporate media also fawned over the women’s marches that took place in response to Trump’s victory. While they were largely symbolic in nature, the women’s marches were widely celebrated online. Yet, other more substantial and wide-reaching movements were vilified and undermined, namely Occupy. Occupy was constantly invalidated by the mainstream media, self-proclaimed experts, and anyone with a loud online presence. Many of the women’s marches participants were the same people who criticized the Occupy movement for being a leaderless, catch-all movement with no concrete goals. People were obsessively nitpicking over the Occupy movement, looking for any reason to reject it – articles came out of the woodwork following Occupy boldly stating that protests don’t work. Yet the criticisms to the women’s marches were almost non-existent.
It’s important to address Hollywood’s role in all of this because it perfectly illustrates the politicization of well, everything. With politics, we reached a point where if you don’t provide an opinion or get involved (even in the most superficial way), then you are seen as uncaring, ignorant, a Trump supporter, or whatever other ridiculous or reductionist explanation the social media mob comes up with. Now more than ever celebrities are pressured to insert themselves in current affairs thereby reducing political discourse to Trump’s latest tweet, his orange skin, or any other trivial issue of the day. When you combine the regression of political discourse, outrage fanaticism and social media shaming, the result is a dangerous concoction of fragmentation, misunderstanding, and misinformation. Everyone wants to stake a claim in their outrage.
The False Rebel in Modern Society
We have allowed identity politics to hinder real understanding, respect, and compassion. Identity politics is a divisive, zero sum game – it is inherently regressive. It has taken a foothold in academic circles and may significantly stall cultural and social progress in the Western world. The irony is clear – it is the ‘progressives’ that will be complicit in stalling progress. Identity politics does not improve the human condition. Fear of being perceived as transphobic, xenophobic, or any other ‘–phobic’ has rendered people sterile and nauseatingly dull. It’s trendy and predictable to write about transgenderism, feminism, racism and any other marginal identifiers so long as it is ticks off all the politically correct boxes. These censorship mechanisms greatly hinder progress. Identity politics has proven to be an effective way to show subversion but at the same time, not ruffle any feathers at all.
The only way that is accepted to do feminism in the public eye is to berate others for doing it the wrong way. As a result, we lose the voices of strong, independent women in the process of shaming them for not having the same narrow-minded point of view. The politicization of everything is bad for everyone. It diminishes politics, cultural and society as a whole.
In watching all of this unfold, I am reminded of Guy Debord’s seminal work Society of the Spectacle, which wonderfully captures the modern society in which we live. In his work, Debord coined the term ‘false rebellion’ as a way to describe a person who engages in a socially accepted act of dissent, rendering it a façade. The false rebel perpetuates the spectacle in modern society – that is, it allows for illusions and shallow content to prevail over substance and critical thinking. Maybe these celebrities should give it a read and learn that being a false rebel is no more virtuous than tweeting out shallow and morally narcissistic comments from the comfort of their empires. It is time we move past the false rebel, ignore these seriously misguided celebrities and refocus our efforts on the power of community organizing to create tangible social change.