When we look back at Hollywood’s response to COVID-19 one memory stands out.
Yes, it’s that tone deaf cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” sung by Gal Gadot and her famous friends. The video is impossible to forget. That doesn’t mean it’s fair to sum up the industry’s reaction with one cringe-worthy clip.
The widely panned cover doesn’t capture how celebrities dealt with the pandemic. More than a few stars gave millions toward charities to help a battered nation. Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively and Dolly Parton jump to mind, but that’s only a partial list.
Other stars did what they do best – belt out a tune for our troubled times. Chris Martin, John Legend, Elton John and more performed online concerts to keep us entertained during the lockdown.
Other stars took a more personal approach to our national healing. Actors Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson contracted the virus early and shared their recoveries with the world. They did so with humor, heart and transparency.
There should be an Oscar of sorts for their selfless approach.
Sure, many stars got political with the pandemic, sharing real and fake news aimed at taking down Trump. They still opened their wallets, and hearts, to help. It wasn’t perfect, but some good came from it.
Now, with the George Floyd protests showing little sign of abating, we’re seeing a different side of Hollywood.
Ugly. Cruel. Pro-riot. Anti-free speech.
Perhaps Late Night TV signaled the unfortunate shift. Comics like Stephen Colbert, Jordan Klepper and Jimmy Kimmel attacked anti-lockdown protesters weeks after the pandemic kicked in.
What was missing, besides laughter? Empathy.
The protesters were dumb, dangerous and, gasp, Trump voters, they cried while collecting their gargantuan paychecks.
Since then, the stars have fully aligned with the Floyd protests. On paper, there’s nothing wrong with that. Many Americans are justifiably outraged by video footage of Officer Derek Chauvin keeping a knee on Floyd’s neck for more than eight agonizing minutes.
In a way, that video united Americans like never before. This barbarism cannot stand, we said either silently or on social media. That unity didn’t last long, and a litany of stars share part of the blame.
A gaggle of recognizable faces, including Seth Rogen and Steve Carell, rushed to bail out folks arrested for protesting Floyd’s death. Did the stars worry their money could go to violent looters, not peaceful protesters? Were they saving some cash for the businesses destroyed in the melee, especially minority-owned shops?
The list of stars funding bailout measures continues to grow. We’ve yet to see a similar movement aimed at helping the communities devastated by the riots.
- Some of those stores will never return.
- Some of those business owners will never see their version of the American dream again.
- Some corporations will pull their stores from minority neighborhoods, never to return.
It’s possible stars are helping business owners behind the scenes. If so, why keep it a secret? Why not rally your fan bases to help a noble cause?
Some celebrities have actively cheered on the riots. Like CNN, which attempted to explain away or justify the violence, stars like Idris Elba, Ice Cube, Michael Moore, John Cusack and Trevor Noah did the same.
Even Oprah Winfrey found pleasure in a rioter defending her handiwork. Director Ava DuVernay followed that up by attacking those critical of the rioters using a straw man defense.
Terrence Floyd, George Floyd’s brother, has condemned the violence happening in his brother’s name. Why can’t stars follow his lead?
Other celebrities went so far as to praise Antifa during the mayhem. Patton Oswalt compared the lawless, freedom-snuffing thugs to the Allied heroes on D-Day.
I’m 100% with you Donald! Antifa has been horrible for so long. Here’s some anti-fascists ruining a perfectly good beach day in France! Wish you could have been there to stop them! https://t.co/1eOBVIdNYm pic.twitter.com/caPzj7ojaB
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) May 31, 2020
Meanwhile, fellow stars Debra Messing and Billy Baldwin cheered Oswalt’s Tweet on.
The newest celebrity craze? Defund the police. Yes, the folks who live in mansions with gates and guards want less cops working the beat.
Finally, the Floyd riots have sparked another level of freedom-snuffing measures, this one directly impacting Hollywood.
- HBO Max pulled “Gone with the Wind” from its cyber shelves
- The shows “Cops” and “Live PD” got canceled.
- A classic episode of “Fawlty Towers” got the heave ho from the BBC
- The ’70s classic “Dukes of Hazzard” TV show may soon be memory holed
- Netflix removed four shows featuring blackface
And this list will likely grow in the days to come.
So where is Hollywood, Inc.? Shouldn’t Quentin Tarantino, who leverages free speech like few other filmmakers, speak up on behalf of “Gone with the Wind?” What about Steven Spielberg? Does anyone care that the first black woman to win an Oscar was Hattie McDaniel from … “Gone with the Wind?”
A sane, sober defense of free speech would help defend western values and remind Americans of something simple and true. We can strongly disagree on any number of issues thanks to the First Amendment and a culture that encourages dissent.
It’s what makes us all Americans. Instead, we get virtue signaling gone wild like this …
“Black people are being slaughtered in the streets and killed in their own homes,” actress Julianne Moore says in the clip, a wild distortion that does no one any good.
The facts about murderous cops tell a starkly different story. But what do facts matter when you’re trying to inflame a country already engulfed in fires, both spiritual and literal?
The biggest fear at the moment? Hollywood stars may sink even lower before this is all done.