Public Moral Speaking: The Price for Telling Others What is Right and Wrong
Hollywood has always taken an active role in promoting social values. From patriotism to progressive views of civil liberties and trying to end racism, its access to the public via have allowed celebrities and/or their directors and producers to create material to promote the values they believed to be beneficial and good. And for the most part they have been.
Between the sixties and 2000’s, the sub-culture balanced a relationship with its audience between being cutting edge and pushing boundaries, and trying to show a face of some responsibility, promoting positive values. Then in 2017 the relationship ended.
The unforeseen election of Donald Trump and the portion of the American public he claims to represent sent the progressive values of the media culture into a paranoid overdrive. Even before his election, his highly publicized comments about immigrants and Muslims, and then the revelation about his views on treating women already tagged him as public enemy number one. Between the constant Twitter battles and late night jokes, his presidency became well known for its war with Hollywood.
I think many Americans didn’t take their war with the president too seriously, a side show. Others found it offensive, a bunch of self-important fools deluded by their job to entertain people and their money. And on and on it went, until the fall of Harvey Weinstein.
Forfeiting the Right
In October 2017, the New York Times published several allegations from women accusing the Hollywood powerhouse of sexual assault and rape. Though he denied the allegations, soon many other women, including famous actors, also came forward to make similar allegations, were raped, or that they had heard about Wienstein’s predations.
Normally, we are use to a falling star here and there, from time to time. However this wasn’t a celebrity who got drunk, was caught in an affair, or mouthed off to a fan or cop. As head of the largest producing company in Hollywood for decades, he wasn’t a tiny, falling star, but the sun itself. However the true damage came from the fallout.
As of this blog, over twenty-three male actors and media personalities have been accused of sexual misconduct. Weinstien’s fall not only destroyed his career, but also may have destroyed Hollywood’s credibility as a moral authority.
That many progressive celebrities claimed no knowledge of Weinstien’s behavior did not save them from public scorn or even criticism from their own peers. The society of self-entitled, moral judges was now seen as a society of hypocrites who only believed in the ethic, ‘do as I say, not as I do’.
So You Want to Start a Revolution
The seismic fault that this created is not as much rooted in Hollywood’s darker underside as much as it is in the responsibility of any moral crusading. There’s a saying: “opinions are like assholes, everyone has one”. Publicized morals are different from personal opinions because they are values projected onto others, regardless of the reason. And no matter what anyone says about “living your truth”, everyone does it.
Consider for example someone’s truth includes enforcing it on others who don’t follow it, such as law makers or fundamentalists terrorists or lobbyists. We justify ourselves by saying it’s for the public good, but its still in essence pressing our values onto others and expecting them to obey. However there’s a cost to preaching a universal law.
If you expect people to follow your values, to believe in them, then you must embody those values. A revolutionary must become the revolution for it to succeed, not just yell it from the roof tops. Unfortunately, sometimes to embody those values means sacrificing things we would normally do for what we don’t want to do: extra work to the cause, more attention on oneself and family, or in extreme cases, risking your very life. In a society where doing what makes you happy is the goal, those are costs we rather not pay. Instead, we try to compromise with it; try to have the best of both worlds or mentally tell ourselves we can have both so often they become mantras, as if that would make it reality.
When life is calm and under control, we do what we want even if it doesn’t align with our outward, social values because we have that comfort zone. When a crisis happens that’s close to home, then we come out with our platitudes and demand those who broke it to fall in line. Most of the time the values in and of themselves are good. They save and preserve lives and help hold back chaos that would take them. Remember the 1980’s celebrity sing along, We are the World?
But again, the problem lies with the people. There’s one thing that Americans can’t tolerate that’s equal to the loss of their freedom, and that’s a hypocrite who wants them to surrender it but refuses to do the same themselves. The revolutionary places himself not only above the revolution, but the people who uphold it.
Three Fingers Point Back at You
The mistake that Hollywood activists made wasn’t in standing up for what is right or the needs and justice of others. As a friend of mine said, “wrong is wrong” and should be called out as such.
The mistake was in not following through on those morals when it could compromise their own lifestyles and careers. When the bill came due, no one sent their check. The noted silence and lack of appearances among the loudest of liberal actors like Meryl Streep is testament to that fear. Other moral activists like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malala Yousafzai have as much credibility as they do because they had shown what they were willing to give for their causes to succeed.
Still, let’s be honest though, sacrificing aspects of your lifestyle that you worked hard to attain is never an easy thing to do. It shouldn’t be. Yet no value that was accepted by all ever came without some sort of offering by its adherents. Egypt, Rome, the Mayans and the Cherokee: it’s was all the same. If the moral law was to work and society move forward, everybody had to limit some piece of their lives and be held accountable for it.
If we aren’t willing to sacrifice for our values that we are speaking about, then we shouldn’t make our values public at all. The second we do is when we immediately become accountable to the standards of those values: standards we created. And you better believe something will hold us accountable. Life doesn’t allow an alternative luxury.
A lesson that many in Hollywood are now learning.