Chris Evans, the star of Captain America and The Avengers, tweeted at me this week after my appearance on Piers Morgan Tonight on CNN. His tweet: “I genuinely dislike @benshapiro.” To which I promptly tweeted back, “I don’t dislike @chrisevans. We can disagree on politics, agree that The Fantastic Four is a terrible movie, and still like each other.”
But Evans’ tweet says a lot about the state of Hollywood these days. If you disagree with someone’s political views, that means they are unpalatable as human beings in Tinseltown. That’s how blacklists get started – informally, off the books. Social clubs form, and if you don’t believe the typical liberal line on politics ranging from war to same-sex marriage to abortion, you’ll be stigmatized.
For Evans, my great sin was likely telling Piers Morgan that Jason Collins, the NBA player who recently came out as gay, is not a hero. “Heroism is defined by willingness to sacrifice, and willingness to take a real personal risk in favor of a noble, larger goal. This may be a noble, larger goal but I’m not sure it’s a great personal risk,” I said. When Piers protested that it was a big deal, I added, “Why do you hate Americans so much, that you think this is such a homophobic country, that when Jason Collins comes out it is the biggest deal in the history of humanity? President Obama has to personally call him to congratulate him …. I think that America is a fundamentally good place …. Being who you are in 2013 America is what America is about. It is not heroic to be who you are publicly. I’m glad for Jason Collins if it makes him feel like he’s going to have a happier life now. But, it does not make him a hero to be who you are because America is not a homophobic country.”
Such sentiments are taboo in Hollywood. Hollywood perceives America to be the world’s worst place. That’s why a significant number of dramas with prominent gay characters feature them being beaten unmercifully (Brokeback Mountain, As Good As It Gets, Boys Don’t Cry, to name a few). Other movies without the violence still play up the idea that modern America is a nasty, homophobic place. But the truth is very different: openly homosexual people are extraordinarily prominent in American life, heading up major corporations (Apple, PayPal), and taking a leading position in politics (Tammy Baldwin, Barney Frank, David Cicilline, Jared Polis, and well over a hundred other gay and lesbian elected politicians across America). Gays and lesbians are especially prominent in Hollywood, with powerhouses like Ellen Degeneres (The Ellen Show), Ryan Murphy (Glee, Nip/Tuck), Barry Diller (IAC), Neil Patrick Harris, Scott Rudin striding purposefully and powerfully down the halls of power. And in the news media, Rachel Maddow, Anderson Cooper, Nate Silver, and Chris Hughes are just a few of the top names. When it comes to hate crimes, Jews have the same chance of becoming hate crime victims as homosexuals do, according to FBI statistics. America is perhaps the world’s most philosemitic country – and yet Hollywood considers America to be one of the world’s most anti-gay countries.
Hollywood’s belief that America is a backwards, Taliban-like entity is not restricted to topics of sexual orientation. Hollywood believes that America is deeply racist (Crash), horribly greedy (Wall Street), and terribly brutal (Green Zone). Stand up for the goodness of the American people, and you’ll quickly be labeled a tool of the establishment – and worse, people won’t like you.
And so feelings trump evidence. The folks in Hollywood know best that while racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism and the like still exist, they’re by far the exceptions rather than the rule. But they would prefer to think of themselves as heroes standing up against the evil American machine, rather than performers whose job is to entertain the very Americans they so dislike.
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