The day after the Golden Globes, I got together with a friend for breakfast at the Four Seasons in Los Angeles. The Four Seasons has long been known as a celebrity hangout – it’s a super-posh hotel smack in the middle of the city – and so it wasn’t all that surprising to see Hollywood celebrities milling around. One of those celebrities was Harvey Weinstein, the man whose company stands behind such art-house hits and commercial mediocrities as The Iron Lady, My Week With Marilyn, The Artist, and _W.E._ This is the man Madonna called “The Punisher” and Meryl Streep called “God,” large pockmarked bullies with enormous pocketbooks passing for deities in Tinseltown.
Weinstein is also widely known as one of the biggest jerks in Hollywood. The word “jerk” is a dramatic understatement here, but the more accurate terms don’t belong on a family website. He once put New York Observer editor Andrew Goldman in a headlock and dragged him out into the street after Goldman had the temerity to defend another reporter who asked Weinstein tough questions. He has reportedly threatened and assaulted other writers and directors. Hollywoodites have accused Weinstein of cooking the books.
So it was no surprise that when my friend at breakfast had the temerity to say “Congratulations!” to Weinstein on his Golden Globes victories, he glared at my friend as though he’d thrown up on his $1,000 shoes before muttering “Thanks” without enthusiasm.
Which leads to a bigger question: who the hell do these people think they are?
Hollywood doesn’t seem able to understand why the bulk of Americans both adore them and think they’re the scum of the earth. Both answers were in evidence at the Golden Globes this week.
First, why we adore them. We adore Hollywood because it entertains us. It’s that simple. The people there may act like royalty but they’re glorified court jesters, dancing to our amusement at $10 a pop. They make us laugh, make us cry, and tell us stories. What’s not to like?
Well, what’s not to like is who they actually are (here we speak mostly of actors, who have the most unearned self-esteem). They make lots of money and dress beautifully, which is all fine and dandy (although it must be pointed out that making millions to cry on film is not exactly the same as making millions to perform heart surgery). The real problem, though, is that so many Hollywoodites treat others badly; they act as though we’re interested in them not because of what they do on screen, but because of their sheer intellectual brilliance; and, more perversely, they act as though they’re men and women of the people—the 99%– when they scorn the people with the unbridled contemptuousness of the true elitists who define what the 1% is.
Few people who spend time in Hollywood’s hot spots have never been mistreated by a celebrity. A sense of entitlement surrounds many of these stars, who believe they deserve special privileges because people know their faces, but then bridle when people ask them for autographs. It’s always a surprise in Hollywood when someone turns out not to be inconceivably rude and arrogant.
Even from afar, they appear to be some of the world’s most dislikable folks. They sneer at traditional moral standards; they proclaim moral superiority for their agenda, even as they destroy their own private lives. They don’t give a damn about marriage or children, but believe that driving a Prius buys them a one-way ticket into Paradise, where they will be serviced by 72 Vegas showgirls. ( At the Four Seasons, there are probably more Priuses than Mercedes – the left’s system of buying indulgences so as not to be lumped in with the “99%” is working well.)
That’s why we were looking forward to seeing Ricky Gervais brutalize them on national television – they deserve it. And then Gervais failed us. Sure, it was fun watching him put holier-than-thou, full-time-Jack-Sparrow-accented Johnny Depp to shame by asking him whether he’d used recreational drugs or seen The Tourist. It was even fun to watch him basically label Madonna a slut. But that was as far as he went. He didn’t smack around the celebrities for their “we heal the world” pretensions. He didn’t point out the obvious: that these people play-act for a living, and aren’t royalty.
Meanwhile, our self-appointed royals did what they do best: they insulted Americans with their witless self-congratulation. It’s that they took the opportunity to make vulgar jokes simply to stick out their tongues at our supposed Puritanism. Thus we had Gervais, and Tina Fey and Jane Lynch, and George Clooney, and Seth Rogan, making penis jokes. Is this the best Hollywood has to offer?
To add injury to insult, they then focused on shows and movies nobody had ever seen. The inherent message: the American public that pays our salary is incredibly stupid. Only we appreciate true art.
In the end, it’s not Hollywood’s fault that we continue to pay them to condescend to us. It’s our own. It’s one thing to buy movie tickets and pay the court jesters. It’s another to treat them as royalty. We—and they—should remember that fame does not equal classiness.
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