Playing the Indian Card

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Fatty Weinstein

Roscoe Arbuckle

I have not been following the Harvey Weinstein scandal. I try to make a point of avoiding Hollywood gossip. It is the sin of calumny. And usually cruel and unfair to the celebrities involved, who have a right to their private lives, which right is consistently violated in modern America. Nevertheless, it has been hard to miss headlines saying 35 women have now made accusations of sexual impropriety against Weinstein.

Assuming it is all true, and even if it is not, but is not disproven, might this not have a serious effect on the Hollywood culture? Especially since it conforms to a longstanding popular suspicion about “show people”? A prejudice that stretches back at least to the Middle Ages?

Since the 1960s, Hollywood movies generally have been wildly immoral in any conventional sexual terms. Lots of sex scenes. A larger message, I think, that it is simply right and proper to drop your drawers and satisfy your urges at will. Hey, doesn’t everyone? I cannot speak authoritatively on this, because for the past sixteen years or so, I have been raising kids, and my movie-going has been pretty much limited to films with family ratings. But I have to say I did not feel I was missing anything. Hollywood lost me in the 60s. I think it was 1970, and M*A*S*H that did it. It was the ugly, unsympathetic portrayal of Major Frank Burns by Robert Duvall, as a religious nut, while “Hawkeye,” a callous womanizer, was the hero we were all supposed to identify with. Then and since then, any thought of sexual morality seems to have been treated by Hollywood with contempt. 

And that was a long time ago.

When I was single, I only went to foreign, indie, and art house films. Most of which, yeah, were awful, but if there were going to be any gems, they were going to be here.

There have been indications for years that the public is fed up with this. Note, for example, the unexpected success of The Passion of the Christ. Note the sagging movie attendance over the past year, that was already news when the Weinstein thing broke.

This bubble may be bursting before out eyes. Now people will now see a sex scene on screen, and think “Ick! I wonder who she had to perform some sex act with to get this role? And I wonder what sex act it was?” And when they look at the male partner, they will see I nthe back of their minds a corpulant, grizzled Harvey Weinstein in the nude.

It kind of tarnishes the tinsel. It makes the willing suspension of disbelief seem tawdry and itself a disgusting act.

It may no longer be possible, or profitable, for Hollywood to be so casual about sex in film.

This, after all, has happened before. Fatty Arbuckle. The specific charges were not true, Arbuckle was acquitted in a court of law, but the mental image of Fatty Arbuckle crushing some starlet with his naked bulk was too powerful in the public mind. That scandal ushered in the prudish Hays Code.

And this presents a similar image.

I, for one, certainly do not lament this. Regardless of any moral issues, and there certainly are moral issues, putting an explicit sex scene, or blood and gore, in a film is just cheap thrills. Far better if the scriptwriters and directors have to invest in putting together a better story.

This is also why I believe that writing for children is almost always the best writing. You cannot fake it. The story and the characters have to be worth it on their own.

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