Reuben, I have long been thinking, what a good world this might be, if the men were all transported far beyond the Northern Sea.
That’s from “Reuben and Rachel” (music by William Gooch, lyrics by Harry Birch, 1871), a song the nuns used to teach us about a thousand years ago. But it also pretty much describes what happened this week with the feature film awards nominations from Producers Guild of America.
Among 11 films nominated for the Darryl F. Zanuck movie producing award (a tie expanded the field from the usual 10), only two — Dunkirk and The Post — portrayed a straight white male in its lead role. And even those were iffy. Fionn Whitehead more or less plays the lead in Dunkirk, but the story is built around a large ensemble. In The Post, Meryl Streep, as Kay Graham, seems to get billing over Tom Hanks, as Ben Bradlee.
As for the other nominees, they are principally about women, as in I, Tonya, Lady Bird, Molly’s Game, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and Wonder Woman; a black man, as in Get Out; gay men, as in Call Me By Your Name; a Pakistani man whose family is wary of white women, as in The Big Sick; or a creature and a woman, as in The Shape Of Water.
In each of the last two years, by contrast, straight white males were depicted as lead characters in at least half the PGA nominees. Those included Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Manchester By The Sea, Bridge Of Spies, The Revenant, and The Martian.
But not this time. Downsizing, Darkest Hour, The Disaster Artist, Wind River, All The Money In The World, and Only The Brave, all featuring white male movie stars, simply didn’t figure. Even Battle Of The Sexes, in which Steve Carell, as a laughable sexist, shared the lead with Emma Stone, was left out.
So this isn’t the year for SWMs — at least as far as the PGA is concerned. In part, the Hollywood sex abuse scandals have played a role. Wind River, in which Jeremy Renner held the lead, didn’t stand a chance after Harvey Weinstein, one of its executive producers, became a poster boy for the anti-harassment campaign — never mind that the guild’s Zanuck award is named for a deceased executive who was known as king of the casting couch.
The Trump effect may also be a factor this season. Darkest Hour, in which Gary Oldman sympathetically portrays a blustering white male chief executive, Winston Churchill, could have a steeper climb with progressive awards voters than, say, The Post, which is led by the openly anti-Trump Streep.
Mostly, though, Hollywood is out to prove that it is, as the song says, a “good world”: diverse, inclusive, feminist, progressive, broad-minded. And for the PGA, that leaves straight white males somewhere far beyond the Northern Sea — with only those little boats in Dunkirk to fetch them back.