Two years of graduate school didn’t teach me much, except that I didn’t want to be in graduate school. But I did pick up one valuable lesson from a close study of modern history. That is, revolutions eat their own.
Robespierre got Danton. Stalin got Trotsky. Someone, maybe Hua Guofeng, got China’s Gang of Four, after they got any number of “bourgeois elements” during Mao’s Cultural Revolution.
Closer to home, Hollywood’s own cultural revolution last week devoured actor Peter Fonda after he tried to take a bite out of Donald Trump by publicly wishing torments on his young son Barron, but also used some egregiously anti-female language in a rant against the head of the Department of Homeland Security. Sony Pictures Classics, in whose film Boundaries Fonda plays what the studio called a “very minor role,” immediately condemned him but said that to pull the movie would unfairly punish director Shana Feste and her cast and crew.
Fonda’s career, or what was left of it, had been quickly chewed up by the ruling political passions. The Barron Trump stuff was bad; but the anti-woman thing sealed the deal, coming as it did on the heels of a similarly controversial on-air remark by Samantha Bee.
Days later, Netflix, that most progressive of companies, severed its spokesman Jonathan Friedland for a racially tinged ‘speech crime.’ Thus, another career was swallowed by a dynamic that had already ingested Harvey Weinstein for sex abuse while trying to get Trump, and had very nearly made Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president John Bailey a first victim of the group’s new behavioral standards.
Resistance and revolution are eating this town alive. And it’s worth pausing for a moment to consider what may happen in the next four or five months.
November will bring the mid-term Congressional elections, with all the attendant outrage. With the speed and fury of a pyroclastic flow, a Twitter-fueled monster will eat anything in its path, friend or foe. Agitated actors like Fonda will scream for blood, and some will instead wind up a victim. Presumably well-intentioned people like Friedland will cross a line, and get burned. Hundreds of filmmakers—inflamed by politics, just as they head for the festival limelight and awards-show red carpets—will be caught in an angry churn that no Hollywood publicist can hope to control.
In short, we stand on the verge of a very dangerous season. So this might be a good time to cool it just a bit—pace, Robert De Niro– before our own uprising consumes us.