"Everything is as it should be."

                                                                                  - Benjamin Purcell Morris

 

 

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Hollywood's Self-Serving and Misguided Immigration Protests

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Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes 57 seconds

Hollywood celebrities are furious over Trump’s policy of separating immigrant children from their families, but their outrage is selective and often self-serving.

In recent weeks the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their families when they attempt to enter America illegally or to seek asylum has been the top story.

Media coverage has included horrific pictures and video of young immigrant children in anguish over being taken from their families. Pundits have repeatedly used the phrase “babies in cages” to describe the situation.

Hollywood celebrities like Oprah, John Legend, Ellen DeGeneres and Evan Rachel Wood are among the many stars moved by the plight of these children who have gone public with their disdain for President Trump and his immigration policy. 

While it strikes me as obvious that Trump’s family separation policy is cruel and horrifying, I also have to admit I find the pose of child advocacy on the part of some of these celebrities to be at best misguided and at worst a form of vacuous virtue signaling. 

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For instance, Evan Rachel Wood, star of HBO’s Westworld, went to the Texas border to join in an organized 24-hour hunger strike to bring attention to the issue. She implored people to follow her on Instagram to stay current on her progress. When I read that story I found it so asinine that I had to double check to make sure I wasn’t reading the satirical news website The Onion. Sadly, I wasn’t, it was a real story that left me wondering if she was starving herself for a good cause or starving for attention?

While Ms. Wood’s heart may be in the right place, it’s her mind that I’m worried about. Here are a few things to consider in regards to Ms. Wood’s 24-hour hunger strike.

First of all, if you’re an actor living in Hollywood, if you’re not fasting at least one day a week, you’re simply not trying.

Secondly, starving yourself for 24 hours is not going to do a single thing for frightened toddlers and infants separated from their mothers and fathers at the border.

And third, if the argument is that Ms. Wood and the rest of her fellow 24-hour hunger strikers are, like other famous hunger strikers in the past such as Gandhi, Cesar Chavez, Bobby Sands and the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay prison, starving themselves to bring attention to an issue, in this case the immigrant family separation policy, then they are a little late to the party.

The media has been relentlessly reporting on this topic for the last few weeks and have flocked to the Texas border to breathlessly cover the story. And that, it seems, is the point for some of these celebrities, namely that the media is already focused on this issue and therefore when seemingly well-intentioned stars use stunts like hunger striking or going to the border, they aren’t bringing attention to the issue…but rather to themselves.

Another problem with the spate of Tinseltown voices demanding action to stop Trump’s brutal family separation policy is that these stars didn’t get up in arms when President Obama had a similarly callous policy towards illegal immigrant families.

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Obama’s DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson recently went on Fox News and commented on startling images of young immigrant children separated from their parents and put in makeshift jail cells by the Obama team in 2014. Johnson said, “without a doubt the images, and the reality, from 2014, just like 2018, are not pretty.”

Johnson then said of Obama’s family detainment policy, which at times included child separation, “We expanded it, I freely admit it was controversial, we believed it was necessary at the time, I still believe it is necessary …”.

Johnson also proudly said that the Obama administration had deported and repatriated over a million people.

One wonders why Hollywood bigwigs like musician and actor John Legend only seem to care about draconian immigration enforcement policy when Trump is doing it. Legend, who recently donated $72,000 to the ACLU over Trump’s inhumane border control practices, must have been blissfully unaware that the ACLU lambasted Obama in 2015 for his family detention and fast track deportation policy for Central American illegal immigrants.

Again, Mr. Legend’s heart is in the right place but his failure to advocate for the immigrant children brutalized under Obama, seriously degrades his legitimacy when he chastises Trump for doing the same thing.

Another problem with the celebrity outrage machine regarding the Trump immigration issue is that none of the stars speaking out ever dig deep enough to get to the root of the problem.

For instance, ‘comedian’ Bill Maher postulated on his HBO show Real Time with Bill Maher last week that he thinks the wave of illegal immigration from Central American countries, like El Salvador and Honduras, both of which are among the most violent places on earth, is due to the drug war.

Maher and his panel of establishment sycophants were incapable of seeing the forest for the trees and lay the blame for the immigration fiasco either on Trump, the drug war, or both and entirely failed to notice the neo-liberal elephant in the room…namely, America’s colonialist and imperial foreign policy.

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For example, El Salvador didn’t become a violent hellhole all by itself. From 1980 to 1992 the U.S. fueled a dirty civil war in El Salvador by sending hundreds of millions of dollars in economic and military aid, and military advisors who trained paramilitary death squads that kidnapped, tortured and killed thousands of innocent Salvadorans. 75,000 Salvadorans were killed in that brutal, U.S. backed proxy war that so destabilized El Salvador that it still hasn’t recovered.

Honduras is also a hot mess of a country, in part, because in 2009, in opposition to the Organization of American States, the E.U. and United Nations, the U.S. backed and supported a coup that toppled a democratically elected government.

None of this is new, as children from all over the world have had to pay the price for America’s militarism for a long time now.

For example, America’s recent history of nefarious military meddling in the Middle East has had devastating consequences for children. Millions of children have become refugees, orphans or been killed or maimed by America’s recent military adventurism in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and Yemen. 

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According to the Pew Research Center, from 2005 to 2015 the number of displaced migrants in the Middle East is a staggering 23 million, the majority of which were the result of American backed wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. If Hollywood genuinely wants to protect children, a good place to start would be to stop collaborating with the Pentagon in making muscular propaganda for American militarism that leads to endless military actions across the globe.

And finally, if these celebrities were genuine in wanting to help children separated from their parents, they wouldn’t have to go to all the way to the border to find them.

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Los Angeles County, home to Hollywood, has the largest foster care system in America with nearly 20,000 children in their care. Over 81% of these kids have been removed from their homes due to neglect. These children, just like those taken from their families at the border, have been traumatized and are in desperate need of a warm bed and a kind soul to care for them.

So celebrities, if you want to prove that you are genuine in your concern for displaced and vulnerable children you should start by doing two things: one, become foster parents and two, vociferously advocate against America’s relentless militarism. Because the truth is, preening at the border, posing as a hunger striker and tweeting your outrage doesn’t bring comfort or alleviate a child’s suffering, it only heightens your sense of self-satisfaction and feeds your ego.

A version of this article was originally published at RT.com.

©2018

A Wrinkle in Time, Film Criticism and White Liberal Paternalism

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Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes 58 seconds

The Disney film, A Wrinkle in Time, opened two weeks ago amid much media fawning because it is the first film with a budget of over $100 million to be directed by an African-American woman (Ava DuVernay). The film also stars a who's who of big time stars like Oprah, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling and Chris Pine along with a diverse group of fresh-faced young newcomers.

The film is based upon the classic children's book, A Wrinkle in Time written by Madeleine L'Engle. In the lead up to the release of the film, Disney put on a full court publicity blitz by Oprah and director DuVernay, touting how the film was a beacon of diversity in casting. The book A Wrinkle in Time is about a young White girl and is populated by White people, but Oprah and Duvernay's version stars a young African-American girl and actors of color are throughout the cast. Because of the diversity/inclusion casting and the symbolic politics of the movie, the media generated a lot of positive buzz leading up to A Wrinkle in Time's opening. 

Of the plethora of pre-release pieces of marketing, the one that stood out to me most was a softball interview/fluff info-adver-tainment piece by the New York Times with Ms. DuVernay. When I read the article, which was meant to be a completely and totally supportive bit of kiss-ass journalism by the esteemed paper of record, I was shocked at how unlikable Ms. DuVernay came across and how completely oblivious to it she and the Times both were. 

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After reading that article and Ms. DuVernay's accompanying tone-deafness and seeing the God-awful trailer, I was not surprised in the least that upon release A Wrinkle in Time absolutely bombed. Reviewers were gently negative but audiences disliked the film with a vigor. Watching the Rotten Tomato "Tomato Meter" of the movie over opening weekend, which started at a "really want to see it" 99, drop so precipitously, was like watching the stock market in late October of 1929. After the first weekend in theaters, A Wrinkle in Time had landed at 40 on the critic side and 34 on the audience side of the Tomato Meter, which gave the film a solidly "Rotten" rating, but all things considered, I was actually surprised it wasn't worse.

THE BIGOTRY OF LOW EXPECTATIONS

Since I never had any interest in seeing A Wrinkle in Time, I decided to read some reviews of the film so I went back to Rotten Tomatoes because it lists and links reviews from professional film critics. I went through and read a bunch of reviews from critics that gave the movie a "fresh" rating and what struck me is that they all gushed about everything surrounding the film, like its wonderful diversity and how "important" it was culturally that it was directed by an African-American woman, but once you got past that stuff the written reviews were actually very negative in regards to the storytelling and skill and craft on display in the movie. And yet, despite this, when it came time to rate the film with a letter grade or number of stars, the reviewers all elevated the film to a positive grade/stars which seemed at odds with what they had written about the actual movie in the body of their review. 

For example, Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post wrote, " “A Wrinkle in Time” is plagued by the same convoluted leaps and hurried lack of logic...in L’Engle’s original book. At a time when movies are almost uniformly too long, this is one film that could have benefited from a few more scenes to pump up Meg’s backstory, solidify the emotional stakes and smooth out transitions that are jagged at best, nonsensical at worst." Despite this rather clear-cut criticism Ms. Hornaday rated the film 3 out of 4 stars. 

Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "The sheer exuberance of this movie can provoke more than a few seemingly discordant reactions, sometimes in the same instance...I found myself wishing that this "Wrinkle" were more focused, more disciplined — that its ceaseless flow of fantastical images cohered into a revelatory new application of L'Engle's themes and insights, rather than an earnest, sometimes awkward reiteration of them." Mr. Chang gave the film a "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

David Fear's Rolling Stone review stated, "This Wrinkle in Time is undoubtedly flawed, wildly uneven, and apt to tie itself in narrative knots in a quest to wow you with sheer technicolor weirdness." In spite of Fear's obvious misgivings about the movie, he gave it 3 out of 4 stars anyway. He also tips his hand as to why he and other critics do so later in his review when he writes, "It's worth seeing just to bask in a film that does ask for inclusion on such a grand scale…"

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The question then becomes, why would reviewers bump up their grade for a film they thought wasn't very well made? I believe the reason they did it is that they want the film to succeed because it touts diversity/inclusion and for what it symbolizes politically and culturally in regards to race and gender. These reviewers increased their ratings for the film because they did not want A Wrinkle in Time to end up with a "Rotten" score on Rotten Tomatoes. They also did it because it was a cheap way to virtue signal and they were afraid they might be labelled a racist if they were critical of a pro-diversity/inclusion film directed by a Black woman. 

BLACK PANTHER AND RUNNING UP THE SCORE

This sort of critical liberal paternalism and its accompanying grading curve that reviewers used to give A Wrinkle in Time a boost, also seems to be in effect for another film directed by an African-American and starring African-American actors, Black Panther. Black Panther is by all accounts a significantly better film than A Wrinkle in Time, and yet it seems to have also benefited from the same politically/racially motivated grading curve.

Black Panther has been absolutely adored by critics, proof of this is that the film currently has an impressive 97 critical score on Rotten Tomatoes. Now, people can have different opinions of a film, so I don't chalk up critics liking Black Panther to solely a political agenda, but if you look at the Rotten Tomato statistics, it certainly seems that HOW MUCH critics liked Black Panther is a result of a political/racial agenda and the aforementioned grading curve. 

Evidence of this is that according to the Rotten Tomato critical score, Black Panther isn't just the highest rated film in the Marvel Cinematic canon, it is the highest rated superhero movie of all time. According to the critical score, Black Panther is even better than The Dark Knight (94 critical rating), which most cinematically literate people consider to be a super hero masterpiece, proof of which is that it is the film whose exclusion from the Oscar Best Picture nominations in 2008, led to the Academy Awards actually changing the nominating process and doubling the amount of films in the Best Picture category. 

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Where things get interesting in this discussion about Black Panther is when you look at the audience score. While critics have it rated as the greatest superhero film of all time at 97, audiences scored the film at a much more tepid, and frankly rational, 79. That 79 audience score places Black Panther in the bottom half of the films in the Marvel cinematic canon according to audiences, with only Iron Man 2 (72), Iron Man 3 (78), Incredible Hulk (71), Thor (76) and Thor: Dark World (77) rating lower. Of the 19 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, 12 are ranked higher by audiences than Black Panther, and that is just Marvel. Wonder Woman (88), Logan (90), Deadpool (90), X-Men (83), X-Men 2: X-Men United (85), X-Men: First Class (87), X-Men: Days of Future Past (91) along with the entire Christopher Nolan Dark Knight trilogy (94,94,90 respectively) all have a higher audience score than Black Panther. Those Rotten Tomato statistics show that something is obviously askew when it comes to critics opinion of Black Panther versus audiences opinion in the context of the other Marvel  and other superhero films.

Another Rotten Tomato data point that is intriguing is that Black Panther has the widest margin between its critical score and its audience score of all the Marvel films and super hero films of recent years that were rated "Fresh".

Black Panther's critical score of 97, and audience score of 79, makes for a spread of -18. The next super hero film with the closest negative critical/audience score spread is Captain America: First Avenger with a -6. It is pretty striking that Black Panther's negative critical/audience spread is 3 x higher than the next superhero film with a negative spread. The average negative critical/audience score spread of the ten Marvel films eligible is -4.3.

Another intriguing tidbit is that among the eight Marvel films with a positive critic/audience spread (audience score is higher than the critical score), the average spread is +4.5, with the highest spreads being Thor: Dark World at +11 and Avengers: Age of Ultron at +8. 

In analyzing all of this data the thing that really sticks out is that Black Panther is a total outlier in terms of the spread between its critical and audience scores. Why is that?

My thesis regarding the Black Panther Rotten Tomato anomalies is the same as my thesis regarding A Wrinkle in Time's odd dichotomy between written reviews and the grade given…namely that critics scored these two films on a curve in order to elevate their Rotten Tomato scores due to the racial and/or gender politics associated with both films. In other words, critics graded these films not on their cinematic and artistic merits, but on their racial and gender politics.

Another factor may be that professional film critics are grading a film publicly, while amateur Rotten Tomato "reviewers" can share their opinion in relative obscurity and anonymity. When people can hide behind relative anonymity they are much freer to give more honest views in regards to a movie and have no need to virtue signal out of fear of being ostracized over racism charges.

It is difficult to come to any clear cut mathematical answer without diving into Rotten Tomatoes specific formula, but my best guess is that Black Panther received a rating boost equivalent to half a grade/star higher due to this racially motivated grading curve. I also believe that A Wrinkle in Time received a grading curve boost of at least a full star higher than it merited due to the same reasons.

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If Black Panther had not gotten the extra half a grade/star boost, it would fall from a 97 critical score to a critical score of about 83, which would leave it within the margin of an average spread between critical score and audience score for a typical Marvel film (-4.3). It is much more difficult to mathematically figure what A Wrinkle in Time's critical score would be without this grading curve because there are no films with which to compare it, but it seems likely that minus the full grade/star boost, A Wrinkle in Time would have received a much lower score, most likely in the range of 20 or even lower.

FAILING UPWARDS IN THE AGE OF IDENTITY POLITICS

A remarkable note about the failure of A Wrinkle in Time is that as the film has flopped, its director Ava DuVernay has been given the keys to another big-budget project, the Warner Brothers/DC film New Gods. What makes this all the more striking is that A Wrinkle in Time hasn't just flopped with critics (regardless of inflated ratings) or audiences, but financially. A Wrinkle in Time had a budget of over $100 million and when you add in marketing costs and account for theater's share of the cut, the film needs to break the $250 million barrier JUST TO BREAK EVEN. That goal seems like a very long shot at this point in time, which is why it is so bizarre that WB/DC would jump at the chance to work with Ms. DuVernay at this moment of her epic blockbuster failure. 

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Emblematic of the "leg up" program and the accompanying climate of political correctness swirling around A Wrinkle in Time and Ms. DuVernay like a cloud of protective, truth repelling dust, The Atlantic had an article by David Sims about New Gods and DuVernay's hiring that revealed an even greater amount of disingenuous spin than the inflated critical Rotten Tomato scores do. In the piece, Sims distorts reality and brazenly and shamelessly lies in order to make the signing of DuVernay to direct New Gods seem like a masterful coup for the brain trust of WB/DC. 

In the opening line of the piece Sims writes, "Last year, the critical and financial calamity of Justice League served as a bit of a wake up call...". Later in the piece Sims writes of DuVernay's A Wrinkle in Time, "That film debuted this month to mixed reviews and solid, but unspectacular box office; though hardly a catastrophe". 

Let's unravel Mr. Sims shameless spin shall we. He deems Justice League a "critical and financial calamity", but A Wrinkle in Time "hardly a catastrophe". The facts are that Justice League has a Rotten Tomato critical score of…40, the exact same critical score of the alleged "mixed reviews" of A Wrinkle in Time. In addition, A Wrinkle in Time has a Rotten Tomato audience score of only 34, while Justice League has a Rotten Tomato audience score of…76. So Justice League nearly doubles A Wrinkle in Time's audience score while sharing the same critical score and Sims deems it a "calamity" while dubbing A Wrinkle in Time's reviews "mixed" and the film overall as "not a catastrophe".

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Adding to the damning case proving Mr. Sims' sycophancy is his claim that Justice League was a "financial calamity" while A Wrinkle in Time was "not catastrophic" with a "solid, but unspectacular box office".  On Justice League's opening weekend in November 2017, it was the top grossing film, raking in $94 million domestically. By contrast, A Wrinkle in Time did not even win its opening weekend, coming in second place to Black Panther in its fourth week of release, and only took in a meager $33 million. After two weeks in theaters Justice League's box office take was $135 million domestically, while after A Wrinkle in Time's fourth place finish in week two, its box office now sits at an anemic $49 million. Justice League's final box office tally was $658 million worldwide, a number which A Wrinkle in Time won't even come close to sniffing. And yet, in Mr. Sims eyes, A Wrinkle in Time is not a "catastrophe" but Justice League is a "calamity". Is it me or does Mr. Sims have an agenda, and do the facts prove him to be torturing the truth and the English language in order to celebrate Ava DuVernay getting a job even in the midst of her big-budget film proving itself to be an absolute disaster. Mr. Sims is guilty of being full of shit, and his diminishing of Justice League and elevating A Wrinkle in Time, is proof of that.

Now, is Justice League a great film? No, it isn't. It was the least financially successful of all the current DC films and was poorly reviewed, but by every possible metric, including Rotten Tomato audience ratings and at the box office, it is far superior to A Wrinkle in Time. Mr. Sims is committing the same sin in his article that critics did in scoring A Wrinkle in Time, they are playing identity politics and embracing diversity and inclusion at the expense of talent, skill and integrity, and that should be to their great shame. 

DC hiring Ms. DuVernay to direct New Gods flies in the face of all rational business and artistic sense. Ms. DuVernay is a not an unknown, she is a known quality now and THE BIG BUDGET FILM SHE JUST DIRECTED IS AN UNMITIGATED DISASTER

Unlike DuVernay, Black Panther director Ryan Coogler has proven twice that he can direct financially successful franchise films, first with Creed and secondly with Black Panther, so handing him the keys to a big budget film is an absolute no brainer (as was the decision to let him direct Black Panther due to his success with Creed). Ms. DuVernay getting another shot at a big budget when she has so egregiously screwed up a potential big money maker, is absurd and portends Hollywood's irrational swing towards a more diverse but less talented and less deserving crop of filmmakers. 

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Think of it this way, Hollywood should be a bottom line business similar to the NBA, where it doesn't matter the race, religion or ethnicity of the people involved, only that they are the very best at what they do. Would we tolerate some NBA team adding less skilled or less talented players to their roster just to quench some thirst for diversity and inclusion? Of course not, so why are film critics pushing for it and why is Hollywood doing it? The end result will ultimately be a watering down of the quality of cinema and a thinning of box office receipts. Exhibit A - see A Wrinkle in Time.

BLACK WASHING AND CULTURAL APPROPRIATION

One final thought regarding A Wrinkle in Time, as previously stated the film makes changes to the the book by diversifying the cast and also removing the Christianity in favor of a New Age self-help viewpoint. What struck me regarding the inclusive casting was the silence from the media over the film not being true to the original source material. Over the last few years there has been a great deal of controversy when White actors were cast in roles that were minorities in the original source material or roles where White actors played minorities. This is called Whitewashing and the more infamous recent examples of it have been committed by Emma Stone in Aloha, Scarlett Johannsen in Ghost in the Machine, Ed Skrien In Hellboy and Tilda Swinton in Dr. Strange. Why wasn't there a similar outrage over A Wrinkle in Time "Blackwashing" roles that were originally White in the book? The hypocrisy over this issue is staggering but not the least bit surprising. 

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Another bit of hypocrisy is that there has been a lot of talk about "cultural appropriation" in recent years. It usually revolves around some dopey White guy with dreadlocks, but it also dives into wider and more substantial matters as well, but it is always a charge leveled against White people. But the fact is that Ms. DuVernay just "culturally appropriated" a book written by a White woman and populated by White characters and replaced the White people with people of color. Why is there not an outrage over that? Look, I understand that Ms. Duvernay wanted to make an inclusive film with a diverse cast and she has every right to do that and good for her, but if you want to make an uplifting, New Age, spiritual sci-fi film with a multi-cultural cast…THEN WRITE AN ORIGINAL STORY, don't alter a classic book just to satiate your diversity desires. 

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The source material for Black Panther and A Wrinkle in Time were both written in the same time frame, the 1960's. Would it be acceptable if a White director decided to make a version of Black Panther with a mostly White cast? No…people would freak out about that, and rightfully so. So why does that same standard not apply to A Wrinkle in Time and Ava DuVernay? Not only was that film not held to account for its Blackwashing, the media orgasmically celebrated it for doing so. 

I understand the counter argument that White people have dominated this culture since it began, and so they need to be held to account when they Whitewash or culturally appropriate…but those arguments hold no water when the rules do not apply to everyone across the board. If you try and demand a separate set of rules for different types of people, you will only end up scuttling your own argument upon the jagged rocks of hypocrisy. 

In conclusion, I think it is fairly obvious that film critics are soft pedaling their negative views of A Wrinkle in Time because it is directed by a Black woman and has an "important" message of diversity and inclusion. I also think it is obvious, and statistically provable, that positive reviews of Black Panther were padded because it was directed by an African-American man and had an overwhelmingly Black cast. Some people may think that this sort of behavior by critics, motivated by the dogma of identity politics, is acceptable or even noble, but I find it to be condescending and repugnant. I believe it is, in its own way, a form of insidiously paternalistic racism that will ultimately have negative consequences not only for the art of cinema, but for all filmmakers of color. 

UPDATE 3/24/18: An interesting article from Romesh Ranganathan in The Guardian that in a round about way, and probably unintentionally, buttresses my point about how when a film becomes about "diversity" (as opposed to being about its story) it clouds critical judgement and ultimately undermines the movie.

©2018

Queen Oprah - Pope of the Cult of Personality

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Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes 66 seconds

A week ago Oprah was the talk of the town out here in Hollywood after she gave a rousing speech at the Golden Globes which many felt was presidential in tone, if not ambition. The media quickly hopped aboard the "Oprah for President" train and rode it for all it was worth. Since the Oprah train is currently refueling in the station while the media and the American public, both of which have the attention span of a brain addled fruit fly, have turned their attention to talk of "shitholes", I though I'd take this opportunity to share my two cents on Oprah's impending ascension to the throne. 

As I said in my Golden Globes article last week, I think Oprah is a very compelling figure. Her life story is almost the quintessential American Dream narrative for the modern day. That said, I think the fact that Oprah is being embraced as a savior for the Democratic party and America is a giant red warning sign of a nation and democracy in a death spiral.

FLIP SIDES OF THE SAME COIN

The main reason liberals and democrats are so enthused about Oprah is only because they believe she can beat Trump. Beating Trump is the be all and end all of Democrats existence at this point and Oprah seems like a magic silver bullet to bring down the Flame-Haired Wolf-Trump. 

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On a strategic level, I think this point of view may very well be correct. Oprah can and I believe would beat Trump if she is nominated. But her victory would signify the end of America as a serious, viable superpower that is the most powerful nation on the planet. The reason being that while Oprah is the polar opposite of Trump in many ways, at the most basic level she is just the flip side of the same celebrity coin that inspires the most base instincts of the American sheeple. Oprah, like Trump, would not be elected due to her ideas but because of her celebrity. Just like Trump, she would also be elected out of a reactionary and emotional impulse (in Trump's case against Obama and the establishment, in Oprah's case against Trumpism) rather than out of a thoughtfully and logically driven response to America's difficulties.

The differences between Oprah and Trump are glaring. The most obvious is that she is a self-made billionaire while Trump, who inherited his father's fortune and business, was born with a silver spoon so far in his mouth it shone out his "shithole". Other differences are that Oprah is an optimistic, inquisitive, African-American woman and Trump is a gloomy, incurious, White man. 

In terms of similarities between Oprah and Trump, they are pretty obvious. Both are celebrities, both built their brand on
lower class" (talk show,reality tv) television, both are very wealthy (although Oprah is actually wealthy, whereas Trump claims to be wealthy) and both are so famous as to be known by only one name. 

THE UNIVERSITY OF THE CULT OF OPRAH

There is another similarity that the media and liberals seem to have overlooked in their comparison between these two personality behemoths, and that is that they are both egotistic, narcissistic, charlatans of the highest order. 

I know that some people will be furious that I have blasphemed Queen Pope Oprah by declaring her to be a fraud, but the evidence is very clear for any who wish to open their eyes to see it. 

Oprah's entire empire was built on monetizing other people's misery and desperation. Her talk show had the veneer of "self-help", but like the vast majority of self-help snake oil salesman, it was little more than a flim-flam operation. Oprah's two biggest apostles, Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz make beaucoup money on their snake oil commissions and are unimpeachable proof of Oprah's, and their, fraudulence. 

If you spent anytime consciously watching Oprah's talk show over the years, or her other show on her network OWN, in her "retirement" years, a few things become very clear. The first is that the shows are nothing but bias confirmation for the members of the cult of Oprah. Secondly, and not surprisingly, the shows are never about the guests or any insight they might provide, but rather about Oprah and any insight she may gain, and since she is head of the cult, it is only when she gains insight that the information can then assimilated by the entire congregation. 

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In a way, Oprah's entire self-help Empire is like Trump University on New Age steroids. Oprah's status as a cult leader was constantly reinforced through pseudo-spiritual speak and the giving of ever more elaborate and expensive gifts to her audience (you get a car! you get a car!). Oprah is the High Priestess/Popess of that insipid brand of the New Age called The Secret or in more conventional Christian terms, The Prosperity Gospel. The Secret/Prosperity Gospel is about people getting all the things they desire, a big house, a new car, a sexy spouse, lots of money etc. etc. It is a religion of rewards devoid of sacrifice or humility. What The Secret/Prosperity Gospel, and Oprah, really do though is put a pseudo-Christian spiritual veneer on top of what, at its core, is nothing more than blind and unadulterated greed. 

Trump's entire existence is fueled by the same unadulterated greed that is the lifeblood of Oprah's movement. Oprah's (and Trump's) Church of American Greed adherents make sure to never actually spend time in self-reflection or self-inspection, rather they simply spend their time trying to "manifest" the dreams and riches they instinctively and impulsively desire. A true spiritual approach would be to look deep within to try and discover WHY you are so hungry for these worldly things, and to resolve that part of your psyche and spirit so that you can attain purpose and meaning in your life WITHOUT a mansion, fancy cars or millions. But that sort of genuine spiritual work is anathema to both Oprah and Trump, who at their core only care about the external trappings of life and not internal fulfillment. Trump wears his vapid greed by adorning his life with things that look expensive, like gold, and Oprah does the same thing, except she adorns her life with the fools gold of shallow New Age speak like The Secret or Eckhart Tolle and the pose of enlightenment.

A MILLION LITTLE PIECES

Oprah and Trump both are victims of their own ego, and both make sure to self-aggrandize by placing their name on absolutely everything they touch. Trump does this with his buildings and businesses and Oprah does it her network, shows and businesses. 

An example of Oprah's ego on full display was when author James Frey went on her show to promote A Million Little Pieces, his alleged 2003 memoir of his addiction that Oprah had made a part of her "Oprah's Book Club" (notice the name branding there!!). It later turned out that Frey either made up or embellished a great deal of the book and Oprah had a conniption. Frey actually went on her show in 2006 and she gave him a serious and humiliating dressing down in front of America. The gist of her assault on Frey was this, "how DARE you lie to me!" 

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What was intriguing to me was that in October of 2002 Oprah had another show where she had on guests who vociferously espoused the Bush administrations Iraq war propaganda. Oprah's guests included infamous New York Times reporter Judith Miller, pro-war pundit Kenneth Pollock and Ahmed Chalabi's "right hand man". Oprah lapped up these guests pro-war propaganda and punditry and actually shut down an audience member who asked a question of the veracity of the guests claims (see video below).

What is striking about this is that Oprah never had Judith Miller or Kenneth Pollack or any other pro-Iraq War people on her show after the war went bad and the WMD propaganda crumbled when it met reality. Oprah never got furious with these people and never held them to account. The reason that James Frey felt Oprah's fury and Judith Miller didn't, is because it was personal with Frey because she had attached her name to his book. Oprah wouldn't dare speak truth to power in holding the lying, war-mongering neo-cons who are responsible for the deaths of a million Iraqis accountable, but she would bully some dopey writer who bullshitted her with his book. This pattern of using "tough love" to those below her but kid gloves with those above her, are a trademark of Oprah's television personality. 

Besides ego, the other reason Oprah was so enraged by Frey was because he jeopardized her entire self-help, New Age brand by soiling it with the reality of his exposed lies, and Oprah is in the business of selling fantasy. Frey's lies pulled back the curtain and revealed that there is a formula for extracting money out of the desperate, and it is by telling them what they want to hear and couching it in the spiritual terms that make it seem profound. This spiritualized flim flam formula is Oprah's bread and butter and Frey's being caught lying threatened to shatter the even bigger lie of Oprah's empire into a million little pieces, which is why she lashed out so forcefully against him. 

SPEAK YOUR TRUTH?

The most important thing that Oprah said in her speech at the Golden Globes is something that stood out to me because it revealed her to be nothing more than Trump's liberal shadow. In the speech Oprah praised and encouraged women to "speak their truth." What could possibly be wrong with encouraging people to "speak their truth" you might ask? Well…a lot. You know who drives liberals crazy by speaking their truth…Donald Trump. Trump's truth about the size of his inauguration crowds or his intelligence or numerous other claims, are observably not accurate, but they are Trump's truth. As George Costanza famously said, it is not a lie if you believe it! And so it is with Trump…and also with America. 

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Trump "speaking his truth" infuriates liberals, but liberals, Oprah in particular, are guilty of the same sort of post-modern subjective truth making of their own. For instance, in the #MeToo movement, sexual harassment is solely a function of a woman's subjective experience, not of an objective truth backed up by observable facts. The same is true for the transgender issue. Transgender people have the subjective experience of identifying with a  different gender than their sexual organs would indicate, but the objective, observable reality to the rest of the world is at odds with their subjective experience. The transgender movement is trying to convince or force a transgender individuals subjective experience as being greater than observable objective reality. Both #MeToo and the transgender movement deal with deeply personal, traumatic and serious issues which should not be dismissed or taken lightly, but that doesn't mean we should ignore the glaring similarities between these movements and Trump when it comes to defining and speaking their "truth" and liberal hypocrisy in the face of such subjective - objective contradictions.

Whenever anyone either says they are "speaking their truth" or encourages others to "speak their truth", I cringe. Truth speakers are almost always victims of their own ego and speak "their truth" in order to feed that ungainly and voracious beast. What I want Oprah or any other potential president or any other person to do is this, do not "speak your truth" but "seek THE Truth". Do not encourage others to "speak their truth" but demand that they "seek THE Truth". 

THE Truth shall set you free, whereas your truth will imprison you to your baser instincts of avarice and self-aggrandizing delusions. What America needs is Truth Seekers, not truth speakers. What America needs is not another carnival barker, snake oil salesman or woman who will tell us what we want to hear. What America needs is someone to tell us THE Truth, not to tell us our truth is all that matters. With Oprah, as it is with Trump, we will get a truth speaker, not a Truth Seeker, and their narcissistic truth will not set us free but rather will fool us into languishing away in the prison of our own desires.

©2017

Some Brief Thoughts on the Golden Globes

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Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes 28 seconds

It is difficult to imagine a less relevant awards show than the Golden Globes, which unveiled their 2018 edition last night. The Golden Globes are so ridiculous they make the Emmys look like the Nobel Prize for Physics. 

Golden Globe awards are notorious for being routinely purchased (most infamously - Pia Zadora) and are like Chinese food, twenty minutes after digesting the Golden Globes show, no one actually cares or remembers who won. For years the Golden Globes award show has been little more than "Hollywood's biggest party" and the unwashed rubes who weren't invited get to watch the festivities on their television sets.

Last night's show has garnered a lot of attention because it was all about #MeToo and the accompanying self-aggrandizing emotionalist nonsense that surrounds it (like the shaming of Blanca Blanco for not wearing black, which is a wonderfully totalitarian thing to do!!). I once had a conversation with a friend, a Jungian psychologist, who talked about how with narcissists even their pain must be perceived to be exponentially greater than everyone else's, and so it is with Hollywood and #MeToo.

Contrary to popular opinion, the reason that #MeToo is happening right now is not because sexual abuse and harassment were shockingly revealed to have happened in Hollywood, everyone in Hollywood, myself included, knew to some extent it was happening well before the Weinstein "revelations". No, the real reason #MeToo is happening is because people outside of Hollywood have been made aware of the rampant abuse and harassment that routinely goes on here and Hollywood is embarrassed by that…the women of Hollywood most of all. The jet fuel of #MeToo is not the claimed outrage of Hollywood's women, but the shame felt by women who accepted abuse and harassment as business as usual, or who made deals with the devil in order to advance their career or who failed to stand up for themselves or their compatriots when they had the chance. No doubt I will be publicly slammed for "victim shaming" for stating this obviousness, but trust me when I tell you…this is EXACTLY what is being said behind closed doors and in private conversations here in Hollywood. 

NATALIE PORTMAN

Last night wasn't just all about the women, it was also about diminishing the work of men. Natalie Portman has gotten a ton of praise for her actions last night when she was introducing the Best Director category. As Portman announced the nominees she snidely said "here are the five, all male nominees". After she said it the camera cut to eventual winner Guillermo del Toro with an anguished and hurt look upon his face. Portman's holier than thou, condescending girl-speak was an empty and frankly, incredibly rude and graceless gesture. How would Ms. Portman feel if someone took a shit on an award she was about to win? Probably not so great. 

Think of it this way...How would Ms. Portman react if someone said, "here are the all-Jewish nominees" at some category of the Oscars? She probably wouldn't appreciate it very much considering her pride in her Jewish heritage….and she'd be right. So why is it okay to single out men who have been nominated but not any other group, no matter how disproportionate you perceive their nominations to be? 

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The question that should be posed to Ms. Portman is two-fold…first...what women should have been nominated? I have heard people say Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird. My retort to that is that Lady Bird is an acquired taste, one which I have not acquired, but to claim that Gerwig's direction is noteworthy reveals a truly staggering ignorance of the art of filmmaking. Some have said Dee Rees, the director of Mudbound, should have been nominated. I have not seen Mudbound, which is indicative of the logistical problem with the film and maybe why she was not nominated. Mudbound is a Netflix film and is streaming on the service. Hollywood still has not figured out what to do with Netflix films and whether to take them seriously as cinema or not. Mudbound may very well be great, but so was Beasts of No Nation, a superb Netflix film directed by Cary Fukinaja a few years ago, and he wasn't nominated either. I have heard some people say that Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman) or Kathryn Bigelow (Detroit) should have been nominated. Anyone who says this is a thoroughly ignorant and unserious person. Wonder Woman was a decent movie, but it wasn't even the best superhero film this year and it certainly isn't awards worthy. Detroit is, thanks to Bigelow's abysmal and amateurish direction, not only an awful film but one of the worst films I have seen in decades. 

The second part of the question Ms. Portman should answer is this…who among the nominees for Best Director should not have been nominated? Should Del Toro be snubbed in favor of a female director? Martin McDonagh? How about Christopher Nolan, Ridley Scott or Steven Spielberg? If Ms. Portman has an opinion…she should "grow a pair of balls" and say who should and should not be nominated instead of acting like a petulant little girl holding her breath and stomping her foot until she gets what she thinks she deserves. 

I'll put my money where my mouth is, or in keeping with the previous metaphor, I'll "whip my gigantic balls out" and tell you who should be nominated….Paul Thomas Anderson for Phantom Thread and Matt Reeves for War for the Planet of the Apes. Who shouldn't be nominated…Martin McDonagh and Steven Spielberg. Your move, Ms. Portman.

GARY OLDMAN

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Gary Oldman won Best Actor for his work as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour and gave what I thought to be the best, most composed and intelligent speech of the night. Sadly, I have seen articles pop up today proclaiming Oldman of being "this year's Casey Affleck". If you remember Casey Affleck won the Oscar last year and there was a bit of an uproar because he had been alleged to have harassed two women working on a film with him years before. Affleck and the women settled the lawsuit. 

Oldman was alleged to have struck his wife during a domestic dispute a few years back and people are saying he shouldn't have been awarded because of it. The fact that the incident was investigated and deemed to be either untrue or inaccurate carries no weight with the #MeToo mob who are incapable of grasping nuance in any shape or form. It will be interesting to see if this supposed skeleton in Oldman's closet is used to keep him from winning a much deserved Oscar. 

It would be really amazing if artistic awards could actually just be given on nothing but merit as opposed to having the right victim identity or being given the seal of approval of mindless mobs like #MeToo or #OscarsSoWhite.

OPRAH!!

The biggest news of the night came from Oprah who gave a rousing, campaign-esque speech that has all of Hollywood buzzing with the thought of her running for president in 2020. Oprah is enough like Trump for her electoral victory to be a distinct possibility if not likelihood, and just different enough from Trump to be embraced by all liberals and even independents. 

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Oprah and Trump are both billionaires, both were "tv stars" and both have no experience in politics. Unlike the silver spooned Trump, Oprah is a self made woman who built her considerable empire from less than nothing. Also unlike Trump, Oprah is a likable, intelligent and inquisitive person that is adored by the mainstream media. Oprah's status as a new age female Pope, her enormous entrepreneurial success and her ease and prowess at oratory and television would make her a formidable opponent for anyone, but especially for Trump, and especially after he has had four years to show what a charlatan he truly is. 

All of that said, I think the fact that there are large swaths of America who either love Trump or who would love Oprah to run against him, is a sign that this country is in a deep state of corrosive ignorance, malignant decadence and imperial rot that is indicative of a nation perilously close to collapse, self-immolation or both. 

Oprah certainly has the potential to be a tremendous president, but none of that will matter as her election in the shadow of Trump's presidency would only reveal an empire hurtling towards its own self-destruction. Oprah is amazing, just ask her or her sycophants and they'll tell you she can do anything, but I guarantee what she won't be able to do is to save us from ourselves. 

THE FEVER BREAKING?

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One final pseudo-Golden Globes related note and that is that this morning there was an op-ed in the LA Times from Meghan Daum titled "Had Enough of the Visceral Response to the Trump Era? Try a Little Nuance Instead." Ms. Daum's piece is well worth reading. I probably enjoyed it so much  because I have been writing the same ideas for well over a year, since before Trump even won the election. 

Ms. Daum's piece, in combination with Daphne Merkin's New York Times article the other day, are hopefully indicative of a fever breaking. I was not infected by the emotionalist fever and so was able to keep my head about me while those around me lost theirs. To Ms. Daum and Ms. Merkin I say, welcome to the party…better late than never.

©2017