Jennifer Lawrence, Trump and Freedom of Speech

I first saw a trailer for Mother in front of It, and although the odd trailer grabbed my attention I had no interest in seeing it due to Jennifer Lawrence. I watched the first Hunger Games film and Silver Linings Playbook, which made me a fan. Then I saw her performance in the newer X-Men films and the spell wore off. The films became the Mystique show simply due to Lawrence’s status and she was the weakest link when compared to the performances from actors like Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy.

All of this to say, that I am not a Jennifer Lawrence fan. When ads for Mother popped up on my twitter feed my curiosity got the better of me and I scrolled through the comments on the ad, eager to see what other people thought of the upcoming film. Lo and behold, the comments were swarmed with people “boycotting” Lawrence for comments she apparently made about Hurricane Irma and Trump..

Although there are plenty of people saying Lawrence thinks Trump caused Hurricane Irma, that just demonstrates how bias and/or a lack of reading comprehension can lead to misinformation. During an interview Lawrence said that Irma is one example of “Mother Nature’s rage, or wrath”. She advised that there is scientific evidence to support the argument that humans contribute to climate change and she said voting is one way to influence action on climate change.

So for those with poor reading comprehension: She means that a candidate like Trump, who believes climate change is a hoax, will enact policies that will further contribute to climate change. Did she say he caused Hurricane Irma? No. Anyway, there lies the latest source of online rage directed toward “liberal Hollywood”. The thesis of most of these statements was that actors should stay out of politics. I wasn’t able to retrieve the thread I initially came across but the one below has more examples of the backlash I am discussing.

This isn’t a new phenomenon: It is one I most recently discussed after David Harbour received a wave of criticism for his Stranger Things SAG acceptance speech, where he indirectly criticized Trump. Similar to the Lawrence backlash, most of the negative comments I have seen express disgust at actors daring to have a political opinion.

Actors and actresses are not dolls assembled to perform, and then tucked away until their next performance. Although the adoration they receive might make us forget, they are real people too. They care about their values and ideologies as much as the regular person does. Does that mean they should make all their films revolve around their personal beliefs? No, but it does mean they should be allowed to discuss these issues on public forums, just like every other American citizen is allowed to. Yes, they have more clout than the average person and people like to argue that is why it is dangerous for them to express their ideas. With that said, let me get to the crux of my argument.

If an actor or actress expresses political views I don’t agree with, I don’t fault them for having an opinion. I fault them for the views themselves. I don’t say “Oh they should stay out of politics”, I say “It’s a shame they support that candidate’s views…”.  I like to think it is a less hypocritical approach, since I would not despise an actor if they expressed political views I agree with. Would these Trump supporters be upset if Lawrence had made comments about what a great president he is? The same freedom of speech that people use to defend marching Neo-Nazis is the same freedom of speech being stripped from an actress who says climate change is real.

Some of the Twitter comments openly criticize Lawrence for attacking Trump, and I can actually respect those comments. I don’t agree, but I am happy to see less hypocrisy. Maybe some of the comments criticizing Lawrence are from people who genuinely don’t like actors discussing politics, whether they support the same ideologies or not. However, I have a strong feeling most of these people telling Lawrence to “stick to acting” just don’t like seeing freedom of speech used against them. They prefer when it is used against immigrants, Muslims and other minorities.

David Harbour and Stranger Things

Stranger Things was one of my favourite shows of 2016 and I was happy to hear that it received a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) award for “Outstanding Performance By An Ensemble Cast”. Of course, the award was overshadowed online by memes targeting Winona Ryder’s facial expressions.

It appears that Ryder actually stole attention away from David Harbour’s speech, which is also one of the most discussed events from the SAG Awards. Firstly, the speech is generally about fighting injustice and accepting “outcasts and freaks”. The speech can refer to the events of Stranger Things but is of course a parallel to Trump and his presidency.

Like any political comment, it has attracted a wave of support and plenty of criticism. I previously discussed how people forget that freedom of speech is a double-edged sword in my Patton Oswalt article.

“I also find that people often forget that freedom of speech is a double-edged sword. For example, President Trump said the Hamilton cast was out of line for criticizing Vice President Pence, but he also supported the unfounded allegations that Obama is a foreign-born Muslim. Trump had no problem using his freedom of speech to assert that a President’s birth certificate isn’t valid, but he was also insulted that the Hamilton cast would have go off-script to address his VP. People invoke freedom of speech as an excuse when people express views they do not agree with.”

I’m not bringing this up again as shameless self-promotion. I bring it up again because I believe that it captures an issue that is central to the criticism directed towards Harbour and Stranger Things as a whole. I first came across the criticism of Harbour’s speech due to an announcement about season 2. While I was just excited to see some new pictures, a few of the users (who use Facebook to comment) were quick to comment on how much Harbour’s speech turned them off the show.

Bill Michael writes: “I love the first season but after the SAG award political rant/meltdown on stage by the cast I doubt my family or I will watch season 2 now”

And Jim Culver follows up with: “I was right in the middle of binge-watching season one when they did that, and it totally soured the experience for me. All I could think about was what a pretentious jerk the guy who played Hopper is, and what a ditz Winona Ryder is.”

So maybe Culver has a point about Ryder, but what bothered me was the animosity generated about Harbour daring to express an opinion.

I have come across some people who believe that celebrities shouldn’t make political statements of any kind, since they have so much influence and can sway people negatively. However, we have to remember that celebrities are human beings. They have a stake in the world just as much as we do.

If an actor or actress I respect makes political statements I disagree with, I don’t chastise them for having an opinion, I criticize them for the views themselves. I like my bigots out in the open, and I want to know what is going on in the minds of people who I am indirectly giving money to. The people criticizing Harbour, for criticizing Trump, come across as Trump supporters who don’t want to hear their hero denigrated by what they view as “libtards,” or “commies” judging by the comments on the Youtube video. I have to wonder if they would be as upset if Harbour made a speech talking about the need to support Trump.

As expected, plenty of the comments criticize the left for being intolerant. After all, Harbour does advise that people should be punched in the face. When Trump said he wanted to build a wall between the US and Mexico, and establish a Muslim ban, people said it was only a metaphor. I’ll use the same excuse here, Harbour was just referring to what his character would do, not what he is seriously condoning others to do.

So, the same right-wing that is convinced most Muslims are terrorists, that Obama is a foreign born Muslim etc. are now upset that the left dares to make a speech about accepting outsiders. Does anyone else see the problem with this mindset? While one side continues to defend whatever they say as the politically incorrect truth, or  “telling it like is”, any comment that does not support Trump is viewed as proof that liberals aren’t tolerant. Liberals don’t tolerate bigots, it’s as simple as that.

 

 

Trump-1984 Is Upon Us

We have officially entered the era of President Trump.  There were many people who thought this would never happen. They discounted all of the apparent support for Trump as a the work of a loud minority and had faith that the American people would let reason prevail. I wanted to believe this too but I couldn’t ignore all of the support that Trump received for one prejudiced comment after one another, and the climate of hate that he happily nourished. No one is racist anymore. They all have black friends or they are not racist, but… No one is sexist, they’re just not a white knight and they don’t like feminazis. They also don’t like political correctness, liberal agendas or social justice warriors. All this talk of the need to fight inequality is just the work of people who get offended by “everything”. Then along comes Trump, who isn’t afraid to “tell it like it is”.

Trump didn’t lay out many specific policy plans, because he didn’t need to. His comments on Hispanics, Muslims and women got him all the support he needed. Trump did lay out two bold plans, which some people disregarded as words that were only meant to get votes and media coverage. Trump repeatedly stated the need to ban Muslims from entering the US until “we can figure out what the heck is going on” and the need to build a wall along the U.S Mexico border. I have heard family, co-workers and friends say that there was no way Trump would even try to enact these policies.

Yet here we are. To be fair to Trump, his executive order is not a definitive one.

It prevents the citizens of seven Muslim-Majority countries from entering the US and also suspends the US refugee program for 120 days. However, there is the possibility of a reinstatement or an extension on the order if Trump deems it necessary.

Some of the defense for the act stems from the idea that all Muslims are a threat. I won’t give those arguments much time since radical Islamic terrorists statistically make up a small portion of the 1.5 billion Muslims in the world.

Many people are also defending the ban since they have the idea that America already had lax security protocols for refugees and immigrants coming from Muslim majority countries, which isn’t true.

Some are arguing Trump will be impeached, but the point is that he genuinely tried to enact the policies he discussed.

Trump wasn’t just treating the race like a marketing opportunity and appealing to hate because it would get him airtime. At this point, it seems as if he genuinely believes all of the bigoted comments he made during his campaign. It wasn’t all a publicity stunt.

We now have a man who’s senior White House Advisor refers to easily debunked lies as alternative facts. It isn’t a coincidence that sales of 1984 spiked after these comments were made. Trump’s campaign and his presidency is fueled by bigotry, and hate is the enemy of fact. Anyone who was willing to vote for Trump after he said Mexico “doesn’t send its best” will obviously continue to support him. They will embrace alternative facts and use any of the right wing buzzwords, “social justice warrior, political correctness etc.” to shut down any reasoned discussion they don’t want to hear.

 

Voter turnout was relatively low for this past election, at 60% of the eligible voters. However, that means that over 30% of the eligible voting population still voted for Trump. We are talking about 66 million people who wholeheartedly embrace bigotry and represent a regression in the ideals of racial and religious equality. Maybe we only have to deal with Trump a few more months. Or maybe we have to deal with a whole term, and maybe another.

Hopefully this election motivates people to vote in the next one, and pick the lesser of two evils if need be.