Attacking the Artist Creates More Hate and Casualties, Not Better Art

Phil Rossi

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Book Burning 2.0 and the Art Police

Why are the PC Police infiltrating the arts and marginalizing creative endeavors? Trolling the Internet, social media, and TV for artists and film productions to target?

The end results are artists and producers accused of being racist and sexist. Bashing actors for characters they have been cast to portray. Not to mention, a disturbing trend and dangerous precedent.

More and more social media movements calling for screenplays and teleplays to be rewritten and for productions to recast their talent. The PC Police demands more diverse and deserving (in their minds) performers to satisfy their agendas.

Why not write their own film and cast who they see fit? It’s obvious these people have no clue what kind of work, dedication, and collaboration goes into film and television productions.

Do they know for sure the slate of actors who were invited to audition? How could they be so confident in their assessments and accusations? How do they know the people they are fighting for weren’t given the opportunity to read for these parts?

It’s impossible for them to fathom that the actors chosen are the ones who gave the best auditions. Multiple and consistent performances based on numerous call-backs.

Not to mention, the film and TV community is full of progressives. They might prefer a certain ‘type’ or name actor (after all, it is a business, their project, and prerogative).

Most decision-makers will gladly pivot in favor of better actors. The ones who provide the best auditions, scope for creativity, and collaboration. The same actors who out-performed countless others by applying their craft.

Instead, the PC Police view it differently: We demand that you replace your director with a woman, person of color, or a transgender. Ditto with your actors with expanded roles and more speaking lines.

The justice league knows how this scheme works. They see their influence and results in politics, business circles, and social movements. They’ve adopted this blueprint and have used it to attack the arts.

Once in awhile, they’ll succeed by getting an actor to step aside and back out of a hired role. An author to remove their book from Amazon. Smear campaigns full of hateful rhetoric and one-star reviews.

Producers and casting agents might not be that hateful and racist after all. Like anywhere else in a society where competition, money, and livelihoods rule the day, it’s called meritocracy.

It’s a reality we all have to live with. Meritocracy and self-preservation will always drive our economy that rules our day. With so much time and money invested, only the best get to move forward. Even if that best is subjective.

The minor leagues of Major League Baseball are ripe with bright-eyed players full of promise and potential. Each one working to get better, leave the minor leagues behind, and reach The Show.

It’s not much different from the acting community with their Off-Broadway plays, independent and student films. Various passion projects with little money and exposure.

Most perform for the love of it and to hone their craft. Despite the romance surrounding the salad days, both want to leave these low-paying jobs and no-budget productions for greener pastures.

Ramshackle baseball parks that rival the broken-down playhouses of folklore. Forever bus rides with no AC and bug-infested motor lodges mirror the legends, plight, and crashpads of the starving artist.

The minor league baseball prospect shares quite a bit with the aspiring actor. However, when both want to escape these meager depots, they’re told the same things by their coaches and theater directors:

“You want out of the minor leagues? Play better!”

Or, in the words of Steve Martin: “Become so good that they can’t ignore you.”

The only way up and out for all of us is to improve. Of course, a break here and there might help — but not at someone else’s expense. That other person has paid the price through time, effort, and sacrifice.

All opportunities must be seized by our dedication. Our preparation and perseverance. It’s the way it is — for all of us.

For the record, film, and TV acting is hard. A real grind. I know this firsthand by working in the industry and being on set. With multiple takes and camera set-ups, actors need to perform their lines and scenes numerous times. I’ve watched actors do this for hours at a clip.

All this for one scene. What appears free and easy in the finished product is far from it. The best acting is the hardest. Talent, chops, and dedication don’t discriminate.

Another drawback is the lack of strength and failure to compromise. Unions are able to forge resolutions through bartering. A win-win scenario where both parties give up, get, and move forward together.

When the PC Police adopt a scorched-earth policy, they expose themselves for who they are — a bunch of loud in the crowders. A revolution that wants and demands change with nothing tangible to offer in exchange other than more rampage, destruction, and casualties.

Instead of diplomacy, they travel a destructive and divisive warpath. Why not approach the industry by creating workshops? By forging a pact that fosters support and better opportunities?

A writer could spend years working on their novel, screenplay, or stage production. How could the PC Police be champions of art and it’s movement without a clear understanding of the book or screenplay’s message?

Once their stimuli are triggered, these groups race to hijack another’s project and livelihood. Campaigns bent on destroying works, careers, and processes. Not to mention the lifeline of art itself.

By pushing this agenda, a false sense of morality and identity politics creates ruin and casualties. Many times, their victims are people who are like-minded and empathize with this greater cause in the first place.

We applaud those in life who have beaten the odds, persevered, and accomplished great things. In all walks of life, be it business, sports, the arts, etc.

That woman or person of color who kept on trucking. The artist who creates better and deeper art. At the end of the day, it’s the art that matters, not the artist. Like that Wendy’s campaign from the 1980s: Where’s the beef?

Nobody’s entitled to anything in this world. As people, we empathize with those who were and are discriminated against. That said, if your book doesn’t move people, they’re not buying it. If your TV show doesn’t interest the audience, there go your ratings.

If one wants people’s time and money, their art has to earn it. It’s not enough to have a plight and personal story. They might find empathy and attention, but if the art’s not up to speed, the marketplace will ground it.

A while back, a group of women that included people of color took on the science fiction community. Tired of the same white guys being nominated and winning prestigious awards, they strategized to stuff the ballot box.

To my delight, these women delivered the goods. I read their stories and all were worthy of the awards and accolades they received.

It’s unfortunate this course of action was required. Kudos to these writers for having the courage to stand up and be counted. Most of all, for having the confidence in their art to back it all up.

If all else fails, pull a Morgan Freeman.

Could you imagine anyone other than Morgan Freeman playing ‘Red’, the main supporting role in The Shawshank Redemption?

In Stephen King’s novella, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, the source material for the film, ‘Red’ was a white Irish guy.

Morgan Freeman didn’t get the role because a group of social warriors demanded that the production team rework the script and character.

Morgan Freeman applied his experience — years dedicated to his craft. Once he convinced the producers that he could play ‘Red’, they hired him.

Freeman’s performance is amazing. So much so, that you might only wonder how his character got his name. An afterthought erased through Freeman’s performance and application of craft.

The idea of replacing Morgan Freeman with a white Irish guy is absurd. There’s no need to — Freeman nails it. Freeman’s ethnicity isn’t a factor, nor should it be.

It’s in Freeman’s performance and through it that we’re drawn in, hooked, and believe in ‘Red’. Who gives a hoot about his race or sexual identity? Or any artist for that matter?

This is not to suggest these missions don’t have the rights or purpose. I’m old enough to remember the damage caused by race, gender, and sexual identity discrimination.

As a background actor, I see firsthand that the film and TV industry does not discriminate. In fact, it’s already leading the way and setting precedent.

Further ahead of other fields that not only hire but welcome and protect everyone. They also educate the workforce to be inclusive and respectful. It’s more than manners — it’s the law.

As film and TV extras, we’re required to watch anti-harassment videos and tutorials. We’re also required to print and keep copies of our certificates to show production assistants when we check in. If not, we’re turned away and remain ineligible to work.

We all want an inclusive world, where people are free to live as they choose without fear and discrimination. A colorblind world, economy, and marketplace.

Amping up the hate, racism, and discrimination is just as offensive. Taking professions, positions, and accomplishments from those who have earned them the hard way are going backward.

We live in a world where injustice remains. It’s unfair and the hope is that it becomes less and less until extinct.

In the meantime, oppressing others only creates more victims, hate, and resentment. In the end, lesser art. Let us add to our humanity through expansion, not subtraction.

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Phil is a blogger interested in sports, culture, politics, and the art scene.

Hackensack, NJ
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