Political correctness and Hollywood hypocrisy

Article by Lauren Rosewarne /
ABC The Drum /
January 24, 2011 /

Click here to view original /

Hosting a Hollywood awards ceremony is of course, the proverbial poisoned chalice. Play it safe and you’re criticised as boring; polarise with smart arsery and you’re condemned as a bastard.

I didn’t actually watch much of Ricky Gervais’ efforts last week. Less about Ricky than my low pain threshold for sequinny telecasts of Lollipop Guild love-ins.

That said, I’ve been quite captivated by the fall-out.

No, I wasn’t particularly surprised that some people suggested he went too far. Gervais was hired because he was always going to go too far, hired because he’s a loose cannon, because he’s a foreigner and hired precisely because entertaining the lounge room audience is always more lucrative than fattening the in-room egos. Ricky was always going to get chastised.

What I found most interesting however, were the double standards evident in what’s found offensive. Particularly interesting is Hollywood selectively choosing to forget the political correctness that has long been its lifeblood.

Jibes centred on named celebrities might individually offend, but at an awards ceremony such jokes are couched in an environment where those mocked are simultaneously lauded. Sure, it’s a roasting, sure, offense might ensue, but the bigger ego stroke of the ceremony itself must assuage the pain a little.

For me, the most interesting thing to emerge from this year’s telecast were Gervais’ comments about Scientology. Notably, the dig about two straight actors playing gay men being the opposite ruse to Hollywood’s Dianetics-devotees.

Before I jump to defend Scientology – a ludicrous task, let’s be honest – I probably should come clean.

While I won’t name the church for fear of litigation, once upon a time as an undergrad, I applied for a job with a church in Melbourne.

My visit to HQ began by being seated in front of a giant television screening a lecture delivered by a bloke clad akin to the chicken Michelle Pfeiffer dressed as in Married to the Mob. Soon after, I was led up a creaky staircase, past a photo of the faith’s founder (him seated in a row boat, complete with captain’s hat) and past framed photos of the church’s celebrity flock and ultimately led into an office where I was asked, “How little are you willing to work for?” and then “How much are you willing to donate?”

I kid you not. That said, I’m a raconteur and sometimes the hard yards are necessary.

Nonetheless, I’m going to defend Scientology. And not just because I have a soft spot for John Travolta based on having spent a good chunk of the 80s playing with Barbie, watching Grease daily and slowly becoming brainwashed.

I want to defend the church purely on the grounds of my discomfort with hypocrisy.

I’m not a joiner. Political parties, hen’s nights, staff morning teas: I don’t do participation well. Compounded with my scepticism and control freakery and church-going isn’t my thing.

But. I’m very much supportive of other people’s rights to worship. Even if that faith involves silent births, aliens and curious views on mental illness. Not only am I uncomfortable with criticism about people’s respective devotions, but more so because quite simply I could cherry pick from the peculiarities present in every faith and mock and laugh and malign accordingly. But I know better.

As that ghastly fellow Mel Gibson quickly learnt, Hollywood is no place to mess with the Jews. Contemporary political correctness dictates that savaging Christians or Muslims is equally unpalatable.

So why’s it okay to do it to Scientology?

Political correctness is often criticised. Largely, I suspect, because some are privately pining about those glory days of rampant racism and homophobia. Nevertheless, being PC, or at the very least simply trying one’s hand at respect is now de rigueur.

In polite circles, in educated circles, the mocking of faith, the criticising of sexual preference are no go zones. That Scientology is treated as a special case and as open slather for ridicule is one hell of a paradox.

© Lauren Rosewarne