I’m so glad I got to read Gary Oldman’s Playboy super-lengthy Playboy interview before I read stories about the interview. That’s because the stories don’t begin to capture what was a wide-ranging discussion of art, film, perfectionism, family, sobriety and politics. Instead they have headlines such as “Gary Oldman on Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic remarks: ‘Take a f**king joke. Get over it’,” (The Independent) and “‘Gary Oldman Defends Mel Gibson, Alec Baldwin in Expletive-Filled Playboy Interview: “Political Correctness is Crap’” (US Magazine).
Here’s the thing. As anyone who reads knows, celebrity profiles have never been as profoundly boring as they are now. Maybe that’s because we’ve all gotten boring. “Stars! They’re Just Like Us!” is a regular feature in the aforementioned US Weekly, which shows celebrities shopping for asparagus or walking the dog. More likely, though, it’s explained by the need to control image in a difficult-to-control Internet environment. For more on that, read “Confidentially Yours: The Banality of the Celebrity Profile, and How It Got That Way” in The Believer, and “How YouTube and Internet Journalism Destroyed Tom Cruise, Our Last Real Movie Star” in LA Weekly. Or to prove my point, how about this: “Gary Oldman Gives Publicist Nightmare Of An Interview To Playboy.”
The main point is that you can’t afford to be human or speak like a human and avoid some type of frenzied Internet reaction. So celebrities and their teams respond by creating fake portraits of people that seem like they’re real. I know a couple of stars well enough to have witnessed this in action and it’s disturbing, actually. Both celebrity and fans want the intimacy — but they can’t handle it — and so the stars give what appear to be real stories that are in no way real. This keeps everyone happy, for the most part.
So back to Oldman. You really should read the entire interview, on account of what a great interview it is and what a terribly fascinating person Oldman seems to be.
OLDMAN: Culturally, politically, everywhere you look. I look at the world, I look at our leadership and I look at every aspect of our culture and wonder what will make it better. I have no idea. Any night of the week you only need to turn on one of these news channels and watch for half an hour. Read the newspaper. Go online. Our world has gone to hell…
Or these helicopter parents who overschedule their children. There’s never any unsupervised play to develop skills or learn about hierarchy in a group or how to share. The kids honestly believe they are the center of the f–king universe. But then they get out into the real world and it’s like, “S–t, maybe it’s not all about me,” and that leads to narcissism, depression and anxiety. These are just tiny examples, grains of sand in a vast desert of what’s f–ked-up in our world right now. As for the people who pass for heroes in entertainment today, don’t even get me started.
He talks about Reality TV being “the museum of social decay,” which is a great way of putting it. One of the things he does is point out that you can disagree with someone and not wallow in it. You can disagree with someone and get over it. You can disagree with someone and yet acknowledge your shared condition with him — that is, that we are all human and say and do wrong things:
OLDMAN: I don’t know about Mel. He got drunk and said a few things, but we’ve all said those things. We’re all f–king hypocrites. That’s what I think about it.
It seemed like such a modest thing, really, even if his examples were current bogeyman Alec Baldwin and the dreaded Mel Gibson. And yet it was no such modest thing. People lost their everliving minds. Let’s look at more of his comments that the professionally outraged can’t handle.
He says that he thinks political correctness is crap and that people are responding with too much outrage when there are conflicts. They sue instead of just complain. Then he says that everyone has said horrible things about other groups of people. He says that he’s sure Jewish Hollywood executives have said disparaging things about other groups but that:
OLDMAN: We all hide and try to be so politically correct. That’s what gets me. It’s just the sheer hypocrisy of everyone, that we all stand on this thing going, ‘Isn’t that shocking?’
To give a great example of how the Internet responded, one of the writers at the feminist site Jezebel freaks out over his take, saying he’s endorsing bigoted name-calling. Somewhat undercutting her take is that she begins her piece with the words, “Truly living up to his last name, Gary Oldman …” which is both completely inane and, you know, bigoted ageism. But don’t let me stand in between your stone and that glass house over there. Shall we observe that ThinkProgress focuses like a laser on Oldman’s race to disparage him. The URL, sigh: “Another White Man In Hollywood Thinks Political Correctness Is Overrated.” In the piece, he is described in the totalitarian gobbledygook of thought-control leftists as “a cis, straight, white male.”
It’s worth noting that Oldman also trashes the pope, sort of jokingly, and yet that’s not as bad as telling people Mel Gibson’s “all right” and that Alec Baldwin is a “good guy.”
What’s clear from the interview is that Oldman is telling people to get some perspective about what outrages them (a sentiment expressed infinitely more eloquently by Ramesh Ponnuru this week) and to acknowledge that we’re all human and we all sin and mess up:
OLDMAN: It’s dishonesty that frustrates me most. I can’t bear double standards. It gets under my skin more than anything.
The response among the commentariat has been to do exactly what Oldman condemns. Clutch pearls, mouth-breathe “isn’t that shocking?” and claim that we’re all perfect and Oldman is the witch.
Doesn’t it get tiring?
I mean, I didn’t agree with much of what I read in that interview (except I’m all in with him on David Bowie being a genius). Heck, I didn’t even enjoy having to give Playboy ad revenue by reading it online. But I’m a grown-up, so I could handle the parts I disagreed with without losing my mind or wallowing in a puddle of emotion.
If you really think that Alec Baldwin or Mel Gibson must be kept perpetually in torture for their sins, fine. But couldn’t you at least respond to those who disagree without falling on the fainting couches as a means of policing everyone’s speech? Or is that too much to ask of people these days?