Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Ranting On...Sean Spicer at the Emmys

Sean Spicer
I find that, in following celebrity culture and in being in particular someone who follows the movies, it's best to keep your pearl-clutching in check.  Celebrities are just like us, except that in that they're nothing like us.  They're frequently insanely good-looking, and even more often exceedingly wealthy.  You give someone the face/body of a Michelangelo-sculpted soldier and the GDP of a third-world country and you're probably going to be in for an enormous amount of bad behavior and out-of-touch posturing.  That being said, this past week's Emmys (I didn't watch all of it because I've been on vacation), felt like a face punch because it was something I genuinely didn't expect: all of Hollywood rolling out the carpet for someone who has been treacherously lying to the American people for months, treating him like a hero rather than the cowardly villain of history that he is.  Sean Spicer is someone we should dismiss entirely from public life, not have celebrated on television's biggest night like he's the real-life inspiration for one of that year's true stories.

Honestly-what was Stephen Colbert thinking?  Yes, Spicer, in his bit (if you haven't seen it, I'm not linking it on principle but you know how to google), mocked himself for the ridiculous ways that he tried to lie about the inauguration crowds, but that essentially made what he did into a joke, not into the serious thing that it was.  The reality is that Sean Spicer has caused untold damage to the American system of checks-and-balances by repeatedly, constantly, lying about provable facts.  Not just the inauguration crowds (most memorable because of the memes that followed showing indisputably that Trump's inauguration crowds were smaller than President Obama's), but also his lying about President Obama using British intelligence to spy on Donald Trump and about Paul Manafort having a "limited" role in the campaign, even though he was the campaign chairman.  He stated Adolf Hitler didn't use chemical weapons to kill people, erasing the fact that many Jewish people died in the gas chambers, and then slammed people for "nitpicking" over the White House's lack of inclusion of Jewish people in an official statement about Holocaust Remembrance Day.  He frequently made April Ryan, the most prominent African-American woman in the White House Press Corps, a subject of petty attacks, and showed little to no sense of moral fortitude in his job.  He is at best a coward, at worst a sniveling traitor to the public trust who enabled President Trump to lie repeatedly to the American people, thus further propagating the "fake news" that his boss seems to think is equal to bad press, but in reality is something his administration specializes in-telling repeated, constant lies to further distort any sense of truth in the United States.  He is a villain, and someone who deserves nothing but contempt from the public-at-large.

Hollywood didn't see it that way.  A big part of this criticism is for Stephen Colbert, who for years has championed himself as a liberal, an intelligent talk show host with an eye for how important his job is, and one who seemed to be a great companion to the comedic-voice-of-the-people Jon Stewart, as he is largely to blame here.  In a quest for ratings or a water cooler moment the next day, Colbert invited Spicer onto the show the same way that Sarah Palin went on Saturday Night Live nine years ago amidst her attempts at redemption.  Sure, Spicer mocked one of his most embarrassing moments, but in the process he got laughs and a night out with a bunch of TV stars, giving him another place in his insanely easy forgiveness tour.  This was essentially saying that what Spicer did was a laughable joke, but one that can now be forgiven after he's quit for the political equivalent of about two minutes.  You don't get to have it both ways-having Spicer appear makes him be "in on the joke," not the butt of the joke, and Colbert by having him there lessens what Spicer did-that's not up for debate.  If Colbert had, say, had Melissa McCarthy come on-stage in drag as part of the joke, it would have been fine, because it would have been mocking at Spicer's expense, poking fun at the situation while not actually condoning it because people would have been laughing alongside McCarthy herself, not Spicer.  But by having Spicer he may have gotten the "shock" of the moment, but in doing so Colbert basically said everything Spicer did was okay, because he was willing to work with him on his big night, letting him be part of television's night.

The same has to be said for any celebrity that willingly posed for a photo with Spicer.  Dolly Parton and LL Cool J both may actually have supported Trump for POTUS (Parton was undecided when reporters asked her last year, and while I can't find evidence that LL Cool J publicly endorsed anyone, he did support George Pataki for Governor and has attended the RNC in the past), but Jane Fonda, Seth Meyers, James Corden, and Alec Baldwin have all been deeply critical of President Trump in the past, and yet all were willing to playfully pose with Sean Spicer.  This condones what he did-you could have ignored him or refused to shake his hand.  That might not seem polite to celebrities that have ingrained in them to always be pleasant, but it would have shown some integrity.  The only celebrity I've found who reacted to Spicer in a seemingly negative way was Jason Isaacs, who posted a scathing Instagram post on him, though I suspect that Melissa McCarthy might have ensured any party she was going to didn't have Spicer in attendance as the press would have been all over a photograph of the two of them, so she deserves some kudos as well (she seemed more shell-shocked than amused by Colbert's stunt).

By doing this, and by condoning this, Hollywood's glitterati underline something that they hate to point out to themselves, particularly when people disapprove of celebrities being political, but they are completely out-of-touch and largely unaffected by the policies of Donald Trump.  They are rich and famous, and don't have to worry about being a DREAMer who won't know where they live tomorrow or a transgender soldier who might not have a job tomorrow or a person on Obamacare who might not be able to afford to live tomorrow.  They'll be fine-they can jet off to France or Australia and wait out the Trump administration if they so choose, and their wealth insulates them from the policies of the Republican Congress.  This shouldn't be a shock to anyone, but I suspect there are many celebrities, such as James Corden, who are stunned that they are getting criticized this way-Corden himself gave a half-assed apology last night, making his sucking up to Spicer a joke rather than what it was, condoning all of his actions with a literal "kiss and make up."  Quite honestly, I'll never be able to take Corden, Colbert, or Baldwin seriously again when it comes to them criticizing this administration.  By publicly forgiving a man whose credibility was shot by lying, repeatedly and dangerously, to the American people, they have in turn lost their own credibility.  For Colbert in particular, who has built his legacy largely on his willingness to pillory figures like Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity, this is sincere disappointment, but a now permanent asterisk on his legacy.

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