It’s always tough to decide how much to read into the comments made at a Q&A if you aren’t there in the room. You don’t know the audience’s vibe, or the tone the guest used when giving their response. Hell, sometimes you aren’t even sure how the questions were phrased. So when I read The Hollywood Reporter’s coverage of a one-on-one talk, hosted by French critic and journalist Didier Allouch, with actor John Travolta while he was making the rounds of the Cannes Film Festival this week, I was willing to let a lot of it slide. Oh, watching Grease 14 times as a kid is something that “created” Benicio Del Toro as an actor? Cool story, bro. Oh, Scientology’s secrets for positivity include getting a good night’s sleep and eliminating the bad eggs from your life? I mean, I wasn’t expecting him to say “stalking and blackmail” anyway, so fine.
But then the topic of #MeToo came up, and the whole thing felt… weirder than usual.
When asked by Allouch about the #MeToo movement upending the old paradigm in Hollywood, Travolta had little to say.
“I don’t know much about it. I try to keep people equal. I’m a citizen of the globe,” he said to the biggest applause of the talk. “Division is a dangerous thing.”
To be fair, this is one of those situations where I don’t know exactly how the question was phrased, but the idea that this vague smattering of nonsense he uttered somehow elicited the biggest audience reaction of the night is either incredibly sad or patently false. His answer may be short, but it contains a multitude of WTFery. Let’s take it from the top, shall we?
“I don’t know much about it.”
Motherfucker, you’ve had 7 goddamn months to read up on it. This shit has ROCKED your place of work (HOLLYWOOD) and taken down the studio head that helped revive your career with the release of Pulp Fiction. As someone with a long history of rumors floating around about him, it would sort of seem like the kind of thing a person in your position would have brushed up on.
“I try to keep people equal.”
That’s great! You should! WE ALL SHOULD! But like, that’s not the question. Presumably (though it’s hard to tell) Allouch wasn’t asking a gotcha question like whether you were a guilty party in the #MeToo culture, but rather what you make of the movement’s impact on Hollywood, where — I’m sure you’ll agree — people have NOT been treated equally or fairly, regardless of your personal involvement. And if you truly try to “keep people equal” then shouldn’t the revelations of #MeToo have disturbed you greatly. Or, like… something?
“I’m a citizen of the globe.”
Oh piss off. This isn’t about whether everyone has a right to potable drinking water or fresh fucking air. This is about the systemic assault and harassment women AND men have been subjected to in almost every industry, but especially the one that has made you rich and famous. And as a fucking “citizen of the globe” THAT SHOULD MATTER TO YOU. These are your fellow citizens we’re talking about! It’s OK to have an opinion.
“Division is a dangerous thing.”
OK, what the fuck are you even talking about. No, really — what “division”? Like, the abuse of authority that is dividing our culture? The “division” between the elite and the people they take advantage of, and the imbalance in who really faces the consequences of speaking up? Yeah, totally — that’s dangerous and also super fucked up! Or do you mean the “division” that REVEALING these abuses is causing in Hollywood? The “division” between the way things were, and the post-#MeToo era of accountability we may be entering? Because, um, nah yo. That’s not dangerous — that shit’s earned.
Look, I’m not going to say that I think every actor should be asked vague questions about #MeToo because honestly, it’s starting to feel a little lazy. It’s stopped being about providing fresh insights on the topic and started turning into some verbal equivalent of an awards season lapel pin, some demonstrative opportunity to prove you’re “with it”. But I also think that not being prepared to talk about it when asked is simply naive, especially for someone like Travolta, who has a long career full of interactions with many of the people who stand accused of misconduct already. Maybe he never saw anything. Maybe he really does have no opinion. Maybe there are stronger reasons for him not to want to wade into these contentious waters. But at this point he should know the topic is on the table for discussion, and have something more useful to say than this “I’m a citizen of the globe” bullshit.
Is it weird that I’d happily take the well-intentioned, boneheaded privilege of Matt Damon over Travolta’s brand of hands-off, head-in-the-clouds nothingness?