Sometimes it seems like white male directors are in a not-so-secret competition to say the dumbest thing. Earlier this year, beloved cult icon Terry Gilliam delivered a blow to fans when he suggested the Me Too movement went to far when outraged feminists gathered together and full-on murdered Matt Damon. (RIP) Manchester By The Sea helmer Kenneth Lonergan mourned for Oscar-winner Casey Affleck, who avoided this year’s ceremony because of sexual misconduct allegations made against him, because let us never forget the real victims of Me Too are the alleged abusers who missed out on swanky parties. Colin Trevorrow recently entered the ring with the one-two punch of claiming his critically reviled Book of Henry was a Me Too movie pre-Me Too movement, and oh also totally the carbon copy of Star Wars: A New Hope. Now, Gilliam is back to defend his King Of Do STFU title against newcomer Nicolas Winding Refn, director of Neon Demon.
Who will come out on top as the deliverer of the most tone-deaf comment? YOU DECIDE.
First up, Terry Gilliam responding to BBC’s initiative to bring greater diversity and more inclusive representation to television. In explaining the changes at the studio, BBC’s controller of comedy commissioning Shane Allen seems to reference to Monty Python, the comedy troupe in which Gilliam launched his career. Allen said, “If you’re going to assemble a team now, it’s not going to be six Oxbridge white blokes. It’s going to be a diverse range of people who reflect the modern world.”
From the Karlovy Vary film festival, where his finally completed The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is screening, Gilliam responded:
“It made me cry: the idea that … no longer six white Oxbridge men can make a comedy show. Now we need one of this, one of that, everybody represented… this is bullshit. I no longer want to be a white male, I don’t want to be blamed for everything wrong in the world: I tell the world now I’m a black lesbian… My name is Loretta and I’m a BLT, a black lesbian in transition.”
Never forget the prejudice that white men face as they dominate in movie directing, film criticism, and the Oscar-granting Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. And remember how much easier it is for women of color and especially queer and trans women of color to get TV shows and movie deals. I mean they are everywhere, thoughtlessly drowning out the Terry Gilliams of the world. And please do remember that Gilliam’s bro Johnny Depp is a good guy.
It’s a strong showing for Gilliam. Can Refn compete? The Danish director wrote a July 4th essay for The Guardian, in which he shares his thoughts on the unusual perks of Trump America. He writes:
“America has always had a tendency towards the operatic but, fuelled by the hand grenade of insanity that is Donald Trump, it’s reached new heights of hysteria. This means even the smallest developments are heralded as either the end of the world or the second coming.
It’s terrifying. It is also thrilling. We are appalled by what we witness unfolding each day - essentially, the destruction of the American way of life by its own administration - but we’re also inescapably gripped by it. This is a very exciting time in our history.”
If you consider politics a spectators sport instead of a tool capable of destroying lives—by say refusing to ignore a gun violence epidemic that means no school child is safe, ripping refugee families apart at the U.S. border, or snatching healthcare away from millions of vulnerable Americans, then sure it’s thrilling!
“Certainly, we have to embrace such an apocalyptic time,” Refn continues, “Because the alternative is hand-wringing inertia, and that’s perfect for those in power. Whenever there’s any kind of enormous global shakeup, there’s bound to be paranoia and insanity, but out of earthquakes come opportunities. Even Trump’s fierce arrogance and distaste for his fellow man is good. It’s revealed how many people and politicians share such a view, and our exposure to such hypocrisy is healthy.”
There’s a lot to unpack in this paragraph. The options apparently are not MAGA, resist, or ignore. It’s embracing the apocalypse/making opportunities out of earthquakes or hang-wringing inertia. Refn’s been shooting a movie in America. So he thinks he has the solution to fighting back against this exposed hipocrisy and political carnage. Suprise! It’s movies. But not the studio stuff that’s in theaters. And not even his own. Turns out this head-turning essay is really just a means of promoting a new website he’s started where he’s posted old movies that he’s restored and you can watch for free. He doesn’t scrimp on suggesting he’s a selfless hero and philanthropist for doing this, but remember he’s also a king of the resistance or something.
Refn concludes with:
I hope my site will inspire people to see the world a different way. Setting it up has helped me reconcile myself to a different concept of culture than the traditional, romantic one I was raised with. People of my generation - I’m 47 - want tangible tokens of mortality to cling to. But nostalgia is artistic suicide. You have to accept the fact that everything disintegrates in your hands.
Donald Trump was elected on the promise he’d make America great again. Older voters rushed at the chance to return to a comforting fairytale. But they are not the same people who will inherit the US and have to heal its divisions. And the past was rarely this scary.
…So watch old movies?
You decide: Whose got today’s worst hot take: Gilliam or Refn?
(Image: Getty Images)