Rather than write an extended riff on the history of misogyny and sexism in the entertainment industry — because it is well-wrote territory — let’s just presume that we all understand it’s a systemic issue undergirding pretty much all industries in all contemporary societies, but especially in pop culture. That’s just the way the world worked for the bulk of mankind’s existence. Equality is basically the narrative of 20th and 21st century human history, so the phrase “white patriarchal capitalism” wasn’t birthed in a vaccuum. (And I’m sure my Intro to Film professor is ecstatic he burned that into my and my classmates’ impressionable brains.) It’s real, it most likely isn’t conscious in the vast majority of cases, and talking about it, even incessantly, as a means to provide awareness to those who might accidentally partake in it, is the best way to keep the progressive momentum pushing forward. Like Moby discussing the catchy and douchetastic “Blurred Lines.”
With that in mind, here are Six Once (and some still) Beloved Men in Hollywood and Beyond that Prove Misogyny and Sexism Still Exists. The reactions of the industry and the consumer-audience to them remain decidedly mixed… and unfortunate.
Obviously, we can’t have a list of Hollywood misogynists without discussing Mel Gibson. He is unquestionably one of the most talented people here and that’s reason enough that his star shone so incredibly bright in the 1980s to the mid-2000s. He was Riggs, Maverick, and Mad Max. He directed Braveheart and the Man Without a Face. Then he drove drunk in Malibu, which he blamed on “the Jews” (it’s always “the Jews”), and called his arresting female officer “sugar tits.” That was enough for some to write off Gibson entirely, but then he managed to direct a pretty decent and moderately successful epic film about Meso-American human sacrifice, which should have been a Sisyphean task for even notable Hollywood good guy Tom Hanks. Then he raged at his ex-girlfriend and the mother of his children, on a recorded phone call, saying, “You look like a fucking pig in heat, and if you get raped by a pack of n*ggers it will be your fault.” Even after allegedly beating the same woman, he still has defenders like Jodie Foster casting him as the lead in their movies, and fans of his Passion of the Christ will likely never abandon him. Gibson may always have a career — and, to be fair, his misogyny is less defined onscreen than his persecution complex — but unless he goes on a major public relations apology tour, that career will likely be relegated to relatively cheap direct-to-DVD or OnDemand releases. But don’t weep for him yet, he still makes more money than almost everyone reading this article will ever see.
While it’s entirely possible that Mel Gibson is legitimately kinda-sorta insane, Charlie Sheen is just legitimately the poster child for
entitled rich assholes bad boys, who used to mostly get away with beating and accidentally shooting their girlfriends and wives and children due to their fame or wealth or wealth and fame. But like Gibson, there was at least a period of time where it seemed like Sheen deserved at least some of his career highlights (Platoon, Wallt Street, Major League) due to actual talent rather than just being the son of an acting legend. But, of course, his off-screen exploits never stopped, even when he joined the cast of Two and a Half Men, a bizarrely popular sitcom notorious for its mostly horrible presentation of women as shrews, morons, or shrewish morons. (Holland Taylor’s impeccable grace being the lone exception.) Why the last straw had to be a very public, tiger blood-infused metldown after terrorizing a porn star/escort in a hotel room is anyone’s guess. But while his fictional Charlie character may have gotten what he deserved in a fiery car accident, the real Sheen continues to work on his not-popular, mostly-reviled FX shitcom Anger Management. The title couldn’t be more apt, considering he recently fired his co-star, the better-than-this-anyway Selma Blair, calling her a word that rhymes with Allen Funt in the process. Will he continue to work after his show reaches the contractually obligated 100 episodes? If Robert Rodriguez is willing to hire him for the Machete sequel, even ironically, the answer is sadly obvious.
As a child of 1980s suburban America, I was naturally a fan of the two Coreys, Haim and Feldman. The Lost Boys and License to Drive were essentially my favorite movies, because they are great (Dream a Little Dream is not my jam). But while Haim was the star of those vehicles, Feldman had the better career and arguably more talent, as evidenced by Stand by Me, Gremlins, The Goonies, and The ‘Burbs. But, thanks to copious drugs and alcohol, it all started to go tits up after voicing Donatello in the original live action Ninja Turtles movies, and before long his career was dead, and Haim was dead for real. Like Lindsay Lohan, it’s easy to wonder what might have been if the Coreys hadn’t doomed themselves or had people who cared enough about them to ensure that didn’t happen. I used to think it was sad, and it still is for Haim. But Feldman has proven that he deserves no pity, only guffaws of ridicule, with private birthday parties wherein dudes gotta pay but babes get in free… so long as their clad in lingerie or body paint, preferably with costume shop wings attached so Corey knows you’re one of his “angels.” He’s trying to be Hugh Hefner without actually doing any of the work or having any of the charm. Well, that isn’t totally fair, he is doing work. If you can call the worst music video (and song) of the year “working.” If Moby thinks “Blurred Lines” is in poor taste, I can’t imagine what he thinks of the complete lack of artistry on display in “Ascension Millennium”. At least it’s one of the few YouTube clips with more down- than up-votes.
Full Disclosure: I know almost nothing about Chris Brown’s life or career beyond what everyone in the world knows. He is, by most accounts, an incredibly gifted musician who had a squeaky clean image that has been almost completely tarnished after punching his once and future girlfriend, the pop star Rihanna, in the face. Repeatedly. What else is there to know? His most ardent fans will tell you and God and everybody (on Twitter) that “that bitch” Rihanna deserved what she got, and even his critics will sometimes say that it’s her own fault if something happens for continually going back to him. Does his music advocate beating women? Does it even glorify sexism the way so much hip hop does? I have no idea, but he remains utterly unapologetic about his predeliction for using his fists instead of his way with words to settle arguments with people he proclaims to love. That he continues to sell records in spite of this is almost as tragic as the initial fight that spawned the controversy. Hopefully he backs up his “threat” to quit after his next album drops, because chances are nobody in the music industry will make him stop otherwise.
Andrew Dice Clay
The Dice Man was one of the biggest stars in the world of stand-up comedy in the 1980s and early 1990s, the leather-clad, questionably prolific Italian-American lothario stereotype before the Jersey Shore was a gleam in The Situation’s bronzed abs, and the apparent alter ego of comedian Andrew Dice Clay. From pretty much the beginning of his fame, Clay insisted that Dice was merely a stage persona and didn’t reflect his true beliefs — that women, especially those who’d sleep with a guy like him, were all worthless “hoo-ahs” (or “whores,” in the parlance of his time) just out to get a man’s money and strip him of any personality he might otherwise have. Basically, Larry the Cable Guy owes his entire career to the Dice Man’s business plan, as does Tom Leykis for filling the void when America tired of his particular macho antics. And his career seemed dead in the hair gel for over a decade before Woody Allen cast him against depth in his new film, Blue Jasmine, wherein Clay is getting the best critical reviews of his life. But in the realm of stand-up it’s far too easy to conflate persona and person, and Clay remains unapolgetic about his still-sexist stage presence. Does one performance really wash out 20 years of grease and filth?
We like to make fun of Michael Bay around here. Well, everyone everywhere does, really. It’s just so easy. Jingoism. Baysplosions. His Baynis. The dude crafts flicks that are meant to be the cinematic equivalent of a roller coaster ride, and each successive movie is the biggest, fastest one yet made. That’s fine, there’s a place for all kinds of film projects and audiences eat it up. But Bay’s movies also contain copious amounts of poorly written, poorly cast, and lasciviously shot female characters. Whatever you think of her, Megan Fox has shown she’s at least more capable than only being Shia Labeouf’s scantily clad, zero-story love interest, and who can blame the lady for wanting to get out from under his supposedly Nazi-like thumb. And if the rumors that she had to wash Bay’s car, in a bikini, while he video taped it for her Transformers audition are true, that’s more damning about what kind of person — what kind of man — he is than all those movies’ racist robots put together. But, of course, Transformers 4 is on the horizon and Bay’s take on the aforementioned Ninja Turtles is being filmed right now, with Megan Fox back on the payroll and already reduced to bouncing boobs as reporter April O’Neil, the only female character in the series. Do we blame Fox for that? Isn’t that a little like blaming Rihanna, or any victim of abuse, especially when it’s systemic? She needs to eat and pay her bills, and if Bay is hiring when no one else will, what’s she supposed to do? It’s too bad that Chris O’Dowd publicly calling him an asshole probably won’t have any negative effect on Michael Bay’s future box office receipts.
Perhaps it’s a bit unfair to include an accused (and basically admitted) statutory rapist in a list of misogynists that includes wife and girlfriend beaters, as well as Hollywood players that objectify women in their art. After all, if you believe Polanski’s story, everything was consensual and the only crime was a silly matter of American law leftover from the Puritans, saying a child is anyone under the age of 18 and therefore cannot legally consent to sex. And it’s not like Polanski’s film work treats women as horribly as he seems to treat them in real life. Then again, the new book by Polanski’s victim makes it pretty clear that she’s of the same belief as the law, and that she was indeed raped — statutory or not. So maybe it isn’t fair to the other guys listed here, who, as far as we know, at least never raped anyone. And none of the other dickbags above have made such obtuse statements as Polanski did at this year’s Cannes, stating, “Offering flowers to a lady has become indecent … The pill has greatly changed the place of women in our times, masculinising her. It chases away the romance in our lives.” He also added that “trying to level the genders is purely idiotic” and female equality in general is “a great pity.” It’s almost like he got away with rape and doesn’t care who knows it. But, of course, Hollywood players like Jodie Foster (and Kate Winslet, and Christoph Waltz, and John C. Reilly) continue to work with him, so he continues to get his arguably great films premiered at the world’s largest film festival.
What’s the world coming to? Unfortunately, nothing it hasn’t already come to before.
Rob Payne also writes the web comic The Unstoppable Force, tweets on the Twitter, tumbls on the Tumblr, and his wares can be purchased here. He loves Jodie Foster, but he seriously wonders what the hell her problem is.