Friday, December 30, 2011
Happy Birthday, Mr. Dictator
This is the first of a brief series of columns on stories I didn't get around to until now.
Actors are not immune from doing or saying amazingly stupid things. On the contrary, they sometimes thrive on it. Don't believe me? I offer the following: Kutcher, Ashton; Lohan, Lindsay; Gibson, Mel. Well, maybe not the third, but certainly the first two.
I always give people the benefit of the doubt. This is why I'm not going to be particularly hard on Hilary Swank for cooing sweet nothings to Razman Kadryov on his 35th birthday. Now, who is Razman Kadryov? Well, he just happens to be the President of Chechnya, a man who among his other accomplishments are allegedly assaulting women in saunas and having opponents killed left right and center.
Now, granted Swank didn't really whisper words of love to Kadryov (a man beloved by ex-KGB man and current 'Prime Mininster' Vladimir Putin and his bitch, 'President' Dmitry Medvedev, a pair not exactly known for their gentle touch). I don't even blame Swank for not knowing who Kadryov is (let's face it, I doubt Chechnya and their leadership comes up a lot in conversation). Then again, she did say she 'did her homework'. Well, she couldn't have gone through every little report from human rights groups (who has the time, what with reading of scripts like The Core, The Reaping, or Amelia).
What I DO hold Swank responsible for is for not doing any research (despite her protests to the contrary) and for ignoring human rights groups who advised her not to go.
I figure she didn't go because she has a passion for Grozny reconstruction. She went for the same reason we all go to work: to get paid. She went to this affair simply because there was cash involved.
Again, I don't hold Swank in contempt for wanting to earn a little cash (so hard being part of that 99% I imagine). However, I'm trying to think back if there were incidents like this before Swank, pop star Seal, and Jean-Claude Van Damme popped in to celebrate a potential tyrant. Did I miss Gloria Gaynor belting out I Will Survive to Syria's Hafez Al-Assad? Trying to recall if Ella Fitzgerald leaped out of a cake for Pol Pot. Maybe Rita Hayworth did a little bump and grind for Francisco Franco. No...I didn't think so.
Actors, singers, and entertainers have to earn a living. There is nothing wrong with that. The very successful ones earn a great deal of money. Again, nothing wrong with that. However, actors, singers, and entertainers who earn a great deal of money who basically rent themselves out for more money to A.) perform for people of disreputable backgrounds/associations and B.) lecture the rest of us for not paying more in taxes is really grotesque.
Somehow, I can't imagine that people who get paid $1 million (cue Doctor Evil) to sing a few songs have any right to join the kids going on about their student loans at Occupy Wall Street or their various spin-offs. If the Occupiers were smart, rather than have Jay-Z, Kanye West, or Russell Simmmons pop in to tell them to keep fighting the banks and have 'the rich' pay more in taxes, they'd ask Hova, "Can your wife donate the money she made from Gaddaffi's kid to me to pay off my loans?"
I think that, to me, is the most appalling thing about stars renting themselves out for some dough. Exactly how much is too much? If I were paid millions to perform, I'd be thrilled. Now I know they have to have entourages, managers, lawyers, agents, nice houses sheltered away from their fans. I don't begrudge them that or the fact that as people in the public eye, they need to have more security than a simple film reviewer/library employee.
However, the Protestant in me wonders if there has to be some limit to exactly whom I allow myself to be associated with. We all remember Beyoncé, singing At Last to the President and Mrs. Obama at their first dance as the 44th President of the United States and First Lady. The double meaning of the song was obvious: not only a beautiful love song (though, sorry Miss Knowles, it will always be Etta's song), but that 'at last', we got a black President. I'm sure she is proud of her association with that (as well she should be...it is always an honor to sing for The President). However, how does she justify this:
There she is, strutting her stuff for Mutassim Gaddaffi at a private New Year's Eve party. I don't think it's the same thing: singing for the son of the long-time iron-fisted dictator of Libya (joyfully and most sincerely dead) and singing for the President. Really, dear, did you need the money? Not paying you enough to make movies like Obsessed? Maybe I can believe, 'oh, she didn't know it was for a Gaddaffi she was "Sasha Fierce"-ing for', but then, shouldn't she have some curiosity as to who is footing the bill? At best, it makes her look dumb. At worst, it makes her look greedy and heartless (which I can't believe she is).
What is really appalling in all this is exactly who people like Beyoncé will figuratively sing for their supper. Let's imagine, if you will, that by some series of twists and turns of fate, of all people, Sarah Palin were elected President of the United States. Now, let's say the governor asks Beyoncé to sing at a pre-Inauguration party (and let's even throw in some cash rather than for the honor).
You really think Mrs. Z would sing for Sarah?
I think not. I'm sure she would respectfully and kindly decline the request. However, let's think on that for a moment. In the world of music and film, being associated in any way with someone like a Sarah Palin or even a moderate like Mitt Romney is outrageous, maybe damaging to your reputation. Being associated with a Gaddaffi or a Kadryov, merely good business (so long as no one finds out about it).
Now, Palin may be an absolute idiot unfit to be Mayor of Wasilla, let alone President of the United States. That's for the voting public to decide. However, despite the assertions of MSNBC and the DailyKos, Sarah Palin hasn't been involved directly or indirectly with murder, let alone rape, or torture of any kind. How any rational, intelligent person could go and sing or wish a happy birthday to someone who is dangerous if not downright evil, while hold their nose in the air against someone they didn't vote for simply boggles the mind.
Think on this: for the Inauguration of President Clinton and President Obama, you had a galaxy of stars. For the Inauguration of President George W. Bush, you had Ricky Martin and Jessica Simpson. There has to be something completely bonkers in my view when someone would rather sing for a Gaddaffi than for a Bush. If I had my choice, I'd sing for the President (even if I didn't vote for him) because A.) he is the leader of my country, B.) he is representing my country, and C.) it is an honor to do something in the name of my country. I wouldn't be saluting the man but what he represents: the United States of America, a thriving democracy, and the land that I love.
It wouldn't be an endorsement of his policies to sing for him. If that were the case, then we must assume Beyoncé endorses Muammar Gaddaffi and Hilary Swank endorses Razman Kadryov. I figure they don't, so then why would they (and many others in Hollywood) be so persnikety about performing for a President Bush, or Palin, or Romney?
Say what you will about Marilyn Monroe's intelligence, but at least SHE knew whom she was singing to.