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  • Jack Salvadori

Hollywood Witch-Hunt

According to Karl Marx, “History repeats itself twice, first as tragedy, second as farce”. The innumerable, post-dated accusations & confessions triggered by the infamous Weinstein-gate are quickly leading to a film industry where it is impossible to distinguish paranoia from hypocrisy, the distortion of the past from the repugnance of the present. Hollywood has fully embraced these posthumous trials to the celebrities’ morality and behaviors, when they are off the silver screen. The number of assertions increases, as well as the exclamation marks following each accuse, as if to upsurge the sense of bewilderment and astonishment among an apparently oblivious audience. It seems that the charming, doomed dream factory of Hollywood, with its somehow coherently depraved representatives, has disappointed the audience, again. Almost a century ago, in 1921, Hollywood faced its first, major scandal: Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, who always played the silly-Billy simpleton in dozens of comedies, raped a young actress causing her death. For the first time, the audience was shocked at the realization that their idols were not like the jolly characters they portrayed. The trust was betrayed, the dreamful admiration towards these suddenly-stranger individuals was torn apart, and the spectators’ innocent belief revealed to be a mere illusion. The magic was not there anymore. Thus, a hundred years later, did we forget the Hollywoodian immorality already? How could contemporary audience expect and demand the most normalized, slickly sweet behaviour in this unequivocally desecrated world today, frivolous by definition? The allegations against illustrious representatives of the industry such as Kevin Spacey, Dustin Hoffman and Louis C.K. swell day by day, pushing the superstars towards their “Sunset Boulevard”: accurate stories which seem to have come out from a melodramatic screenwriter’s pen in the 1950s.

Nauseating descriptions of the stars who attempted to seduce young, innocent victims who, however, only today have found the courage to offer their vicissitudes to the hungry appetite of the progressive good-thinking movement. Mirroring the fear of a hunted animal with no escape, the accused icons ultimate, desperate attempt to save their reputation and career is only to release humiliating, miserable and unrealistic statements of apology. Everyone can draw their own conclusions, but the coincidental convenience and timing of the reports induce a cynic suspect of hypocrisy – and exploitation – by the presumed victims. It is not possible, or correct, to ignore, but it is necessary to react against the neopuritan mincer, and to reflect upon each case individually without prejudices. Those who rub their hands at hearing the alleged private vices of their idols, who they intimately envy, enjoy the spectacle of watching them reduced at their same rank: no more stars but common human beings, like noblemen stripped off from their titles and conducted to the gallows in front of a mass of angry plebeians. It is not our task to express abstract, moral judgements, but it seems to be back to McCarthyism and the witch-hunts of that time, where a gossip, a rumor – or a “tweet” – is enough to disintegrate a respected career. It is difficult to foresee how the abnormal wave of scoops will progress, which, for its own paradoxical nature, could extend like an oil stain and bang on the front page other “monsters”. Yet, as usual, we can seek an answer in History: the Arbuckle scandal led to the establishment of the dishonourable Production Code, enduring a long, self-purifier censorship aiming get the audience trust back. An aggressive censorship to convince the everyday man that, after all, the virtuous Hollywood is an example of morality, and it does not belong to a different planet. Are the ridiculously extreme measures undertaken by the production companies to punish the sinners (such as reshooting all the scenes with Kevin Spacey from a completed movie) the identical, cathartic manoeuvres employed last time? It seems the case to say, “After all, tomorrow is another day”; yet, the allegations will not be gone with the wind.

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