Posted by Danielle Berrin
Because one ‘Times’ wasn’t enough, Hollywood Jew made appearances in both the Los Angeles Times and New York Times this past week.
Given, last Friday’s NYTimes double-truck came at the hands of The Weinstein Co.‘s monstrous marketing budget, HJ thinks a full page reprint of this blog’s fodder falls into the old chestnut “all press is good press.” Though HJ isn’t sure whether she should thank Harvey Weinstein or Harvey Weinstein should thank her: “Please tell Danielle that her article looks to be at least as good, if not better, than the movie,” read one letter to the editor. And for the record, HJ does feel a bit sandbagged that the ol’ Weinstein warlock refashioned her headline (sincerest apologies to the American Jewish Committee who only deserved some of its scorn).
Resting only on the Sabbath, HJ made her LA Times debut in yesterday’s print edition where esteemed entertainment columnist Patrick Goldstein opined some jazzy things about Hollywood Jew and coined yours truly a ‘tribal critic’ (better that, she thinks, than ‘village idiot’). Many moons ago, when HJ was an incipient sapling, Mr. Goldstein gave her some very good advice: “Opinion and attitude” is the lifeblood of blogs—and she took that to heart. Needless to say, it was lovely catching up with Mr. Goldstein after more than three years and scores of snippy blog posts.
Here’s the LA Times take on Hollywood Jew, all grown up:
Danielle Berrin, who writes the Hollywood Jew blog for the Jewish Journal, is a natural-born provocateur. She got into a heated e-mail debate with Aaron Sorkin after she blasted “The Social Network” for its negative portrayal of Jewish women in a blog post titled “Who does Aaron Sorkin really hate?” When she profiled film director Brett Ratner, Berrin opened the story by saying how Ratner hit on her during their interview, adding insult to injury by noting that he said he found her attractive because she looked like a WASP.
Berrin recently walloped a host of Jewish organizations, including the American Jewish Committee, which have condemned the supposedly one-sided portrayal of the Palestinian and Israeli conflict in Julian Schnabel’s new film, “Miral,” wondering if the older generation of American Jewry is mired in such a profound cultural malaise that it’s “impossible for Jews to empathize with anyone but each other.” When Charlie Sheen was finally dumped by CBS from “Two and a Half Men,” Berrin wrote: “Why is it that you can abuse women, terrorize hotels, openly do drugs, get busted and all is forgiven until you utter a little anti-Semitic slur?” And, well, don’t ask what she thinks about Mel Gibson.
Read the rest at Goldstein’s blog The Big Picture
Coverage at Fishbowl Media LA:
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March 24, 2011 | 6:26 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
For this week’s Jewish Journal cover, I expanded upon an earlier post I had written, asking why some Jews were lobbing a fusillade of criticism at the film. Working from my initial thesis—that SOME Jews simply can’t handle anything remotely sympathetic to the Palestinian perspective—I interviewed some of the people who criticized the film, its incendiary screening at the U.N., as well as those who liked the movie and support its message.
Whatever one’s feelings about the film’s politics or even its integrity as a engaging narrative, I believe it deserves to be seen with open eyes and open hearts.
Was it overtly political for this film to screen at the U.N.? Yes. I think there are movies about the conflict that are more balanced and appropriate for the incipient United Nations Film Club. As Rabbi Marvin Hier points out in my story, the U.N. could have screened two contrasting films representing both sides of the conflict. But with respect to Miral, art does not have an obligation to objectivity. This film is NOT a history of the Arab-Israeli conflict; it is the story of one woman’s life. And no, it is not especially nuanced. In fact, I think the lack of context, nuance and the film’s general inability to humanize Israelis is its major weakness; let’s not forget this is the work of a first-time screenwriter, who may have overburdened herself with loyalty to the message rather than the storyline. This is evident in some of the film’s clichés and lack of detail. But if you want to know how the conflict looks from this woman’s point of view—that is, Rula Jebreal’s—see Miral.
Prompted by some of the comments below and reactions to my earlier post, I want to explain why I’ve been writing so much about a “film being panned by critics”. Despite the merits of the movie itself, and despite the reasonable possibility that the filmmakers may have ‘drummed up controversy’ for publicity’s sake, Miral raises important questions about our ability to engage with other points of view. Look at the reaction people are having just on this blog. Perhaps the backlash is not a response to the film itself, but to the idea of the film, and the story behind the film—a Jew could love a Palestinian? a Palestinian could love a Jew?—as well as the convoluted politics that inevitably permeate anything related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. No surprise that this is a hot button issue, and yet, something about this film’s very existence is deeply discomfiting to many people—and that’s why I’m writing so much about it.
And now, the story:
Julian Schnabel must have known that screening a film about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the United Nations General Assembly would be scene-stealing. To set the town talking, the event would unite all the trappings — provocative subject matter, prestigious venue, Hollywood glamour.
In fact, the March 14 screening of “Miral” in New York drew a crowd of movie stars, diplomats, artists and intellectuals — Robert De Niro, Sean Penn, Vanessa Redgrave, Ambassadors Jean Kennedy Smith and Qazi Shaukut Fareed, and Dan Rather, among them – raising the profile of an event that openly merged artistic prominence and political power. But when mixed, art and politics — while not exactly strange bedfellows — can stir into a complicated brew. And, sure enough, Schnabel’s screening spawned a flurry of protest from some of the most powerful and prominent voices in the Jewish establishment, who accused the film of being “one-sided” and “anti-Israel.”
The next day, a Los Angeles Times headline declared: “Screening of ‘Miral’ at the United Nations draws protests from Jewish groups.”
The wave of controversy that ensued called into question whether a high-profile film written by a Palestinian and sympathetic to “the other side” was simply too much for some Jews to handle. That the filmmaker, Julian Schnabel, is Jewish and presenting a perspective counter to the dominant Jewish paradigm was considered a tribal and national betrayal. That the film’s distributor, Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein is a New York Jew, and a vocal supporter of Israel, was even more unsettling. Haven’t the Jews and their State of Israel had it hard enough?
Read the rest here
And now a video blog:
March 24, 2011 | 1:09 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
It’s no surprise that after someone passes, many and various stories of their life begin to surface—stories that haven’t been uttered in ages, stories almost forgotten, if not for the moribund trigger that whisks them back into the light.
So yesterday, when I awoke to the news of Elizabeth Taylor’s death, I felt an almost greedy wish to learn how she lived. The headlines in the entertainment world spoke of her stunning beauty – that raven hair, alabaster skin, violet eyes – as much as they told of her fiery personality; she was fierce, passionate, otherworldly. Elizabeth Taylor was, in many ways, a mad woman. Mad to live, mad to love, desirous of the world and everything in it.
As Cleopatra, she was the natural fit to star in a film with the rare distinction of having nearly bankrupted a studio. According to imdb.com, the $194,800 budget for Taylor’s costumes in the film was the highest ever for a single actor. It paid for 65 costumes, including one dress made from 24-carat gold cloth. When she posed for her first Life Magazine cover in 1948, according to a lovely story written by Emma Forrest for The Telegraph, the photographer Phillipe Halsman asked her what color she wanted her dress to be: “The color of money,” Taylor famously replied.
While Taylor couldn’t be accused of mastering relationships, she was wildly romantic. Married three times by the age of 25, her primal appetite for men who could match her went on throughout her life. Beginning in 1950, when she was a tender 18, Taylor leapt into a series of marriages with Conrad Hilton, Michael Wilding, Michael Todd, Eddie Fisher, Richard Burton, Richard Burton again, U.S. Senator John Warner and lastly, Larry Fortensky. As my friend Emma put it via text-message-eulogy, “She represented the triumph of hope over experience—which is also the Jewish story.” (That is a reference, by the way, to British author Samuel Johnson’s wry take on second marriages.) In between Todd and Fisher, Taylor converted to Judaism, finally calling her volatile and impassioned spirit what it really was: unrivaled chutzpah.
Though she never gave up diamonds and dressing gowns, her larger-than-life persona expanded to include significant largesse. She was a very early and very public champion for HIV/AIDS research, but she had a lesser known pet cause that brought her into the purview of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, where she served on the board of trustees and eventually received the center’s highest honor, the Humanitarian Award in 1980. Taylor also served as a narrator for the center’s first documentary film, “Genocide,” about the Holocaust, and the center credits her participation with attracting Orson Welles as co-narrator. The film went on to win an Oscar.
But as experiences with Liz Taylor go, simple sentences do little justice. To capture the color and fire of postmortem Taylor tales, I asked Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center to share his favorite Liz stories. And here they are, in his own words:
On meeting Elizabeth Taylor for the first time:
I had the idea—we had a script, “Genocide: The Story of the Holocaust” – and to get this around the world, to get people to pay attention, we needed a narrator. And I thought, ‘How can we get Elizabeth Taylor?’
Now, we had done some work within the U.S. congress—we were involved on many issues regarding Germany, Nazi war criminals, statute of limitations, and we knew many senators and congressmen. One senator was her husband John Warner, at the time. So I made a call to Senator Warner and asked him if he could do me a favor. I said, ‘We have a script, we’d love her to be the narrator, it’s a documentary on the Holocaust’ and would he agree to getting the script to her? And he said, ‘Well you know I handle government affairs; my wife is in charge of entertainment. The only thing I can do, Rabbi, is give you head start; rather than going through her office, I’ll place this script on her night table. The rest is her decision.’
Soon after, she read the script and I was told she was crying. Senator Warner’s office called and said ‘You’re gonna get a call from her – she’s coming to L.A. This was in 1979. So I get a call from a Mrs. Warner, that’s who she called as, and I called her back, and on the telephone she said she was very affected by the script, very much wants to do it, and that she was doing a film in London and she’d have to record in London but before she says yes, why don’t we have lunch and discuss? And I was just a young rabbi then, so I said, ‘Where should we have lunch?’ And she said, ‘How about 1230 at The Polo Lounge?’ I was embarrassed to ask her—I had never heard of The Polo Lounge and I didn’t know where it was. So as soon as I hung up I asked my secretary, ‘Have you ever heard of The Polo Lounge?’ And she looked at me like I was crazy. Then I thought, what am I gonna have? It’s not kosher. So I called up the maitre d and said, I’m paying for the lunch, I don’t want any confusion about that, I just want to make sure you can serve me—if you can give me a fruit plate and maybe a coke (at the time I drank coke) and let her order whatever she wants. The day of, I show up there and I didn’t know she had a special table that she always ate in, which was in an alcove with windows all over the place and then she arrives, and I didn’t know that at that time, there was a business that when stars came into The Polo Lounge, bus drivers would inform people on tour buses who was in the restaurant and then the buses would drive by the windows and gaze in. [So the whole time we were having lunch] a group of people from a tour bus were staring into the window. She made it clear she would do the script, but we never explained in the letter [to her] that we weren’t in a position to pay, we would love if she could possibly do it as a public service. And she said, ‘Well that’s exactly what I had in mind. I have the greatest respect for Simon Wiesenthal, I know his stories, I love that man.’ She then was going to the dentist but she didn’t have a car, and I didn’t park at the valet because I had a lousy car, full of books and stuff, and so I had to run two blocks away to get the car, [clean it out], and then I drove her to her dentist on Beverly Boulevard. [Hier added that he did her a favor by going into the dentist’s office and making sure they were ‘ready’ for Taylor because she didn’t want to sit in the waiting room].
[When I met her that first time] I said to myself, ‘If I my mother, my father had heard this, they wouldn’t believe it.’ Growing up I did go to yeshiva but you did hear about Liz Taylor—everybody did. I thought, ‘Jeez if the rebbes in the yeshivas saw this, I don’t know what they’d do to me.’
[I asked Hier what it was like for a young rabbi to sit across the table from someone so stunningly beautiful and he said:]
Listen I’m an observant Jew, so I should observe.
She also called me when the film won the Oscar – because I thanked her and Orson Welles [in my speech], so she called me and said, ‘Rabbi I knew then at our luncheon at The Polo Lounge where this film was going.’
On Taylor’s kishkas:
She regarded herself as a Jew at that time, of course. And you’ll see she pronounces it on the videotape, her speech was very dramatic, she reads it very slowly. You’ll see her feelings about the Holocaust and her identity as a Jew. I did help her write that but she was not apologetic about identifying with Jews. She had this tremendous affinity for Simon Wisenthal, she regarded him as an authentic hero. She treated him deferentially, as if he were her mentor. She had enormous respect for him.
On their kosher meat adventure at the recording studio in London:
I met her in London and I had made all the arrangements. Arnold Schwartzman, the director of film, was at the studio waiting for her to arrive. I picked her up at The Savoy and took her to the recording studio—John Wood Studio – and I arrive and I say at the entrance ‘Ms. Taylor is here, what recording studio do we go to and the guard calls somebody and says, ‘You have Ms Elizabeth Taylor? There must be a mistake because there’s no booking. I said, ‘What are you talking about? We confirmed for 3 hours, 4 hours. The director is waiting for us here.’ And he called back and said, ‘Mr Schwartzman is not here neither.’ Now, I made one stop [before we got there]. I knew we’d be having lunch so I stopped at Bloom’s to pick up kosher corned beef for myself. Well, really it was salt beef. And what happened was, [we found out London has] two studios, John Wood and John Woods, and it would be at least a 40 minute car ride [to get to the right studio]. I took her to the wrong studio! And Elizabeth is in the back of the car and she takes out the salt beef and starts eating it. I was saved by the salt beef because she ate, as I did, from the bag in the back of the car. She loved the salt meat. She said, ‘Rabbi is this kosher?’ And when we got to the right studio I thought this whole thing might have ended in disaster.
On the rabbi playing Liz Taylor’s stylist:
The morning she was set to receive the humanitarian award, she called me at home at 715 in the morning (which I remember because minyan was at 8) and she said, ‘Rabbi, my husband forgot to bring all of my clothes [from Washington].’ And she was in tears, ‘Warner brought nothing, I thought I had already brought my clothes but I have nothing to wear—I don’t feel like coming.’ I said, ‘You have to come, you’re our guest of honor, a thousand people are coming to see you.’ So I got off the phone and called Bill Belzberg [a wealthy Canadian Jew who lived in Beverly Hills and was well connected around town] and I said, ‘Bill, you gotta help me out—this is not a question for a rabbi! What are we gonna do?’ So Bill called Fred Hayman who was the owner of Giorgio’s and who had just gone out to jogging somewhere in Rancho Park. So Belzberg and three other guys went to Rancho Park, looking in all different directions for Fred Hayman until they found him. Sure enough they did and Hayman opened the store, Elizabeth bought a dress and came that night. And if you see the whole tape of the banquet, I told that story to the thousand people that night. I said, ‘You know, they never quite prepare you in seminary for the rabbinate: How do you prepare a rabbi for this kind of a question?’
On the last time the rabbi met the movie star:
I saw her last year in London. I remember exactly, it was May 10. We were in London doing a film on Winston Churchill and she was staying at The Dorchester. And when I saw her, she was on a wheelchair and there was a huge smile. I went over, thanked her, and said, ‘Remember Elizabeth, when we filmed in London?’
Watch Liz Taylor’s speech at the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s first Humanitarian Award presentation at the Century Plaza on November 9, 1980:
March 15, 2011 | 3:54 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Maybe it’s the simple fact that a high-profile film written by a Palestinian is cause enough for Jewish opprobrium. Maybe it’s because the director of the film, Julian Schnabel, is Jewish, and his commitment to any perspective other than the dominant Jewish paradigm is akin to tribal and national betrayal. Maybe it’s because the distributor of the film, Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein was reared and raised a New York Jew and should know better – haven’t the Jews and their State of Israel had it hard enough?
Or, maybe a cultural malaise has taken hold that’s made it impossible for Jews to empathize with anyone but each other.
That the film ‘Miral,’ a portrait of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seen through the eyes of an orphaned Palestinian girl is earning the early ire of mainstream Jewish groups is not at all surprising. It makes perfect sense that a film told from the Palestinian perspective would rouse cries of condemnation from the American Jewish Committee, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and others for being “one-sided” as AJC’s executive director David Harris wrote earlier this week, protesting the screening of the film for the U.N. General Assembly in New York (since when do Hollywood movies have an obligation to objectivity?). Another knee-jerk reaction came from SWC founder Rabbi Marvin Hier who called the screening of the film “anti-Israel” in a widely- released statement.
But this early condemnation is short-sighted and unfair. And not just to the film itself, but to the conversation American Jews might be having about Israel. That conversation, if it has any hope of pushing past party-line radicalism and a peace process stalemate, demands and deserves more than one perspective, as well as a deeper understanding of the ‘other’ – which a film like ‘Miral’ provides.
The Torah, Judaism’s most sacred text, admonishes again and again ‘love the stranger’, ‘remember the stranger’, ‘be kind to the stranger’ because ‘you were slaves in the land of Egypt.’ Have we forgotten? Or have we become so mired in our own neuroses about anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and general Jewish existentialism that we can’t see past our own noses?
Schnabel doesn’t have that problem. In fact, the making of this film became a bridge both creatively and personally. According to Vanity Fair, he met Italian-Palestinian journalist Rula Jebreal at a party in 2007 and was so taken with her and the semi-autobiographical book upon which ‘Miral’ is based, he left his wife and committed himself to Jebreal and her story. ‘Love your neighbor as yourself…’
At the panel discussion following the screening last night, Rabbi Irwin Kula suggested that that’s exactly what’s missing in the conflict, noting an egregious lack of empathy on both sides.
“After 63 years of conventional diplomatic efforts, we’re pretty far away right now,” Kula, the president of CLAL, The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership said. “The conflict has literally crowded out the possibility of empathy on all sides.”
But film, he said, according to a press release, allows people to experience empathy for a character. “As everyone knows you can’t have understanding without empathy. And this film is fundamentally a meditation on empathy.”
Why is it then that when a respected and talented filmmaker such as Mr. Schnabel says that he feels a personal Jewish responsibility “to tell the story of the other side” he is reproved and not praised? Such an admission makes Schnabel one of those rarefied artists with the courage to challenge established paradigms in his work – which, I might add, is a Jewish thing to do. But instead of averring the dignity of his position, and the openness with which he is broaching the Israeli-Palestinian juggernaut, Schnabel is put on the defensive.
“I love the State of Israel,” he said after the U.N. screening. “I believe in it, and my film is about preserving it, not hurting it. Understanding is part of the Jewish way and Jewish people are supposed to be good listeners. But, if we don’t listen to the other side, we can never have peace.”
Maybe, when it comes to geopolitical conflicts, there is a problem of perennially bad timing. No doubt Schnabel’s film, which is openly and purposely sympathetic to the Palestinian position, will become the subject of even more undue scorn during a week in which Jewish blood was spilled at the hands of a Palestinian terrorist. Days ago, five members of the Fogel family were brutally slaughtered in their home in Itamar, a settlement in the West Bank. The sad fact of this tragedy will make it even harder for Jewish hearts to open. Especially during a week of tremendous heartbreak and grief, a week in which Jewish blood is up and anger is raging.
But even in grief, it’s a mistake to extrapolate blame for the actions of one man upon an entire people – just as Schnabel’s film about a sympathetic character does not render all Palestinians sympathetic characters. ‘Miral’ is primarily a portrait of one life, through which the plight of a people is surmised. That’s not to say there is no such thing as Palestinian terrorism, because there is; or that no Palestinians deserve Jewish scorn, because some do. But the reverse is also true: Israel has done wrong, Jews have hurt Palestinians.
“As a Jewish American, I can categorically state that I would not be releasing a film that was flagrantly biased towards Israel or Judaism,” Harvey Weinstein said in a statement. “‘Miral’ tells a story about a young Palestinian woman, but that does not make it a polemic. By stifling discussion or pre-judging a work of art, we only perpetuate the prejudice that does so much harm.”
Indeed, ‘Miral’ is asking us to pause from our consideration of Palestinians as ‘the other’ and instead to see a people with whom we might partner. It is asking us to consider the millions of Palestinians who are not terrorists, who desire economic opportunity, civil liberties and a chance to swim in the Mediterranean Sea.
If, as American Jews, we can’t even watch a movie in peace, I fear what that means for the peace prospects of an entire nation—or rather, two.
March 14, 2011 | 9:42 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
I was tempted to entitle this blog post, “I want to marry Jake Gyllenhaal” but since I’ve already been called a stalker once this month, I figure I need to at least feign a civilized manner.
For a time.
March 14, 2011 | 9:38 am
Posted by Danielle Berrin
What began as a deeply personal project because of his Judaism has become an arsenal of controversy for filmmaker Julian Schnabel and his latest film “Miral”.
Billed as a story about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seen through Palestinian eyes, tonight’s scheduled screening at the UN in New York is garnering predictable protestation.
The screening has raised the ire of at least one Jewish group, the American Jewish Committee, who yesterday urged the president of the United Nations General Assembly to cancel the screening-for-diplomats before Miral goes into wide theatrical release March 25.
According to a letter penned by AJC director David Harris and posted on Nikki Finke’s Deadline.com, the group is concerned about how the film will resonate in the highly politicized halls of the UN.
“I write on behalf of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) to express profound concern about the planned showing of the film ‘Miral’,” Harris wrote to UN Assembly President Joseph Deiss.
“The film has a clear political message, which portrays Israel in a highly negative light. Permit me to ask why the President of the General Assembly would wish to associate himself—and the prestige of his office—with such a blatantly one-sided event.”
The film, told through the eyes of two Palestinian women and based on the autobiographical book by Palestinian journalist Rula Jebreal, spans 40 years in Israeli history, from the creation of the state in 1948 to the failed Oslo Accords in 1993. The movie, starring Frieda Pinto (“Slumdog Millionaire”), Willem Dafoe and Vanessa Redgrave, is based on Jebreal’s experience as an orphaned Palestinian girl who grows up amidst the conflict.
The Palestinian perspective was certain to ruffle at least a few feathers, despite being under the auspices of a Jewish director (Schnabel) and distributor (Harvey Weinstein) who both immediately defended the film.
According to Deadline.com’s Mike Fleming, Schnabel said:
“I love the State of Israel. I believe in it, and my film is about preserving it, not hurting it. Understanding is part of the Jewish way and Jewish people are supposed to be good listeners. But, if we don’t listen to the other side, we can never have peace. Instead of saying ‘no,’ I ask the AJC to say, ‘yes,’ see Miral and join the discussion.”
“As a Jewish American, I can categorically state that I would not be releasing a film that was flagrantly biased towards Israel or Judaism. Miral tells a story about a young Palestinian woman, but that does not make it a polemic. By stifling discussion or pre-judging a work of art, we only perpetuate the prejudice that does so much harm. When I told my daughters, Lili 16 and Emma,13, about the AJC demand, they said, ‘give Mr. Harris a copy of the Constitution and point out the paragraph about free speech.’ I truly hope the AJC will join us for the premiere of Miral and the discussion that follows.”
Last September, Schnabel told The Guardian he felt a personal responsibility to tell the tale of Palestine.
“Coming from my background, as an American Jewish person whose mother was president of Hadassah [the Women’s Zionist Organisation of America] in 1948, I figured I was a pretty good person to try to tell the story of the other side…I felt it was my responsibility to confront this issue because, maybe, I’ve spent most of my life receding from my responsibility as a Jewish person.”
No doubt that last statement will get Schnabel stamped as “self-hating” when it takes great courage to delve into such complicated, personal subject matter. Nevertheless, the filmmaker hopes the film will spark new—dare I say ‘nuanced’—conversations about the conflict, a dream indicative of his artistic idealism. Maybe when the film hits theaters, because so far, it’s sounding like the same old venomous he said/she said, pro-Israel/anti-Israel, right/left wrangling.
“One of the reasons why I made this film,” Schnabel told an audience at the movie’s Venice Film Festival premiere last Fall, “is that it was so obvious to me that there are more similarities between these people than differences.”
Watch the trailer:
March 1, 2011 | 2:53 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
You know it’s a sad day when you start feeling bad for an alleged anti-Semite. I’m talking about Charlie Sheen. I think he might need a hug.
Well, for one, the man might be broke. HollywoodJew has learned from longtime friends of Sheen’s that the troubled star has had a gambling addiction since his teens. They believe he has little money left – or none at all. And as anyone who’s ever had any debt can attest (full disclosure: my first credit card with a $1,000 limit was a bad idea for a college gal with no job), owing money can drive you mad.
In other words, Charlie Sheen needs to keep working—and the powers that be at CBS know that.
“Two and Half Men” is not only one of the most successful TV shows in the United States, it is one of the top-rated shows around the world. According to the Nielsen ratings [http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/top10s/television.html], “Two and Half Men” ranked the 6th most popular show in the nation last week (Feb. 14), drawing approximately 14.5 million viewers. (TV by the Numbers has slightly different figures, which further boost its popularity.)
For Sheen, who currently makes about $2 million per episode, the stakes are very high. But his alleged financial desperation is not the only reason to keep “Men” on the air. The studio and the network that produce the show also have a lot at stake. According to The New York Times’ Bill Carter, Sheen’s latest antics “may leave CBS and Warner Brothers with a quarter-billion-dollar headache.”
Last week, when the news of Sheen’s verbal assault on producer Chuck Lorre first broke, Carter wrote:
Based on what the program was expected to take in from syndication sales of future episodes, Warner Brothers could fall short by about $100 million in revenue if the show never tapes another episode. And CBS, which charged about $200,000 for each 30-second commercial, may have to make up close to $160 million — the amount it could have made during the next season.
That kind of money usually leads to compromises in Hollywood, even in the most distasteful of circumstances.
“Distasteful” may be code for “anti-Semitic.” Why is it that you can abuse women, terrorize hotels, openly do drugs, get busted and all is forgiven until you utter a little anti-Semitic slur? Then comes the punishment.
As I argued in a video blog last week, it’s a sure sign of Hollywood ‘crazy’ when people start going after Jews because it’s such a Jewish environment. Playing the anti-Semite card is like pushing the red button that detonates the entire ship, or in movie terms, the eject button in the James Bond car.
Charlie Sheen’s fate will be decided by Sumner Redstone, Les Moonves and Chuck Lorre—three strongly identified Jews. So how could it not be an act of suicide to take the anti-Semitic route?
To add insult to injury, Sheen’s longtime publicist Stan Rosenfield, who also calls George Clooney and Robert DeNiro clients, resigned yesterday from representing him. Was this because of the perceived anti-Semitic slur? Because Sheen couldn’t pay him? Or because Rosenfield was beginning to look like the least effective PR rep in the world?
But even though Hollywood is a town full of Jews, it’s also filled with people who don’t like them. Writing for The Washington Post’s On Faith column, Rabbi David Wolpe argued that Hollywood doesn’t protest anti-Semitism enough:
Why was Mel Gibson successful despite ugly, vicious anti-Semitic diatribes and suddenly anathematized when he was recorded speaking abusively to Oksana Grigorieva? For those of you still mulling, here is the answer: sexism is officially verboten. Anti-Semitism is tolerated.
On this point, I’m going to have strongly disagree. Mel Gibson’s career never recovered after his Jew-hating diatribe. And the whole mishigas with Oksana Grigorieva only solidified that Gibson is certifiable. It proved, once and for all, he wasn’t ruined by a Jewish power cabal but because he became a sad caricature of himself.
Wolpe, does however, make an important and valid point about Hollywood’s not-always-so-principled past. As an industry, from the Hollywood Blacklist to its some time treatment of minorities, Hollywood is not incorruptible.
“Everyone knows that Hollywood has an unsavory side; ‘Day of the Locust’ and ‘See Sammy Run’ have long since entered our national literature,” Wolpe wrote. “There is a combustible fuel of hatred, racism, sexism and anti-Semitism, from which this liberal, politically correct community likes to think itself exempt.
“It is not.”