As I wrote last week in considering Gary Oldman, I consider the idea that people should be marginalized in Hollywood simply because they are conservative, or denied work because of their political views, to be unfortunate and stupid. That said, I have no real problem marginalizing ideas that are profoundly uninformed or deeply uncivil. And when folks are ugly and uncivil in the course of expressing their conservatism or liberalism, I think they’re roundly off-base if they interprent the ensuing criticism as directed at their politics rather than their tone.
This seems to be a lesson that Patricia Heaton, who currently stars in The Middle and is famous for her role on Everybody Loves Raymond, learned last week. It’s no secret that she’s conservative, but when she jumped on the bandwagon and commenced attacking Sandra Fluke on her Twitter feed, things got out of hand. “Hey G-Gal! Change major to Health Sciences, then look at pix of people w/syphilis, gonorrhea, herpes, and chlamydia! Instant birth control!” she wrote. “Hey G-Town: stop buying toothpaste, soap and shampoo! You’ll save money, and no one will want to sleep with you!” Things went on this vein for some time, with Heaton also retweeting other nasty things people were saying about Fluke. The conversation, such as it was, revealed both that Heaton had no idea whatsoever what was at stake in the contraception coverage debate, and that she has a real nasty streak.
Heaton appears to have recognized, at minimum, that her tweets weren’t exactly helpful to her public profile—she’s deleted her Twitter feed. She might consider taking a lesson from her progressive counterpart on a show about a working-class family. Raising Hope star Martha Plimpton’s Twitter feed is funny, and fact-oriented, and she’s serious enough about her work on contraception and women’s health to write pieces on the subject in Slate. It’s possible to have strong opinions—in Hollywood as in everywhere else—without being downright horrible to other people.