Gary Oldman, recently seen as Sirius Black and Commissioner Gordon, had some strong things to say about political correctness in Hollywood. “[It’s] crap,” he said. He also implored us to “take a fucking joke [and get] over it”; “it” being a lack of political correctness.
Oldman went on to defend Mel Gibson and Alec Baldwin, two of Hollywood’s notorious figures, “I don’t know about Mel. He got drunk and said a few things, but we’ve all said those things. We’re all fucking hypocrites,” he harped. “The policeman who arrested him has never used the word n***** or that fucking Jew?”
In the past, Gibson threatened to “report [his ex-wife] to the people that take fucking money from the wet*****,” told her she “[looked] like a fucking pig in heat,” and that “if [she] got raped by a pack of n*****s, it would be [her] fault,” in addition to those other times he complained about Jewish people. In the same vein, Baldwin’s repeatedly used homophobic slurs; he’s called men “f****t,” “uptight queen,” and “toxic little queen.”
Blaming the liberal establishment, Oldman also postulated, “”Well, if I called Nancy Pelosi a c**t — and I’ll go one better, a fucking useless c**t — I can’t really say that. But Bill Maher and Jon Stewart can, and nobody’s going to stop them from working because of it.”
How many times must we have the same conversation? How many different ways can we say that nobody — in this case a cis, straight, white male — has the right to minimize the experiences of historically oppressed communities? No, we will not “take a fucking joke and get over” racism, homophobia, and blatant misogyny, because institutionalized discrimination is still a reality. And the history of those words haven’t lost their meaning over time.
Outrage from women, people of color, and the LGBT community is not unfounded. There are people in public office who berate gay people, saying they should be stoned and equating homosexuality with alcoholism and sodomy. In schools, 82 percent of LGBT students are verbally harassed. Women, including influential figures like Hillary Clinton, are described in sexist terms. You don’t have to look very hard to find people throwing unabashedly racist insults around– and not as a joke.
Oldman assumes “we’re all hypocrites,” but that’s a blanket statement that assumes everyone shares his bigotry. Untrue. The purpose of political correctness is to correct systemic bigotry and hate. Political correctness sets precedent that intolerant language is no longer acceptable in a rapidly diversifying country. It changes our collective vocabulary and ideology to one that’s inclusive of marginalized groups and acknowledges their lived experiences.
Gary Oldman misses the point of of political correctness entirely. Words matter.
Editor’s note: Gary Oldman has issued an apology to the Anti-Defamation League. It’s one of those “I’m sorry that you were offended” kind of apologies, not just a straight-up “I am sorry because I made a mistake” apologies, but the latter is such a rare bird ’round these parts. He begins: “I am deeply remorseful that comments I recently made in the Playboy Interview were offensive to many Jewish people.” You can read the full letter here.