The lost A List

As A List Hol­ly­wood stars come out to tell their Har­vey Wein­stein couch harass­ment sto­ries, I have to won­der about those who didn’t make it through after say­ing no — actress­es who saw their roles evap­o­rate and left act­ing. The New York Times head­lines pro­fil­ing Wein­stein accusers touts Gwyneth Pal­trow and Angeli­na Jolie but also intro­duces us a woman who is now a psy­chol­o­gy pro­fes­sor in Col­orado. How many bet­ter actress­es and strong-minded women would there be in Hol­ly­wood if so many hadn’t been forced out?

I thought of this after read­ing by a tweet from the actress Rose Marie. She’s best known as one of the jovial side­kicks from the 1960s’ Dick Van Dyke Show. Not to dimin­ish the rest of the cast, but Rose Marie is one of the best rea­sons to watch the show, espe­cial­ly dur­ing those rare moments she’s allowed to step out from her character’s wise­crack­ing spin­ster per­sona and sing or act. On Twit­ter, she shared that she lost a music con­tract in the 1950s because she wouldn’t sleep with a producer.

What if a tal­ent­ed actress like Rose Marie had been giv­en more oppor­tu­ni­ties and wasn’t just known for a sup­port­ing part in a old sit­com? What if the psy­chol­o­gy pro­fes­sor had got­ten the Shake­speare in Love lead? (Imag­ine a world where Pal­trow was only known to 800 or so Face­book friends for too-perfect fam­i­ly pics and memes from dubi­ous health sites.)

Dis­claimer: This is a minor point com­pared with any actress­es who weren’t able to deal with the harass­ment and the indus­try silenc­ing machin­ery. I’m sure there are tragedies that are more than just career pivots.

Of Floods and Prophets

The tragedies were reflec­tions not on the pow­er of nature but on the pow­er of our human dis­re­gard for one another. 
When the ram­parts of New Orleans burst and flood­ed its streets and homes, I was at a hos­pi­tal prepar­ing to wel­come a child. As my part­ner and I cel­e­brat­ed new life we saw images of peo­ple trapped in attics, heard tales of loved ones swept away as they sought to pro­tect their chil­dren. We watched oth­er new par­ents and their vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren caught with­out food, water or ser­vices in a city sud­den­ly unable to operate.
The tragedies show our human dis­re­gard. The trapped were almost all African Amer­i­can. They were almost all poor. Sto­ries on the news – shot-at heli­copters, mass vio­lence in the Con­ven­tion cen­ter – reflect­ed America’s racist imag­i­na­tion more than real­i­ty. The lev­ees failed because our polit­i­cal lead­ers ignored the rec­om­men­da­tions of gov­ern­ment engi­neers and sci­en­tists and slashed spend­ing on storm pro­tec­tion. Even the hur­ri­cane itself was super­charged by a cen­tu­ry of burn­ing fos­sil fuels, our dis­re­gard for nature and our stonewalling over the real­i­ty of glob­al warming.
A favorite image of paci­fists comes from a line in the Book of Isa­iah, that part in that talks about beat­ing the swords into plow­shares. But sur­round­ing pas­sages have been echo­ing in my ears late­ly. Like this one:
bq. Bring no more vain obla­tions; incense is an abom­i­na­tion unto me; the new moons and sab­baths, the call­ing of assem­blies, I can­not away with; it is iniq­ui­ty, even the solemn meet­ing. Your new moons and your appoint­ed feasts my soul hat­est; they are a trou­ble unto me; I am weary to bear them.… Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings before mine eyes; cease to do evil. Learn to do well; seek judge­ment, relieve the oppressed, judge the father­less, please for the wid­ow. Isa­iah 1:13 – 17.
The right­eous indi­ga­tion that fol­lowed the images from New Orleans is fad­ing. Life is return­ing to nor­mal in Wash­ing­ton DC and the high costs of recov­ery (and the con­tin­u­ing costs of Bush’s wars) will be shift­ed to the poor. We can­not stay silent to the vain obla­tions of our gov­ern­ment. It is time to do well and pro­tect the poor. It is time to relieve the oppressed and demand jus­tice for the human deci­sions that led to bro­ken levees.
This isn’t all finger-pointing: we each need to seek a self-judgement about our Amer­i­can lifestyles that have fuelled glob­al warm­ing with its con­sumeris­tic dis­re­gard for con­se­quences. We need to depend upon each oth­er more, seek a com­mu­ni­ty deep­er and more inter­laced than that offered by Wal­mart and McDon­alds. We are all part of one anoth­er, part of the earth and brethren to our human fam­i­ly. We need to gath­er togeth­er as a peo­ple who know that gov­ern­ment and con­sumerism alone can nev­er address our society’s deep­est needs and that vain obla­tions alone will do noth­ing to put away the evil of our doings. We need to get angry and sing a song of change. We need more Isaiahs.

In Two Years, What Have We Learned?

*By Johann Christoph Arnold*
bq. “I often won­der how many more tragedies it will take before we learn to tru­ly love each oth­er, and before we grasp how hap­py we could be if we cared for those around us as well as we care for ourselves.”

Con­tin­ue read­ing