"I take orders from the Octoboss."


tn_haywireBSteven Soderbergh’s take on an action/spy thriller – built around “The Face of Women’s MMA” Gina Carano after he saw her on Strikeforce while flipping channels around – lives up to my high expectations. It’s written by Lem Dobbs and it’s like the kid sister of THE LIMEY, mixing the style of that Soderbergh classic with kind of a more upbeat ex-Marine-badass-operative-betrayed-and-on-the-run type of story. It has THE LIMEY’s sense of quiet, deliberate pace and dread and also its dry you-just-fucked-with-the-wrong-person type of humor. Of course, professional fighter Carano has different strengths as a performer than Terence Stamp does, so her movie has less emotion and more punching, kicking, choking, armbars, heads broken through furniture, foot chases, etc. Gina’s not gonna mourn the loss of the daughter she never knew, and Terence isn’t gonna climb up onto a roof. In my opinion. And it’s great to have both of them.

Carano (if you haven’t seen her real fights maybe you saw her cameo in BLOOD AND BONE) plays Mallory Kane, an experienced operative for a private contractor who does covert missions rescuing hostages and shit like that. She begins the movie having, you know, like… a disagreement with her colleague Channing Tatum (FIGHTING), and then she flashes back through the story of how she got doublecrossed as she hauls ass in a commandeered vehicle, headed to settle the score with her boss/ex-boyfriend (Ewan McGregor).

mp_haywireThe other agents and bosses include Michael Fassbender, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas and Mathieu Kassovitz. The fights are choreographed by J.J. Perry (UNDISPUTED II) and are the clear highlight of the movie. We’re seeing alot of MMA-inspired submission holds in action movies these days, but not usually with this kind of blunt efficiency. It almost reminds me of seeing Seagal’s early movies the first time because the fights are so quick and dirty and the hits look and sound so hard. You know I love elaborate, stylized Shaw Brothers type numbers. This is the opposite of that, but it’s another great approach. These characters are very professional. It always seems like they really are trying to subdue their opponent as quickly as possible, not trying to show off. No time for sadism or to stop and say a line of dialogue. The lack of music and the not-too-exaggerated sound effects also add to the sense of realism. Sometimes I felt like an eyewitness. Uh, hey guys… break it up?

Mallory’s also Seagal-esque in her total domination of foes (all male), but she’s not as indestructible. She tends to get knocked around at first, which makes it great when there are witnesses. It’s like, oh no, look at this fuckin woman beater, he’s gonna seriously hur– oh, shit. What is she doing to him? She’s not quite The Terminator. She sports a number of bruises and cuts throughout the movie.

Soderbergh, thank God, agrees with us about the sad state of action filmatism. I’m happy to report that he lives up to his word, taking advantage of Carano’s skills by not shooting too close up and by doing lots of long takes. And he mostly avoid handheld cameras. Check out this behind the scenes photo where you can glimpse some sort of crazy next-gen technology they’re using that actually holds the camera for them:

Can you believe that!? I think it’s used to move the camera smoothly or possibly to hold it still and, like, point it at stuff. Kinda hard to wrap your mind around. It’ll be interesting to see if other directors decide to start using this technology. I have also heard that tripods have been invented. (not verified)

I was writing somewhere else about how crazy it is that Soderbergh wanting to shoot the fights clearly is a major selling point mentioned in all the interviews, articles and reviews. I believe as recently as 10 years ago this would’ve seemed ridiculous to even mention. At that time it would be considered basic filmatistic competence, now it’s rare enough that it’s considered a novelty. Still, I think these fights would stand out even if we were in a better era for action movies. It’s true that they’re refreshingly against the grain, but they’re also just plain good.

As long as I’m using Seagalogical comparisons I should say that this is most like the Golden Era Seagal works, where the action is more street-level violence, hand-to-hand scuffles, and less guns, car stunts or CGI. They hired Carano because of her Muay Thai and her MMA, so it would be stupid to waste a bunch of time acting like she’s a champion sharpshooter. But she is on the run so they do give her a couple really exciting foot and car chases, the car ones mainly shot from inside, reminding me of parts I loved in CHILDREN OF MEN, THE DRIVER and UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION. You feel like if she crashes you’re going through the windshield.

One little detail I noticed that illustrates Soderbergh’s respect for clear filmatism is during a foot chase. The camera is looking down on Mallory running. There’s a traffic light or something hanging between us and the street, but as Mallory turns she arcs right around it so that our view of her is never blocked. Almost as if they, like, planned the shot in advance.

I think all the fights are done without music, but alot of the other scenes are heavily score driven, another great one by David Holmes. It’s reminiscent of OUT OF SIGHT with its driving basslines, super-tight drums and eerie electric pianos, but with horns in more of a Lalo Schifrin style. Very GET CARTER with maybe a drop or two of James Bond.

I guess some people have claimed that Carano’s acting is weak. I completely disagree, I didn’t notice a single poor line delivery or anything like that. But even if she wasn’t as good I think that complaints like that are missing the entire reason for this movie to exist. By casting a fighter to act Soderbergh is offering an alternative to the usual practice of casting an actor to fight. Compare Carano in HAYWIRE to Angelina Jolie – an Academy Award winning (and 2-time SAG winning, and 3-time Golden Globe winning) actress who I like – playing a very similar character in SALT. Jolie’s fine in the movie, but does she carry herself as convincingly as a woman who knows how to handle herself in a fight, in a double-cross, in a chase? Does she look like she’s the one doing the fighting and running and jumping? Does she move on screen in ways that are as interesting, as badass? Of course not. If somebody prefers the Academy Award winning actor’s version of this character it’s a free country but still, you gotta be fuckin kidding me. If Carano’s acting was weak it would be worth the sacrifice.

I mean, I don’t think Tony Jaa’s a very good actor, but I bet his version of ONG BAK is better than the version with, say, Viggo Mortensen would be. Although I would definitely watch that. Actually, maybe that’s a bad example. You know what, there’s room for both. Let’s have both.

Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal liked HAYWIRE, but in his final paragraph as he compliments Carano for being “very much at home in a strong cast” he writes, “It remains to be seen whether Ms. Carano’s star presence will take her beyond action roles, but she’s certainly appealing in this one…” I’m sure he didn’t mean anything by it, but it’s a funny attitude that people have, as if for some reason Carano would’ve done this movie in hopes of eventually getting enough experience to be in a period drama or a romantic comedy or something. Like you do a genre movie as an audition for “real” movies “beyond action roles.” The truth is it’s usually the other way around. You do an amazing dramatic performance and then you’re allowed to play a super hero or super villain (see: Eric Bana, Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hardy, etc.) In fact, most of the respected supporting cast here had to do years of “beyond action roles” before they would ever be cast in something like this.

But I’m sure Morgenstern would agree that it would be a waste of Carano’s gifts if she tried to do non-fighting roles. At least wait until your body’s getting frail, like Jackie Chan.

I like most of Soderbergh’s movies, and even the ones I don’t love are almost always an admirable attempt at something interesting. Who else can do both an upbeat studio movie starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Julia Roberts, and a micro-budget partially improvised experiment starring a lady he found working at a KFC? And seem to be passionate about both? He’s the only one. I love his broad range of interests, but of course my favorite movies by him are the ones where he tries to combine his commercial entertainer instincts with his thoughtful artist ones. My favorite from him is still the one that balances those the best, OUT OF SIGHT. It manages to be broadly entertaining, funny, romantic and joyful, but also a little bit mournful and contemplative. Like Elmore Leonard.

I think HAYWIRE is aimed for that same balance, but tips closer to THE LIMEY and what I consider Arthouse Badass. I’d like to think it could win over a wide audience like DRIVE did, but it didn’t seem to work on the middle aged couple who talked through pretty much the entire movie, or the two little kids that some lady brought. (The kids were quieter than the adults, but afterwards one reported “I didn’t like that movie that much.”) I figure they might not like the way both story and character are more implied and referred to than spelled out. In the opening we don’t really know what they’re talking about, as the events happen they’re a little confusing, eventually the explanation is pretty simple. But it’s kind of like the “Rabbit’s Foot” in MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE 3: it doesn’t really matter that much specifically why they’re after her. It just matters that she finds out. And hopefully beats some dudes up.

Same goes for the character of Mallory Kane. I mean, you know I would enjoy it if there was a “Just How Badass Is She?” line in here somewhere. But I like that they don’t waste our time with some dumb backstory. Tatum tries to guess one, but (like the one the Joker tells in DARK KNIGHT) it’s probly bullshit. If you need one, just make some shit up, it would’ve been like 2 or 3 lines of dialogue and you would’ve been happy. “You might think I joined the service because of my dad. The truth is, he was never there for me. Always off fighting some battle, even after he came home. I got into alot of trouble. Burglary, car theft. Eventually I took it too far, almost got killed, got locked up instead. There were two ways I could’ve gotten another chance: from Jesus, or from The Marines. I chose the Marines.”

Blah blah blah, why do we need to know that? We know Mallory Kane through what she knows: how to avoid being tracked, where to hide, when to surrender, how to relate to cops. We know she was in the Marines, and isn’t anymore. We see what her dad does, what he’s willing to do for her, and also the look on his face when he sees what she does. But even that’s pretty ambiguous – I read a little bit of fear, and then a little pride, but I wasn’t entirely sure.

Actually the father-daughter relationship is one thing that’s similar to OUT OF SIGHT, where Karen Sisco’s ex-cop dad seems to be her best friend. But Bill Paxton’s alot younger than Dennis Farina, or Terence Stamp. Man, we’re getting old. Game over, man.

Now that I think about it I don’t remember any explosions in the movie. That’s weird. Maybe that’s why they don’t like it. Explosions are important. There’s also a major sequence early on that’s done kind of like a music video, with people talking but we don’t hear it. Nothing too challenging but you know how people are. Sometimes they’re disappointed if they don’t get exactly what they expected, exactly what they got last time. Do something even slightly off-kilter and you might get sued.

I don’t think it’s as extreme as what happened with THE AMERICAN, but based on the Rotten Tomatoes computer machine HAYWIRE seems to be well liked by critics and not liked by “audiences.” Therefore I’m afraid I shouldn’t dream about the Mallory Kane series of movies that should so obviously happen. Soderbergh has said he plans to retire soon, and also that he did everything he wanted to do in an action movie with this one and can’t see himself doing another one unless he thought of something new. But I think it would be great if he stayed on as a producer and helped other cool directors to take the character in different (but still clearly photographed) directions.

I mean if he really wanted a WRATH OF KANE or a LONG LIVE THE KANE I’m sure he could do it DTV if he had to. That wouldn’t be that much different from what he did with BUBBLE and THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE, which were released on DVD the same day as theaters.

Oh well, I’m happy we at least got this one. That alone is a miracle. It’s just so random that he happened to see Gina Carano on TV and then remembered her when his version of MONEYBALL fell apart and he kinda felt like doing a spy movie. If Soderbergh DVRd or Hulued everything he wouldn’t even have known who she was to make a movie about her. Thank you, TVs and remote controls. I owe you one.




(Note: I think this is the fight Soderbergh saw, or at least it’s the one she’d just had before he met her. She didn’t want to go because she still had a black eye.)

This entry was posted on Sunday, January 22nd, 2012 at 1:01 am and is filed under Action, Martial Arts, Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

165 Responses to “Haywire”

  1. Really glad to hear you liked this as much as I did. I’m frankly baffled by the negative audience reactions on this one, I think it’s flat out an outstanding genre movie. It’s weird too, because of the two, I would think Drive would alienate more people, Haywire definitely has more action, doesn’t waste any time, is closer in approach and tone to what audiences would expect. But it seems to be the other way around, if the D+ cinemascore is anything to judge by. Man, I hate general audiences, why do their tastes have to be so shitty and narrow.

    Also have to say I freaking LOVE the soundtrack in this, so groovy and upbeat, and totally not what you’d expect for a modern spy movie. Reminds me of the awesome score in Out of Sight.

  2. Dear Vern,

    please provide your reviews with an option for forwarding reviews – like your excellent take on Haywire – to friends of the readers. Since I am not part of Facebook it is not possible for me to forward this review to a friend. I would like to do that without submitting to the site of Zuckerberg.

    Best regards

    Jan Elvsén

  3. Griff – And there lies the truth. A message to the world that Cyborg may be the better fighter but she’s just not fuckable.

  4. This review is why I find HAYWIRE so frustrating, because I agree with most of what Vern says here(I’m not as crazy about the music, though I didn’t particularly dislike it like Paul did), except for living up to expectations, due to no real climax, which is something I think an action movie usually needs to be great. I’d have thought you’d address that particular choice, Vern, since I remember you thinking JCVD(which is a character based arty drama with a little bit of action) could have used a proper action setpiece ending, so I figured you’d be a bit harder on something that is actually meant to be an action movie.

    “Of course, professional fighter Carano has different strengths as a performer than Terence Stamp does”
    They both know how to take a Superman Punch though.

  5. Haywire II: Citizen Kane.

  6. David Lambert – thought you guys might like that…

  7. Motherfucker, Jackie Chan is not frail.

  8. Man this movie is awesome. So of course “audiences” don’t like it because “audiences” be trippin’.

  9. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 22nd, 2012 at 10:02 am

    Stu – I didn’t dislike “Haywire”. I absolutely agree with you on most points actually. And clearly you picked up more than I did (which seems to be a theme nowadays given Mouth’s points about “Sucker Punch”. Maybe if you watch it two or three times… but once was enough for me!)

    I did think this movie had some of the best directing I’ve ever seen from Soderbergh. That one scene where Carano walks down the street… absolute genius. I felt as though I was right there with her, looking out for people who might be watching her. Fantastic scene.

    A few comments on specific points:


    “I figure they might not like the way both story and character are more implied and referred to than spelled out.”

    Vern, you’re right, I didn’t like it. I don’t necessarily want a backstory for Carano – Stu made an excellent case as to why this would have DETRACTED from the movie, not improved it – but I did want to know why all the characters were there and what they did. It’s made clear, for example, that Carano works for McGregor, who in turn runs a private contracting business that reports to Michael Douglas’ character. This is all well-laid-out early in the movie. Why couldn’t the same have been true for the rest of the relationships between the main characters?

    You remember in “The Thing”, it’s made clear what role everyone has and how they work together, yet there’s an absolute minimum of exposition needed to convey this? Well, I didn’t think “Haywire” accomplished this. I didn’t feel I knew anything about Antonio Banderas’ character or how he related to the others, for example. What’s his position in the service? Is he an outsider, an insider, an informant? (Again, if Stu is able to correct me here, I might have to punch something. The difference being I didn’t get a sense of this during the film. It’s all very well to analyse this stuff afterwards, but I didn’t NEED to do so to enjoy a film like “The Thing”.)


    “I guess some people have claimed that Carano’s acting is weak. I completely disagree, I didn’t notice a single poor line delivery or anything like that.”

    I completely agree with this. I thought Carano did a great job of carrying the movie. Great screen presence, and obviously great with action scenes (I noticed the rear naked choke she uses on Fassbender’s character. Made me smile. Carano isn’t known for her submissions in the MMA world!)


    “I think all the fights are done without music, but alot of the other scenes are heavily score driven, another great one by David Holmes. It’s reminiscent of OUT OF SIGHT with its driving basslines, super-tight drums and eerie electric pianos, but with horns in more of a Lalo Schifrin style.”

    NO. We do not compare this music to the guy who did “Enter the Dragon”. Now THAT’S how to score an action movie if you like. I usually really like David Holmes’ work, but not here. Couldn’t disagree with you more in fact, Vern. There were a few points at which I thought the soundtrack worked, but mostly it had a really cheesy elevator-music feel to it. For me.

  10. Now I’ve had time to digest it, I’d have to say my biggest problem with HAYWIRE was that it was pared down too much – there’s almost nothing left. No humour, wit, characterisation, or much of a plot.

    To be fair, I did find it for the most part incredibly well shot and edited, and Carano was pretty great (hopefully she’ll get more roles out of this), but I couldn’t take to it.

    Ten out of ten for pulling the camera back during the scraps and actually showing them (for the most part, anyway), but what I’d like to know is why Carano wasn’t given anyone to really go up against. We see what she can do but only in flashes. It’s like Soderbergh only wants to dip his toe into his action movie, like that’s dirty enough for him.

    He should have gone all out and put her up against 20 cops in Ireland instead of 2, or someone who can actually throw a punch instead of Ewan.

  11. Yeah that was the fight where Cyborg pummeled Carano. Of course, Cyborg also subsequently bodyslammed 240lb Tito Ortiz, and tested positive for steroids, thus explaining her appearance:


    I liked the movie – it was really refreshing to see the actual fights, not a blurry set of movements (I blame the start of this trend on the fight with Bean in Goldeneye – you should check it out: it’s one of a low key set of movies about some English guy called James Bond), and I loved the sounds. That punch to the back of Carano’s head from Fassbender sounded pretty much exactly how a punch like that sounds.

    However, the MMA thing was a bit played up, and I don’t think she was really the smartest fighter in the world. Case in point – she tried to rear naked choke every opponent. Every one. And every one either slammed her against a wall, or elbowed her in the ribs and got loose. Every single one. Even Ewan McGregor. You’d think you might learn a bit from this after the first few times.

    SPOILER -> I loved the scene where McGregor is staring out at the ocean and you see Mallory come racing up behind him, looming like the Coyote behind Road Runner, though this particular Coyote has the benefit of delivering a pretty good superman punch:

    Good movie – maybe the first that can be legitimately compared to Drive, Ocean’s 11, and the golden age of Seagal.

  12. Jan – well there’s always the ol’ email the link to somebody method, which is what I would use. If there’s some other option I can get a button for or something let me know and I’ll try to do it.

    Stu – SPOILERS – Are you saying it’s anticlimactic because it didn’t have a bigger action scene at the end, like a big gun fight or something? I didn’t find it anticlimactic. She chases down the guy, beats him up, gets the information she needs, and leaves him to die (I guess this is the exception to my claim that they don’t have time for sadism). You’re right, it’s small scale compared to many action movies, but that didn’t occur to me while watching it. It didn’t feel to me like that kind of movie. Maybe it’s the similarities to THE LIMEY, which come to think of it winds up pretty much the same way, pinning the guy on a beach and making him reveal the truth.

    Mouth – okay, you’re right, I was just trying to give him the okay for going after more straight acting roles like he’s been doing.

    Paul – how can you not compare it to Lalo Schifrin? Do you seriously not see the influence?

  13. I agree with Vern. I enjoyed the no-nonsense simplicity of the movie. Girl beats people up for a living, girl gets betrayed, girl beats up the guys who betrayed her. Gina doesn’t have any great acting moments, but she’s likeable. And hot. I also liked the score.

    As for Soderbergh, he’s been debunking the “retiring” rumor ever since Matt Damon spoke for him during some interview. I hope he sticks around for a while. I like his willingness to experiment.

    And I think NORMAL PEOPLE EXIT POLLING is weak because the movie is old school. It has a bunch of long shots, no exaggerated sound effects and lots of moments without music/talking (most of the moviegoing public HATES that. They start shifting around and coughing uncontrollably)

  14. Partial forgiveness, then. I’m hoping to rent 1911 soon so I can see Jackie do his big historical epic thing. Hopefully it’s more fun than SHINJUKU INCIDENT.

    HAYWIRE is typical Soderbergh, which is a blessing, a curse, and a nonsensical statement for me to make since there’s supposed to be no such thing as “typical” Soderbergh. His primary goal seems to be to do something different & unique with each movie.

    But the evidence is there — blue/yellow/other color filters for 1/2/3 distinct settings, the “experimental” nonlinear editing & sound design that blows mouth-breathing Americans’ minds, and dialogueistical restraint occasionally bordering on minimalism.

    Didn’t shift the tectonic plates of my world or anything, but I’m very glad I saw HAYWIRE and I hope I get to see Gina Carano fight some more on the bigscreen, either in KANE KRONICLES 2: MALLORY’S REVENGE (CONTINUED) or something that involves Zoe Bell where we can finally settle the inescapable “empowerment or exploitation” lady-movie debate once & for all using the proper level of realistic violence that the argument demands.

  15. Paul- I meant specifically that I didn’t dislike the music like you did

    Vern- SPOILERS
    Except it doesn’t end with the beach. She goes on to the final scene in Majorca, and I don’t get why she’d bother with that character in particular, since she’d already dealt with the main guy who betrayed her. The final one merely hired McGregor to do a job, on behalf of another guy. There was no real malice towards Mallory. So if she went after that guy, she’s got just as much motivation to go after the really bad guy, but there’s no indication that happens, despite the fact she says she doesn’t like loose ends.I didn’t need a particularly big shootout or explosions(I just cite those as examples), but something a bit more challenging for Carano than what she’d been doing up till then. The most guys she’d had to deal at once in the movie was fighting two SWAT type guys at once. If it had been her just infiltrating the real bad guy’s mansion at the end, and eliminating all his guards (at first through stealth, then improvisational badassness when that’s blown) until she had him all to herself, that would have been enough for me. I guess I just thought we were getting excited about this movie because we thought it would finally be a modern action movie done right(albeit with some original touches), and I expected a little more than what was delivered.

  16. I’m afraid I agree with those of you who were a bit underwhelmed by this one. Now, I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy it; it’s very accomplished, and the fights, what there were of them, were excellent. But the fights help accentuate the issue I had with this thing; there really wasn’t much sense of escalation. It’s not like the fights got tougher for her–either physically or emotionally–or the opponents more numerous or devious. Instead it was like watching the same basic fight, transplanted to different scenes, over and over again, with minimal variation.

    Now, typing this feels weird. I’m not a formula guy. I don’t need a standard package of fight the first level boss, precede to the second, rinse and repeat. And I don’t think you have to keep ramping up the action until it’s a big HARDBOILED gun battle to be an effective action movie. Case in point, I loved how KILL BILL 2 ended with her and Bill, talking it out and ending with the five fingered exploding heart technique. However, KILL BILL does help me showcase my problem with HAYWIRE; it had that tense intimate finale, but it also had the House of Blue Leaves scene (okay, technically, part 1 had the House of Blue Leaves scene), not to mention the burial scene, etc. In other words, it varied it up, and that’s what I’d like to see more of in HAYWIRE, some variability.

    Lastly, she made two choices that just kind of perplexed me. The first the movie’s very aware of, because after she chases down the shooter in Barcelona, smacks him around, and leaves him under the gate, she’s asked, “why did you do that?” Her answer, “I don’t like lose ends,” is your standard badass response–except she didn’t kill him, and since we didn’t see her notifying the police or a second team it’s quite possible that he got out from under that thing and is out there still, so I was just kind of left to think, “huh, you really didn’t need to push it that far.” After all, if he’d been a little later he wouldn’t have seen them nab the Chinese journalist at all (and this is me getting that the point was that she never quits, and will track down everyone who did her wrong. Again, I get it thematically, but literally I was left scratching my head). The second time she had me doing this is during the car chase. I loved how it was shot, and the (SPOILER) deer was excellent. But then I realized, she didn’t accomplish anything with any of that. She still ended up in custody, and the cops still took her to the not-feds, so I can’t really buy her earlier explanation that “I bought us some time.” Time for what?

    Sorry to sound negative. This was a solid movie all in all, but I’m with those who also thought that tonally it didn’t shift its gears as much as it could have. At certain point I wanted it to kick it up a notch.

  17. Stu – She went after that guy because a) he was in on it, and everyone must pay, and b) it’s her job now. She works for Michael Douglas, and her first job is to find the mole who sold out his organization. It’s not so much a climax as a denouement, a little gag to let you know that Mallory Kane will continue to fuck shit up in the manner to which you have become accustomed well into the foreseeable future. I find that much more satisfying and correct for this particular motion picture than a massive battle royal with her fighting 20 guys, which the movie had given me no evidence to believe she can do. I guess we’re so accustomed to seeing characters who can take on small armies by themselves that we forget that that’s pretty much impossible. She’s not a superhero. She’s just a more-or-less realistically badass motherfucker. I like her that way.

  18. Bad Seed- When she gives up, she says “Okay, we’ve done enough”, and I think maybe she meant to do enough criminal activity that the feds would be the ones who took her in, rather than just local cops? She later distrusts the news of the feds coming to collect because it’s too soon in her view for it not be a set up.

    Mr. Majestyk- SPOILER

    IS she really working for Douglas though? I wasn’t sure, because when he asks if she accepts the job, she says “I’ll let you know when I find him”, so I got the impression Douglas would have wanted her to keep McGregor alive so he can implicate the others properly, but she lets him die after getting the bare minimum information. So going after Banderas came across as more personal to me. Also, what was Banderas’ motivation? When asked what he got out of the deal he said “a new wife”. Eh? What, you mean he was rich enough now to leave his old one and start a new life? I got the impression he was pretty well off already.

  19. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 22nd, 2012 at 6:37 pm


    “Ten out of ten for pulling the camera back during the scraps and actually showing them (for the most part, anyway), but what I’d like to know is why Carano wasn’t given anyone to really go up against.”

    THANK YOU! That’s EXACTLY the main problem I had with this movie. Who the heck wants Gina Carano’s last fight in the movie to be against Ewan MacGregor?

    Bad Seed – in all fairness, the “samey fights” criticism can be applied to just about eighty percent of action movies out there. I mean, I love Jackie Chan, but I see the same stunts from him again and again, often in the same movies. (In fact, I’d say that his best movies – “Police Story 2” being a prime example – are when he manages to break out of this pattern. Somebody once wrote a very good essay on how action sequences reflect mood. Unfortunately I can’t remember who and I don’t have the link, but it reminded me of PS2. Jackie’s fights range from reluctant to businesslike to furious and vengeful in that movie.)

    Vern – maybe I’m about to complete the triple crown of stupid here, but I honestly don’t see any direct “influence”. I mean, I guess there are similarities between “Haywire”‘s jazzy beats and “Enter the Dragon”‘s iconic theme song, but Schifrin’s score is the exact opposite of “cool”… to me Holmes was going for “laid back / stylish” and ended up hitting “stultifying”.

    I dunno, reactions to music are always subjective to a degree, and I particularly dislike the particular genre of it that Soderbergh seems to love… “Smooth jazz” to me is the same kind of thing as “classical easy-listening”. I don’t think these types of music are supposed to be “easy” – or at least, when they ARE like that, they don’t appeal to me. If I listen to classical music or jazz, it’s because I want to be taken on a musical journey full of BIG emotions – love, hate, despair, triumph, etc. I don’t want the lyricless equivalent of some guy with a guitar strumming about how chilled he is. I ESPECIALLY don’t want it in an action movie.

    But like I said… it reminded me of the stuff that gets played when you’re waiting “on hold” on the phone. Hell, part of it reminded me directly of one of British Telecom’s hold music tracks (I fucking wish I was kidding, I have to call those guys about twenty times a day in my job and I do not want to be reminded of it when I’m relaxing at the movies. FTR it’s the bit that borrows its bassline from Rob D’s “clubbed to death”.) Again, I know it’s subjective, but… is that really what they were going for?

    Anyway, music aside, I think I’m on the same page as Stu here. Like I said, I think I’m now officially ready to give up Soderbergh. He’s a great technical director who has had many, many moments of genius, some of them in this movie. At the same time he has no idea how to tell a story in such a way that I find it, or the characters in it, interesting.

  20. She’s not gonna tell him yes right away. She’s gonna play it coy. What kind of girl do you think she is?

    But really, all this shit, I just don’t care about it. Not in the slightest. In fact, I feel like focusing on the story is clearly pretty detrimental to one’s enjoyment of the movie. Soderbergh picked the most standard espionage plot there is (spy gets burned by member of his own agency) because he assumed the audience would get the gist right away so he wouldn’t have to spend a bunch of time on tedious exposition that nobody really cares about anyway. Instead, he can focus on the tone, the rhythm, the mood, the movement. All the stuff that is gonna make a Soderbergh action picture different than one that follows the rules. It’s about the music of the piece, not the words.

  21. She went after Banderas because he organized the whole thing. Plus, she knows who she is. So she’s tying up her loose ends before he tries to tie up his.
    And Banderas obviously did it for money. “The good life and a new wife”

  22. I meant “he knows who she is”

  23. Paul:

    I’m not sure you can get a more of a direct influence than Soderbergh actually saying “Schifrin this shit up”.

    ‘For this, we started to talk about Lalo Schifrin, a composer we like a lot who did Bullitt and the Mission: Impossible theme. He’s a really great composer. And there’s this one cue in Bullitt called “Shifting Gears” that has these great horns. It’s a specific type of horn, a jazz horn. I became obsessed with that, and David really ran with it. The score needed to sound more like the character than the genre. I wanted it to be more closely bound to what she feels like than what this kind of movie feels like in general.’


  24. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 22nd, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    Caoimhin – so basically, Soderbergh’s “influence” extends to a “jazz horn”? Not quite convinced that’s “Schifrin this shit up”, but ok.

  25. All these complaints about the ending being anticlimactic and unsatisfying remind me of similar complaints a lot of people had about the end of NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. Many people seemed to view it as betrayal of their expectations for the genre. I would argue that the fault lies not in the betrayal, but in the expectations. The problem is that nearly every single movie has the same rising action, climax, denouement formula so we come to expect it from every movie. But shouldn’t one or two movies here and there try something different? Especially a movie like HAYWIRE which is going for realism. Are these bad guys really going to have fortified compounds and tons of bodyguards?

    I’m a firm believer that movie viewers bear some of the responsibility for making a movie good. And a lot of that is trying to enjoy movies for what they are actually doing, not what we expect or even prefer them to do. I’d be interested to see if you guys who dislike the ending like it more on a second viewing with different expectations.

    Bad Seed – (SPOILER) I don’t understand why her decision to run from the cops was confusing because it ultimately accomplished nothing. How was she to know it would fail when she decided to run?

  26. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 22nd, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    Oh, and just so I have a running count…

    Film rankings for the year so far would go something like this: “Margin Call”, great; “TGWTDT”, great; “The Silence”, great; “Haywire”, pretty good.

    Been a pretty good year so far.

  27. Paul– I get what you’re saying. There are only so many crane styles to go around, and even less fight choreographers. My comment about the sameness of the fights was targeting not just variations of kicking and punching, but also dramatic points in time. I wanted it to feel different when she was fighting the ex-boyfriend whose betrayal stemmed from her leaving his company, thus jeopardizing his business and causing him to accept Banderas’ offer, than when she’s fighting the total stranger assigned to play her husband, or even the casual one night stand from Spain. Proponents of the movie will cite her detachment as indicative of her badass character and the overall cool jazz tone of the film, but for me in translated into a removed coldness.

    Interestingly, I think the distance I feel from this piece is akin to what I experienced when I watched THE BOYFRIEND EXPERIENCE. In both cases Soderbergh cast unconventional actresses in the roles based on their day jobs, and these skills got them so far, up until they had to show any sort of vulnerability. In Grey’s case, the nature of porn work means exposing everything to the camera while protecting some small core of yourself from the world, and this instinct made it hard for me to feel her distress as her clients slipped away and her boyfriend distanced himself from her. In other words, I just didn’t feel the desperation in her performance as her comfortable world slipped away, unlike say, Richard Gere in AMERICAN GIGOLO (really, he’s so good in that, honest). Likewise, Carano by profession has to be tough as all hell, so emotions like fear, distress, etc, don’t come through for me as things spin out of control. She is and remains a badass—and I fully recognize that’s a conscious choice by the filmmaker. It just doesn’t do it for me, not all the way.

    Now, to be fair, I think this reveals my own bias when it comes to action; I prefer the Van Damme school of getting your ass kicked right up until a phoenix-like rise from the ashes over the Seagal or even Bruce Lee mow em down approach, but in either case, a little fear in the eyes–or even second’s hesitation or moment of doubt–would have gone a long way to sell me a little more on all of this.

    STU and JAKE: Thanks for the explanation. Jake, I get that she was trying to get away and failed. It’s her line at the end that made me think she was playing a deeper game than “well shit, I gave it my best shot.” Stu’s idea of the feds sorta makes sense, but you’d think that she’d rather just cold cock a couple of local cops rather than wait to be handed over to the feds. Better still, if that was her play, why not go up to the road block and get caught there? After all, couldn’t they run her name in the system, and she’d get flagged that way? I don’t know, the line made me expect more is all.

    It’s not something that killed the movie for me or anything, just something that made me go huh and shrug. Anyway, I did like the deer (although I’m sure he was hoping for a better payoff than that; sorry deer).

  28. Bad Seed – (SPOILER) Okay, I see what you mean. I had figured the “we’ve done enough” line to mean there was no point in trying a foot chase or beating up the cops since that would ultimately result in her capture anyway. It didn’t occur to me that it could also be interpreted as you did. Or as Stu did, for that matter. That’s one of the things I love about the film. The lack of concrete explanations for everything that so many mainstream films rely on.

  29. The crowd I saw HAYWIRE with was pretty evenly divided on the movie. Those familiar with Soderbergh’s recent stuff like GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE and CONTAGION didn’t find the “anticlimactic” structure offputting (it’s actually more conventionally structured than a lot of his stuff) while those who were unfamilar with his work seemed a bit lost. But not as lost as that guy at the screening of A SERIOUS MAN that I attended who shouted at the screen that the Coens had betrayed him. I wonder if that guy is out there in Hollywood picking off the executive producers of A SERIOUS MAN one by one, slowing making his way to Ethan and Joel.

    But on the other hand, there wasn’t that special Gosling factor that DRIVE had that seemed to sway the wary. Even dudes left DRIVE attracted to Gosling.

    McGreggor telling Fassbinder that it would be a mistake for him to think of Carano as a girl got a big laugh.

    And of course a small segment of the audience were so shocked by the coffee-pot-to-the-head in the opening scene that they left the theater. That’s the exact moment me and my buddies knew Soderbergh wasn’t holding back.

    My personal favorite detail was the shot of Carano chasing after the guy in Barcelona. In particular, the intelligent look of an athlete on her face while she was running. She seemed to be so mindful of what her body required to perform the task she had set for herself. Much better suited to the material than the standard action-hero-running face you usually get in scenes like that.

  30. Jareth: At my showing, the one black guy who feels the need to inform the audience of his thoughts on the movie (the one who comes standard with every screen in New York City) seemed to enjoy it quite a bit, laughing appreciatively at the brutality of the beatdowns and remarking wistfully on the obvious strength contained in Carano’s thigh muscles. The OBGWFTNTITAOFHTOTM’s response is usually my barometer for how an action movie will play with general audiences who might be predisposed to like this kind of thing, so I have high hopes for a decent DVD and cable run for HAYWIRE, which might just lead to a couple of those DTV sequels Vern was talking about.

    Also, I’m glad you brought up the look on her face while she was running. It was just such a joy to watch this woman move. There weren’t any superhero poses or posturing. Every move she made seemed practical and lived in, like when she limbered up as soon as she saw Tatum because she knew a disagreement was about to go down.

  31. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 23rd, 2012 at 10:03 am

    Bad Seed – I also get what you’re saying; and what you say regarding the fights between, say, the stranger and the trecherous ex-boyfriend, comes back to the point about action being used to convey a mood or emotion. Didn’t feel like I got that from “Haywire” for the most part, although again, there are a couple of scenes that stood out for me.

    Damn it, I wanted to review “Margin Call” and I STILL haven’t done so, but it kinda relates to this point.

    See, in “Margin Call”, which is a thriller set within a Wall Street investment company, there is a brilliant cast – Jeremy Irons (in a scene-stealing role as the company President), Kevin Spacey (the best he’s been in at least a decade, easily, of the films I’ve seen of his), Simon Baker (in an ultra-dark turn on his solipsist persona from “The Mentalist”), with other great turns from the likes of Zachary Quinto, Penn Badgley, Stanley Tucci, Paul Bettany, and a near-unrecognisable Demi Moore.

    Look, this film has received great reviews from everyone, which I totally agree with. But here’s what I particularly loved about it: every single character in it has their own distinct personality. Every character has their own “place” in the film, and that place is immediately made clear. We know who they are and what they do. Every single one of the actors I’ve just named has their chance to shine. Every one of them has a clearly-defined character with their own thoughts, prejudices, and perception of the world.

    Anything I didn’t like about this film? – Yes. On two occasions, characters – Jeremy Irons and Paul Bettany – go into late Aaron Sorkin-esque monologues. Well, they didn’t work for Sorkin, who was at his best when character dialogue is mostly quick-fire back-and-forth debates; they don’t work here either. These characters are absolutely part of the system that they’re still tied to, even as it’s crashing around them; for them to start questioning the morality of it seems kinda forced.

    Other than that, this is that rare animal: a near-perfect film. Kevin Spacey should absolutely be up for a “Best Supporting Actor” Oscar nod, if the Oscar committe gives any kind of a damn about the quality of a performance. (He won’t even get a look-in, then.) J. C. Chandor should easily get the “Best Screenplay” award. (Again, never gonna happen.)

    But basically I utterly and completely recommend this film to anybody who wasn’t immediately put off by the idea of a drama set at an investment company. If you like this type of film, you will love this film. If you thought “Ides of March” was one of the best of last year, as I did, you will love this film.

  32. One moment I really liked in the Fassbender fight is the point when he starts to show that he’s giving up, a split second before she kicks him through the glass door.

  33. He made the mistake of seeing her as a woman, thinking the “fairer sex” might just show mercy. Didn’t work out for him too well, I don’t think.

  34. Yeah, I thought that was great too. And the pillow snuff just capped it (no pun intended).

  35. Majestyk: Even when Carano did an intricate, showy move, like when she used a wall as a springboard to pummel her opponent, she assisuously avoided those heroic poses you mentioned. More than once during the screening I found myself really enjoying the fact that no one stopped to deliver a line like that “who’s your daddy?” moment in MR & MRS SMITH.

    The screening I saw was pretty quiet, but Carano’s appearance in the background to take out McGreggor at the end received one of those joyous inhalations from the crowd.

    Stu: The pillow to the face in the Fassbinder fight was so ruthless. I really liked that. And I especially like how the later flashback scene with McGreggor and Fassbinder, which shows how honorable Fassbinder is, makes you feel a.) bad for Fassbinder, and b.) even more pissed off at McGreggor.

  36. Seriously, to those complaining about the score, I simply can’t understand it.
    It’s absolutely a throwback to great Lalo Schifrin stuff from the 70s. I mean, listen to this:
    and tell me that doesn’t sound like something straight out of Bullitt.

  37. “Those” implies that more than one person is complaining about the score.

  38. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 23rd, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    Meh, maybe it’s just me. I just can’t get over that elevator-music jazz shite.

    And not all of it, but some bits in particular – the bits where the other sound was muted or removed entirely and it was just a montage delivered to said elevator-music jazz shite – just didn’t work for me. Like I said, it’s subjective.

  39. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 23rd, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    And FTR I quite like that one Bullett.

    The one that I particularly remember as hating was from early in the movie, had a similar bassline to Rob D’s “clubbed to death”.

  40. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 23rd, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    Oh here it is. I think this is the one that really got my goat.


    Hearing it now, I actually like it a lot more than I did during the movie. I think the reason for that is that I’m not being blased by obnoxious horns on all sides at 100dB. Having said that… hearing the Schifrin influence, in a way, makes it worse. Because I really really like Schifrin, and I really didn’t like this, largely I think because it was the ONLY thing you heard during those scenes. No sound effects, no dialogue, nothing else, so they were entirely relying upon the score to drive the tension.

  41. How do you folks feel about this one as a role for a convincing female action hero? I liked Carano and the film as a whole, but thought that perhaps it missed an opportunity to craft a more unique believable female badass. There are some slight but welcome character touches which you might not see with a male lead (her confident sexuality, love of wine, relationship with her dad) but overall I was slightly dissapointed that her character is another spin on the ill-advised Ripley rip-off trope where they just take a man and add boobs and it counts as feminism. The fact that she’s a woman seems like it’s almost used as a gimmik. Would this have been a very noteworthy character had she been male? I don’t think so. Here they have a genuinely believable female badass but don’t really let her create an iconic character or do anything unique.

    A small complaint, and perhaps not a fair one to saddle this likeble and fun movie with. But still a missed opportunity, IMHO.

  42. Mr. S. – You’re asking it to do that thing that they used to have to do with every movie starring a black character. He/she can’t just be an individual, he/she has to be representative of his/her minority group. That’s actually pretty condescending, if you think about it, to suggest that any group is so homogenous that it could be represented by one person with one set of characteristics. Why does she have to be a representative of the current state of the female action heroes? What would have made her more female to you? Would you have had her stop in the middle of a chase scene to get some tampons? Furthermore, why can’t this character be granted the same right to one-dimensionality that all male action stars are accorded? No one ever asks that Jason Statham have something to say about men in cinema. He kicks ass, and that’s all we need to know about him.

    To me, treating her as the movie explicitly asks you to (“You’re thinking of her as a woman. That’s a mistake.”) is the way to go. Her sex is completely insignificant to her job, and she in fact bristles when asked to play a female role. The feminism in this movie comes from the fact that her sex is completely unimportant, both to her and to the people around her. The fact that she is the equal of every man in every way is so obvious that it is beneath mention.

  43. Definitely going to see that one, especially after reading Soderberghs
    Interview with A.V. Club, were he mentions that Screenwriter
    Lem Dobbs forced him to see the fistfight between Rod Taylor and legendary Badass William Smith from “Darker than Amber” and how it influenced their approach to the fightscenes in “Haywire”.


    Man William Smith is one scary dude, it’s high time for a appreciative Filmography by Vern.

  44. Paul, do they seriously play music like that in elevators over there? It seems like it would only encourage heists and impossible missions.

  45. Mr. M — an entirely fair point, and I fully admit that it’s totally unfair to ask one of the few films to take seriously the idea of a realistic female action hero to set right all the stereotypes of the past (and, in fact, that by putting it in that context I de facto stigmatize the idea of a female action hero as somehow substantially different than a possible male counterpoint).

    However, I’d like to argue that to some degree, the film is already doing that. I think it pretty tough to deny that Soderbergh’s not taking a certain pleasure in subverting the genre with a gender switch– and given that it’s the film’s hook, I think it a bit disappointing that it doesn’t do more with it. You’re right, I don’t ask Jason Statham to represent men (although of course we could easily discuss contemporary action cinema’s evolving definition of hypermasculinty until our fingers fell off, so I don’t quite buy that male films are free of gender messages either) but on the other hand, he’s also a significantly more charismatic actor than Carano is. She’s a fine athlete and does a perfectly respectable fine job in the role, but come on. If this was Tom Atkins in that role I seriously doubt Soderbergh would have gotten interested enough to make it. So I don’t quite buy that I’m out of line for dragging gender media tropes into the discussion.

    And honestly, I would actually love to see an action movie where the badass female lead has to stop and McGuyver herself some tampons. It’s not a joke, its just what younger women have to do, and that’s the kind of uniquely feminine perspective which is almost entirely absent from female action hero roles. Since they have an unusually believable one here, it was a great opportunity to explore that angle a bit more, to show us something different, and maybe even to actually carve out a new archetype.

    Not, of course, that every film has to advance the cause. This one is perfectly fine as it is, and I am absolutely not calling it sexist or saying that I think it needed to be any different than it is. Plenty of great action films have stock action archetypes, both male and female, and this is one of them. But at the end of the day, Mel is simply not all that interesting a character or that compelling of a performance. Not that she’s bad, its just pretty generic in nearly every sense. So, since I feel like they already baited the line with their female MMA fighter hook, they might as well have explored that angle a little more. It would have made the film a little more interesting. And since female MMA fighter spy thriller films directed by Steven Soderbergh don’t come around all too often, I can’t help but feel a twinge of regret that this one is merely a fun and well-made arty genre excursion instead of something a little more ambitious.

    Still awesome, though.

  46. Shit, I mean Scott Adkins, not Tom Atkins. Although obviously that would be pretty great too.

  47. My favorite of Soderbergh’s is probably CHE Part One: The Argentine. Because seriously guys, when I watch that movie I get the sense that Soderbergh really could be the next Sergio Leone, or at least the contemporary socially and politically empathic equivalent thereof.

  48. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 24th, 2012 at 1:56 am

    Mr S – don’t even go there, trust me. The moment you start arguing whether something was “intended” or not, you get into the kind of argument that kept Mouth and me going on about “Sucker Punch” for about two months… plus you might end up having to admit the other guy may have a point, which is worse.

  49. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 24th, 2012 at 2:03 am

    Vern – more the smooth jazz that I thought it was. I have to admit that at least parts of the Haywire soundtrack sound a lot better when you don’t listen to them as part of an action movie. Trouble is, they ARE part of an action movie.

    Plus, again, it reminded me of “Out of Sight”. A movie that I had roughly the same reaction to as you did to “Waking Life”.

    Sorry for being so bitchy here, by the way. Seems like I got nothing but complaints recently, but that really isn’t the case… I’ve seen three really great films already this year, with “Haywire” bringing up the rear. (And honestly, for all my problems with “Haywire”, if that’s the worst film you see in a month then it’s a pretty damn good month.)

  50. Gotta agree with your love for CHE Part 1, Henry. It’s the best biopic/historical drama I saw since The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

    Am I the only one who saw some Soderberg influences in DRIVE?

    P.S. My favourite camera-in-car chase is still the one in We Own The Night. Very underrated movie.

  51. Mr. S. – I’m not suggesting that gender wasn’t on Soderbergh’s mind when he decided to make this movie. I’m suggesting that his method of dealing with it was to ignore it, to treat Mallory the same way he would if a male actor had been in the role. He’s not saying anything about the state of the female action hero because there’s nothing to say about it. An action hero is an action hero. They kick ass, they get the job done, and they’re not to be fucked with. What they’ve got between their legs doesn’t factor into it.

  52. Paul: Smooth jazz is stuff like Kenny G., David Sanborn and Sting. It is a mainstream variation of the fusion of jazz and rock in the late 1960s. It tends to consist of simple rock structures with lite jazz instrumentation. It aims to produce a soothing mood.

    Lalo Schifrin composes rhythmically complex, mutant strains of pre-fusion jazz with heavy doses of various latin styles, like bossa nova, and funk. It aims to put some swing in your strutt.

    Calling Schifrin smooth jazz is like calling Captain Beefheart doo-wop.

    Also, Schiffrin wrote a piece of music for THE EXORCIST that was used in the trailers. It was considered so scary and disturbing that Friedkin rejected the score entirely (literally throwing it out into a parking lot).

  53. But Mr. M, isn’t that kind of a commentary in itself? I mean, considering gender is obviously on Soderbergh’s mind, I think ignoring it is the least interesting route possible, if for no other reason than that terrain has been pretty thoroughly mapped before. The “What they’ve got between their legs doesn’t factor into it.” action hero is the one trope which is pretty commonplace. There’s a dozen Michelle Rodriguez or Milla Jovovich roles which pretty much take the same approach. Since Soderbergh seems to be engaged in at least some little bit of genre deconstruction here, it would have been cool to create a character we hadn’t seen before, particularly since he has a kind of actor we haven’t seen much of before and rarely see in this modern age at all. It’s fine the way he did it, but a little bland. And I have a sneaking suspicion that Soderbergh may think he’s being more progressive than he’s actually is by casting a woman in an utterly generic action role and then ignoring it. It’s possible he doesn’t watch too many UNDERWOLD sequels, you know?

    Its usually part of my code of filmatism no to never complain about something a film DOESN’T do. You gotta look at the film that exists, not the film you wish existed, right? It’s like those Star Warsies complainging that the films are bad because they don’t tell the story as they always imagined it would be. But in this particular instance you’ve got such an unusual confluence of awesome elements that I can’t help wishing they’d been shooting for something more than a better made version of the same old thing.

  54. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 24th, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    “Calling Schifrin smooth jazz is like calling Captain Beefheart doo-wop.”

    Holy fucking shit, dude, you don’t think I was referring to SCHIFRIN as doing “smooth jazz”? One of my favorite composers of film scores ever? Somebody who’s not quite up there with Herrman, but is definitely in the upper echelons? I was referring to David Holmes in this movie (and also “Out of Sight”). Damn, I know I get a reputation for having somewhat out-there opinions, but not THAT much!


    As for your other points… Kenny G, entirely agree with. Haven’t actively sought out anything of David Sanborn’s although I just about know who he is, so I can’t comment there. And I wouldn’t say most of Sting’s output counts as “smooth jazz”, although stuff like “Fields of Gold”, maybe, might be. I mostly know him from the Police days, a group that had a very distinctive rock sound (one wouldn’t ever refer to “Roxanne” or “Every Breath you Take” as jazz, surely?) His solo stuff I haven’t sought out much, and don’t intend to; what I’ve heard of it is largely inferior to the stuff where the rest of the Police were involved.

    And what I’m referring to as “smooth jazz” is the kind of thing where some white guy gives an eight-minute saxophone duet with some guy on a double-bass that never actually goes anywhere or does anything interesting musically speaking, and they call it a song. (Or “improv”, which is worse, because it adds a whole other layer of douchebag pretentiousness to it. Seriously, if you ever hear somebody say something like, “Yeah, I did a good saxophone improv last night”, hit ’em over the head with a brick.) I am in no way denigrating the entire jazz music genre – just this one part of it. I find it lazy, self-indulgent, and ultimately worthless. A lot of which is how the “Haywire” score seemed to me when watching the film. And “Fields of Gold”, come to that.

    Listening to it on its own… I think I was harsh, to be honest, but I don’t think I was totally off-base with the “noodling guitars” comparison. If you are going to have sections of your film scored entirely by a single music track, with no sound effects or dialogue, you better make damn sure it’s the best track ever.

  55. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 24th, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    Oh, and to make myself clear, I’m not denigrating the entire field of music that’s composed by improvisation either. Just “improv”. With all the shallow pretentiousness that that horrible word implies.

  56. Mr. S – I don’t know, man. Personally, I think the simple approach is best. This is a story about an ex-Marine . Somehow, I don’t think the Corps taught her to be a uniquely female kind of badass. They’d train her to be a soldier, which comes with it a whole shitload of stereotypically masculine traits. Her femininity would not realistically be a major part of her working life, which is really all we see. Ignoring her gender might not be metatextually interesting for you, but it’s probably the approach that makes the most sense in terms of her history.

    I mean, there’s plenty of shit you can read into if you’re so inclined. The closest Mallory came to defeat was when she was stripped of her androgyny and rebranded as female. What does that mean? Personally, I don’t really care, but it’s something you can chew on if you want.

    Maybe there’s a filmmaker out there who can make a good action movie about the representation of female heroines in action cinema, but I’d sure like that movie to be made by a female director with a personal stake in the subject and not a restless stylist who just wanted to get a kung fu flick into his genre poo poo platter before he retired.

  57. Point taken. And when they make that movie, we’ll be able to watch this one and be like “thank god they didn’t muck up a nicely funky badass revenge movie with a lot of gender studies garbage.”

  58. Believe me, I was studying her gender plenty. I didn’t need the movie to do it for me.

    Ha! You thought I was a sensitive modern male who was able to look at a woman as a person and not a sex object! Wrong! I just like watching hot chicks kick people!

    Sexism: It’s great!

  59. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 24th, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    Can somebody explain to me why action movies have to be “about” action movies nowadays?

  60. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 24th, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    And – at the risk of starting up an old, old, OLD argument between myself and Mouth, why does a film about hot chicks kicking ass have to be about films about hot chicks kicking ass? Why can’t it just be about hot chicks kicking ass? Is that somehow taboo?

  61. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 24th, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    Seriously… if this continues, I expect to see Soderburgh / Snyder direct a film about films about films about hot chicks kicking ass, featuring hot chicks kicking ass.

  62. Yeah, of all the ways deadly professional assassins die, between Gina Carano’s legs has to be among the better ones. So don’t feel too bad for ol’ Michael Fassbender.

  63. Well, Paul, I think we just established that, no, films about hot chicks kicking ass don’t have to be about films about hot chicks kicking ass. Mr. S’s line “thank god they didn’t muck up a nicely funky badass revenge movie with a lot of gender studies garbage” summed it up pretty well, in my opinion.

  64. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 24th, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    Yes, but he was also the one who pointed out that: “But Mr. M, isn’t that kind of a commentary in itself? I mean, considering gender is obviously on Soderbergh’s mind, I think ignoring it is the least interesting route possible, if for no other reason than that terrain has been pretty thoroughly mapped before.”

    So gender-neutral female action stars are possible but dull due to overuse? That’s what I read into it…

  65. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 24th, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    Also I have nothing whatsoever against hot chicks kicking ass, on principle. It just seems to be done so ineffectively a lot of the time. Yeah, I liked Gina, but she barely had any ass to kick. (Ok that sounded bizarrely wrong.) Once Fassbender got triangle’d, there was really no other physical threat to her.

  66. Well, if you look at the story chronologically, she still had to fight Tatum, who fucked her up pretty good before she handed his ass to him in a doggy bag. In any case, Seagal has gone through entire movies (including OUT FOR JUSTICE, arguably his best one) without anyone laying a hand on him, so I don’t see why having someone be a real physical threat to her is necessary. Sometimes it’s fun to watch someone just dominate motherfuckers.

  67. Yeah, I often enjoy myself more when a film is self-contained, when it doesn’t strive for a universal message or some form of meta-ness, when the presence of influences is non-existent or at least uninvasive, when it is the manifestation of the creativeness of one individual or the result of one unified creative vision. And I find this approach more liberating & correct than to call a film “a genre film,” which is inappropriately limiting, in my opinion.

    By this criterion, I can derive the same kind of thrill & cerebral satisfaction from watching, say, IN BRUGES that I get from HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH that I get from HAYWIRE that I get from a good Bill Hicks standup bit. They’re not all equally successful or entertaining in all facets, but they seem to come from an original idea and are realized without the effects of muddled crowdsourcing or overreaching for universality. They’re not trying to teach me a lesson, and I find myself able to achieve suspension of disbelief more easily when I do not face didacticism.

    Of course, I also enjoy a lot of stuff that does strive for meta-universal-sucker-punchy messages.

  68. Paul — They don’t have to be, but both Soderbergh and Snyder are a little too consciously shifty about their genre for me to think they’re entirely committed to simple asskicking. So ask them, I don’t know why. I love asskicking, I love hot women. That seems like it would be a pretty good combination. Someone should make one of those, but make it good. Hardcore female badass = awesome. I just felt like Soderbergh didn’t try very hard to make this one a very iconic character. I even like Rhona Mitra in DOOMSDAY. She can’t kick ass as good as Carano can, but at least they gave her an eyepatch. Derivative, sure, but at least a little more colorful.

  69. Man, this movie bugs me the more I think about it. The fight scenes were incredible, excactly the type I love, but everything else was way too thin. There’s something oppressive to me about all of Soderbergh’s static setups, and I thought the chase scenes were too glib (David Holmes’ score mostly hurt the movie here). More than anything, I just could not care about anything in this movie. It felt so hollow and half-assed.

    This flick had a bunch of crazy machinations in it, most of which were totally oblique to me. That didn’t bother me, because the movie only really required you to have a vague understanding of who the bad guy was at any given point. But the extraneous nature of those details made the movie feel distant, and contributed to the feeling that this was just an empty exercise in action staging for Soderbergh.

    I mean, did anyone who saw this really care if Mallory got revenge? Was there a single development in it that invited any kind of audience response – besides the thrills of the fighting sequences? The fights, again, are out-of-this-world good, but come on, I need more than that to sustain me. I’m not saying I needed some kind of emotional catharsis, but the movie was missing something that would draw me into its world. Generally speaking, the things that make an action movie good are the same as the things that make any movie good, especially one particular thing – a reason to care about what’s happening, why it’s happening, and who it’s happening to. From a storytelling perspective the whole movie felt like a big shrug followed by a “who cares?”

  70. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 25th, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    AF – unfortunately I completely agree with you. Although ironically I’m reconsidering the score now I’ve heard it outside of the movie. Trouble is, I didn’t like it IN the movie… and that’s always bad news.

    Anyway, there are good afternoons (like the one I spent watching “In Bruges”.) There are bad afternoons (I dunno, the one I spent watching “Captain America”? Also the one where my cat died. Two bad afternoons.) And there are weird afternoons.

    For example, I spent a large portion of this afternoon staring at Michael Fassbender’s cock. I saw more of that cock than I ever wanted to. Seriously, I could model it in plastacine and post a picture of it on the Internet. Yep, this has been a weird one alright.

    Review of “Shame” coming soon.

  71. Did anybody have a problem with lack of sound effects during the fight scenes. I never really felt any of those punches or kicks because they were made to sound like what punches and kicks really sound like. When I see a movie, especially an action film, I find sound effects very important and don’t want them to be ultra-realistic.

  72. AF: Soderbergh definitely wasn’t going to give audiences something as emotionally engaged as KILL BILL. That’s just not his thing. I don’t have any problem with the impersonal aspect of his films. But I think there was something overly familiar about HAYWIRE that kept it from being as good as THE LIMEY or OUT OF SIGHT. I don’t think it’s Carano’s fault; Sasha Grey was plenty compelling in THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE, and I think Carano is a better performer than Grey. I don’t know. Maybe the script was rushed. Maybe McGreggor (in my opinion the weakest link in the film) could never be as compelling as Peter Fonda.

    The sound design worked for me. I’m so tired of typical Hollywood fight sounds. UNDERWORLD 4 might as well have put the old BATMAN thwacks and bops up on the screen during the fights.

    Paul: My mistake on your smooth jazz comparison. I didn’t read your post properly. For what it’s worth, anything Sting did with Branford Marsalis is smooth jazz, like “Consider Me Gone” or “Englishman in New York.” His stuff with the Police is faux reggae.

  73. Mouth:

    Did you just say that Hedwig and the Angry Inch isn’t meta? Because, that’s a movie where the male-to-female transsexual rock star has a boyfriend who is actually played by a girl under heavy makeup, and the film never makes it overt.

    Also, the last 20 minutes are entirely visual representations of Hedwig’s rebirth. Also, it’s a gay-themed rock musical about Plato’s Symposium. And there are several overt Brechtian moments.

    Which parts of Hedwig *aren’t* meta?

  74. No, I didn’t say that. Those words appear in the same post above, but no. HEDWIG is everything to me, and I have come to love it more with further study of the “meta” elements (as you obviously have as well), but it’s not didactic, not striving to be everything to everyone (which was the worst aspect of the end of JCM’s SHORTBUS). And I love it because it originates from John Cameron Mitchell & Stephen Trask and makes it to our senses without editorial-artistic compromise.

    The only dubiously conventional part of HEDWIG seems to be the opening credits music, but then later we realize that a theme of being out of place in the midst of national unifications makes that song choice perfect. Plus, I’ll never complain about hearing a rockin pro-America tune.

    H&TAI has no overt influences or nods to previous films. The narrative is self-contained, other than references to ancient gods & rock gods. It is not merely a “genre film,” but it is just as efficient as one. This is why, as in my previous post, I compare it to other such movies I enjoy.

  75. The soundtrack is more Roy Bud then Lalo.

  76. ActionFest tix/badges on sale tomorrow. Gina Carano will be there to be awarded the “Chick Norris” somethingsumthin. Film lineup still not announced.


  77. Saw this yesterday. Wasn’t expecting much, seeing as how Soderbergh’s films usually bore the shit out of me, but was hoping I would get a kick out of the cast and maybe enjoy one or two of the fights.

    In the end there were three things that I enjoyed:

    1) Gina Carano. Her acting was actually way better than I was expecting and I would enjoy seeing her in other action movies. Just read today that she’s probably going to be in Fast Six, hope they let her do some punching and not just racing.

    2) The fight with Fassbender. Pretty brutal and the only fight in the film that got me excited. Like someone said above I think what let me down in the other fights was the sound, or lack thereof. It’s may be more realistic this way, but I wanted a bit more energy. Obviously I applaud the idea of shooting fights clearly, but the way they were done here made them feel too sedated for my liking.

    3) The great Bill Paxton.

    Besides those things it was a pretty dull film with an uninteresting story, imho. I don’t care that it was simplistic or that they didn’t explain much about Carano’s character, but this was so thin it could barely hold my attention. Come on, at least give me a strong villain. Maybe if they would’ve cast Fassbender as Kenneth… He at least looked like he could handle himself in a fight against Carano.

  78. Finally saw it, liked alot about it. It looks great, music is fun, excellent filmatism, etc.. The fights are awesome, but at the end of the day they’re about 4 minutes out of a 90 minute movie that feels a lot longer. Soderbergh just couldn’t hold my attention with the uninvolving plot, and that’s coming from someone who LOVES Bubble and The Girlfriend Experience.

    Carano does have excellent screen presence and physicality; I even thought her supposed “awkward/robotic” line readings actually worked as character-building moments. Btw, after pinning that bad guy to the floor with the gate in Barcelona, did she give him the finger while she was dialing her cohorts on the phone? If so, that was awesome and had more personality than the rest of the movie.

    Btw, any thoughts about the fact that her character slept with both McGregor and Tatum? It’s just a minor detail, but I didn’t expect it in a movie like this and wasn’t quite sure what they were trying to say, if anything. (Was it a challenge to double standards by showing her being promiscuous like a female James Bond? Or were they saying something else since they both end up trying to kill her?)

    Anyways, for some reason Haywire reminds me of a less successful The Hunted (Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio Del Toro one, not Christopher Lambert one) – it’s also 90 minutes, lean and pared down, and is centered on the naturalistic, un-Hollywood fight scenes (I think the sound fx are muted in The Hunted too). I only wish it were as good as that one.

  79. My favorite part about the fact that she nailed both of them (and yeah, I think that’s the point. Boy spies require tribute in the form of female conquests, so why can’t the ladies do likewise? I don’t think the movie ever judged her for it. The motive, as McGregor says, is always money.) is when her father says that no, she never mentioned Ewan McGregor’s character to him and Tatum gives this private little smirk. Like, “Ha ha, you dated her for a year, probably took her out to dinner and bought her flowers and shit, and you’re no further along than I am, chump.” It was one of the character’s endearing dude moments, like when he tried to order a beer for breakfast (although that may have just been to sell his hangover act, if it was in fact an act).

  80. Unless my intel is wrong, this is now playing on Netflix Instant.

  81. It is. The studio behind it has a deal with Netflix for Pay TV rights.

  82. Tony Jaa has never been a good actor in my book.

  83. Anyone else catch this week’s ALMOST HUMAN guest starring Gina Carrano? Great episode of a good show and they really made the most of her, pretty much playing a female Terminator and kicking everyone’s ass, and even getting a “Just How Badass Is She?” scene:

  84. I saw it, Stu, and I agree. I would’ve loved more of her, but with the time and rating constraints, I thought they did a good job utilizing her.

  85. She was surprisingly good in Almost Human, only because she was playing a blank, but physically capable, robot. I thought she was absolutely awful in Haywire, actually having to talk and all, and behave like a human. I don’t know why i never commented on it before, but this is one of the least enjoyable films i have ever seen in the cinema. I watched it in Dublin and the only thing anyone in the audience seemed to find remotely interesting was that certain scenes took place a couple of streets away from where we were watching it. When we were walking out of the screening at the end of the film, all i could hear was “Wow, that was shite”. I’m genuinely surprised people on here liked it so much, it was really horribly bad. Soderbergh, after this and Che Part 2, is dead to me, although Behind the Candelabra was enjoyable, apart from the totally uncalled for and horrific plastic surgery scenes. Oh, also, i thought that the worst thing about this whole mess was David Holmes’ intrusive score blaring all the time, except during the fights. Hated it, hated the film, hated Carano’s acting.

  86. Vern – I put it to you that you talk about The Limey rather a lot, but have not ever reviewed it for us.

    Make it so!!!


  87. Yes, THE LIMEY is definitely on the list!

  88. I just watched this one again last night, and found it to be pretty enjoyable still. I hadn’t seen it since theaters, but I had some pretty strong memories of it (though I’d totally forgotten Bill Paxton plays her dad, so that was a nice surprise) and they mostly held up. I still found Gina Carano’s line delivery kind of distracting, but I read afterward that they ADR’d all her lines and even dubbed her over with Laura Dan Giancomo at points! So I can’t really blame her for the weird line readings, I guess, and she kicks a lotta ass in the fight scenes, so it evens out.

    This time around I actually thought the story was kind of the weakest part- I don’t mind a minimalistic low stakes kind of thing, but at some point I kinda have to care about *something*. The whole hostage-who-is-actually-a-journalist thing is so opaque until the very end that it kind of lands with a thud. Even though the movie is full of pretty big-name actors, nobody gets all that much very interesting to do. Michael Douglas is pretty fun as an unusually helpful CIA guy and Bill Paxton’s character gets an entertaining moment where he outwits Ewan Macgregor (who *should* be having more fun with this sleazy role, and would do a better job in later villain turns like his Roman Sionis in BIRDS OF PREY). Channing Tatum likewise gets a couple briefly amusing moments (though of course this would prove to be an incredibly significant role for his career, given this is where he met Steven Soderbergh).

    Many of these complains could apply to lots of genre classics of course, and there’s more than enough here to recommend it. Still, it winds up leaving me a little unsatisfied in the end. Though it is all worth it just for that shot of Ewan calmly contemplating the ocean, while in the background Gina Carano hurtles towards him like a freight train.

  89. I think the mundaneness of the story is a feature, not a bug. This isn’t an epic adventure with the fate of the world in the balance. This is just another job that Ewan’s petty bitch of a toxic male fuckboy turns into a big stupid conspiracy because he can’t stand a woman taking his toys away from him. I don’t think it would work as well if there were actual stakes. That isn’t the world Mallory lives in. She’s not trying to do good in the world. She’s just trying to get paid and go home.

  90. Right, that element of it isn’t so much my problem as much as how the ultimate motivation for the events of the story are revealed. It’s a reveal presented incredibly late for no particular reason- it makes sense for Mallory to not know this information, but not for the *audience* to not know it. We’re already expecting all these guys to be bad and untrustworthy, so there’s little reason to hide the specifics until so late. If this was a heist film like OCEAN’S 11 or something, that would make a little more sense, since part of the fun of that kind of movie is not always knowing what the protagonist’s plans actually are, but in a spy movie like this, I think it just winds up being a little confusing. Perhaps that mirrors Mallory’s experience of events, but it didn’t really satisfy me as a narrative.

    And really, the fact that my main complaint is that the storytelling is too intentionally opaque, hey at least that’s an an unusual issue to have about a fight movie starring a former MMA competitor.

  91. You know, it’s times like these that make me, if not sympathize, at least understand the conservative point of view. After all, it has become abundantly clear to me that the vast, vast, vast, vast majority of the human race is just one little push—one minor setback, one deleterious ego boost—away from letting the full inhumanity of man spill out for all to see. So why do we insist that we’re better than we are? At this point, I feel like all of our defenses of the human race read like those insincere apology letters companies send out after their employees get caught being massively racist: This does not represent who we are. But it does. It so totally does. Who are we kidding? Absolute savagery is our natural state. Everything has to go right to grow a decent human. There are infinite numbers of ways to grow a piece of shit. You know why most of our movies are about heroes? Because they’re man-bites-dog stories. They’re counter to everyday experience and thus worth remarking on. You don’t tell stories about the ubiquitous. You tell stories about the exceptional, in the literal sense, i.e. “These isolated incidents are the exceptions to the rule.”

    I’m not saying we should give up striving to be better, even if we never get there. But I think I get why conservatives would rather own the unfathomable cruelty, selfishness, and spite that seems to be humanity’s natural state than spend their lives in despair expecting our shitty species to one day live up to the ideals we have never once in our existence even come close to achieving.

    This is a lot to drop on a former MMA fighter being so fucking stupid as to choose pigheaded meanness and ignorance over the gig of a lifetime despite having the acting talent of potted ficus, but quite frankly I’m not up to unpacking the Joss Whedon stuff right at this moment so I am choosing to focus on the lesser of two evils.

  92. Preach it, MM. Right on.

  93. At this point I think it’s some conservative meme, to say the dumbest possible shit and then playing the victim of cAnCeL CuLtUrE. I mean…nobody can be THAT stupid. That’s even dumber than putting extra strong super glue in your hair because you ran out of hair spray. Okay, some people can be that stupid, but…so many celebrities…didn’t they use to have publicists or agents that told them “Hey, if you say stupid shit, and I mean REALLY stupid shit, like telling people to spread a virus during a pandemic, compare yourself to holocaust victims or mock rape victims, maybe also kick a puppy or drop a baby on live TV and then blaming the baby or the puppy for it…that will cost you your job! No, it will cost you all of them! You will go from blockbuster movies and the most popular TV show in the world to low budget movies where you teach atheists the true meaning of god! Do you want that? Nobody wants that, no matter how Christian they claim to be!”

    Remember when celebrities were smart enough to cover up their awfulness long enough? Imagine Joss Whedon going on Twitter while shooting BUFFY, happily tweeting about how he abused his cast today.

    Well, okay, on the other hand, thank god they are so dumb! I would hate if these assholes would keep earning the big bucks and we would only later learn of their shittiness.

    That said, I guess Dan Harmon has been spending the last 24 hours writing apology letters. Just in case.

  94. Having been pretty vocal about my political beliefs since my mid teens, and taken a certain amount of shit for it, I can sympatize with people who stick to their guns no matter what. But my agenda was always positive. Where does all this hate on the right come from? It’s not like Carano is one of the monster truck nazis. She can’t possibly believe the shit she’s throwing around, could she?

  95. Let’s say Carano was “just kidding” and being an edgelord with her Qanon RTs and holocaust comparisons. That doesn’t make it much better. At some point you just have to grow up. If a guy like James Gunn, who started at Troma and, despite all talent and critical acclaim even early in his career, was always on the rape joke making fratboy side of the spectrum, can stop doing that, once he is hired to direct big blockbusters, so should Gina Carano.

  96. Yes, it’s very sad. As a Carano early-ish adopter I got the sense well before she was in space that she was pretty dumb about political stuff, posting lots of corny memes that were only offensive for their design and font choice, but that seemed meant to imply certain dumbass conservative views. It was almost exactly like seeing my Aunt’s Facebook posts and hoping I’m reading too much into them. I told myself she was well-meaning and just misinformed, and stopped following her on Twitter so I wouldn’t have to be bummed out by it, but apparently she was worse than I realized.

    I really believed earlier on that she was basically a nice person and could show that she was learning from this, but it quickly became clear that she was the victimhood/can’t admit to being wrong type.

  97. I mean, she had it MADE. All she had to do was sit back and shut up and ride the gravy train to all the cons and cash her checks. The fact that she was given multiple breaks and still couldn’t shut up says something. I’m not sure what, but something. Either it says she really is a fuckwit or maybe she’s so passionate about these beliefs that she sees shutting up as a betrayal. I dunno. I’m leaning more toward fuckwit. Or maybe people that have such hateful ideas and feelings just can’t keep them to themselves. They have to purge them like poison. Or they have to keep talking to try and defend or justify their ideas. Sigh. It all makes me quite sad. It was great to have a woman out there being a success for having a little bit of charm and a non-standard body type she used for a physical type of acting not common to women. It used to be every time I saw Rhoda Rhousey was cast in something I would say, “Come on, Gina Carano is right there and she can actually act a little bit!” Welp.

  98. Well said, Maggie. I really liked that as Cara Dune she was much bigger and more muscular than in HAYWIRE and IN THE BLOOD. It’s not a type of female character we get to see very often. I think her acting was mostly weak on the show, but in her early episodes when she got to be more physical she really added something cool to it.

    If she was really supposed to be the lead in Rangers of the New Republic, will they recast, or just dump the character? I could see it working either way.

  99. I was always pulling for her from the beginning of her acting career. I wouldn’t piss in THE MANDALORIAN’s mouth if its teeth were on fire, as my grandfather used to say, but I still held out hope that somebody would use her unique skills and presence as well as Soderbergh did (or at the very least that her F&F character would come back with a badass harpoon scar). Now it’s looking like she’s got nothing but Kevin Sorbo movies in her future. This is why we can’t have nice things.

  100. Since I always feel like I can count on this group to have a honest discussion, I’ll just go ahead and ask: did Disney do the right thing here? Obviously these were some absolutely asinine opinions (the anti-mask stuff, in particular, arguably flat-out dangerous) but is it really a good idea for big corporations to start firing people based on their personal politics? I mean, tragic as it is to say, these are not exactly fringe opinions, if we’re just looking at the numbers. She certainly deserves to be roundly mocked and criticized, but am I the only one uncomfortable with the idea that huge corporations can feel completely comfortable ousting employees for holding perfectly legal political opinions, especially at the behest of a twitter mob? Obviously it doesn’t sound remotely like the Holocaust, but it does sound to me more than a little like the McCarthy era. We all agree that was a regrettable period, right? Do we really feel comfortable playing that kind of game ourselves?

    In fact, I tend to disagree with Mr. Majestyk that humans are naturally cruel, selfish and spiteful. I think they’re just as capable of, and even attracted to, justice, selflessness, and kindness. But what they ultimately are is malleable — it’s possible to manipulate people to both acts of good and acts of evil. And you don’t even always have to play to their cruelty to get some really bad results; in fact, I’d argue that a whole lot of ill is done by people who believe they’re acting with good intentions. As such, I’m worried that as the cultural battle lines harden, a lot of us left-leaning types, under the banner of kindness, are dabbling in the kind of score-settling culture war hit-and-runs that so repulsed me as a kid when they were the provenance of the religious right wing.

    I mean, it’s hard to know, because of course I do find so much modern alt-right perspectives absolutely repugnant, and of course some things surely are beyond the pale, no matter how broadly supported. Bad opinions contribute to bad real-world results! Words are not harmless. But the whole reason we have the concept of freedom of speech (yes, I’m aware that Disney is not the government and the 1st amendment does not apply — but I’m just talking about the philosophical concept, not the legal one) is, I think, out of a certain humility in our ability to consistently and fairly pick, as a group, the good ideas from the bad. Who is wise enough to make these decisions? At the very least, it seems to me that weaponizing big corporations to punish people for their ideological sins is a very dangerous direction to go in, and I’m concerned that most people seem to so happily accept it.

  101. I have some of the same hesitations about it. From what little I followed of it, I felt like the “fire Gina Carano” fan mob was willfully misinterpreting some of her bullshit (for example, exaggerating her idiotic “conservatives are treated like Jews in Nazi Germany” post into a pro-Nazi post), which is a dishonorable Gamergate technique, even if they’re trying to use it for good instead of evil. (On the other hand, it’s how right wingers got James Gunn removed from GUARDIANS, so that we could have his SUICIDE SQUAD!) But I also don’t know what else Disney could’ve done. Reportedly they did not announce the cast of the spin-off because of “erratic” tweets the month before, so they must’ve been wondering if it was worth the hassle or even possible to get people into a new show about a supporting character played by an actor who’s courting a backlash and not even trying to smooth things over.

    Another thing I wonder about in these situations, that I don’t ever see people talking about, is that it can be a workplace issue too. Do the rest of the cast and crew have to work with someone they might be uncomfortable with in order to protect intellectual freedom or whatever? I started thinking of this when people were mad that Mel Gibson was removed from whichever HANGOVER sequel it was. Yeah, I have respect for Gibson as an actor and filmmaker, despite past transgressions as a human, and I don’t think he would’ve stopped me from watching the movie. But does that mean Zach Galifinakas should have to work with him and then have to defend him while promoting the movie? Not really.

  102. Interesting points, Mr. S.

    “ am I the only one uncomfortable with the idea that huge corporations can feel completely comfortable ousting employees for holding perfectly legal political opinions”

    But she didn’t get fired for HOLDING opinions. She got fired for publicly spouting misinformation and hateful rhetoric that ran counter to the stated mission of her employer. I believe that could get you fired from just about any company at any point in the history of public relations. Disney determined she was a liability and she was let go. This kind of shit used to happen because an actress got pregnant or gained weight. Now it happens because an actress won’t stop saying hurtful shit despite multiple consumer complaints. If the manager at a Dairy Queen tells you to stop calling the trans customers “boop” and all you do is double down, you’re getting a pink slip. You have the right to work. You don’t have the right to work anywhere you damn well please.

    Also, isn’t this the kind of “let the market decide” capitalism the right wing wants? I don’t like it that our supporting actresses get held to a higher moral standard than our cops and congressmen, but I think the answer is to raise the bar for the latter, not lower it for the former.

    Like it or not, you sign on to be a brand ambassador when you join a TV show. If you make the brand look bad, you’re out. You want total personal expression? Pick up painting. You want to get that big corporate money? Learn to read the goddamn room.

  103. I mean, ideally, we would accept that entertainers are mostly blinkered idiots with little to no real-world wisdom to share and we would stop requiring them to be role models. But since our society refuses to anoint any worthy heroes to take their place, I guess we’re stuck browbeating these circus clowns into not being the absolute worst.

  104. Vern: Excellent point about the workplace issues. Apparently, Pascal, who has a trans sister, tried to talk to her about why her stance was hurtful, but it just didn’t take. Why should he have to put up with that shit? He reaches out to a co-worker and she continues to insult his family. The star of a hit show has certainly had a cast member fired for far pettier reasons than that.

  105. Also, to show how sincere I am, I will add this: Many of the works of Joss Whedon are some of my favorite in any medium. BUFFY is part of my vocabulary to a SIMPSONS-like degree, and for a while there he was a bit of a personal hero. I had hoped to enjoy new Whedon joints for the rest of his life. But if he treats his employees like garbage, then fuck him. He doesn’t get to be in a position of power ever again. He blew it and has no one but himself to blame.

  106. You guys make perfectly reasonable points (particularly about the possibility that Carano is just a nightmare to work with, and they were looking for an excuse — although that doesn’t really track with the fact that they were apparently developing a show for her before the twitter incidents). But I just can’t help thinking about the early days of the Iraq war, when seemingly everyone everywhere was for it. I was against it from the start — I bet you were too– and yet I felt like I had to say something about it, even when it was pissing people off. If I –or, you know, Vincent D’Onofio or Ron Perlman or whoever– got summarily fired and essentially booted from the entire profession over those opinions, I would think that was profoundly unjust. The Chicks –né Dixie– really DID suffer some serious professional blowback on that issue, and I thought it was fucking awful. Everyone you guys said applied there — they were entertainers, it’s the case of the market deciding, if they didn’t want to suffer the consequences they should have just shut up. But I don’t know that it makes it right. The Hollywood Blacklist seems pretty similar to me, too; again, it’s just a business decision from a public company. But I surely we all agree that was a pretty sorry period for the industry?

    I just feel very uncomfortable that the moral argument is that “Sure, that was bad, but it’s OK when we do it, because we’re the good guys!” And if this kind of shit becomes a matter of routine, I think we’re looking a pretty ugly situation for everyone.

  107. I don’t necessarily disagree with you completely, but isn’t it okay to say that there ARE plenty of things that are right and wrong, and there IS a difference between being against a war and being against a group of people? I don’t think Roseanne being fired for calling a Black woman a monkey is equivalent to Phil Donahue having his MSNBC show cancelled for being against the Iraq War.

  108. “Do the rest of the cast and crew have to work with someone they might be uncomfortable with in order to protect intellectual freedom or whatever?”

    This is such a slippery slope.

    I do think Gina Carano has been annoyingly stupid in contributing more muck to the tepid cesspool Twitter already is.

    But here’s the thing…as somebody who’s worked in a corporation for more than 20 years, as I’m sure many of you here have also, it’s filled with more dicks than a gym locker room. How many times have you been paired with a colleague on projects and assignments who outside of the workplace, you’d cross the street if you saw them coming in the opposite direction?

    But if they’re professional in the workplace and espouse abhorrent views in private, then do I have the right to say I don’t want to work with this person because I stumbled on their Social Media posts one night and realized their favorite movie is BIRTH OF A NATION?

    I had a colleague. Top guy, professional as fuck and good at his job, a pleasure to work with. He’s also a conservative Muslim and on FB posts the type of stuff that would make him a shoo-in for Trump’s Muslim Ban. Do I have the right to complain that working with this guy makes me uncomfortable because he thinks the only parts of a woman which should be exposed when she steps out are her eyes, especially when he’s never once spewed those type of opinions in the workplace?

    It’s one thing if Gina Carano, in between takes, turns to Pedro Pascal or Carl Weathers and says “Did you check out the new COVID SOPs. What a crock of shit eh? Masks are for pussies” and continues shoving her views in her co-stars faces frequently.

    Quite another if she showed up on time, learnt her lines, nailed her takes, worked with her co-stars to make a scene work, was amenable to re-shoots and largely pleasant to cast and crew but happened to type some pretty bizarre stuff on her social media in her spare time.

    For those complaining that a colleague’s off work behavior makes them uncomfortable, I say, if they haven’t engaged in physical or verbally abusive behavior, didn’t invade your personal space and get all handsy, didn’t frequently crack jokes in the pantry which would make Louis CK blush, then suck it up. The workplace isn’t an Asshole-free zone. If you worked at the Milwaukee Blood Plasma Center in 1982, your colleague would have been Jeffrey Dahmer.

  109. “Quite another if she showed up on time, learnt her lines, nailed her takes, worked with her co-stars to make a scene work, was amenable to re-shoots and largely pleasant to cast and crew but happened to type some pretty bizarre stuff on her social media in her spare time.”

    That reminds me of something that guy from 2 1/2 MEN once said during the whole Charlie Sheen thing years ago (quoted from memory): “Every day Charlie showed up almost too late, smelling like booze, with 2 sleeping strippers in his car. But when the cameras rolled, he hit every mark and never flubbed a line. But at some point his professionalism as an actor wasn’t enough to tolerate the real him anymore.”

    Also one thing that I haven’t seen mentioned here: These are different time. Just last month an angry mob tried to kill parts of the US Government, because of things that the fucking president said on Twitter and some crazy conspiracy scam, that Carano also repeated several times! 10 years ago, maybe just 5 years ago, Disney probably would’ve just said: “We disagree with the public opinions of our employee, but until further notice couldn’t find a reason to remove her from her show. Stay tuned for next season!” But now there is simply no time or reason anymore to be the bigger person and just let them go with a slap on the wrist and a chuckled: “Oh, you rascal, promise you don’t do this again! But if you do, whatever, free speech means no consequences, amirite?” And I’m glad that they didn’t back down out of fear that some rightwingers would cancel their Disney + subscription.

  110. I didn’t mean to open speculation about whether Carano caused a problem on set or not. I have no reason to believe she did. I just wanted to point out that in these situations the feelings of the cast and crew whose lives and careers are directly affected by having to work with the person are more important than what we think, and those things are probly gonna be kept private.

    I think also it’s relevant that she wasn’t fired, she just inspired them to change plans about giving her a bigger opportunity and/or bringing her back for future seasons. I think there can be a lower threshold there. They don’t owe her a promotion.

  111. Since there is a big difference between the McCarthy era’s blacklisting of people because they believed the wealth should be divided more fairly, and people wanting to hang politicians because they’re pedo cannibals working for Satan, I think it’s completely okay to divide the world into the good guys and the bad guys. I can tolerate getting shit for sticking up for gays, blacks, women and under paid workers, but then they have to suck up getting told, perhaps not so politely, that they’re nuts and that there are no lizard people who wants to take their guns away and eat their children.

  112. I believe social media has killed of more careers than Harvey Weinstein (no disrespect to his victims) but celebrities have to now be very careful at what they should put out there.
    She must have known she would get some blowback but i guess her beliefs were more important than picking up a regular paycheck but one thing i would point out is that i feel Disney and Hollywood do pick and choose their fights and who to fire.

    Gail Gadot for Wonder Women is a controversial choice if your Pro Palestinian and believe in the freedom of the Palestinian people, If you believe supporting the racist apartheid state of Israel and being a member of their armed forces where she’s been implicit in the crimes against Palestinian is cool and then give her the most converted female superhero role in Hollywood? Double standards it seems.

    Im from the UK and we look a things much differently but i have to admit seeing all these celebrities getting cancelled for freedom of speech smacks of hypocrisy.
    As long as you’re not hurting anyone and inciting other’s to violence i think you should be able to say what you want.

    Also I’m Muslim and the amount of Islamaphobia i see from politicians, celebs, people every day life and they get no blow back is extremely frustrating.

  113. “getting cancelled for freedom of speech”

    A common misconception about freedom of speech is that it’s freedom of consequence, but in reality it just means that your government can’t throw you into jail, simply for not liking what you say. And so far this hasn’t happened with any of these celebrities who cry about cAnCeL cUlTuRe. They said stupid, harmful, often downright dangerous shit and felt the consequences for being assholes (at least) in public. And let’s be honest, Carano (and everybody else who got “cancelled”) is allowed to take a lawyer and sue Disney’s ass off. Not sure if she has a chance in court, but even in Germany, where we protect our workers MUCH better than in the US (not saying we are perfect in that regard, but sometimes I wonder if you Americans have any rights at your workplace), you can get fired for saying dumb things on social media. As a former employer of me said it: “If you wanna get drunk, fuck a bunch of hookers and then start a fight with the police after work, take at least your uniform off first.” Sadly (?) as the (guest) star of a popular TV show, you always wear your “uniform”.

    I do agree though that there is a bit of a, I don’t wanna say “cherry picking” going on, when it comes to who gets fired for what, but in the end it’s always up to the employer what he thinks is a fireable offense, even if it’s downright infuriating when someone doesn’t. (Ugh, Amber Heard…) But that so many people get fired at all and that quick is already a step in the right direction! Can you imagine Studios blacklisting John Wayne over certain not so nice things he said in his interviews back in the days? It’s good that studios care these days, even if it might be just to prevent financial losses.

  114. She didn’t even get fired. Her contract ran out and they opted not to renew it. I believe any company in the world has the right to do that for any reason they choose, let alone being a PR disaster that threatens their biggest cash cow. Repeat: They did not fire her. They simply elected not to GIVE HER HER OWN TV SHOW. If that’s being canceled, I guess each and every one of us has been cancelled our whole lives. Where’s my TV show, Disney? It is my understanding that the constitution guarantees me one, no matter what a dumbass I am.

    There isn’t even the tiniest, most infinitesimal sliver of injustice here. A contract was not renewed because an employee was an embarrassment in public. It’s not the fuckin’ thought police.

  115. I mean, to me, this whole thing comes down to one point Vern made — “but isn’t it okay to say that there ARE plenty of things that are right and wrong?”

    On one hand, obviously, we can be put into terrible danger by pretending there is no difference between a truth and a lie. Personally, if you think those two choices are identical, I think you’re in danger of becoming an outright nihilist.

    But as a society, deciding objective right and wrong is a pretty tricky task, mainly because I don’t know who would have the moral authority to do it. You guys really feel comfortable with the Disney corporation getting to make that call? Especially at the behest of a standard-issue twitter mob? I don’t. Like it or not, this is a pluralistic society, and that means a lot of people out there are going to have some absolutely wretched takes — and also think your (and my) takes are offensive and borderline criminal. As Hassan points out, what is and isn’t crossing the line can be a hard thing to pin down, and I sure as fuck don’t trust Twitter to make the right call on that. I got called a traitor plenty of times from 2001 onward, by people who absolutely would have tried to get me fired, get me evicted, get me kicked out of the conversation if they could manage it. And at that time, the majority of Americans would have broadly agreed with them — if not that I should be fired, at least that I was objectively wrong at best and shamefully hurting our beloved troops at worst, and that I was, at the very least, engaging in speech which might be technically legal but was socially unacceptable.

    My point is, there IS an objective right and wrong — but it can be devilishly tricky to make that distinction in the moment, which is why we set the boundaries of an open public society as wide as we possibly can, and attempt to actively shut down discussion only at our peril, and hopefully only in the most extreme circusmtances. Obviously, adopting a hands-off approach has its own perils, which we are painfully sufferinf right at this very moment, and I am in no way blind to –far from it. But I’m convinced we need a better solution than to simply try use mechanisms of power to shut down speech that we think is bad (especially speech which is obviously bad, but also extremely popular; its very weird for an actress to get fired for speech which is, if anything, manifestly less incendiary than similar statements from sitting members of Congress and top-rated TV News Show hosts; roughly 70 million Americans probably agree at least in a general way with what she said, which puts it squarely in the “mainstream,” shocking and horrifying as it is to me).

    And yes, I realize actors are contract employees so she was not technically “fired,” but come on, she was also dropped by her agency; it’s clear the point is to make sure her career ends, or at least any hope of a semi-mainstream career. What major studio is gonna hire her now? She’s blacklisted, for all intents and purposes. I doubt she could even land an S. Craig Zahler flick. She’s basically getting the Kevin Spacey treatment… for posting memes. And for the record, I also understand why Disney would do this for simple, practical, “it’s only business” reasons — if she’s posting this shit today, how far away is she from saying the N-word on film two years from now, after we’ve already invested millions in her new show? Better to play it safe and just end things now, while it’s easy. Which, fair enough.

    But my concern is more for the practice in general than this one specific case. As this sort of thing becomes the norm, rather than a rare extreme reaction to very extreme circumstances, I think we on the Left would be wise to start thinking how this could blow black at us in a very bad way, and hopefully start brainstroming better and more sustainable ideas about how to stop misinformation and right-wing extremism which don’t involve such a heavy hand, and don’t risk blowing up in our faces if the culture shifts a little bit five years from now and we find ourselves on the business end of unpopular opinions again.

  116. Sorry man, but call me again in that “What is right or wrong” debate, when a celebrity actually gets in trouble for something harmless and not being racist, sexist, transphobic, antivax, a Nazi, a sex offender, y’know, stuff that is absolutely irrefutably wrong!

    99% of all those celebs who claim that they “were cancelled for being conservative” usually either did one of these things above or still had a good going career. (Or were already on the C-list long before we knew about their shittiness. Hi, Kevin Sorbo!) I mean, Tim Allen for example can whine about Hollywood falling back into the McCarthy witch hunts as much as he wants, but he was still in TOY STORY 4, got his cancelled (because of low ratings!) sitcom revived for a few more years and is about to host a heavily advertised reality game show! All that while he was supposedly “getting blacklisted for being conservative”!

  117. I am not okay with Disney deciding right from wrong. I am perfectly okay with Disney deciding who they want on their own stupid TV shows and talent agencies deciding who they do or do not want to support. This is the entertainment industry, i.e., a literal popularity contest. When you are no longer popular for ANY REASON AT ALL, let alone mind-boggling ignorance, you get dropped. No one, not Gina Carano, not anybody, is guaranteed a spot in the entertainment industry. You want job security? UPS is hiring. You want an incredibly unlikely and perilous shot at the brass ring, then there is an extremely likely chance that you will either not achieve any success at all (the accepted outcome for 99.999999999999999% of aspiring actors with about 100 times the experience and talent as Carano) or you will get outrageously lucky and become successful for like five minutes before being forgotten for reasons as petty as audiences being unable to accept you as anything except the character you played on TV or you starred in one (1( movie that flopped or you changed your hair and nobody wanted to fuck you anymore. It is the ficklest of businesses for even decent, intelligent talented actors. So forgive me for not sparing a single tear for a non-actor who stumbled into a Hollywood career because a director happened to be up late watching sports one night and then proceeded to piss said career down her leg because a good chunk of the audience now finds her repulsive because of the views she decided to broadcast to the world. That’s one of the most justified reasons for a failed acting career that I can think of.

  118. I guess you spoke too soon about her not being able to work with S. Craig Zahler. She went right to Ben Shapiro/Dallas Sonnier’s Anything That Angers Liberals Is Automatically Worth Doing Studios, where she says she can finally truly express herself the way she always wanted. I assume her management were aware of this plan when they dropped her.

  119. Ha, of course. You can never overestimate Conservatives’ willingness to sink money into supporting unconscionable behavior out of sheer spite, so I’m sure she’s not gonna be homeless anytime soon. Hell, I’m sure those guys are already setting up deals with Rosanne and Morgan Wallan. But again, I’m not so much worried about Carano’s specific economic future as I am worried about what happens more broadly as this sort of culture-war score-settling starts to become increasingly commonplace. The argument against using the nuclear option is at least half about future self-preservation. I very strongly suspect that all of us will someday be on the unpopular side of a divisive issue, and I for one don’t fancy the idea that a hashtag that hits 50,000 retweets is enough to make a major corporation feel completely comfortable making me essentially unemployable — especially since I know I won’t have some dipshit Conservative millionaire to prop me up out of spite.

  120. I’ve read a couple of takes defending Carano, and then I saw a handful of new social media posts by her, and I don’t even think this that close of a call. She had so many chances. There was the anti-trans stuff, the anti-mask junk, the recent (accidental?) downplaying of the holocaust, and there was even a not so subtle anti-semetic the-world-is-being-controlled-by-Jews tweet. She might be too dumb to understand why these things are wrong, but most other people are not.

    Also, at what point does Disney have an ethical duty to remove someone from their employ when they’re spreading hate and misinformation that could literally kill people? Trans people are extremely vulnerable to violence. And spreading anti-mask memes during a pandemic could reasonably get someone killed. By employing her, Disney is magnifying the reach of this misinformation. I’m sure they’re probably worried about PR first and foremost, but I could imagine someone in their position also upset about aiding in the spread of hate and misinformation.

  121. The Carano firing seems pretty in keeping with what’s been happening over the last 5 years with people getting cancelled or having to go out on the apology circuit for stepping in it, whether “stepping in it” means taking a principled stand (the not-Dixie Chicks) or saying stupid shit (Gilbert Gottfried’s tsunami joke). A public forum with a permanent record is not the place to blow off steam or workshop your political hot takes, unless you’re independently wealthy or prepared to face the blowback. Keep your head down and stay with the herd is always safe, doing the opposite is always risky, so, make sure if you do the latter it’s for something principled like the not-Dixie Chicks and not some ignorant bullshit like Carano here. But the getting various-degrees-of-cancelled for veering out into controversy is nothing new and not going away soon.

  122. A couple things are true at the same time:

    (1) Disney, and big corporations in general, will fire anyone they think is hurting their bottom line, deservedly or not.

    (2) When the issue is transphobic abuse and memes about how George Soros and the Rothschilds are controlling the world and so forth, with the obnoxious posts continuing despite ample opportunities to apologise or at least shut up, then the firing (or contract non-renewal) is very, very deserved.

    I don’t think many people here would disagree with either of those points. There wouldn’t be much argument about Carano at all if not for the initial press reports that put all the emphasis on her “Republicans are just as oppressed as Holocaust victims” post, which is dumb and kind of offensive but wouldn’t normally cost an actor her job. But it’s clear now that that was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.

    It’s not that hard to tell the difference between boycotting Anita Bryant and boycotting the Dixie Chicks. We can shrug at, or celebrate, the former and push back against the latter. There’s no inconsistency.

  123. Mr. S, if likes were allowed on comments here, both of yours would get about 5 each from me!

    ” I very strongly suspect that all of us will someday be on the unpopular side of a divisive issue, and I for one don’t fancy the idea that a hashtag that hits 50,000 retweets is enough to make a major corporation feel completely comfortable making me essentially unemployable”

    EXACTLY! That’s my entire objection to cancel culture in a microcosm right fucking there!

    That, and the fact it’s all so arbitrary, depending on how far up the box-office totem pole you are and which side of the political divide you happen to fall.

    Pedro Pascal also posted a holocaust comparison photo with zero blowback. On that note, I personally wish there was a Moratorium on this shit, from BOTH the Right and the Left. Comparing every shitty thing happening in the world today, shitty as they are, to one of the worst precision-targeted atrocity propagated on a single ethnic group by a ruthlessly efficient and evil regime is bone-headedly ignorant at best, colossally disrespectful at worst.

    Liam Neeson said after a rape of a good friend whose attacker happened to be black, he prowled the streets just looking for an excuse to beat up a black guy. ANY random black guy.

    And we all know what happened to the poor guy. His career went down in flames, he became a Hollywood Pariah and it’s been awhile since he found work….oh wait…..

    And I’m with Mr. S here. Just saying she wasn’t fired but merely didn’t have her contract reviewed is being willfully obtuse. She was also dropped by her Agency and will now be black-listed from most major studio work. Effectively Kevin-Spacey-ed, for writing shit on a shitty social media platform and judged by an equally shitty mob of entitled jerks on par with an asshole with a long history of documented abusive behavior.

    Yeah she happened to be discovered by an acclaimed director watching TV one night. So what? Supermodels have been discovered waiting tables and super-athletes were discovered on a random high school field in some sleepy town. Iko Uwais was discovered by Gareth Evans doing a Silat demonstration. So it’s no big deal if Carano gets her career deep-sixed because she didn’t slog away in random commercials, bit parts in sit coms and walk-ons in direct-to-video stuff for 10 years before hitting the big time?

    Christ…these truly are shitty times

  124. Again: Carano has a tweet up, still undeleted, about how Jews are running the world. Comparing this with Pedro Pascal’s Instagram posts or Neeson’s apologetic confession is obtuse.

  125. CJ..the fact that Charlie Sheen showed up late and drunk already tips him over into unprofessional behavior. I’m sure Oliver Reed nailed every take on GLADIATOR before accepting a drinking challenge in a pub and then keeling over from a fatal heart attack.

    My point was just how much rights does a terminally unfunny Zach Galifiniakis (yeah, I said it!) have to say he’s not working with Mel Gibson (that too for what amounted to at most 2 days of shooting for a cameo role) in HANGOVER 3 based purely on shit he’s HEARD about Gibson as opposed to actually experiencing a bad working experience with him. Just as well the Neeson interview about wanting to beat up black guys didn’t drop then else they’d be scrambling for the next Big Star with peerless off screen reputation. Which so far as I can see, boils down to Denzel Washington, Tom Hanks and Keanu Reeves.

    If Bryce Dallas Howard never wanted to work with Christian Bale again after getting ringside seats to his infamously toxic rant on TERMINATOR SALVATION, I’d understand. But expecting exemplary behavior from our colleagues outside of work and if they don’t measure up, demand that they be fired or in the case of Gibson, not hired? Especially since the 1st HANGOVER featured a convicted rapist? How far down this rabbit hole do you want to go?

  126. Comparing this with Pedro Pascal’s Instagram posts or Neeson’s apologetic confession is obtuse.

    No, it’s not.

    Both Neeson and Carano made willfully stupid and venal comments from their celebrity perch. Only one got blackballed while the other has his latest entry in the aging action hero sub-genre rolling off the assembly line in a month.

    I’m not defending either of their actions, merely objecting to arbitrary standards of punitive measures they’re being subjected to, mostly by a legion of asinine keyboard warriors.

    But let’s take our blinkers off for a second and acknowledge an incontrovertible truth: If Carano had taken the standard Celebrity Apology route, this conversation wouldn’t exist.

  127. And I realize nuance flew out the window a long time ago where discussions like these are concerned, but when exactly did Carano make transphobic comments?

    The way I understood it, she was asked to put the he/she pronoun on her Twitter bio, and refused, and was then abused by the Twitter fucktards until she put “Beep/Bop/Boop” in her bio with this statement:

    “Beep/bop/boop has zero to do with mocking trans people & to do with exposing the bullying mentality of the mob that has taken over the voices of many genuine causes”

    Anything transphobic there? BTW, she later removed the pronoun after Pedro Pascal talked to her.

    She also tweeted this:

    “I don’t think trans people would like all of you trying to force a woman to put something in her bio through harassment & name calling EVERYDAY for MONTHS. Such as ‘Racist Transphobe’ ‘Bi**h’ ‘Weirdo’ ‘I hope you die’ ‘I hope you lose your career’ ‘your fat, you’re ugly'”

    Sounds perfectly reasonable to me (I also want to make it clear I’m NOT conflating all her tweets here and excusing her other idiotic comments about Jews and COVID).

    She wasn’t anti-trans merely anti-“PROVE you’re pro-trans by adopting this pronoun or else…”

    Funny, in the real world, when you interact with real human beings and bring such emotionally manipulative, entitled and bullying jerk-like behavior to the table, you’d be shown the door pretty quick.

  128. It also must be said regarding Neeson: It’s not like he sat down and proclaimed “I hate Ni**rs!”. He told a story from his earlier life, about how a bad thing that happened to someone close to him, turned him into a racist lunatic for a while, as an example for how horrible revenge is in real life, compared to the popcorn fun in movies. And he even ended the story with how horrible he felt for ever having these thoughts.

    Yes, it was a stupid thing to bring up out of the blue while promoting your movie, but “I once had racist thoughts, but feel horrible about it ever since” is not the same as “Evil lizard pedos who invented the Covid hoax stole the election from Trump, but the cancel culture is trying to put us in concentration camps for being conservative Christians!”

    As Trevor Noah said, Neeson’s words would’ve caused less trouble if he said it in a proper interview, where he would be asked follow up questions and could elaborate on it more, but just the fact that he feels bad for ever having this thoughts makes it less problematic. I don’t think no interview ever could change Carano’s words into a “Oh, now I understand where she is coming from. Glad we cleared that up, sorry for thinking bad of you.”

  129. She clicked “like” on a joke mocking pronouns in bios, and then people started defending pronoun-listing and telling her it was the decent thing to do. It’s not like they started demanding that she list her own pronouns out of the blue. Her response was to change her Twitter name to “Gina Carano boop/bop/beep,” so that you’d see it with every tweet she made, not just if you clicked through to read her bio. Unsurprisingly, this caused a bit of a fuss. She got abuse, much of it over the line — “I hope you die,” that sort of thing — and that’s ugly, but it doesn’t retroactively justify her own mockery of trans people.

    She did eventually back down after talking to Pascal and make a quasi-apology, and she deserves credit for that, but he was hardly the first person to explain to her why she was upsetting people. It shouldn’t have needed intervention from a coworker.

    I don’t see the comparison with Neeson. He was talking about something from his past that he regrets. He did it in a hamfisted way, and got some flak from the press and public for a few days, and I’d say that’s about what he deserved. If he’d gone on making more and more asinine statements then his career would be in a different place, but he didn’t.

  130. So, one of the basic assumptions of this cancel culture debate is that if conservatives get fired for being anti-trans, anti-semitic, or outright racist, then you’re just going to embolden the right to get liberals and leftists fired for their offenses. If you are on the left, then there’s going to be blowback.

    For a long time, I’ve sort of accepted this framing, but I’ve realized recently that it is complete and total BS. If those on the left stop speaking out against big names that spew bigotry, it’s not going to stop people on the left with controversial beliefs from getting fired. And we know this because this isn’t just a phenomenon of leftists taking things too far. Colin Kaepernick is the most obvious example, but several academics and writers have been let go because they were critical of Israel, a history professor at Ole Miss was likely just fired because of his research on the carceral state, and Republicans are passing laws trying to ban the teaching New York Times’s 1619 project. I can guarantee you that no matter what happens to right wing celebrities, this sort of stuff is going to continue. And usually when someone on the left gets fired for their beliefs, they’re not going to get someone at the New York Times writing a column to defend them.

    How else do we know that firing right wing celebrities for their bigotry won’t have any effect, good or bad, on the ability of the left to freely speak out? We know because for decades conservatives have been complaining about political correctness while policing the speech of liberals. People have already brought up Donahue and the Dixie Chicks as examples of what we don’t want to happen if this whole cancel culture thing gets out of control. But we forget that at the time, conservatives were complaining about political correctness while they were getting these folks fired. They used political correctness as a shield while skewering liberals for what was at the time politically incorrect speech.

    You can debate the merits of individual cases of “cancelling,” but there’s no detente to have. After the last four years at least, it should be clear that if those on the left ease up in calling out conservatives, conservatives will go twice as hard in trying to hurt leftists. So basically, you have conservatives and leftists entering a knife fight, and conservatives keep on trying to convince the leftist that if they put down their knife, then they can just have a fist fight. And once the leftist puts down their knife, they’re going to get stabbed to death.

  131. I’m with RBAtty. There is no profit in pretending a scoundrel has any honor. We cannot base our actions on the utterly erroneous assumption that our opponents will act in kind. They are hypocrites and will use any compromise we grant them as an excuse to stab us in the back later. We see it again and again. We can only do what we think is right. We cannot control what evil assholes will choose to distort that rightness into. Because eventually, history decides. Yes, the Dixie Chicks faced initial blowback. Now they have been proven right, and they are even more beloved BECAUSE they took that unpopular stance. Will the same happen to Carano and her currently “unpopular” views? Doubtful, because she is a moron and her views are easily disprovable. History will prove her wrong. There is no downside to smacking down assholes and taking their platforms away. If their views have merit, the pendulum will swing back. If they don’t, well, apparently Ben Shapiro is hiring.

  132. I dunno, I just can’t shake the feeling that if I saw it done to “us” and thought it was wrong, we shouldn’t be doing it either. I mean, yeah, Conservatives do this bullshit just as much or more, but look at them now: it cost them every little sliver of a soul they once possessed. I don’t want to have to become them to beat them.

  133. Then be prepared to lose. The high road has no effect on people with no shame.

  134. Also, I honestly have no problem with what happened to Carano or anybody else who got “cancelled.” She became unpopular. The people who made money off her popularity dumped her. That is the cycle of showbiz life. There is nothing in the constitution or the social contract that states that once you have become accustomed to a certain level of success, your financial backers and the public at large are required to keep you at that level despite your own actions. She said what she had to say. Nobody stopped her. Now she’s dealing with the consequences of that: People hate her now and no longer want to watch her on TV. In her own meatheaded way, she chose personal integrity over monetary success, which is something we would applaud if she actually knew what the fuck she was talking about. The system seems to be working just fine to me.

  135. I guess the only question is to what extent are some of “the cancelled” actually unpopular? Sure, a lot of people have come to hate Carano over the past six months, but are there really enough people that if she were in THE MANDELORIAN Season 3 the numbers would be way down? Maybe, maybe not. I guess you could say it’s not a risk worth taking.

    But I do think that Twitter has a disproportionate effect on how celebrities are covered and talked about in the mainstream media. The most incredible example of this to me was the media’s fascination about the “worst Chris” stuff about Chris Pratt, based on a relative handful of tweeters claiming that he’s a homophobe and a Trump supporter, even though there’s no actual evidence to support the former and to the extent that there’s any evidence relating to the later it goes the other way (he was an Obama supporter). But there were somewhat respectable outlets covering this story, and most incredible to me were actually reaching out to Pratt to comment on it. This would be like if 25 years ago a newspaper expected Richard Gere to comment because a writer overheard another table at a restaurant saying he was awful because of the gerbil rumour. You could explain it if this were a slow news day maybe, but there were none of those in 2020. And of course a couple of months later when Starlord came out as Bi in the comics, some sites were all “how will notorious homophobe Chris Pratt react”?

    Now Pratt hasn’t lost any work, and I shed no tears for Carano; I can believe she was/is naïve and stubborn/narcissistic rather than transphobic, and people in general are way to quick to pull out the “we’re Berlin 1938 right now!!!” stuff (I miss the days when people said “Godwin’s Law” all the time), but she did spread a lot of anti-mask BS so she can get fucked*, I guess I just hope Twitter’s prominence in our culture recedes over the decade, because I don’t think it did the 2010s much good at all.

    *I had Covid over Christmas BTW

  136. Subtlety, part of my difficulty is that Carano is more of a troll than an activist, so, I think this is a false equivalency. It’s not like you’d be run right out of Hollywood for saying “I’m a conservative” or “I oppose Medicare for All.” In the case of the Dixie Chicks, I think the big fallout stems from the fact that the country music fanbase has a stronger conservative contingent. They took a position that they had to know would piss off most of the Toby Keith set, and that is what happened. I don’t see anything particularly omnious or inexplicable about either situation, though, I think the difference is that Carano is wrong and a troll.

  137. I want to back of Pegsman and remind people that the McCarthy Blacklist was against people suspected of being communist even if they weren’t. And they weren’t just dropped by a single studio or agency. They were prohibited from working anywhere. So no Ben Shapiro movie for them.

    It’s remarkable to me how this idea of “cancel culture” started as a joke when people tweeted someone was cancelled as a hyperbolic way of saying they didn’t like them anymore. Then people took it literally as OHMYGOD PC RUN AMOK. Meanwhile people have been fired for abhorrent takes since before Twitter. Remember the Duck dynasty guys?

    To the person who said above about not using Twitter to express every hot take in the works, bravo. It’s also remarkable how in only ten years people have adopted Twitter as a necessary component of life and career. You don’t have to be tweeting. You can have private conversations with your friends. It’s a free public forum that allows Jack Dorsey to make money off your content the more followers you have. That comes with caveats.

    And KayKay, Liam Neeson has had several big studio movies come out since his Cold Pursuit snafu and he’s still working. Not remotely cancelled.

  138. The really fucked up thing about The Chicks is that it wasn’t country music fans that sunk them. It was a political action group claiming to be country music fans. They bombarded radio stations with calls saying they would boycott them if they played their music, so since most radio stations were on the cusp dying and didn’t have any deep pockets conglomerate backing them any more, they caved. All those news stories about people burning their albums were either planted by the political group or dumbfucks who fell for their ploy and jumped on the bandwagon.

  139. “People hate her now and no longer want to watch her on TV”

    The Twitterverse, that Utopian Bastion of Rational Thought is now a good sampling of the viewing public?

  140. And KayKay, Liam Neeson has had several big studio movies come out since his Cold Pursuit snafu and he’s still working. Not remotely cancelled.

    I was being sarcastic Franchise Fred…

    “But I do think that Twitter has a disproportionate effect on how celebrities are covered and talked about in the mainstream media”

    In a nutshell, my biggest issue. That a bunch of keyboard warriors willing to dig out decades old tweets and weaponize them against a celebrity has enough cache with major studios to decide their fates. Carano is just the easiest target so far. She keeps posting new shit and refuses to apologize. How far before this goes from “Fire Gina Carano for posting reprehensible shit and for not apologizing” to “Fire [insert celebrity] for saying reprehensible shit, yeah they apologized but still, fire their ass cause we still don’t like ’em” ?

    I guess I feel like Sarah Connor outside a dusty gas station seeing looming dark clouds of an emerging Digital Autocracy where people need to adhere to specific viewpoints in line with the majority, the violation of which requires extensive Penitence before being allowed back into the fold.

    If you think this system works just fine, good for you

    I’m gonna take the Red Pill, thanks

    Peace out.

  141. I think it’s hilarious that one (1) woman loses a business opportunity and suddenly it’s a greater portent of doom than the literal thousands of corrupt racist rapists who skate by on their myriad crimes and malfeasances every single day since the dawn of time, including just this week when the most blatantly criminal head of state in American history was let off scot-free by his shamelessly complicit and cowardly accomplices in government. But this one (1) instance of extraordinarily mild consequences for an inordinately successful person who abused her unearned platform to spread misinformation and hate is a sign of the coming apocalypse. I truly wish I lived in a world where the main problem is that shitty people are held TOO accountable for their actions.

  142. Although I agree with the general sentiment that Carano deserves to be in timeout, I also do think that some extremes of so-called “cancel culture” are problematic and worth critiquing. And I think it’s possible to critique them while still thinking that they are far down the list of threats to American democracy or the fate of humanity. The reductio ad absurdum is something like “climate change is the biggest problem and is therefore the only thing worth caring, complaining, or talking about.” I prefer the “walk and chew gum” perspective which says that I don’t have to deny one concern to affirm another. I am concerned to wildly varying degrees about Trumpism, climate change, asteroids, super-volcanoes, social media, deficit spending, terrorism, the excesses of woke culture, the threat of white nationalism, income inequality, regressive taxes, North Korea’s nuclear program, the Uighurs, and the limbo state of both the FRIDAY THE 13TH franchise and Rakim’s solo career.

    Anyway, if you hear me shitting on woke culture, it’s primarily as an intramural discussion among progressives who already agree that the Trump presidency, white nationalism, voter suppression, and passing regressive tax legislation are all horrifying, depressing realities. I don’t talk about them much, because their shittiness seems uncontroversial. I assume that’s why Subtlety raised the issue — as an intramural discussion among people who are mostly of a large-D Democrat persuasion.

  143. One thing that this discussion made me realize, is that too many of you bought into the narrative that Cancel Culture is a thing that actually exists. That when someone gets caught doing a shitty thing in public and faces consequences for it, it’s only because a few thousand social media users sent out a hashtag! These things were just called “shitstorm” a few years ago and just like then, it’s just a week or two of outrage, before everybody moves on.

    The people who actually lost their jobs or even went to jail did so, because they said and did something that their employer (or the law) simply couldn’t ignore. All in all it’s just a new version of #Kony2012, only with the difference, that this time someone can do something about it (Because it’s simply a workplace issue, isntead of a foreign dictator) and was most likely already on it, before the shitstorm gained traction.

  144. I’m not saying we can only complain about one problem at a time. But the timing of this particular complaint is absurd to me. There are no functional systems in place to even begin to holding the vast majority of rich/famous/powerful people accountable for the damage they cause, yet I’m supposed to get upset that sometimes morons willingly show their ass in public and piss off their customers to the point where their employers don’t want to work with them anymore. Clearly, the game is every bit as rigged as it has always been and society is not under any threat of being held hostage by a lynch mob of vengeful woketivists. The dangers of “cancel culture” are nebulous and hypothetical, while the dangers of the forces it has arisen in reaction to are pressing and omnipresent. Forgive me for being more pissed off about the injustices happening right this second than the potential dystopia that might happen decades down the road if just this one time in the history of human civilization it’s the progressives who get too much power and start abusing it.

  145. I obviously agree that wealthy and politically connected people have all kinds of swell tools to entrench and growth their power at the direct expense of the mass public, and I obviously agree that all the usual shitty people are shitty people. There is a website called canceledpeople.com that provides lots of good links to actual people who experienced significant actual consequences for behaviors that are not obviously egregious or beyond the pale (or at least weren’t 5-7 years ago). Another website is thefire.org. Many of the individual case studies captured there are kind of self-defeating in the sense that they show people getting arguably justifiable consequences for behavior that is somewhere in the iffy-to-shitty portion of the spectrum. But if you dig through a large enough tranche of them, you do find lots of people who seemed to be the victim of a kind of moral panic. David Shor’s firing is another good example.

  146. I’m not saying it’s a perfect system. It is flawed as fuck, and in a functional society, would be both unnecessary and dangerous. But here in the actual world/bug-ridden computer simulation of same, extremely online public outrage seems to be the only weapon the people have against the utterly bought-and-paid-for machine that doesn’t even pretend it’s not there to grind us to a slurry and strip us of our nutrients. So while I sympathize with those innocent by-standers injured in the melee, I am not quite ready to ask the masses to throw away their sole form of self-defense. What I truly wish for is a society in which such a weapon is no longer required, one where fair and just laws held us all accountable for our actions, but that’s such a laughable pipe dream that I can’t even come up with a suitable analogy to mock it.

  147. “The Box. You opened it. We came”

  148. I want to point out that I never used the phrase “cancel culture.” Often, when people fret about that particular boogey man, they’re basically upset that when people say unpopular or controversial things, other people get mad at them. They want freedom from criticism, which, of course, is so ridiculous as to barely warrant a response. You shoot your mouth off, you better be ready for people to respond.

    Where things get tricky for me is when we exit the realm of social consequences, and enter the realm of actual practical and economic sanctions. At that point, we’re not talking about speech anymore, we’re talking about outright coercive measures, actions intended to not only to actively punish the person talking, but to intimidate anyone else away from repeating their transgression. It’s one thing to argue with someone; it’s quite another to demand that they be fired*, particularly since doing so now often puts the power to make the call about the severity of the offense in the hands of some big, hegemonic corporation.

    There are, of course, times when this is probably reasonable or even unavoidable. The people caught storming the Capitol, for example, or open white supremacists, or perhaps people who commit really shocking crimes; these are cases where I think we can feel confident identifying actions and attitudes so far beyond the pale that society has a right, and indeed perhaps a duty, to functionally exile the offender.

    But those cases are not equivalent, I think, to simple bad opinions. The fact is, very little of what Carano said would qualify as an extreme opinion in today’s Conservative mediasphere. Tucker Carlton is saying worse shit every single night. The former fucking President, and sitting senators and representatives, have made similar statements, and not much more eloquently. Something like 70 million people are probably on-board with her viewpoints to some degree. Even the anti-vax stuff, which I would argue is actively dangerous, is backed by something like 30,000,000 people — that’s more than the entire population of Jewish and Muslim people in the united states, put together. This isn’t aberrant, deviant behavior — this stuff is mainstream from something like a third of the population. This is a whole political party. You can’t just put this back in the box and pretend it never happened. We’ve got to fight it, and we’ve got to win — but we’ve also got to acknowledge that to tens of millions of Americans, this is a very legitimate point of view. Attempting to intimidate adherents into silence is a betrayal of the most basic tenets of a pluralistic society (not that they’re not trying to do the same thing, of course — but that doesn’t make it right).

    Of course, part of that same pluralism is that we’re allowed to vote with our consumer dollar, so on the surface it doesn’t seem unreasonable that your employer –Disney or whoever– might say, ‘wow, these incendiary opinions you’re expressing are going to end up costing us customers, so you’re out. It’s simple business, no moral judgement at all.’ And if that’s all it was, who could complain? Just a simple case of people to express their preferences. If that’s how it was working, who could legitimately complain?

    But the problem is that ideological groups are getting increasingly good at distorting the reality of the situation in exactly the way MaggieMayPie describes above. It happened to James Gunn a while back; a relatively tiny group of people decided to attack a political opponent by acting in bad faith, and pretended to be offended so they could cultivated the appearance of a groundswell of (totally phony) bad PR. And initially they got exactly what the wanted! In that case, cooler heads eventually prevailed, but that was a guy which tons of money and capital to make his case; most people don’t have that. The point of doing that was explicitly to try and ruin a guy as a warning to others about expressing their political opinion, in that case, criticizing Trump. Did it have an effect? I don’t know. But certainly you don’t have to watch too many people lose their jobs before you start to think it’s not worth it to publicly express an opinion. And that’s just no way to have an open society.

    Basically, when we consider the very idea of political opposition illegitimate, we’re getting into very dangerous territory. Literally dangerous; like, shooting each other in the streets dangerous. I’m hoping we’re not quite there yet, but guys, there are some very fucking worrisome signs here. Obviously one stupid shitty actress losing a gig is not that, but it’s worrisome as a sign of how deeply fractured and polarized the whole landscape has become, and how good (and how comfortable) both left and right have become at weaponizing the culture war. We’ve got to fight these right wing nutjobs, obviously, and we’ve got to win — but we’ve got to do it in a way which still leaves some social structures standing to come back to. Otherwise, even if we win, everyone loses.

    Thank you for reading, and for being a bastion of the internet where we can talk about this kind of thing in at least a semi-productive way…

    *Again, I know that actors are contract employees.

  149. Addendum: I didn’t see Mr. M’s “I’m not saying it’s a perfect system” response before I posted, and just want to say that despite everything I just said, I also agree with basically every word he said, and in a different mood could easily find myself making the exact same argument.

    I think I wanted to express my concern (or vent?) here just because (at least in the circles I tend to run in) I tend to hear more people who are comfortable with the “by and means necessary” approach than people who are concerned about the possible consequences thereof. I understand both perspectives, and worry about either one running unchecked.

  150. The weird thing is that, before social media, the vast majority of people simply didn’t express opinions publicly in the current sense of “public.” Maybe if you were super-ambitious, you wrote a letter-to-the-editor to your local newspaper. Beyond that, if you expressed your opinion it was mostly privately to your friends and family.

    I do agree that there is a bit of a mob mentality that actually does exist on both sides (this from a person who is reflexively wary of both sides-ism). We need a “this is your brain on social media” ad campaign or something, because I think that is what social media does: it’s a polarization/outrage machine. The thing to remember is that the twitter-verse is absolutely not representative of mainstream views:

    How Twitter Users Compare to the General Public

    Twitter users are younger, more likely to identify as Democrats, more highly educated and have higher incomes than U.S. adults overall.

    As I see it, the real action is IRL, giving money and time to candidates and talking with your open-minded family and friends and neighbors about the importance of political engagement and then just trying to model what you want to see out there. What else can you do but that. For my part, I think you are an exemplary model for how not to be a dick online, so, you’re winning half the battle G.I. Joe.

  151. Mr. Subtlety–It seems like you’re suggesting that we need to engage people in the marketplace of ideas and that sanctioning people in public isn’t going to solve the problems we face. That’s how I thought a few years ago, but I just don’t think that robust public debate accomplishes what we think it does. You might be able to move the needle a little, but using logic, argument, and facts isn’t going to defeat bigotry and conspiracy theories. People believe this nonsense for a whole host of reasons, and it’s not simply because they don’t have the proper facts. The right facts are out there. Debate won’t necessarily lead them to them.

    Let’s take racism, for instance. I used to think that racism was about ignorance. If we just taught people that biological race wasn’t real and that historical conditions have caused racial inequalities, then they would see the light. But for many people racism is a choice because it’s less about ignorance and more about power. It gives you the power, at the very least, to mock and dehumanize others. It gives you an in-group and sense of belonging. You’re not going to prevent people, perhaps most people, from being racist simply by educating them.

    I really think the only way to solve some of these social problems are through the imposition of cultural norms. This might seem like curtailing freedom, but we’ve always lived with norms. Usually, it was imposed on the left. What’s new is that the internet has allowed minorities and underrepresented people to have a say. The internet has also given people access to whatever bigoted and hateful beliefs they want to peruse. In order to have a real debate, we need to establish the boundaries and norms of those debates and state unequivocally that some things are off limits, otherwise we’re never going to make progress on these issues. Anti-semitism, racism, misogyny, conspiracy theories, totalitarianism should be outside of the norms of our debate. And when a public figure wades into these areas, then I have no problem using the public to chastise them, and even hurting their pocket books.

    And, again, there’s nothing new to this, except for the infrastructure that delivers us information. We’ve always had to deal with norms imposing themselves on public debate (both good and bad). We have to be far less Kantian about all these things–trying to come up with universal rules and all that junk. We really need to think about individual cases and whether they deserve sanction. After seeing some of the social media posts by Carano, I’m all for firing her. It was the right move morally.

    And like I said above, if we fight to keep bigots as a part of the conversation, conservatives will in no way return the favor. They’ll continue to try and smear people as Marxists and socialists. None of the people on the right try to engage on this topic in good faith.

  152. I take a pretty libertarian view on free speech. As a matter of legal free speech, I support of the right of private individuals to say stupid shit, like saying that the holocaust never happened, that all Mormon doctrine is literally true, that being gay is a choice, that women belong in the kitchen, that white people are all evil, that men are monsters, that we should have separate ethno-states. All incorrect and harmful beliefs, in my opinion. I only just learned a few months ago that it’s illegal in Germany to deny the holocaust, and although I appreciate the history, I still think it’s a good thing that in America that a private citizen can be an anti-vax holocaust denying literal creationist horoscope enthusiast. Short of directly encouraging violence, I’m very wary of any legal speech boundaries.

    I also think private platforms are within their rights to decide what kind of speech they allow. On some level, I have faith in the American experiment, or even if I don’t have faith in it, I value it.

    At the same time, I share the political goal of bulldozing right over the GOP at every turn and not entertaining any notion that old school “bipartisanship” is really a thing. For the most part, I think Biden is playing it smart by being minimally threatening to anyone talking bipartisanship but then meanwhile just moving right forward with his policies. If they were smart, they’d find some way to get everyone including Manchin to abandon the filibuster and then just bulldoze a progressive agenda through. One thing the modern GOP has taught us is that they by and large are craven, anti-democratic, motivated entirely by naked will to power, and cannot be trusted to act in good faith. So, priority #1 is to marginalize them and oppose them until they tap out, because they are velociraptors who will rip our guts out and eat them if we let them.

  153. Rbatty — I’m extremely sympathetic to what you’re saying, but the fact is that “imposing norms” is an easy thing to say, but a very fucking hard thing to do. Whose norms? Who gets to decide when they’ve been broken? It might sound easy and obvious to say that racism or anti-semitism should be out-of-bounds. In fact, you’ll find the vast majority of the American public, including most Conservatives, agree with that statement. They just don’t agree on what qualifies. Take the post that got Carano booted, comparing persecuted Conservatives to Holocaust victims. Is it asinine? Sure. Hyperbolic? No doubt. An insulting comparison? Almost certainly. Is it anti-Semitic? Not on its face; I mean, the basic text is clear that what happened to Holocaust victims was real, and was a bad thing. There’s nothing anti-Semitic about it …except that this kind of ridiculous, hyperbolic false equivalence is exactly the kind of thing an anti-Semite might use to diminish the seriousness of the Holocaust (“Wow, everyone thinks oppression is bad when it happens to Jews, but it’s fine when it happens to Conservatives? Seems like whoever controls the media has a double standard”)

    Likewise, even Trump’s famous “Mexican Rapists” speech: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best… They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

    Is it a dog whistle? Abso-fucking-lutely. Is it stoking racist resentment? Very likely to have that effect. Is it racist? I mean, he says right there one sentence later that some are good people, so obviously he doesn’t have a problem with the “race,” writ large. And it’s hard to argue he’s 100% full of shit; after all, it is true that some “Mexican” immigrants have “lots of problems,” and of course some small minority of them do bring drugs and crime and so on. You and I both know his primary concern is not about public safety, but that’s the nature of a dog whistle. On the surface, it’s often a rather innocuous statement. To call it racist is to hypothesize motive. And while I personally feel perfectly comfortable doing so in this case, I have my doubts about simply handing that duty over to Twitter or Disney or whoever. I mean, what are you gonna do, punish anyone who points out that some Mexican immigrants commit crimes?

    The problem, in other words, is bath faith — it’s the same Lee Atwater bullshit we’ve been struggling to fight since the 60’s. There ARE norms about these things, we have them already, and we enforce them. But the bad actors have found excellent means of making their points so indirectly that it’s rare to catch them red-handed. In order to enforce these norms in any meaningful way, you’re mostly going to be attacking people for things that are superficially defensible but “advance a narrative favorable to racist values.” Which, exactly as Atwater predicted, is so abstract that it’s almost impossible to enforce it in any kind of fair way.

    Which raises the question of who ultimately gets to make the calls to enforce norms. Frankly, there aren’t a lot of institutions in the position to do it that I trust even slightly. And since we’re talking about social norms, any institution that tried to enforce this stuff would need to have such moral authority that the vast majority of Americans felt comfortable making them, in effect, the morality police. None come to mind, and even if one began the job with that moral authority, it sure as fuck isn’t gonna hold onto it long as every single decision they make pisses more people off.

    And also, I gotta say… what you’re essentially arguing here is that you and I have the right –and the responsibility, even– to set the moral agenda for the population of the country, and really, in fact, the world, since it’s not like Disney or Twitter know any National boundaries. That’s a pretty serious claim. In order to make that claim, you have to assume that we, us, right now at this point in time, are objectively 100% correct about what values should be enforced, to the degree that those who disagree are not just wrong, but should be punished for arguing. I just don’t think anyone is in that position, and, in fact, the more certain you or anyone else is that they are, the less comfortable I am with giving them that power.

    Which is all to say: believe me, I hear your frustration. You are absolutely not wrong about the problem here; if we ever doubted it before, the last few years have taught us that the old axiom “A lie can travel around the world and back again while the truth is lacing up its boots” is not just true, it’s a dangerous understatement. The “marketplace of ideas” is not, apparently, a good mechanism for achieving sane, sensible consensus based on reason (although it should be noted that if it is a “marketplace,” Leftists have not, by and large, been very effective salespeople). We obviously have to do something, because right now it’s pushing us towards dangerous chaos. But I remain unconvinced that at this point that it is either right or possible to simply re-impose our view of the world through coercion. Logic and reason aren’t gonna do the job, but economically sanctioning the better part of one hundred million people is a very dangerous thing to bank on, with a lot of possibility of blowing up right in our faces (maybe in a very fucking literal sense). I very much share your concern, but we’ve got to be smarter than that if we have any hope of resolving these differences without spiraling into violet chaos — which, I think we both agree, is a terrifyingly real possibility here, and one which we absolutely cannot risk.

    One admittedly small thing that might help is a more comprehensive system for “rating” the veracity of online claims, which is starting to happen in more limited ways. We may not be able to control morality, but I think it’s maybe not too late to bring at least a significant percentage of Americans back to some degree of baseline reality. The FCC fairness doctrine was an example of something like that which was at least minimally effective in its time; it would be a daunting task to apply something like that to the modern internet, but not a completely impossible one; Twitter tags are a decent starting point, although I think they need to be expanded with a rigorous explanation in order to really carry much weight. “Norms” are tough, but facts at least have some tenuous link to a shared reality, and restoring them to the center of the debate is probably the first step towards a cautious reconciliation.

  154. The problem with “allowing everybody to say everything for reasons of free speech” is that it is a pretty hypocritical thing to begin with. I do not call you a hypocrite, Skani, but there is this, how I call it, “goatfucker clause”.

    You might have heard this story. A few years ago, a German late night host was reading in his show what he thought was a “satirical poem” about Turkish dictator Erdogan, in which he called him, among other things, a “pedophile goatfucker”. The thing became a whole political affair, considering that Erdogan obviously didn’t think that it was satirical or fun at all and and suddenly everybody was discussing if it really went too far or if it was a matter of free speech and “satire is allowed to be hurtful”. (Not to mention that Erdogan is, to say it nicely, not really one of the good guys to begin with, so fuck his feelings.)

    But for me, the whole discussion boiled down to one thing, that sadly got lost while everybody was yelling at each other.: If any of the free spech and satire supporters would’ve been insulted as “pedophile goatfuckers” on national television, would they laugh it off and with a chuckled “Aw man, you got me there with your biting satire” just support his right for free speech or would they instantly call their lawyer and demand at least an apology?

    Also to elaborate on the Holocaust denying in Germany thing: Even here you get a trial, so the “freedom of speech” thing, which, as I said earlier, prevents the leaders of your country from having the police drag you out of your house at night and lock you up in a dark hole for the next 50 years because you made a joke about them on Twitter, still applies.

  155. CJ, I’m not suggesting that Germany does not have free speech. My understanding is that there is a specific prohibition against holocaust denial that is limited to that special case, not that there is some general set of speech restrictions per se. And to be clear, I think that’s a really interesting case, and I’ve debated it a little bit with a friend. His argument in defense of the restriction is that the holocaust was such an awful, traumatic event and such an important national memory and reminder, that its denial is dangerous, immoral, and cannot be allowed. That is a decent but ultimately unpersuasive argument in my view. Do feel free to elaborate, though, if you feel I’ve misconstrued it.

    As to your Erdogan/goatlover point, I don’t find that persuasive, but maybe I don’t understand it. Is your point that free speech can hurt people’s feelings and that this is a good reason to restrict it? Have you seen any of those Jimmy Kimmel “Mean Tweets” where celebrities read actual tweets saying the meanest shit about them and try to be good sports about it (with varying success)? Or the tradition of celebrity roasts? Or the “tell-all” autobiography? Here, the cultural value at work is the idea of having a thick skin. Satire and calling a person names are clearly protected speech, and I think they should be. I don’t personally love the mean stuff, but I’m not for making it illegal.

    Turning to other types of speech, there are some caveats and side points here. I mentioned direct calls for violence as an existing — and in my view justified– exception to otherwise robust free speech rights. I would say that doxxing is another case that should be an exception, and there are ongoing efforts to put stronger laws in place in that area. Same with defamation and libel. There are legal channels on the books to address these, but I understand that they are not super effective in practice. But satire and calling mean names are clearly protected.

    Subtlety raises a good point about fact-checking. I am all for further development of robust fact-checking practices and tools. And I agree that fact speech is a little different from opinion speech. I think it is important for key institutions (public and private) to take principled stands on the importance of facts, and it’s neither practically ethical nor workable to give everyone an equal platform. The question is whether the citizenry and our institutions have and can further develop an overall adequate immune system against misinformation that is sufficient to keep existing and progressing as a society. For example, can we still achieve our vaccination goals without literally banning anti-vax speech? Can we have free and fair elections and peaceful transfers of power without literally banning people from denying the results? That is very much an open question, but I don’t see authoritarianism or speech-restricting laws per se as an obviously better (ethically or practically) path forward.

  156. Sorry, wasn’t implying that you would view the Holocaust denial ban as some kind of censorship, just wanted to elaborate for a bit on it before someone else distorts it, because I know from experience that there are a few misconceptions about it.

    The other things that you bring up, the roasts and the mean tweets, they are basically pre-chewed, light hearted jabs for entertainment. I can’t see Jimmy Kimmel hand Bryan Cranston a tweet that accuses him of raping children and animals. They are usually just mean enough to brush them off. “Moby’s head looks like a lightulb.” or “Ed Sheeran sings like a hungry cat”. Same with those celebrity roasts, where a bunch of your celebrity friends throw some jokes at you, that they know you can take. (Unless you are Chevy Chase and everybody truly hates you.)

    But my point in this case really was: You might say that people should be allowed to say everything, no matter how wrong it is*, but are you willing to defend that right if it goes into “You are a pedophile goatfucker” territory? It’s easy to say “Haha, but he was insulting a bad guy and most of all he wasn’t insulting me!”, but would you really be able to shrug it off because he was just using his right of free speech and for whatever reason these words count in a twisted world as satire?

    *And I think we all agree that they should be, because that’s how free speech works. Just if and how they should face consequences for their words seems to be a bit of a problem here.

  157. I think I’m tracking you, but where is the problem, though? Seems like there are a few issues in play. The satire piece is particularly relevant, because if you can show that what you are doing is intended as satire (or, more broadly, fiction/art), this is tantamount to claiming that what you are saying was not intended as an assertion of fact (or, e.g., as a literal call to action), but that it was, rather, intended as an attempt at humor or art. A good example of this is the (canceled!) Will Wilkinson, who made the joke, ‘If Biden really wanted unity, he’d lynch Mike Pence’.

    To me, it is a straightforward answer: If it can be reasonably shown that it was an attempt at humor or satire or symbolic-artistic expression (I would not consider overt doxxing an attempt at humor satire), then its not libelous or defamatory or violent incitement. I’m sure there will be legitimate edge cases, as there always are, but I think the general “is it plausibly satire/art?” test is a decent one that handles many of the cases.

    Not knowing the full context, I can’t really take a strong position on whether calling Erdogan a goat fucker was plausibly satire, but from the context as you’ve shared it, it seems like it clearly was (a “late night host…reading a poem”).

    And to be fully clear, no, I would prefer not to be called a goat fucker, although if it was clearly in a humorous context, I would hope that I would be a good sport. If someone literally accused me of non-ironically fucking goats (or being a pedophile or rapist or Republican), then, I think I would be within my legal rights to seek redress. Joking that I am a Republican is fine. Asserting in writing that I actually am a Republican would be libelous.

  158. Mr. Subtlety–One of my points, and I think you basically motion towards this, is that norms around public discourse have always been with us. There have always been ways in which certain voices were elevated and some dismissed or didn’t even have access to the public sphere. The world isn’t an 8chan forum. And we wouldn’t necessarily want it to be.

    But these norms are there regardless. You can’t publish anything you want on the major social media forums. Not everyone gets to appear on CNN or Fox News. These institutions are already enforcing norms and what’s acceptable parameters of debate.

    I like what you say about trying to do more fact checking. Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter are bastions of anti-vax nonsense. And I think you could potentially limit the spread of that misinformation.

    But when it comes to bigotry, I don’t think we can fact check our way out of it. If Carano had called someone the n-word, I don’t think we would be having this debate. But as you mention, bigots like to use dogwhistles of all kinds to try and smuggle racism into public discussion. I think we can do more than simply condemning the most extreme forms of hate speech. Should Carano have been fired for the one tweet trivializing the holocaust? Probably not. But she had a long list of tweets that were as bad or worse, which makes the firing absolutely justified. I think we can grapple with nuance, complexity, and context. As others have mentioned, Liam Neeson remained unscathed after his clumsy comments because people understood the larger context.

    Facts can help us to some extent, but I don’t see fact-checking as a useful strategy to combat bigotry because racism is so often about power rather than ignorance. And we’ll get nowhere if we have to keep on arguing for the humanity of individuals and groups over and over again.

  159. Mr. S, I think you are misdiagnosing the issue in a way that is causing needless argument. There is nothing new about Disney (or any other business/corporation) making business decisions about whom to employ. What has changed are a) the public now has, in many cases, direct access to the true personalities/worldviews of celebrities and entertainers and b) the public now has direct access to platforms where they can publicly and visibly share their opinions about those celebrities. One result of (a+b) is that corporations can now make business decisions about who to employ preemptively, on the basis of public opinion of the potential employees, rather than merely retrospectively, on the basis of box office receipts or subscription rates or other financial data.

    So the question is: which of these things worry you? Do you think celebrities should not be allowed to disseminate their personal opinions through social media? Do you think the public should not be able to access celebrity social media? Do you think the public shouldn’t be able to share their opinions of celebrities publicly? Presumably not.

    So if you are worried about the situation, I would guess you must be worried about the power that corporations/businesses have over the economic fates of the citizenry. Which I agree with! But that’s nothing new, and it is not demonstrated in any extreme or even particularly notable way by the fate of Gina Carano (or The Chicks or Colin Kaepernick or other “canceled” celebrities). The possibilities for addressing this concern don’t have anything to do with social media or the opportunities the public has to influence the decisions corporations make. Indeed, social media influence is not substantively different than the established method whereby the citizenry influences corporate decisions: by voting with our wallets. The possibilities for addressing the concern must instead involve some combination of a more robust social safety net and more checks on corporate power. In my opinion, the best redress would be a socialist economic system, though I know that “leftists” don’t unanimously agree with that position.

    To put it more emotionally: Carano and Kaepernick can both flip burgers and stock shelves like the rest of us. The only concern anyone should have with that state of affairs is the miserable wages of cooks and clerks.

  160. At present I don’t have a better outlet for discussing these issues, so, I’m going to keep at it.

    I think eric is indirectly hitting on a real tension between economic justice liberals vs. social justice liberals as two meaningfully different strains of American progressivism. Starting with Bill Clinton’s Third Way / New Democrat re-imagining of the party, the Democratic party has been increasingly captured by a coalition of the college educated and upper middle class, which for now secures the continued loyalty of ethnic minority and LGBTQ groups largely by pandering but not by actually delivering much in the way of material improvements to our social insurance setup (childcare, family leave, income supplements, healthcare for all). Progressives have accurately diagnosed that Republicans’s MO is to serve (a) the actual interests of rich white people and corporations by manipulating (b) poor, aggrieved white people. However, progressives don’t typically acknowledge the parallel reality that today’s Democratic party functions by serving (a) the actual interests of white collar and upper-middle class college-educated people by pandering to but not really delivering much directly to (b) poor and marginalized ethnic minority communities.

    A more class-oriented analysis would recognize that both of these parties are ultimately centrist-oriented, status-quo preserving entities that pander to the lower education/economic classes while mostly serving the interests of people with a lot of money and influence. Meanwhile, we are all preoccupied with how wonderful or awful it is that Gina Carano got fired or Parler or Trump got de-platformed or what the Qanon shaman did. In all of these cases, our focus is on individual bad actors from the other side that we can blame, not on the political parties and politicians that fail us.

    Lest I be accused of a false equivalence, I do think that the Trump presidency was a possible existential threat to American democracy, and there is no possible near-term world where I would ever vote for a Republican. I am a straightline Democrat voter. But the point is that we get so caught up in hating Trump and Parler and Josh Hawley, and so caught up being scared of scary capitol insurrection footage, that we fail to see the fairly conservative nature of today’s Democratic party, which is good on virtue signalling and token representation but mixed-to-terrible on actually delivering any kind of social or economic justice for the 99%.

  161. Skani, I understand where you’re coming from. This whole thing – starting with Trump’s election and cruising right through endless mass shooting events, kids in cages, Kavanaugh’s appointment, continuing police violence and corruption, BLM protesters getting tear gassed, McConnell’s unrepentant hypocrisy over RBG’s replacement happening over her still warm corpse, an epically and unconscionably bungled pandemic response and on and on has definitely awakened me to how broken our system is and how much the democratic party has become centrist and toothless. I 100% do not believe that both parties are equally bad. I think most democratic politicians truly think the system can work to help everyone and they want to work within it to do so, while most republican politicians have been proven to be craven, deeply selfish people who do nothing for nobody but themselves. I’ve been radicalized further and further to the left, where I consider myself a leftist now rather than a democrat. I can’t see how most of these problems are going to get solved without tearing down our current systems and totally reconfiguring them. I honestly have no hope that this will happen in my lifetime. Everything has not just driven me further to the left, but also further into cynicism. I don’t like being this bitter, but it’s honestly kind of broken me.

  162. I hear you, Maggie. There are folks out there like Bernie, Sherrod Brown, AOC and the Justice Democrats, Cornel West, Matt Breunig, and Brianha Joy Gray that offer me some degree of hope. And there are pushes for unionization that offer me hope, as well. Right now, I’m mostly working through financial contributions to races and some other organizations and speaking out to friends, family, and co-workers, and I believe that is making some difference. If you work in an environment where there is some chance to pursue unionization, that is another way. For me, the best antidote has been to try to do something, even if it’s a little thing. And then it is important to not cover for Joe Biden or allow him to get away with being a disappointment, just because he’s better than Trump. We shouldn’t have to settle for better than Trump.

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