LOS ANGELES – Hollywood may be the international hub of creativity and artistic expression, but more and more it’s being slammed on social media for the crime of being politically incorrect.
Over the past week, a slew of stars have been hammered for their “offensive” words and actions. Even Robin Williams came under fire during the Emmys telecast Monday night when decades-old footage of the late actor-comedian was shown during a tribute presented by Billy Crystal.
Williams, a beloved and universally respected industry figure whose recent suicide stunned millions of fans, was portrayed making an impromptu hijab out of a scarf and saying: “Welcome to Iran… help me.”
Cue the backlash. “I just think Robin Williams was kind of racist. Thanks Emmys,” one tweeted. Another wrote, “they could have shown so many funny Robin Williams moments during that tribute did they have to use something so racist?”
Dan Gainor, vice president of business and culture at the Media Research Center, says the criticism is a case of political correctness run amok. “America has always believed in free speech,” Gainor said. “But watching careers end or having nuts call Robin Williams racist over a joke is going too far.
“More actors and actresses will be blacklisted. Twitter will ruin careers.”
In another Emmys incident, Sofia Vergara was forced to defend herself for participating in a skit some viewers said was sexist. The “Modern Family” star preened and fussed over her designer dress while the TV Academy’s chairman, Bruce Rosenblum, praised the organization’s community and educational endeavors.
“Bruce Rosenblum objectified Sophia Vergara on live #Emmys,” scores of Twitter users wrote. Even Katie Couric posed the question, “Did anyone find that shtick somewhat offensive?” Others denounced it as an “obvious exploitation of women.”
Also this week, BET suspended a producer for writing a joke, “I really did wake up like this, because my parents never comb my hair,” referring to Beyonce and Jay-Z’s daughter Blue Ivy, who appeared on stage with her parents at the VMAs on Sunday. Stephen Hill, BET’s president of music programming and specials, promptly apologized via Twitter.
Social media users have also been condemning Taylor Swift’s new music video “Shake it Off,” saying it perpetuates racist stereotypes. The video shows Swift frolicking with a number of different dancers, from ballerinas to cheerleaders and b-boys. At one point she crawls under the twerking behinds of hip-hop dancers – several of whom are black – and laughs in amazement.
Rapper Earl Sweatshirt took to Twitter to express his disdain, calling it “inherently offensive and ultimately harmful.” The video’s director, Mark Romanek, defended the content, telling New York magazine’s Vulture section that they “simply choose styles of dance that [they] thought would be popular and amusing,” and that they cast the best dancers for the job “without much regards to race or ethnicity.”
A Hollywood-based marketing and PR expert said social media outrage is prompting show business leaders to be more reactive than ever, because they fear constant backlash.
“Entertainers feel pressure to create content by consensus rather than their own ideas or values, which is a very stifling environment for creativity,” said L.A-based pop culture writer and publicist, Jenn Hoffman. “If a revered comic like Robin Williams is posthumously being shamed for a 20-year-old Muslim joke, then what level of freedom do any entertainers have right now?
“Can you imagine if they re-aired any of the classic Dean Martin comedy roasts? I wish they would, just to show everyone a different take on tolerance,” she said.
But Ronn Torossian – CEO of the New York publicity firm 5WPR – said PC criticism is unlikely to cause entertainers and actors to zip their lips completely.
“They will always push the envelope and there will always be someone who objects,” he said. “To some degree, that which gets attention during the dog days of August will simply be ignored during busier times of the year.”
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