Behind the Screen – How Hollywood Hypocrite’s Screwed Nate Parker and “The Birth of a Nation”

It’s been quite awhile since I took the time to write something profound and for that I apologize. But when the Academy Award nominations were released, one word was repeatedly bandied about concerning one nomination. The nomination was for Best Achievement in Directing and the nominee was Mel Gibson, who helmed Best Picture nominee “Hacksaw Ridge.” The word in question: FORGIVEN.

Whether on the local news, “Entertainment Tonight” or even in the local paper, talking heads couldn’t help but point out that “Hollywood has finally forgiven Mel Gibson” and given him an Oscar nomination. Every time I heard this I scratched my head, wondering what the meaning of that statement was. We are all familiar in one way or another with some unpleasant reminders of Mel Gibson’s past. Yes, he allegedly is anti-Semitic. And yes, he may have some anger issues and leave some not-very-nice voice mails. In the 20 years since he took home Oscars for directing and co-producing “Braveheart” had he possibly lost out on more Oscar gold as a form of punishment?

Hollywood’s history was built on scandal. From Fatty Arbuckle to Charlie Sheen, the public has eaten up every tasty bit of dirt that Tinseltown can kick up. Charlie Chaplin LOVED blow jobs – especially from younger women. Errol Flynn had such a way with young ladies that they coined an expression – “In Like Flynn” – in his honor. Marilyn Monroe and JFK. Marilyn Monroe and RFK. Rob Lowe’s sex tape with a 16-year-old girl. Woody Allen and Soon-Yi. And these are just off the top of my head.

What they all have in common, besides their sordid back stories, is that none of them were “punished.” Sure, they all had to endure some bad press, but their careers went on quite nicely, thank you. Chaplin is regarded as one of the true genius’ of Hollywood. And rightly so. Flynn was a star until the day he died at the young age of 50. So was Monroe, who died even younger at 36. Rob Lowe continues to work and even endured a comedy roast where his under-age hijinx were frequently commented on. And Woody Allen has received 9 Academy Award nominations since it was learned that he was dating (and later married) the 21-year old adopted daughter of his then girlfriend, Mia Farrow. Where was their punishment? Why weren’t they shunned from the community and cast aside like so many Steven Seagal DVDs?

All of the above has led me to the main point of this diatribe. A few weeks ago, when our various film critics here at the web site listed their choices for the Best Film of 2016 my pick for #1 was “The Birth of a Nation.” I loved the film and when I left the theatre I was certain that the film and it’s break-out star/director/co-writer were destined for a date with Oscar. That seemed to be the consensus of other critics as well. At least until mid-August. It was then that the public learned that in 1999, while a student at Penn State, Parker and his roommate (and co-writer of “The Birth of a Nation”) Jean Celestin were accused of sexually assaulting a fellow student. Parker was tried and acquitted. Jump ahead to 2016. Parker is now married and the father of five daughters and his career is heading upward like a rocket. Until August. Since then, almost every article written that attempted to predict the possible Best Picture candidates dismissed “The Birth of a Nation.” Not because it was an inferior film but because of events 17 years ago. Later news – the woman who accused the two men had taken her life in 2012 – made things even worse. It was like Hollywood was saying, “Thanks for putting your life’s blood into your work, Nate, but like Paul Sorvino in “Goodfellas,” now we gotta turn our back on you. Hypocrites!

NEWS FLASH: As I was finishing up this piece, I see on-line an article from “USA Today” noting that Casey Affleck has aroused the ire of some in Hollywood with his recent Best Actor nomination. It seems that in 2010 two female crew members of a film he was directing filed a lawsuit against him for sexual harassment. Affleck threatened to counter-sue but the case was later settled out of court. Angry Tweets followed the news of Affleck’s nomination. To me he’s the front runner. I would hope that the members of the Academy do what they’re supposed to do, and cast their votes based on the performances of the actors or the merits of the filmmakers. To do otherwise would be a disgrace.