Gratitude is the sign of noble souls ~ Aesop

Wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving ~ Kahlil Gabran

Joy delights in joy ~ William Shakespeare

Monday, October 23, 2017

Harvey Is Not Hollywood

Last week I posted “#MeToo” on my social media sites with great hope that adding my voice to the groundswell of women opening up about their sexual harassment experiences might shine such a light into the dark corners of Hollywood that abuse will no longer be able to survive without the secrecy and shame in which it thrives.  I am grateful for the movement and have a relieved sense of optimism that the outrage we all share will lead to real and meaningful change in our industry.  But I have been troubled by many comments I’ve seen on twitter and Facebook making blanket statements about how Hollywood is a cesspool, that it is only filled with predators and human excrement and filled with the most depraved dregs of humanity.  No exaggeration.  I mean the comments are definitely an exaggeration, but the fact that they were made is not.  And I just felt the need to point out that it’s not just a problem in Hollywood – in every work environment, there are seedy shadows in which predators hide. 

As a teen growing up in Kentucky, I experienced harassment similar to the kind I have experienced in Hollywood at both the pizza place where I worked and on modeling gigs I was sent to around town.  I was assaulted on a cruise ship by a grown man who worked in the kitchen and laughed as he kissed and groped me while I tried to fight him off.   The mother of my friend was raped at the offices of a discount retail store by an executive after her sales pitch with him – an incident she reported and ended up losing her job over.  That experience deeply ingrained in me a fear that speaking out only makes things worse, one that I am just now starting to overcome.  And so as far as I can tell from my own experiences, and those of the women I know and am close to, sexual harassment, discrimination, and abuse permeate every area of the work force.  Wherever there is power or postion that can be exploited, whether it be a Priest or a Politician, a Boss or a Husband with a great difference in physical or financial strength, that power can be exploited.  Hollywood has had it's share of exploitation, but it does not have the market cornered on wrong-doing.  Nor is the underbelly the whole of this business.  There may be the very well-publicized nightmares lurking, but the truth is for me, it has by and large, been an absolute dream come true to work here. 

I love writing movies, and I have had the great fortune to work with many caring, hard-working artists who dedicate their lives to try and make great films to share with the world.  In fact, the vast majority of men I have worked with, from executives and directors to agents and managers have been an inspiration and a joy to work with.  Many have become good friends.  I have met encouragers of both sexes along the way, and I am forever grateful for the camaraderie we share of wanting to spread a little more hope and love into an aching world with the movies we create.  I know we don’t always hit the mark, but I can tell you that most of us are trying our hardest.  Sure, there’s crap that comes out of Hollywood, and there are jerks and criminals only here for their own selfish pursuits, but Harvey is not Hollywood.  Neither are all the men like him.  Show business is just like every other slice of humanity -- made up of good and bad, terrible and amazing people.  I have been lucky to know an enormous amount of wonderful men and women in this industry putting themselves out there every day to just try and do good work, to provide for their families, and to live their own small part of the American Dream. 

There are certainly some horrible, heartbreaking problems in Hollywood, and a dire need to make a serious effort towards gender equality across the board and around the world.  But I am proud of the films I have worked on and the people I have worked with, and I still can’t believe I get to be a part of an industry that has inspired me my whole life.  I know mine is just one perspective, but it’s one I humbly offer to the ongoing conversation with the hope that people can start to look to their own surroundings at work and in their communities where injustice is taking place, to speak up about it, and then to take some time to really focus on the far greater good that is all around.  It’s easy to get caught up in the anger and fear emanating from our computers, televisions, and phones every second of every day, and the temptation to disregard or vilify whole groups of people is great, but that ultimately only leads to a despairing kind of paralysis.  Instead, I hope we can look to all of the good friends and neighbors and coworkers we know to inspire us to take action when needed, and to remind us that it is not hard to see the beauty of life when we start to truly pay attention.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

What if Every Day Were a Funeral?

I cried at my Nana's funeral.  I cried for reasons I expected: because I miss her, because I wish I could've spent more time with her, because even when it's long, life is short.  I cried because sometimes I just want to be a kid again at my grandparents' house watching cartoons on channel nine and eating cream filled donuts without a care in the world.  Yes, those are the tears I expected.  But what I didn't expect to cry over was the little spark of joy that kindled in my heart over how funerals can bring people together.  I cried in gratitude for the reminder during this deeply divisive time in our country and our world of how much more we all have in common than social media and the advent of memes would have us believe.

Facebook and Twitter alongside specialized news channels and blogs have made labeling people easier and more prevalent than ever, and labeling people makes them easier to despise, dismiss, and demonize.    Reducing whole populations of human beings to a hashtag or sound bite often identifies them by their worst traits, dehumanizes them, and builds up the false belief that "we" have nothing in common with "them."  And if we have nothing in common, than I have no responsibility to try to understand any views other than those of the people who happen to be lumped into my particular bin -- as if humans can be sorted as easily as trash.

But as I looked around that flower-filled, over-heated funeral home room filled with all types of people -- conservatives and liberals, old and young, gay and straight, skeptics, seekers, atheists, and believers mourning for a woman we all loved -- my wounded heart began to heal a little.  I watched people laugh over old stories and cry over cherished memories, I saw family members with wildly different world views catch up on each others lives, talking about work and vacations, children and parents, accomplishments and things they still hoped to accomplish.  I listened to everyone giggle at the sound of my two year old saying "Amen!" each time the priest ended a prayer.  And it was beautiful.  Because the things that truly matter and the things that connect us are bigger and more important than what may divide us.  If we let them be...

My Nana was a die hard Cubs fan (and everyone singing Take Me Out to the Ballgame at the funeral will forever be embllazoned in my heart as one of my favorite memories) my Papa was a dedicated White Sox fan, and yet, they had one of the most beautiful and lasting marriages I have ever been priviledged to witness -- becasue they had love.  They treated each other with respect, and it filtered down to the whole family, allowing us all to treat one another with respect at the funeral despite our differences.

How wonderful it would be if we could realize that we are all family in a way, because we all live in this same home -- the earth.  What if we lived each day as if it were a funeral?  Giving one another an extra amount of grace and understanding, realizing we are all in mourning over some things in our lives.  What if we helped one another focus on the light while loving each other through the dark?  What if we offered a hug before we bothered to read the label?  Even better -- what if we could just do away with labels all together?  Maybe we would see the truth that the Hollywood Elite Liberal Woman holding hands in the front pew with the Conservative Evangelical Man were just a daughter and a father comforting one another with the understanding that time is fleeting, life is precious, and love can overcome anything, if we would only give it the chance.