Spielberg Bails on the Beijing Olympics
Will Darfur spoil everything for China?
Score! As we predicted last year, Steven Spielberg has bailed on his role as artistic adviser to the Olympics, because the Chinese government has not used its influence to quell the violence in Darfur.
It's been a tough ride for Spielberg, with Mia Farrow pressing him to get out last March in a Wall Street Journal article in which she exhorted him not to be "the Leni Riefenstahl" of the '08 games. On Wednesday, Farrow told us that she's happy Spielberg had what she called "a Lillian Hellman moment." (Farrow has a knack for allusions to famous ladies of stage and screen, it seems.) In this case, she was referencing Hellman's refusal in 1952 to name names before Joseph McCarthy's infamous House committee. At the time, Hellman famously issued a statement that read in part, "I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year's fashions." (It's a good quote, though it seems unlikely that Spielberg will pay the high price Hellman did for her defiance, which caused her to be blacklisted.)
In response to the Spielberg news, a coalition of activist organizations promptly said they will run ads around the world decrying China's inaction. The next move will be pressuring corporate sponsors, including GE, McDonald's, and many other giant American corporations. Farrow is already asking the public to call these companies and speak out, and she has conveniently listed contact information on her Web site. Patience, she told us, is an overrated virtue.
No one—not even Farrow—is asking athletes to boycott the games. But gold-medal-winning speed skater Joey Cheeks, co-founder of a coalition of athletes called Team Darfur, hopes some athletes will make their views known, especially when the world's attention is focused on them while they're in China.
The hope is to embarrass the Chinese during what was supposed to be a shining showcase for the country. So far, it doesn't seem to be working. On Tuesday, a spokesman at the Chinese Embassy told the New York Times that the Darfur crisis "is neither an internal issue of China nor is it caused by China." The spokesman added, "It is completely unreasonable, irresponsible and unfair to link the two as one." (link)
Feb. 7, 2008
Pop Quiz: "The Writers' Strike—who won?" asks Hollywoodland's inquiring editor.
The obvious answer after a bitter and expensive strike is no one. But why settle for the obvious?
No, we must go for nuance, which is just as well. Because at this point the outcome in this fight is eminently spinnable. What's clear is that the deal was pushed through the system so damn fast that many writers weren't sure what they were applauding at the guild meeting on Saturday night at the Shrine. Many thought they had made gains in new media that really aren't there—specifically, that the guild had won a percentage of ad money from shows streamed on the Internet.
That's not exactly true. But maybe it didn't matter to most of the writers at that meeting. For a great many writers, it was time to end the strike. They wanted to declare victory and go back to work.
Kim Masters is an NPR correspondent and the author of The Keys to the Kingdom: The Rise of Michael Eisner and the Fall of Everyone Else.
Photograph of Steven Spielberg by by Bruno Vincent/Getty Images. Photograph of Joss Whedon by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images. Still from 30 Rock by Eric Liebowitz © 2007 NBC Universal, Inc. Photograph of David Geffen and Bill Clinton by Stephen Jaffe/AFP Photo.