I’m happy to have dedicated the least possible amount of column inches to this Brett Ratner situation. But the actual news of the thing is today’s announcement that he is, indeed, after many called for his head in the wake of his using a gay slur at a Q&A last week, out as producer of this year’s Oscar telecast. (Kudos to The Hollywood Reporter’s “The Race” blog for landing the initial scoop.)
It was the only play. I know it was a tough decision for all involved (not that it should have been, but relationships are tough to just gloss over). But it was the right one. It was a PR nightmare, a picket line on Hollywood Boulevard waiting to happen. It’s just not what you want overshadowing what is meant to be a celebration of the year’s finest filmmaking.
Alas, this will be Ratner’s legacy. This will be what he’s remembered for. The easy joke is, “Well, it wasn’t going to be his films.” Whatever. He’s a working filmmaker who gets the job done and keeps the suits happy. And some of his films are entertaining. I’ll never begrudge him that. And I was actually getting a little bit excited for the prospects of his Oscar stint, especially with the announcement of a fresh crop of comedy writers for the show.
Well, what a difference a few days makes.
But it’s not just the gay slur. It’s the way he’s handled himself in public while promoting “Tower Heist.” It’s the overly candid, frankly petty discussion of his sex life with Olivia Munn (first saying he “banged her a few times,” then saying he didn’t) and Lindsay Lohan (quipping that he made her take an STD test before sleeping with her). These gems popped up on G4’s “Attack of the Show” and Howard Stern’s Sirius radio show. And indeed, it was that Stern appearance (which was full of further raunchy conversation) that forced the Academy’s hand here. Stern is a wizard at pulling the most candid remarks out of an interview subject. Ratner strikes me as the sort who’d love to divulge. Talk about a perfect storm.
Three years removed from the classiest Oscar telecast in history (Bill Condon and Larry Mark’s run in February of 2009), the last thing you want is this blatant LACK of class being the face of your show. And maybe Ratner will learn a lesson or two about what happens outside his own bubble. Maybe he won’t.
I also want to say, though, that I think it’s a bit too much to bring the “It Gets Better” campaign against homosexual harassment into this. It is very much an issue in the news and so it’s easy to go there, and I get why one would want to bring it up. Language has consequences and this situation is an illustration of that. But I think it unfairly places tragic deaths at the feet of Ratner, who I do not believe is homophobic in any way. He’s just stupid. Many of the people who have demonized him for using “that word” likely laughed at Louis C.K.’s bit about it. And if indeed you fit into that camp (I do), consider that. That’s all I’m asking.
“He did the right thing for the Academy and for himself,” Academy president Tom Sherak said via AMPAS press release. “Words have meaning, and they have consequences. Brett is a good person, but his comments were unacceptable. We all hope this will be an opportunity to raise awareness about the harm that is caused by reckless and insensitive remarks, regardless of the intent.”
Meanwhile, Ratner has released the following statement:
“Over the last few days, I”ve gotten a well-deserved earful from many of the people I admire most in this industry expressing their outrage and disappointment over the hurtful and stupid things I said in a number of recent media appearances. To them, and to everyone I”ve hurt and offended, I”d like to apologize publicly and unreservedly.
“As difficult as the last few days have been for me, they cannot compare to the experience of any young man or woman who has been the target of offensive slurs or derogatory comments. And they pale in comparison to what any gay, lesbian, or transgender individual must deal with as they confront the many inequalities that continue to plague our world.
“So many artists and craftspeople in our business are members of the LGBT community, and it pains me deeply that I may have hurt them. I should have known this all along, but at least I know it now: words do matter. Having love in your heart doesn”t count for much if what comes out of your mouth is ugly and bigoted. With this in mind, and to all those who understandably feel that apologies are not enough, please know that I will be taking real action over the coming weeks and months in an effort to do everything I can both professionally and personally to help stamp out the kind of thoughtless bigotry I”ve so foolishly perpetuated.
“As a first step, I called Tom Sherak this morning and resigned as a producer of the 84th Academy Awards telecast. Being asked to help put on the Oscar show was the proudest moment of my career. But as painful as this may be for me, it would be worse if my association with the show were to be a distraction from the Academy and the high ideals it represents.
“I am grateful to GLAAD for engaging me in a dialogue about what we can do together to increase awareness of the important and troubling issues this episode has raised and I look forward to working with them. I am incredibly lucky to have a career in this business that I love with all of my heart and to be able to work alongside so many of my heroes. I deeply regret my actions and I am determined to learn from this experience.
What say you? Did the Academy and Ratner make the right call? Offer your thoughts in the comments section below.