The Really Bizarre Thing Gary Oldman Said

[ Posted Thursday, June 26th, 2014 – 17:14 UTC ]

This column is somewhat of a departure for me, since I rarely take much note of what actors say, even on the subject of politics. Well, I should qualify that, I suppose, to read "actors who are not currently governors, senators, or presidents." But even with all the attention being focused on Gary Oldman's recent interview with Playboy, I feel the need to point out the fact that while everyone else is focusing on some bizarre and offensive things Oldman said, nobody seems to have mentioned his segue into the subject -- which is even more bizarre (to me, at least) than the rest of what he had to say.

It bears mentioning that Oldman himself brought the subject up -- it wasn't any sort of "gotcha" question from the interviewer. Oldman was talking about movies, particularly the film Seduced And Abandoned, which features Alec Baldwin. After discussing this documentary for a bit, Oldman ends with: "I can understand why someone like Mel [Gibson], for instance, would finance his own movies now, because it has all become so crazy." This prompted the interviewer to ask a fairly innocuous question about Mel Gibson: "What do you think about what he's gone through these past few years?"

What followed was a pretty epic rant on political correctness, where Oldman defends both Baldwin and Gibson over their use of offensive language. He goes on to call Nancy Pelosi a hideously offensive term (without bothering to explain why), and these are the quotes everyone has been focusing on. [Note: The episode in question begins on page 4 of the interview and then continues onto the final page -- the rest of the interview is mostly about acting and movies.]

But, to me, the truly bizarre thing was the example Oldman first came up with. Here is his response to the "what do you think" question about Gibson (the interview notes that Oldman "fidgets in his seat" before answering):

I just think political correctness is crap. That's what I think about it. I think it's like: "Take a fucking joke. Get over it." I heard about a science teacher who was teaching that God made the Earth and God made everything and that if you believe anything else you're stupid. A Buddhist kid in the class got very upset about this, so the parents went in and are suing the school! The school is changing its curriculum! I thought: "All right, go to the school and complain about it and then that's the end of it." But they're going to sue! No one can take a joke anymore.

This is followed by his take on Mel Gibson's run-in with the cops, where Oldman launches into some seriously politically-incorrect language of his own. But since that's what everyone else has already been commenting on, it needs no further condemnation here. Instead, let's deconstruct Oldman's initial example, because it is beyond bizarre.

Oldman states, in general, that people should just "get over it" and "take a fucking joke," when confronted with political incorrectness. That's a fairly valid (if controversial) position on the concept of political correctness -- a position which is actually shared by many Americans. But his choice of example makes no sense whatsoever. What does the battle over creationism have to do with political correctness, after all?

Read one way (if you squint a bit), Oldman might have been attempting to denounce political correctness in what people who believe "God made everything" are called. But I am actually unaware of "creationist" or even "young-Earther" being seen as any sort of slur by the adherents of these beliefs (I could be wrong about that, I freely admit, but I am personally unaware of anyone taking umbrage at the terms). Realistically, Oldman cannot be trying to make this point, though, since he uses neither term himself (which, assumably, he would have, in a rant about political correctness, to bolster the point he was making).

The second bizarre thing about this example is that there is no "joke" to be found here at all. Unlike the situations Mel Gibson and Alec Baldwin found themselves in (due to their own choice of language), nobody is "joking" here -- no one in his scenario could even possibly use "I was joking" as any sort of defense or excuse, in fact. Is Oldman saying the science teacher was joking? It's pretty hard to read his response and come up with that conclusion.

Oldman states that -- in his own example -- the teacher was a "science teacher" who was "teaching that God made the Earth and God made everything and that if you believe anything else you're stupid." The issue here is science versus religion, not political correctness. In America (assuming this is a public school, which Oldman does not specify), teaching creationism as science is unconstitutional. The courts have found this to be so, over and over again. Creationist beliefs are nothing more (and nothing less) than religious beliefs -- they have nothing whatsoever to do with science. There is precisely zero scientific evidence for creationism, since a full 100 percent of the scientific evidence actually disproves creationist beliefs. So the teacher is not actually doing his or her job, which is supposed to be teaching science. That's the whole issue -- no political correctness to be found at all.

Oldman takes issue with "a Buddhist kid" whose parents are suing the school. His answer is that the parents should "go to the school and complain about it and then that's the end of it." But he doesn't say whether the parents attempted to do so or not. From his own description, it seems that it took a lawsuit to get the school to change its curriculum. This would seem to imply that the parents failed in any effort (short of a lawsuit) to get the school to change their policy of allowing the science teacher to indoctrinate children with his or her religious beliefs, rather than forcing him or her to do the job of teaching actual science. One can safely assume that the school initially refused to do so. Hence the lawsuit. Which, according to Oldman, now means "the school is changing its curriculum!" Oldman seems upset that the school is changing the curriculum so that science and not religion is taught in science class. Which is just bizarre, really. He seems to be standing up for the right of a school to ignore such complaints, and brush them off as nothing short of humorous.

Oldman ends this story with: "But they're going to sue! No one can take a joke anymore." This is not only offensive, but downright bizarre. Oldman is saying that forcing a child to sit and listen to a religious indoctrination which he or she does not believe is nothing more than "a joke." But how can this be? Was the teacher "joking"? It's hard to believe that, on the face of it. If creationism was being "joked" about, then the people upset and suing might be fervent Christians, in fact (suing a teacher for denigrating their religious beliefs, perhaps). The teacher, from Oldman's own words, was being serious and not "joking." The kid was being told that his deeply held religious beliefs were not only wrong, but that holding them meant "you're stupid." That is a pretty offensive thing for any teacher to say -- or to even imply -- in pretty much any classroom context (even in a class on comparative religion).

Oldman's attitude is pretty clear. He thinks that forcing a teacher not to teach creationism falls into the category of "political correctness" even though it is really nothing short of "scientific correctness." The creationist battles over what is taught in the schoolroom were fought and ruled on decades ago, however. This is an old fight, and one that the creationists keep losing, every time they go to court. Oldman is saying, essentially, that anyone who doesn't share Christian creationist beliefs should just go to the school and complain, and then "get over it" when the school refuses to change its policy of teaching religion instead of science in the science classroom. He's OK with teachers informing children that their deeply-held religious beliefs are nothing short of a joke, and "stupid" to boot, and he's OK with the school's administration backing such a teacher up.

This is offensive to everyone except the creationists. Which is why it's worth pointing out, even though Oldman then went on to use much more colorful language to describe his thoughts on political correctness (which included calling Nancy Pelosi the vilest term he could think of). I do agree that the rest of his rant is worthy of condemnation, but I had to write about Oldman today because he seems to be getting a pass on his initial comments, which were equally offensive (for a different reason than just political correctness) and, in this day and age, equally as bizarre as anything Mel Gibson ever said to a cop.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


7 Comments on “The Really Bizarre Thing Gary Oldman Said”

  1. [1] 
    Michale wrote:

    My guess is Oldman was very bugged about this School/Creationism/Buddhist thing and tried to work it into the conversation by the most tenuous of connections...

    The one part of the Oldman interview that really jumped out to me was Oldman saying he was sick and tired of the double standard..

    Leftist actors can get away with the most ugliest of comments as long as the comments' target is someone of the Right Wing...

    And Oldman is dead on balls accurate in that claim...

    (which included calling Nancy Pelosi the vilest term he could think of)

    Left Wingers called Sarah Palin that "vilest term" on a regular basis..

    That's the double standard that really pisses me off...

    If it's a vile and disgusting term (and it is) when directed at someone on the Left from someone on the Right, then it SHOULD be just as vile and as disgusting when it's directed at someone on the Right from someone on the Left...

    I'm just sayin'....


  2. [2] 
    TheStig wrote:

    This is just a case of "what the hell was he thinking, and why didn't he not think that." He's been in the business a while.

    There is no political correctness issue here, it's an issue of recognizing forum, social status and social conventions of politeness within that forum given your status. Of getting your facts straight, and separating your facts from your opinions. Oldman made a hash of it.

    It is almost never a good idea to say exactly what is on your mind. The mind is complicated, and often contradictory. Don't show the public your mental rough notes. Oldman is right, everybody is bigoted. Recognize that and control it.

    He screwed up, he apologized, but his apology was weak, almost certainly crafted by his publicist. Run it by a few independent public relations types before you hang yourself twice in one week.

    Apology is not like hitting the stop button on controvery. A good apology is an offer of starting a dialog. Of acknowledging that you are guilty, and that you are committed to making things right. Don't bother about deciding exactly how guilty you are, public opinion will eventually determine that. It's OK to say you need some education, it's good idea to ask for some help.

    As soon as you use the word "insensitive," you've invalidated your apology. The insensitive gambit reads to offended parties "I was right, but phrased it badly." That's a defense, not apology, you are still trying to win the argument. Fine if you really believe you're in the right , but if so,present your case as a well spirited defense and take the consequences.

    Oldman is a fine actor and probably isn't a bad guy, but if he doesn't want to turn into angry one (like Mel)and still speak his unedited mind, he should be prepared to go independent and take all the financial risks that making movies entails. Woody Allan does it, Johnny Depp does a lot of it. But blockbuster stuff is pricey to make, so work and play well with others if you want to get the big payouts without the risk of going broke.

    Tough town.

  3. [3] 
    Michale wrote:

    Oldman is a fine actor

    Loved him in THE FIFTH ELEMENT... :D


  4. [4] 
    TheStig wrote:

    "Loved him in THE FIFTH ELEMENT"

    One of the best things he's ever done, but nobody ever mentions it?! Also one of Bruce Willis' best roles.

  5. [5] 
    Michale wrote:

    Yea, T5thE was a VERY underrated movie..

    LeeLoo Multi-Pass



  6. [6] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Underrated? Polarizing is probably a better description...but still going strong with the viewing public and the better sorts of movie reviewers! :-)

    "by chance, "Fifth Element" touches on all the major angsts and dramas of modern American life, such as terrorists, Doomsday and cruise ships."

  7. [7] 
    dsws wrote:

    I don't get it. "Political correctness" means that people who aren't straight, white, Christian males are getting uppity, or that others are trying to get them that way. And "a joke" is when they're put in what the speaker considers their place without recourse to serious measures such as shooting or lynching. Sure, the standard example of people getting uppity is when (racial slur)s object to being called (racial slur), but an infidel expecting freedom of religion is certainly an example too.

    That attitude is evil, but I wouldn't call it bizarre.

Comments for this article are closed.