It’s silly to have the expectation that Hollywood could have some sort of courageous or moral center. That’s not the point of TheWrap’s list of Hollywood’s wussiest moves.
But when you consider that networks decided more people would want to watch “The Big Bang Theory,” “Grey’s Anatomy” or “The Biggest Loser,” than President Barack Obama’s landmark immigration speech in November, then you have to wonder if Hollywood and the media should at least be called out for their questionable decisions.
This year saw crazy heights of the mea culpa among those claiming not to be racist, homophobic or sexist. And hackers exposed some of the superficial things executives say to one another behind closed doors. And so, it’s easier than ever to discover some of the spineless, thoughtless and craven things people do when they think no one is watching.
From erratic decisions to insincere apologies and thinly veiled racism and homophobia to sheer attacks on our intelligence, here is TheWrap’s list of Hollywood’s wussiest moves of 2014:
1. Sony blames theaters for its decision to shelve “The Interview.”
Outrage swept across the nation from Hollywood to Washington, D.C. this month when Sony announced it had “decided not to move forward with the planned Dec. 25 theatrical release” of the Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy. Instead of taking the heat, and backing up their decision not to risk any innocent lives if the cyber-terrorists did indeed follow through on their threat of 9/11-style violence, Sony executives placed the blame squarely on the five major theater chains that pulled the movie. “This was their decision,” the studio said in a statement. “We had no choice.” But they did, as the studio proved when it released the film through independent theaters, as well as streaming services including Xbox Live and Google Play.
2. White guys on late night.
Leno made room for Jimmy Fallon, who made room for Seth Meyers, then Stephen Colbert was named Letterman’s successor, while Craig Ferguson is ceding his late-night throne to a fellow Brit, James Corden. What these guys all have in common is not hard to ascertain, and it’s just more of the same for the musical chairs of revolving late-night network talk show hosts. Unfortunately, it seems like only one very specific type of candidate need apply, household name or not. Guess we’ll have to wait for the next round to see if any network heads are brave enough to put someone who’s not white and male in one of those chairs.
3. It’s too much, Shia.
The now-iconic photo of Shia LaBeouf sporting a paper bag over his head at the 2014 Berlin Film Festival premiere of “Nymphomaniac” says everything about the year he’s had. January brought a bizarre and inefficient apology for plagiarizing the work of comic book author Daniel Clowes, after a short film by LaBeouf lifted word-for-word passages from Clowes’ series “Ghost World.” The apology itself was also apparently plagiarized — lifted from a Yahoo! Answers post concerning Picasso, published years prior to Shia’s short film. Several more mini-apologies came via Twitter until his vortex of contrition had LaBeouf hire a skywriter to send Clowes an “I’m Sorry” over the heavens above Los Angeles. The problem for most media critics and social media users was the decidedly righteous tone Shia took, pinning the act on his artistic sensibilities instead of simply admitting he stuck his hand in the cookie jar. Apology. Not. Accepted.
4. Enough with the insincere apologies!
It’s one thing to admit you’re wrong when you’ve actually done something incorrectly. We in the media know that errors happen and often apologize for an errant name or a fact that wasn’t checked. It’s another to apologize, because you’ve expressed an unpopular belief or you were simply caught being bad. Often, public personalities will say or do something objectionable to many and then issue an apology as if they experienced some sort of temporary insanity. There are very few moments that we actually believe a person has moved from ignorance to enlightenment in a day or two. Why not stand up for what you believe and accept the consequences of your actions? On the flip side, angry public, why not engage in meaningful discourse with the person you disagree with instead of coercing an insincere apology out of your opposition?
5. ‘SNL’ diversity is black and white.
“Saturday Night Live” welcomed new black, female cast member Sasheer Zamata last season — but only after backlash against its constant lack of diversity reached deafening levels. Lorne Michaels‘ still-popular sketch show didn’t even try to hide the fact that they only caved to public pressure when it became inevitable, auditioning only black female performers for the slot that went to Zamata. And while 2014 also saw the show promote writers Leslie Jones and Michael Che to cast members, it still remains mostly a wasteland for diversity — especially for races beyond black and white. The 2012 iPhone skit featuring an all-white cast playing Chinese factory workers would still very much look the same today, for example.
6. Roger Goodell misses his moment.
It’s kind of incredible that the commissioner of the country’s most powerful sports league blew this one. Roger Goodell is known to be heavy-handed when it comes to disciplining NFL players, dishing out strong punishments to the athletes he oversees. However, when former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocked out his then-fiancee in an Atlantic City casino elevator, Goodell passed down an incredibly weak suspension. It was actually Rice’s now-former team that delivered the swift justice, suspending their star player indefinitely. Later, when security footage of the incident went public, Goodell tacked on some stiffer consequences. Many believe the league office had seen the tape before it leaked online, though Goodell maintains otherwise. The commissioner — who has been widely criticized for being too strict on victimless crimes and too soft on team owners/coaches when they step outside the law — didn’t exactly score a touchdown with the way he handled Adrian Peterson’s disciplinary case either.
7. A white “Exodus.”
Some things are better left unsaid and 21st Century Fox CEO Rupert Murdoch didn’t get that memo. Murdoch defended what many called the “whitewashing” of Ridley Scott‘s Biblical epic “Exodus” last month. He tweeted, “Moses film attacked on Twitter for all white cast. Since when are Egyptians not white? All I know are.” The film starred Christian Bale (Moses), Australian actor Joel Edgerton (Ramses), Sigourney Weaver (Tuya) and Aaron Paul (Joshua). Non-white actors played slaves and servants in the film. Sigh. The criticism prompted tough critiques from bloggers and spawned the Twitter hashtag “BoycottExodusMovie.” Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and reportedly Morocco banned the film for “historical inaccuracies.” Despite the backlash, the film debuted with a $24.5 million weekend debut. Either way, it wouldn’t hurt if Hollywood put more thought into casting.
8. Jay Z and Solange’s bumpy elevator ride.
It was the elevator incident seen around the web. Solange and Jay Z got into an intense scuffle while attending the Met Gala earlier this spring. The roughly three-minute clip showed Solange yelling at her brother-in-law before lunging toward the rapper with a bodyguard holding her back. Not only did Solange lose her cool, but the contents of her clutch. Beyonce stood idly by during the incident. The footage, leaked by a hotel employee who was then fired, sparked speculation about Solange being intoxicated to reports of the “Losing You” songstress defending her sister because of possible infidelity on Jay Z’s part. The family released a vague statement saying they worked through the issue. Just to reassure, Beyonce addressed the incident in her “Flawless” remix with Nicki Minaj, saying “Of course sometimes shit goes down when there’s a billion dollars on an elevator.” Girl. Please.
9. Limited TV series aren’t so limited.
Networks are learning all kinds of new tricks to mask their failures. See also “nothing is canceled anymore” below. One of the latest ways to curb possible failure is to market a new show as a limited series. These usually have big name directors (M. Night Shyamalan), producers (Steven Spielberg) or actors (Halle Berry) attached and they want to minimize their embarrassment when no one watches. “It was always meant to be a limited series,” publicists say when the show wraps, having not lived up to the hype. Then, of course, if the show does well, it’s suddenly not so limited. It graduates to an actual series, anthology or, as Starz recently called its renewal of “The Missing, a “sequel.” News flash networks, when you call something a limited series, we’re thinking everyone involved is making sure there’s an easy out when the ratings stink.
10. Move over, Kerry Washington, says the awards shows.
Just as we’re seeing more melanin on our TV shows, this year’s awards season revealed a glaring and lingering diversity problem in Hollywood. ABC’s “How to Get Away With Murder” star Viola Davis nabbed SAG and Golden Globe nominations for her brilliant work on the mystery drama, but “Scandal’s” Kerry Washington was suddenly shut out. The move had TheWrap asking: If there’s only room for one black female lead in the minds of voters?
11. Nancy Snyderman needs a taste of her own medicine.
NBC’s Dr. Nancy Snyderman risked her life to cover the spread of Ebola in Liberia in October. But after she returned, her actions were considerably less courageous. When one of her cameramen came down with Ebola, her entire news crew was placed under a voluntary 21-day home quarantine. But, Snyderman left her house to grab some grub in New Jersey and wound up putting her fellow Americans at risk. We applaud the good doctor for facing Ebola on the front lines and we understand sitting at home for 21 days must be immeasurably boring, but as a physician she should’ve known better than to leave her house while at risk of catching or spreading the disease.
12. “The Imitation” shame.
Critics raved over Benedict Cumberbatch’s turn as Alan Turing in “The Imitation Game,” a World War II-era biopic about the famous code-breaker and computer science pioneer, who was eventually persecuted for being gay. But, many critics were disappointed by director Morten Tyldum’s failure to fully explore Turing’s sexuality on camera. “We are told Turing is gay, but it’s as if the picture is afraid to show he is,” journalist Wayman Wong told TheWrap.
13. TV shows don’t get canceled anymore.
“We don’t like to say that word,” a network representative told us of the word “canceled” as we were trying to confirm yet another rom-com series wasn’t getting a happy ending. Here’s how they’d like us to report shows had been canceled: “pulled from the schedule,” “production was shut down,” and “order was cut.” Most recently, NBC cut low-rated “Constantine’s” episode order, then said it was still in contention for a second season. How’s that good business (or even true)? Fox took note, then copied the formula when it announced that “Red Band Society” wouldn’t go past 13 episodes either, but could still be renewed. Seriously? Net up and cancel a series already.
14. Rolling Stone passes blame to the victim, who wasn’t really a victim to begin with.
Rolling Stone earns both wussy and asleep at the wheel honors for their now-infamous “A Rape on Campus” story, depicting the sexual assault of an University of Virginia student “Jackie” by fraternity members. We’ve all been burnt by a source before, but most of us adhere to the basic tenants of journalism 101 — reach out to both sides. What could only be describes as deferring to the accuser, Rolling Stone author Sabrina Rubin Erdely failed to speak to the male students being accused, essentially writing a blockbuster piece completely based off a single source’s claims. Once the journalism community started screaming foul, Rolling Stone offered an editor’s note that came off as if it was blaming the victim for faulty information, instead of taking full responsibly themselves. First, RS wrote: “In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced.” After receiving blowback, RS tweaked the editor’s note to “These mistakes are on Rolling Stone, not on Jackie.” File this one under, “should have said that the first time.”
15. TV shows adapted from movies
The well has officially run dry in Hollywood. Seen any good movies lately? Well, it doesn’t matter. You’ll get plenty of second chances the way things are going. Don’t expect too many original ideas coming your way in 2015. By our count, there are at least 27 (yes, 27) film-to-TV adaptations in the works — including “American Gigolo,” “Big,” “Ghost,” and “The Truman Show,” to name a few. Enjoy… again!