The Lena Dunham-Brad Pitt kiss does reveal a glaring double standard, but it's not the one people think.
When tabloids ran a story about Lena Dunham trying to kiss Brad Pitt on the lips at the Once Upon A Time in Hollywood premiere, people on social media immediately reacted with outrage at the glaring double standard: "Imagine if the genders were reversed! That would be sexual assault."
Certainly, if Lena Dunham sexually assaulted Brad Pitt, he should hold her accountable. But that doesn't actually seem to be the case here. The coverage and reaction to the Lena Dunham-Brad Pitt kiss does reveal a glaring double standard, but it's not the one people think.
Every story involving the Lena Dunham kiss revolves around this one picture:
"Once Upon a Time... In Hollywood" UK Premiere - VIP Arrivals Dave J Hogan/Getty Images
It looks awkward, sure. But it's a single picture from what could very possibly be a bad angle. Even zoomed in, it's hard to tell whether or not she's actually touching his lips.
Here's Page Six's take on the situation: "...She made her way to Pitt and went in for a kiss on the lips. She caught about half his mouth." This seems like a hefty bit of conjecture, especially considering the fact that Page Six includes no witness accounts or statements from anyone involved.
Yahoo put out on an article titled "Lena Dunham accused of being 'inappropriate' after Brad Pitt kiss." The article never clarifies who is accusing her. Nobody involved with the situation has seemed to accuse Lena Dunham of anything at all.
Yet, the articles furthers the narrative by including an earlier Tweet from Lena Dunham in which she talks about flirting with Brad Pitt for her job. The comments are full of people accusing Lena Dunham of sexually assaulting Brad Pitt.
But if Brad Pitt didn't accuse Lena Dunham of sexual assault and the only "evidence" of sexual assault is a single picture that other people, who were completely uninvolved, are interpreting as assault based on zero knowledge of the situation, what grounds are there to claim that any unwanted contact occurred?
Hypothetically, it exists within the realm of possibility that Lena Dunham and Brad Pitt have a friendly relationship after working together and were greeting one another with a kiss on the cheek as friends sometimes do. Perhaps, the picture in question was taken mid-motion from a weird angle. If only there were a second picture showing the completed action with Brad Pitt returning a kiss on the cheek.
Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood UK Premiere - London PA Images via Getty Images
Amazingly, People was the only major source to include this second image, and they accurately characterized Lena Dunham's action as planting "a kiss on his cheek." As a side note, Margot Robbie and Leonardo DiCaprio's nearly identical positions in the background of both pictures suggest that the photos were taken within a very short time frame.
Barring further information or Brad Pitt actually alleging sexual assault, it seems fairly obvious that the story of Lena Dunham non-consensually kissing Brad Pitt is literal fake news. It's working, too. The comments on New York Post's Twitter are full of venom towards Lena Dunham.
To be clear, if Brad Pitt does feel sexually assaulted by Lena Dunham, his experience should 100% be taken seriously. But that does not seem to be the case, and we are not entitled to characterizing his experiences for him when he's fully capable of doing so himself.
The truth is that there is a double standard at play, but it's not that sexual assault is brushed off when the victim is male. The double standard at play here is that Lena Dunham is a contentious public figure and not considered traditionally attractive, so a poorly timed photo generates rage and a false narrative that would not spread if it featured a traditionally attractive, well-liked female star.
If Margot Robbie had greeted Brad Pitt in the exact same way, odds are that most people would not be making the same allegations against her. They would assume the two were friends and the greeting was consensual.
Due to her appearance and her reputation, Lena Dunham is not offered the same benefit of the doubt, in spite of nobody having evidence to the contrary. There are legitimate reasons to criticize Lena Dunham. This completely fabricated sexual assault narrative is not one of them.
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The Trump-Twitter Industrial Complex continues to fester and mutate.
This week, President Donald J. Trump tweeted a false statement about mail-in ballots.
He wrote that secretaries of state were sending mail-in ballots to every person, when actually states are only sending out ballot applications. For the first time, Twitter jumped in to fact-check Trump's statement, adding a link to a webpage full of information about mail-in ballots.
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Was the Jimmy Fallon Blackface Skit Intentionally Released as a Distraction from the Murder of George Floyd?
Racist police violence is a modern epidemic. So why are we talking about an SNL skit from 2000?
At this point, celebrity apologies are incredibly common. In 2020, it seems like some formerly beloved actor or TV personality is being put through the wringer of public opinion a few times a week.
Most recently, Twitter canceled Jimmy Fallon after an unquestionably racist skit from the 2000 season of SNL resurfaced online. The skit features Fallon impersonating Chris Rock, complete with black face and an offensive imitation of Rock's speech patterns.
Jimmy Fallon Blackface youtu.be
This quickly led to the hashtag #jimmyfallonisoverparty trending on Twitter. While fans seemed split on whether Fallon should be forgiven for the 20-year-old misstep, most everyone agreed that Fallon should apologize regardless. This morning, he did just that in the form of a tweet.
As far as celebrity apologies go, Fallon's is a pretty good one. He doesn't try to sidestep the blame, he doesn't bring up the fact that there were undoubtedly many, many other individuals involved in the creation of the skit, and he doesn't even mention the fact that in 2000, many people still thought it was possible for black face to be done in the spirit of fun, because the deeply racist nature of the act was largely ignored in mainstream (white) media. Of course, we know better now, and it's easy to see that a white person doing an exaggerated imitation of a black person—darkened skin included—can only be a racist, belittling act with a long, dark history of racial oppression. With that in mind, Fallon's only option was to apologize without caveat or reservation. Indeed, it's refreshing to see a celebrity apology that doesn't try to justify or minimize their own misstep. While we can all agree Fallon made a terrible, racist choice 20 years ago, we have to believe that, like all of us, he's grown since then. If cancel culture is to have any efficacy in making the world a better place, it has to leave room for forgiveness and growth. Hopefully, the whole affair will leave Fallon (and those who witnessed it) more racially sensitive.
All of that being said, one has to ask why the clip was brought up now, given that it's been circulated around the Internet before, and the specific YouTube clip that was shared was posted on the site over a year ago. It's also worth noting that the version of the clip that was going around Twitter has a text overlay that reads: "NBC FIRED MEGAN KELLY FOR MENTIONING BLACKFACE. JIMMY FALLON PERFORMED ON NBC IN BLACKFACE."
Megan Kelly, an outspoken conservative, was indeed fired from her job at NBC because she defended the use of blackface in Halloween costumes, saying on her talk show, "Truly, you do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface for Halloween, or a black person who put on whiteface for Halloween," she said. "When I was a kid, that was OK as long as you were dressing up as a character." While Fallon's instance of racial insensitivity was in 2000, Kelly defended blackface in 2019, long after society at large had begun to acknowledge the hurt that blackface and other forms of racial impersonation could cause. This fundamental difference aside, Kelly also has a long history of racial insensitivity that Fallon does not, even once saying, "What is the evidence that what happened to Eric Garner and what happened to Michael Brown has anything to do with race?" in a conversation about the epidemic of racist police officers in America.
Given the text overlay, it's pretty clear that whoever began the #jimmyfallonisoverparty was not necessarily seeking justice for the black community, but was instead trying to imply hypocrisy in the cancellation of Megan Kelly, given that Fallon (who has been outspoken about the flaws of the Trump administration and political pundits like Kelly) is still on the air. One even has to wonder if, given that it's obvious that the #jimmyfallonisoverparty trend was begun by a conservative individual or group, if the trend was meant to be a distraction from the widespread racist police violence that has been emphasized in recent weeks by incidents like the death of George Floyd, a black man who was murdered in Minneapolis by a white police officer on Monday. It seems oddly coincidental that the clip of Fallon should flood the Internet with controversy the day after Floyd's murder, unfortunately serving to help steer conversation away from Floyd's unjust death.
Indeed, under the unquestionably racist Donald Trump administration, more and more black people are being harassed, attacked, and murdered at the hands of racist white civilians and police officers. But Trump and his supporters don't want you to focus on that–so much so that it doesn't feel impossible that the Fallon skit was intentionally weaponized as a distraction.
In the last few weeks alone we learned that Ahmaud Arbery was murdered senselessly by a white man while simply out for a jog, and we all witnessed the harassment of Christian Cooper, a black man who was threatened by a white woman in Central Park who didn't want to put her dog on a leash. It's clear that racism in America cannot be reduced to insensitive skits from 20 years ago but is instead a current and deadly problem. What Jimmy Fallon did in 2000 was racist, yes; but don't let that distract you from the deadly consequences of racism in 2020, don't let celebrity apologies make you take your eyes of our lawmakers, who aren't doing enough to protect people of color in this country. Don't let the latest "#_____isoverparty" trend distract you from the deadly consequences of racism in our laws, culture, and criminal justice system.
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