By Duggan Flanakin
Feb. 8, 2020
Living high-flying lives of hypocrisy, while telling the rest of us how we should live
The Green Oscars are coming! The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awards show – the Academy Awards – has become a platform for virtue signaling on “climate change.” Big Hollywood stars often fly in on private jets, arrive in gas-guzzling limos and, when they win, use their platform to lecture us on how we must behave.
It’s funny how Hollywood also ignores a decade-old University of California study that found filmmaking in the Los Angeles area was making a larger contribution to air pollution than any major industry other than fuel refining, relative to size of the endeavor. That study noted that emissions from the movie industry do not end even after the cameras stop rolling – especially for big-budget productions where journalists, stars and publicists fly around the world as part of promotion.
Movies were more environmentally toxic than aerospace manufacturing, the hotel industry, and even fashion (clothing) – for which the movie industry, and especially its awards shows, is a major promoter.
As Apparel Search reports, the Oscars are one of the fashion industry’s biggest events of the year. Yet fashion is now deemed a dirty business and, even at the gaudiest of Hollywood hustles, the Grinches are running rampant.
“Certainly,” Apparel Search declares, “we have interest in learning who will win the awards. However, our hearts are beating faster because we are anxious to see what the stars will be wearing.” The self-proclaimed “portal to the world of style” admits that, “Yes, the event is intended for movie stars and Hollywood hot shots. But, in our opinion, FASHION is the name of the game.”
There’s just one problem. As Alden Wicker bemoaned back in 2017, “The global fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world.” In short, superstar support for climate change and other Green causes and the high-polluting, sweatshop-dependent fashion industry would seem to blend together as well as oil and water.
Wicker was quoting clothing industry magnate Eileen Fisher, who while accepting an award in 2015 from Riverkeeper for her commitment to environmental causes, had admitted: “The clothing industry is the second largest polluter in the world … second only to oil. It’s a really nasty business … it’s a mess.”
This year’s Oscars will feature male superstars Joaquin Phoenix, Leonardo Di Caprio, Antonio Banderas, Jonathan Pryce and Brad Pitt, among others – and female divas including Scarlett Johansson, Charlize Theron and Laura Dern – all of whom profess to be champions of the environment as well as “fashion plates.” (Lesser known nominees get little Green attention.)
Variety reported recently that Banderas and Phoenix were among the actors who signed on to join forces with the United Nations Environment Programme’s “The World Is in Our Hands” campaign. The stars pledged to deliver messages describing how they personally plan to address the “climate crisis” and reduce their carbon (and carbon dioxide) footprints – whether it’s traveling more sustainably, saving energy, or eating less meat – which often is only a ruse. Just ask Harrison Ford.
Phoenix, of course, was recently arrested at Jane Fonda’s Fire Drill Friday climate change protest in Washington, DC. And Pitt recently warned us, “There IS no future!” in a “comedy” sketch about President Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement on climate change.
Johansson, who along with Theron is noted for her high-fashion photos, way back in 2010 signed an open letter as an Oxfam Global Ambassador to “call on international negotiators to protect the world’s poor from climate catastrophe.” Theron has expressed her fears that a bleak future awaits the planet unless global warming is addressed. Typical Hollywood – protect the poor from mostly exaggerated, if not outright fabricated, climate changes but do nothing to end the energy poverty that keeps them impoverished, diseased, malnourished, jobless and likely to die very young.
Di Caprio, perhaps the head honcho of the celebrity climate change crowd, was lauded at the time by environmental groups for flying occasionally on commercial airlines rather than by the private jets he so much prefers. But more recently, despite co-producing and acting in the climate change documentary Before the Flood, Di Caprio has been properly condemned for his frequent use of those private jets.
Best Supporting Actor nominee Jonathan Pryce was one of over 100 celebrities who signed Extinction Rebellion’s open letter to the media, which included the ominous statement that, “If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”
While unable to confirm Fisher’s assertion that only the oil industry is a worse polluter than fashion, Glynis Sweeny did tell Ecowatch in 2015 that “what is certain is that the fashion carbon footprint is tremendous.” Sweeny listed the pesticides used in cotton farming, toxic dyes used in manufacturing, the massive waste from discarded clothing, and especially “the extravagant amount of natural resources used in extraction, farming, harvesting, processing, manufacturing and shipping.”
It takes 5,000 gallons of water, Sweeny noted, to grow enough organic cotton to manufacture a single T-shirt or pair of jeans. Worse, globalization means that shirts and jeans likely traveled halfway around the world in a container ship fueled by “the dirtiest of fossil fuels.” Even worse, organic farmers have been found to use toxic pesticides on a regular basis.
And don’t forget: oil and gas are the feed stocks for synthetic fibers – while coal and natural gas (and nuclear power, which most Hollywood stars also detest) generate most of the electricity that makes clothing factories, movie studios and fashion shows possible.
All the hullabaloo about fashion as evil has impacted Hollywood’s fanciest. Fashion writer Faran Krentcil wrote last February of a fashion phobia that started in 2014, when the social media campaign #askhermore (created by the wife of current California Governor Gavin Newsom) virtue-shamed the very idea that actresses should celebrate their expensive gowns.
According to one red-carpet reporter, Krentcil shared, “We’re nervous if we bring up clothes.” Networks, she asserted, were shying away from style questions in favor of asking the stars about their activism.
But fashion, Krentcil argued, “isn’t a shameful or stupid topic. In fact, it creates art – and jobs – for millions of Americans.” The style sector, she concluded, is one of the biggest employers in America, putting over $250 billion back into our economy. And the Oscars’ red carpet is itself a million-dollar enterprise. So are the movies that have made these superstars super rich.
Perhaps the overemphasis on activism and the downplaying of fashion can be blamed for declining Oscars viewership, which Fortune reported reached an all-time low in 2018. The Nielsen ratings that year were down 20% from 2017 alone (but were up slightly in 2019).
Not all Oscar nominees this year are hypocritical political ideologues. One-time Best Actor winner Anthony Hopkins, nominated at 81 as Best Supporting Actor for his role in “The Two Popes,” admits he keeps his political opinions to himself. He once told activist actor Brad Pitt, “I don’t have any opinions. Actors are pretty stupid. My opinion is not worth anything.”
And that’s the way most of us regular folks like it.
Duggan Flanakin is director of policy research for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) and a former senior fellow with the Texas Public Policy Foundation and Arkansas Public Policy Foundation. He holds a Masters in Public Policy from Regent University, for many years published a popular trade newsletter on environmental regulation in Texas, and previously was the lead science editor for the now-defunct U.S. Bureau of Mines.