We’ve all heard of Parkinson’s Law, the wonderful observation that “work expands to occupy the time available to complete it.”
We’re also familiar with Murphy’s Law – more vulgarly known as Sod’s Law – which states that if something goes wrong, it surely will.
In the frequently cited example, a slice of buttered toast accidentally dropped on the floor will always land on the buttered side down.
But the laws of others suffice. My goal this week is to craft my own canon, which I believe contains as much truth as most of the past.
Simply put, this is: there is no need to listen to the political opinions of actors and actresses. This is because they all seem to think exactly the same way – and once you hear one of them, you’ve heard them all.
To be more specific, they share identical awake, left-center views on every subject under the sun.
According to my law, it makes no difference to choose which stage or screen star was invited to express a political opinion about when the question was asked or did I get news for you for example.
The political views of the actors are all quite similar. Benedict Cumberbatch (pictured in 2015) became the latest to add his contribution to the aperitif, when he condemned “toxic masculinity”
Before he or she even utters a word, you’ll know you’re in for a predictable party entirely out of the gospel according to Hollywood Groupthink.
Donald Trump? Satan is incarnate. Boris Johnson? Not much better. Brexit? Powered only by heavy racists and xenophobes. public expenditure? Not high enough.
Mass migration? The most and the funniest. BBC license fee? A sacred national institution, opposed only by right-wing thugs. Transgender rights? Wonderful in everything.
Man-made global warming? A catastrophe that governments don’t do enough to avert (and don’t care that performers who express that opinion, all too often, have just taken off from Los Angeles on a world tour to promote their latest movie).
Just this week, Benedict Cumberbatch became the last to add his contribution to the warm stew of luvviedom, when he condemned “toxic masculinity” and “patriarchy” and demanded “equality in all areas” between men and women.
In an interview for the publication of his new film, The Power Of The Dog, he told Sky News it was a “childish defensive stance” to protest “not all men are bad”. Every male must “shut up and listen,” because we need to “fix men.”
To be honest, I can’t pretend I understand exactly what he meant by this gossip (could it be wrong to suggest that not all men are bad?).
But it is clear that in portraying women as victims of male oppression, he was consistent with the established opinion of the vast majority of his profession.
Well, I admit there are rare exceptions or two to my law, but then it’s also true that, sometimes, toast falls sideways with butter.
I will freely admit that as soon as you reach the blue moon, a rogue actor appears to say something mildly right-wing or unobtrusive.
Once he reaches the blue moon, a rogue actor appears to say something mildly swearing. I’m thinking of Laurence Fox (pictured in 2019) who made a statement or two of controversial remarks about race
I’m thinking especially of Lawrence Fox, who dared step out of Hollywood’s hymnal last year when he made a statement or two of controversial remarks about race.
If I remember correctly, he suggested that the Duchess of Sussex was not a victim of racism, while telling a member of the audience who dismissed him as a “white privileged man” that the expression itself was racist.
But then look what happened to him when he got off the line. He was immediately disavowed by the great crowd of fellow actors, and he suffered the same fate as J.K. Rowling, who was “cancelled” by the stars that made her rich. her crime?
I have dared to tell the plain truth – obvious to most of us, anyway – that people who menstruate are traditionally known as women.
But for every Laurence Fox you can name among the cast, I can point to no less than ten Emma Thompsons, Brian Coxes, Meghan Markles, Ricky Tomlinsons, Stephen Frys, Hugh Grants, Emma Watsons, Steve Coogans, and Kate Winslets, and Sir Ian McKellens.
You won’t catch the likes of straying from the ready-made views that The Guardian touts day in and day out.
Now, it’s not part of my intention this week to delve into the rights and wrongs of issues that actors and actresses want to talk about. I’ll save my thoughts on this stuff for another day.
Nor do I challenge their right to speak publicly on any subject they wish. Actors should be just as free as journalists to say what they think about anything and everything, within the limits of the law.
The big difference is that for every Tom Utley or Richard Littlejohn who supported Brexit, you would have no problem naming other columnists — Matthew Paris, for example, or Polly Toynbee — who thought it was a terrible idea.
The truth is that not all journalists think the same way. What I find so extraordinary is that so many actors and actresses do.
I wonder what makes the profession they chose make the vast majority of them prefer EU membership over Brexit, Blair over Thatcher, Obama over Trump, high spending over low spending and liberalism over social conservatism?
Self-interest may play a role. They may be drawn to high government spending by considering dramatic government subsidies for the arts.
Another strong factor may be their fear of suffering the fate of Lawrence Fox, whose film offers dried up when he dared express his centre-right views.
I sometimes suspect that one or two seasoned theatrical ladies–with no names, no rehearsals for the packs–may secretly hold opinions that are closer to my own than they express in public. If so, they keep quiet about it, perhaps wisely.
But I will give the vast majority of actors and actresses the benefit of the doubt, and say that they seem to carry the opinions they express through conviction rather than self-interest or fear.
When Fox got off the line, his fellow actors disowned him, suffering the same fate as J.K. Rowling (pictured in 2018), who was “cancelled” by the stars that made her rich.
To take one example, close to my heart, do you remember the speech that Michelle Williams gave, just before the first closing, when she accepted the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a TV Mini-Series, which she won for her part in a show called Fosse/Verdon?
In it, she declared that she could not win the prize if she did not exercise what she called “a woman’s right to choose,” that familiar euphemism for abortion.
Now, I know many readers will enthusiastically disagree with me when I say I find this shocking, because personally I think abortion on demand is wrong.
To me, and to many who share my point of view, she seemed to be saying that a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Miniseries was more precious than the unborn life she had removed from her womb.
But what struck me mightily was the sheer delight that rose from the audience of famous actors.
As the camera rolled around the room, many were standing on their feet, clapping their hands. Some actresses among them shed tears of joy.
In this crowd of Hollywood royals, I haven’t seen a single actor who wouldn’t applaud Williams’ endorsement of on-demand abortion. Whatever your opinions on this controversial issue, don’t you find this strange?
After all, the abortion debate divides people regardless of their political views, trade or profession.
You’ll find socialists, conservatives, businessmen, scholars and lawyers who oppose it, and others of the same political conviction – and in the same field of business – who support it.
Why do people who make their living from acting, alone among professions, seem so in agreement in supporting a woman’s right to choose over a fetus’s right to life?
Why do they seem similarly united in nearly every other view they express, on topics as diverse as global warming and militant feminism?
Mr. Cumberbatch might say that it is men who need reform. I think the group-thinking actors in Hollywood need it the most. Until then, I urge you to obey Otley’s Law–and don’t bother to listen.