There are a lot of questions we have about Force of Nature. Namely why it was released now and who is responsible.
The search for answers leads to some inconvenient truths about the entertainment industry. Because while we've seen plenty of shows pulling blackface episodes and plenty of corporate statements about the Black Lives Matter movement, at the end of the day most of these businesses are out to make a buck and to quote another recently censored film... they don't give a damn.
But let's get one thing out of the way first:
I'm not advocating for censorship. American cinema is littered with important examples of filmmaking that are critical to the medium's development, and also extremely dated in their world views.
The first sync-sound movie was The Jazz Singer, it is about a man in blackface. The first true epic feature was The Birth of a Nation, a celebration of the KKK. You can't talk about cinema in this country without addressing racism, just like you can't talk about this country at all without addressing racism.
Hollywood's roots are racist AF
Erasing these things is akin to lying. The truth must be known and seen in a greater context.
But as businesses and individuals around Hollywood 'talk the talk' these days, it's amazing that the ones associated with Force of Nature didn't also walk the walk.
This isn't about censorship. It's about hypocrisy. It's about calling bullshit.
So let's start with the most obvious thing about Force of Nature...
Mel Gibson. Are you kidding me?
Mel Gibson is an incredibly successful filmmaker and actor.
It's also shocking to see that anyone will still work with him.
To match every cinematic achievement, the man has an equally disturbing and unquestionably intolerant recorded rant or incident in his personal life. Just recently Winona Ryder reminded us all that Mel Gibson is just flat out awful.
Gibson is openly racist, sexist, and antisemitic. But hey, Braveheart is a pretty darn good movie.
Part of the complicated nature of humanity and art is that such things can coexist. Mel Gibson can be good at some things while also being completely disgusting.
It's because he has talent that major artists and production companies in the industry continue to work with him. But you still always scratch your head a little.
Not because Gibson isn't talented. But because "Hollywood" is supposedly so liberal and social justice based. If cancel culture, or consequence culture, really exists... how is Mel Gibson still not canceled?
But that still only scratches the surface on Force of Nature, which is offensive and poorly timed even beyond the fact that it stars an actual piece of shit.
Force of Nature's problems don't end with Mel
A number of outlets are already writing about how badly timed this release is, and how skewed it's whole world view seems to be. It's been called 'crazy racist' by the Daily Beast, with Digital Spy adding "this is not an okay movie."
The movie crosses several lines. Firstly, it's a B movie fictionalization of a hurricane 5 in Puerto Rico- something that actually happened and had devastating consequences. To add insult to injury the movie is about white heroic cops fighting the evil Puerto Ricans.
"Unholy is the best way to describe sitting through 91 minutes of Mel Gibson and Emile Hirsch as rugged shoot-first, ask-questions-later cops gunning down Hispanic villains, and rescuing non-Puerto Rican men and women, set against a stormy background meant to recall a real-life disaster." - The Daily Beast.
There is a lot of problematic white-savior business going on here, plus a really poorly timed defensive position on police who use excessive force.
Ok, so the movie is badly timed, has some out of date political and social views, and stars a guy who thinks the Holocaust isn't real and uses racial slurs constantly. It's just one B movie in a world of content, why harp on it?
Look at the people who made it
Change doesn't come from removing an episode of The Golden Girls where they put masks on and it looked like blackface. That's fine, but change comes from actions like defunding the police, for example. Or maybe if you're just talking about the stories you choose to tell... telling ones that don't obviously support a corrupt form of law enforcement.
It's time we hold companies responsible. Not just individuals. There is a long list of companies associated with Force of Nature.
It was distributed in the US by Lionsgate and here is a list of the associated production companies:
- Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films (EFO Films)
- FON Film Production
- Force of Nature Film
- Grindstone Entertainment Group
- River Bay Films
- SSS Entertainment
- Way Down East Entertainment
- Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Some of these were formed for this film, and the film cost a reported $23 Million.
Lionsgate is not a small company, they are a major player. They also recently put out statements regarding Black Lives Matter but also handed control over their social media channels to Christopher Rentz and Gerald Bush, the filmmakers behind the Lionsgate produced Antebellum. There is no doubt a lot of good being done here.
But that's what ultimately brings us back to this issue. Lionsgate bringing this backward Mel Gibson B movie Force of Nature to audiences around the United States, calls into question the sincerity and intent behind them also bringing us Antebellum, and having a voice in the BLM movement.
The right-hand doesn't know what the left-hand is doing (no political spectrum pun intended). But also on a larger level, the entity doesn't care. It's a massive entertainment company interested in creating content people will watch and pay for. All kinds of people.
Lionsgate cares about BLM up to a point. It was a great way to market a film. It was also a good cause to support. But that was no reason NOT to release a movie that is antithetical to the cause entirely.
Shouldn't it be? Shouldn't we hold Lionsgate accountable if it wants to claim it cares?
Or... should we just accept that Lionsgate is going to pander to the right and the left with movies that cover 'both sides.' Whatever we think, let's be real about what's going on.
We need to call bullshit on companies that say one thing and do another unless they own that. At the same time, we also need to accept that companies don't have morals and ethics. Hollywood, despite the headline of this piece, does not have a hive mind. It's a mess of people with varying opinions trying to make a living. There is no clear agenda outside of keeping jobs and making money.
We can choose to expect a lot less of Hollywood or a lot more. That's up to each of us as individuals. It's also, of course, problematic for some of us to call out a massive company for hypocrisy if we are trying to maybe one day work for them. I am not, so I don't care.
Hollywood can also be governed by fear of offending the person who might be your next boss or collaborator. But the reality I've observed is that many of the people working at any company today will be somewhere else in 5 years, certainly in 10. This is not a town of longevity. Trust me. I've been here for a long time.
I'd implore you as a filmmaker to use your voice, but also to call out hypocrisy when you see it. Promote ideals you value in the stories you tell, the people you hire, and the companies you work with. These may seem like complicated times but they are actually quite simple. Stand up for things that matter to you, and don't pay empty lip service.
If there is one other consistent quality around this industry it's people saying things they don't mean and won't follow through on. Buck the trend, and ask that of your peers. Otherwise, change will never happen.