Back in August, Lainey wrote about “himpathy” and how famous men can weaponize public sentiment when their reputations are called into question (for any reason, but lately it seems to be happening most in the intimate violence space). Well, here’s a stunning example of himpathy for Brad Pitt at work: The Hollywood Reporter, one of the oldest and most prominent film industry trades, called up over 2,000 people to ask how they feel about Pitt. 70% responded that they feel “somewhat” to “very favorable” about him. That number fell to only 65% after being informed of the nature of Angelina Jolie’s allegations against him regarding that incident on a plane back in 2016. Interestingly, the “somewhat favorable” crowd didn’t change their opinion at all, it was the “very favorable” group that lost a little shine for Pitt after hearing about the allegations.
The entire point of this poll and its analysis is to determine what the effect of Pitt’s recent poor publicity will be on Babylon, Damien Chazelle’s period piece in which Pitt is a leading man. When the trailer came out, I said, “[Pitt] will undoubtedly be working his PR and media connections to massage the message to best reflect on him.” This is that in effect. THR is doing some heavy-lifting himpathy for Pitt, to reassure its readers, most of whom are in the film industry, that Brad Pitt remains viable. That audiences have not abandoned him—indeed, they are hardly bothered by the current nastiness. That the ugliness of the lawsuits and family issues surrounding him isn’t detracting from his Movie Star brand with the public.
To that end, an unnamed studio executive is quoted in the article: “…the town will rally behind Brad.” Did you ever doubt it? He’s enduring a rough patch of publicity right now, his roughest since his divorce from Jennifer Aniston—at least online. Also included in the article is a breakout stating that 58% of the respondents heard “little or nothing” about the allegations. My own anecdotal evidence is that the vast majority of people do not care what celebrities are up to, and if they have any awareness at all of the Pitt-Jolie situation, it’s the grocery store checkout line tabloid version, which is, again, carrying a lot of water for Brad Pitt.
It really feels like whatever changes could and should have taken hold following the revelations of the Weinstein scandal and #MeToo movement either never materialized or are being enthusiastically rolled back. Where’s all the listening and believing women the people running these movie studios and industry outlets were doing circa 2018? I truly wonder if the pandemic never happened, if real change could have set down roots, at least to some degree. I never expected a complete systemic overhaul, but for a second it seemed like we could reach a place of better understanding, of greater sympathy and empathy, and create safer, less toxic, less dangerous workspaces in the film industry, and beyond.
But then the pandemic came, and crushed the industry, which is still recovering, economically. And suddenly, having those bankable stars like Brad Pitt is of paramount importance. You can practically hear someone shouting, “Now is not to the time to kill the golden goose!” while shoving progress back into the shadows. Even as Harvey Weinstein’s second sexual assault trial, this one in Los Angeles, is underway, it seems like the hope of a better industry removed from his toxic influence is well and truly dead.
Live long and gossip,