A longtime champion of social and political freedoms, onscreen and off, Oscar-winning producer-distributor Harvey Weinstein has written articles on our industry and world events for many leading publications. In light of last week’s tragic terror attack on France’s satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, Variety editor-in-chief Claudia Eller and chief film critic Scott Foundas asked Weinstein to contribute a guest column on his thoughts and outlook, as follows.
When I was a college student, it gave me great pleasure to read about politics because it was my passion, along with film and journalism. I used to love reading Herblock cartoons in the Washington Post. And I loved Tom Toles’ cartoons from the Buffalo News (I went to school in Buffalo). Of course, Herblock went on to great success, as did Tom Toles, but they were always an insistent reminder that cartoon and caricature could be great weapons for good, and deterrents to bad.
This preamble hopefully illustrates the humanity and the affection that I think people have for cartoons. From the Sunday funnies like Harold Gray’s Little Oprhan Annie that helped us through the Depression, to Peanuts and Doonesbury, they sometimes provide better wisdom than known philosophers. I’ll take Charlie Brown over Rene Descartes, and put Linus in Socrates’ class, any day of the week. Although it’s Lucy who has the voice of a cartoonist — ironic, funny and eye-opening.
I send my condolences and sympathy to the editors, writers and especially to the families of Charlie Hebdo.
The tragedy in France is a stunning blow against freedom of speech and freedom of joy. It draws a parallel to the horrors of the Nazis and their mad attempt to destroy books. These are the works of fanatics — irrational thinking and scapegoating to compensate for misappropriated ideas.
This has become a fight, good versus evil. This is a time for nations to unite, to share information and realize we live in a world where technology has evened the score and made the bad guys even more dangerous. Now we have to use our technology and share things to make the good guys better, more capable, more efficient. No one’s talking about torture or the violation of human rights, but for God’s sake we have to sympathize with our Secret Service and the other organizations of men and women protecting our safety daily. We have to know there will be mistakes and casualties along the way, but we the people have to support those who protect us, more than ever.
I always think about “The Lord of the Rings” at times like this, when all worlds united. Tolkien’s great literature was a rallying cry for World War II, when fascism and supreme evil had to be stopped by the sacrifices of good people, good armies and good countries. Let the humor, the wisdom, of Charlie Hebdo live, by us winning the war that they fought on the pages of their beautiful newspaper.
For me, I would make the suggestion that they take all their great cartoons, put them out in a book and form a foundation for those families that suffered in this tragedy — and similar tragedies all over the world. We should buy that book and have it on the tables of millions of homes as a constant reminder. I will contribute to that in whatever way I can, and I’m sure my associates in this industry will be innovative as well. Over the years, I’ve had the ability to be part of the production of concerts for 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy, to protect people who live in the great city of New York, but those Parisians who died last week are also my neighbors, my brothers, my sisters, fighting against an intolerant way of life. There have been a lot of great books that sit on families’ tables, from fashion to photography to travel. The cartoons of Charlie Hebdo are images that are more beautiful and meaningful than many of the images found within those books. Charlie Hebdo is a reminder of the beauty of art and the beauty of language. No one can ever defeat the ability of great artists to show us our world.
Laughter and satire will never disappear, and will always be the most effective tools for a free world. One of the greatest movies of all time had one of the most romantic lines ever spoken in a film: Humphrey Bogart saying to Ingrid Bergman, “We’ll always have Paris.” Whenever I think of Paris, I will always think of the romance, but more importantly, I will think of Charlie Hebdo and the romance of its greatness.
May it live now and forever.
Tonight is the Golden Globes, and there’s always champagne on the table. I hope we can all raise glasses and that someone like Tina, Amy or George Clooney will urge us to toast with 300 million viewers around the world: “Je suis Charlie, je suis juif, je suis Ahmed.”