Okay, let me state up front that this is a dumb controversy but, despite that, it has been bothering me all day so I’m going to write about it. And let me also say up front (more on this below) that this is not an attack on Jamie Lee Curtis who, politics aside, I sort of like. But let’s get into this because I think there is a real point to be made here. Earlier today Fox News published a story titled “Jamie Lee Curtis wields firearms in new ‘Halloween’ movie despite advocating for gun control.” That really does convey the gist of the story. Curtis has been a proponent of clamping down on guns on social media, for example:
Assault weapons ban now! Assault weapons ban now! Assault weapons ban now! Assault weapons ban now! Assault weapons ban now!
— Jamie Lee Curtis (@jamieleecurtis) September 17, 2013
Can't we take the word CONTROL out of the debate & call it GUN SAFETY? #nothingchangesunlesssomethingchanges
— Jamie Lee Curtis (@jamieleecurtis) December 3, 2015
All previous light hearted tweets get dismissed immediately as the heavy heart reality of another school shooting takes us back to the need for stronger gun legislation.
— Jamie Lee Curtis (@jamieleecurtis) May 18, 2018
The immediate response from a lot of people on the left was some variation of “LOL, she’s an actress, dummies!” I’m not going to call anyone out in particular but HuffPost posted a whole bunch of tweets like that here. I saw one person say that Ralph Fiennes was actually not pro-Nazi despite his role in Schindler’s List. Someone else suggested Vin Diesel isn’t actually a fan of car theft, despite all those Fast and Furious movies, etc., etc. It’s all theme and variation on one joke.
I think there are multiple problems with this or, at least, there could be. More on that in a moment but let’s start with the easy stuff. First off, we all recognize that actors play roles in which they are villains or do things we innately agree are bad or wrong. Without a good villain, there’s no drama. But we don’t hold the actions of a villainous character against the actor portraying that charter. Fair enough.
However, it seems to me there’s a difference between an actor playing a villainous role and an actor playing the hero in a revenge fantasy in which she (in this case Jamie Lee Curtis) is the person we’re meant to identify with. In this film, the aging gun nut is the good guy. And that’s fine with me as I know a few people who are gun nuts (in the sense that they love guns and collect them) who are great people. I have no problem seeing them as the good guys in a fictional context.
The question is what does Jamie Lee Curtis think about this. And here is where some uncertainty creeps in. Reading her tweets above, she never says “let’s ban all guns.” You can certainly infer that given that she’s pro-gun control and works in Hollywood. I don’t think that’s an unfair assumption. I’m just saying that we don’t really know what she thinks based on a few tweets at moments of national outrage. Maybe in real life, she has a more nuanced view as people sometimes do. Maybe she even owns a gun for self-protection and believes that’s a good thing. It’s possible.
But if she is a sort of run-of-the-mill Hollywood gun control advocate then I think it’s a little weird she’s making a movie about a virtuous woman on a campaign of revenge using lots of guns (she seems to be holding 3 different ones in the trailer).
And here’s where we have to step behind the curtain a bit and admit that actors are part of a business. They make business choices to perform in certain roles. In this case, the new Halloween film is a movie that probably does not get made without Jamie Lee Curtis agreeing to return to the role that made her famous. So while she may not have a ton of clout in Hollywood at this point (she’s been doing yogurt ads for several years) she does have clout with regard to this project. No one wants to see a belated Halloween sequel with someone else as Laurie Strode. That’s a non-starter.
So my point is that Curtis had some leverage here. If the guns in the script bothered her she could have said, “Hey, I’m interested in doing this but…”
So why would Curtis take this role? Well, as mentioned her career hasn’t been too hot since the 90s and also she was offered a deal that could make her a lot of money. A year ago, a site called ihorror reported on the nature of the deal:
Curtis is being paid a modest salary for her work on the upcoming Halloween film, in exchange for a slice of the profits. This is the same profit-participation agreement that Blumhouse Productions, the company behind the new Halloween film, previously entered into with Ethan Hawke, star of the Blumhouse-produced films The Purge and Sinister. So far, Hawke has earned approximately $10 million from The Purge and Sinister, which grossed $48 million and $64 million, respectively, at the domestic box office. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson, stars of the non-Blumhouse-produced Conjuring films, also reaped millions of dollars from this type of agreement.
If the upcoming Halloween film’s box office performance is similar to that of The Purge and Sinister at the domestic box office, Curtis would earn approximately $5 million. However, if the film outperforms this model, the number could move closer to $10 million.
So she had $10 million potential reasons to say yes. Did she really want to start making demands and maybe risk losing out on all of that over some purely fictional gun violence? It seems the answer was no.
But for those who are still saying this role has nothing to do with the real world let me point to several recent interviews with Jamie Lee Curtis talking about the new film. On the View she said, “I know it’s a slasher movie…but it actually is about something.” She continued, “It is fiction. I’m not saying it happened to me. It happened to Laurie Strode in the movies and here we are having a conversation, a global conversation about trauma…Christine Ford said this affected her…” Curtis went on to connect it to other incidents of trauma including a home invasion robbery and the women “drugged and raped” by Bill Cosby. “The heroine of Halloween is a woman who suffered a trauma when she was 17, like Dr. Ford when she was 17 and it changed and shaped her life. And now she is taking back the power.” In other words, it’s fiction but it connects to something real. That’s her pitch.
So here’s my question and it’s a sincere one: If the trauma is meant to connect to current, real trauma people are talking about, why doesn’t the specific response (gun ownership) also connect to specific issues we’re talking about at this moment. Curtis can certainly say the trauma is a real thing but the guns are just fantasy device, but why? I mean, real women in the world carry and own guns for exactly this reason. They don’t want to be traumatized by some crazed stalker, which is kind of the whole plot of Halloween and I guess this new movie as well. Does Curtis believe that owning a gun in real life is a legitimate way for women to take back the power? I think it’s a fair question.
I had one person tell me on Twitter that maybe Curtis felt trapped into this because it’s her most famous role and guns were just part of the package. But that’s not true. Curtis never had a gun in the original film, only Dr. Loomis (played by Donald Pleasence) had one. And by the way, he saved her life with it at the end of the first movie. She literally would be dead if not for that revolver.
Now we’re jumping ahead several decades and Laurie Strode is the one packing heat. I agree that’s actually a positive, empowering message. I’m all for women owning guns (assuming they learn how to use them safely) because men are bigger and a lot of them are creeps. So, great, I like this story the film is telling. But I still think it’s not one that sits as easily with Curtis’ gun control campaigning. Unless, as already mentioned, her take is more nuanced than it appears. If so, if she’s a proud gun owner, I’d love to hear her say it. But she must know a lot of people in Hollywood wouldn’t like that very much.
Finally, I have to say that politics aside, Jamie Lee Curtis is someone I sort of like. She has a kind of refreshing honesty about her. For instance, about her time as yogurt pitch-woman she recently said, “I sold yogurt that makes you s**t for 7 years.” So, I think she’s wrong about some political issue but I still sort of like her personality and I definitely like her work in films. I’ll be seeing the new Halloween when it comes out and I hope Curtis makes her $10 million and then some. But it would also be great if she could say something a little more nuanced about guns and women’s empowerment since she appears to have strong convictions on both topics.