The Hollywood blacklist is back, baby. Actress Gina Carano lost her role this week as a co-star of the Disney+ series “The Mandalorian.” Her crime? Ill-considered social-media posts, including one that compared hatred of conservatives to the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany. Online mobs had previously targeted her for outré comments on mask wearing, the “preferred pronoun” fad, and fraud in the 2020 election. #FireGinaCarano trended and Lucasfilm Ltd., the Disney subsidiary that produces the “Star Wars” spinoff, predictably obliged. In the now-standard model of scorched-earth personal destruction, the United Talent Agency dumped Ms. Carano as well.
The film and television industry has come a long way on the subject of blacklists. During the McCarthy era, the director Elia Kazan gave the House Un-American Activities Committee the names of show-business colleagues he knew to be members of the Communist Party. Others, who refused to name names, were blacklisted by the studios and denied work.
For decades, the Hollywood bien-pensant viewed the blacklist as an unforgivable stain on the industry. In 1999 some of the biggest stars in the business sat on their hands when Kazan was awarded an honorary Oscar. “Trumbo” director Jay Roach lamented in 2015 that those who’d been blacklisted “were somehow seen as traitors because they had different political views.”
In his review of “Guilty By Suspicion,” a 1991 film about the blacklist starring Robert De Niro, Roger Ebert wrote: “History has vindicated those who refused to betray their principles, but how would any of us have responded at the time—when to defy [HUAC] meant virtual unemployment in show business?”
Good question. I’m not defending Gina Carano’s posts, although they are probably defensible. I’m defending the principle. If it’s wrong for someone to lose his job because he’s a Communist, it’s wrong for someone to lose her job because she’s a conservative.