Since she told Chris Hayes that Donald Trump would “bring the revolution,” Susan Sarandon has dug herself further and further into a foxhole of crazy, never once backing down from her remarks over this last year. Her unrepentant, strident attitudes would be admirable if they were directed towards the right cause, since they’re the things we admire about activists. In her case, however, they reflect a noxious self-centeredness, and this weekend’s horrifying interview in The Guardian proves that whatever sanity she once had has fallen by the wayside in her attempts to never back down.
How many kinds of awful is this interview? Here’s six.
1. She doesn’t consider herself a feminist.
At the outset, she says:
“I think of myself as a humanist because I think it’s less alienating to people who think of feminism as being a load of strident bitches…I remember going to the ERA [Equal Rights Amendment] march…and the women were like, ‘We’re going to show them what the fuck we want.’ And I kept saying, ‘Calm down…’ That image of the shrill woman became the definition of a feminist for a long time…[Feminism] has come back, and it’s gotten warped, especially with the election, where if you’re a woman, you have to support Hillary Clinton.”
To be fair, I didn’t always consider myself a feminist either. While I’ve always supported women’s rights, I had to break past the idea that all feminists were “strident bitches,” a lie so deeply embedded in our society that it involves a thorough deprogramming to recognize it as such, like A Clockwork Orange’s Ludovico technique. It wasn’t until the 2012 election, when Tea Party Senate candidates revealed how little they knew about rape, that I changed my tune. So I get the desire to not identify with a label that carries a lot of baggage.
That said, when I said I didn’t consider myself a feminist, I was a white dude in my early 20s who still had a lot to learn. Susan Sarandon is a woman in her 70s who lived to witness the heyday of Ms. Magazine, the ERA movement, and the trailblazing achievements of women like Barbara Jordan, Dr. Sally Ride, and yes, Hillary Clinton. So what the hell is her excuse for not calling herself a feminist? You think they’re all angry? Spend your life seeing how conscious and unconscious biases cause us to value men over women, and I’d be concerned if you weren’t angry.
And how has feminism gotten “warped” since the election? If anything, it’s gotten stronger, as the women both in the Resistance and outside it run for office, create spaces for women to talk about sexual harassment, and make art that changes how we see women in the world. The fact that we’re talking about all this right now shows how women’s rights are seen as the norm, and not a side issue. Sarandon’s dismissing of this label means that every male, female, and non-gender-conforming audience member at Rocky Horror screenings will jeer her with all their might for years to come.
2. She, and the author, assume that liberals’ hate for her is irrational.
“It’s very flattering to think that I, on my own, cost the election,” she says. “That my little voice was the deciding factor.” Her interviewer, Emma Brockes, even backs up this idea, writing at the outset that liberals “summon more hatred for Sarandon right now than they can for Paul Ryan.” Together, they paint a picture of her critics as delusional, and of Sarandon herself as some kind of non-conformist, “uninterested in toeing the line.” But this misses the point entirely.
Liberals like myself have never said that Susan Sarandon cost Hillary Clinton the election, nor do we hate her more than Paul Ryan – we’re perfectly capable of hating both equally. We’re picking on her because she’s both an exemplar of the blasé, media-enforced “false equivalency” that says both sides are bad, and the naiveté of the Bernie-or-Busters who refused to support Hillary after the primary. “Following Bernie wasn’t a protest,” she says, and while that may be true, following a quack who believes vaccines cause autism was. Speaking of…
3. She still defends her vote for Jill Stein.
When asked about her endorsement of Jill Stein, Sarandon responds:
“I didn’t advocate people voting for anything. I said get your information, I’m going to vote for change, because I was hoping that Stein was going to get whatever percentage she needed – but I knew she wasn’t going to make the difference in the election.”
This is disingenuous on so many levels. First of all, when she says she didn’t “advocate” people voting for anything, that makes it seem like her endorsement of Stein was a half-hearted, secret thing. If you read her original endorsement from November 2016, she writes, “I’m…very happy to endorse Jill Stein for the presidency because she does stand for everything I believe in.” She did this, and she did it with all her gusto.
Secondly, although she votes and lives in New York, she might as well be living under a rock if she thinks Stein didn’t have an impact on the election. If you look at the vote totals from Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, Stein received more votes than Trump’s margin of victory across all three states. Give all her votes to Hillary and she would have won all three, handing her the presidency. Again, nobody is saying Sarandon is directly responsible for Trump winning, but the idea that her vote for Stein was innocent merely due to her place of residence negates the larger consequences that third-party voters had on this election, just as they did in 2000 when disaffected Democrats like herself jumped ranks to vote for Ralph Nader.
4. She wants to move on from talking about the election.
As I wrote at the beginning of November, we can’t stop talking about the election because it still hasn’t ended, thanks to the ongoing investigations that reveal new droplets of information every day. Sarandon wants to dismiss all this, claiming:
“Bringing attention to working-class issues is not a luxury. People are really hurting; that’s how this guy got in. What we should be discussing is not the election, but how we got to the point where Trump was the answer.”
I’m not going to spend time debunking this point, since I’ve done so over and over again – people who voted out of true economic anxiety voted for Hillary. Trump didn’t win because white rust belters were angry that “they took our jerbs” (to quote South Park), he won because he emboldened their racial resentment. Anyone who can’t see that is lying to themselves.
5. She holds the media, and “facts” in contempt.
Uttering in a parenthetical as if whispering in a dark alley, Sarandon says, “you can’t judge by the mainstream media what’s going on in the country. How did we lose all our journalists and media?” While there’s a lot of crap in the media, there’s also a lot of great stuff, and I applaud the writers at publications like Teen Vogue, Mother Jones, The Atlantic and The Washington Post for their reporting this year. But Sarandon doesn’t seem concerned about the Koch Brothers purchase of Time, or the rise of Sinclair Media – she’d rather cite talking points from outlets that have contributed to the mess we’re in now, like The Young Turks.
Sarandon, who appeared on TYT last year, would rather trade in talking points that would appear on that network and other independent media outlets like it. During the interview, she says Obama deported more people than any other President. “How he got the Nobel Peace Prize, I don’t know,” she remarks with trendy disdain. But despite this contrarian belief, Obama did not increase the number of deportations under his presidency, rather, US Immigrations and Customs changed their statistics regarding the number of deportations each year. But facts never get in the way for people like Sarandon and TYT, who have raised this point in the past, and did so again right after the election.
Speaking of TYT, Sarandon said something on their network last year that she further remarks on in a quip that’s grabbed all the headlines today:
6. She still stands by her belief that Hillary was “more dangerous” than Trump.
Although she doesn’t “exactly” agree with her original quote that she would have been worse, “I don’t mind [it],” she says:
“I did think she was very, very dangerous. We would still be fracking, we would be at war [if she was president]. It wouldn’t be much smoother. Look what happened under Obama that we didn’t notice.”
Yes, because Hillary Clinton would have tried to start a nuclear war with North Korea, said that there were nice Nazis protesting at Charlottesville, tried to repeal our healthcare over and over again, nominated a right-wing charlatan to the Supreme Court, and expressed admiration for third world strongmen like Putin and Erdogan. (Also, in case she’s forgotten, would somebody please tell her that we are still at war in the Middle East?)
Sarandon used to be regarded as a feminist, an activist, and a liberal. Now she has sacrificed all those titles and taken on a new one: heckler. All she has done since Trump has taken office is to yell at liberals from the sidelines, refuse to take responsibility for her vote, and smear those of us who are doing the work to resist this president and his administration. Comedians know how to deal with hecklers – they diss them, dismiss them, and if they’re lucky, have them dragged out of the theater. Sarandon deserves the same treatment. It is imperative that we not let people like her drag down the good work our movement has achieved, and that the media stop giving her space to push her brand of narcissistic nonsense.
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