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Universal Moves Forward With “The Hunt” After Controversy: How the Conservative Rednecks vs. Liberal Elites Movie Is Rebranding Itself

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  • Universal Studios has set a March release date for The Hunt after canceling its Sep. 2019 release.
  • Universal canceled the movie in August following two mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas. 
  • Prior to that, the movie had been condemned by conservatives—including President Donald Trump—for stoking political divisions by featuring a group of conservative “rednecks” being hunted by liberal elites. 
  • Now, Universal is using the drama around the film’s release in its marketing campaign, promoting it as “the most talked about movie of the year… that no one’s actually seen.”

The Hunt Now Slated for March Release

After canceling The Hunt for its timing and controversial premise, Universal Studios announced Tuesday that the movie will be released on March 13. 

The movie, which features a group of liberal elites seemingly hunting conservative “rednecks,” quickly caught the condemnation of President Donald Trump after its first trailer dropped in July.

In the original trailer, a character played by Glow’s Betty Gilpin is seen in a gas station, seemingly confused because she doesn’t know where she is. She’s then attacked by the station’s owners, and she manages to fight back before ultimately killing them.

While such a scene is not taboo by today’s standards, the trailer continues by introducing the elite vs. conservative premise. In one moment, an elite (played by Hilary Swank) says that the people they’re hunting aren’t human.

She also refers to those people as “deplorables,” a reference to a 2016 statement made by Hillary Clinton.

“You know, to just be grossly realistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call a basket of deplorables. Right?” Clinton said while campaigning for the 2016 election. 

Marketing Shifts Gears

While the film was marketed as a form of satire, from the trailer alone, it appeared to be a rather straightforward horror premise. It’s newest trailer, however, adds several comedic touches to drive the satire aspect home. 

It also appears that the movie may not actually be about liberal elites hunting conservatives, as Swank’s character asks in the film, “You actually believed we were hunting human beings for sport?” Rather, the film’s plot seems to be the consequence of an out-of-control prank.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, part of the plot appears to involve a reality TV show gone wrong.

In addition to revealing those plot details, Universal is now using the drama around The Hunt to market the film, with its tagline reading, “The most talked about movie of the year is one that no one’s actually seen.”

Meanwhile, the film’s creators have been largely playing damage control for both sides. 

“This is not a dangerous movie,” Producer and co-writer Damon Lindelof told Variety. “This is not a provocative movie. This is not a divisive movie.”

“[This movie] didn’t strike me as third rail,” Lindelof also told The New York Times. “I wish that [Trump] had seen it. The movie he was talking about was not the movie I feel that we made.”

Also speaking with The Times, Producer Jason Blum said, “Not one frame was changed. This is exactly the same movie.”

Why Did Universal Cancel the Film?

In addition to Trump, The Hunt faced massive backlash online in August, with the movie trending on Twitter and notable voices such as Franklin Graham expressing their concern.

To plant the thought in someone’s mind that it’s okay to shoot a person because they wear a MAGA hat or hold conservative viewpoints that may differ from theirs is reckless & reprehensible,” Graham, the son of televangelist Billy Graham, said. “That’s not satire or entertainment—that’s sowing seeds of discord & violence.” 

Ultimately, the film’s promotional campaign was suspended just days after two mass shootings that left 31 people dead in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. Several days after that Universal pulled the plug on the film altogether. 

While Universal Pictures had already paused the marketing campaign for The Hunt, after thoughtful consideration, the studio has decided to cancel our plans to release the film,” the company said in a statement. “We stand by our filmmakers and will continue to distribute films in partnership with bold and visionary creators, like those associated with this satirical social thriller, but we understand that now is not the right time to release this film.”

At the time, Universal didn’t announce any plans to release the movie at a later date or in another way. 

Following that decision, Swank released a statement saying she supported Universal’s decision and felt the choice was necessary, adding that the country should focus on healing and other things like kindness, sensitivity, and humanity.

What Are People Saying Now?

While Trump has not spoken on the new release plans, many on social media remain divided. 

Universal originally faced accusations of bending to censorship when it decided to shelve the film, but some praised the company for moving forward to ultimately distribute the film.

Others also said the drama around the film and the way Universal is marketing that makes them want to see it.

Others, however, were still upset at the film’s subject matter.

See what others are saying: (The Hollywood Reporter) (LA Magazine) (Washington Examiner)

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Jay-Z, Other Artists, Sign Letter Supporting N.Y. Bill to Block Use of Rap Lyrics in Court

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The legislation aims to “protect all artists and content creators, including rappers from having their lyrics wielded against them by prosecutors.”


New York Senators Introduce “Rap Music On Trial” Bill

Jay-Z and a slew of other rappers and artists signed a letter this week in support of a New York law that would prevent rap lyrics from being used as evidence in court. 

The bill, titled Rap Music on Trial, was introduced in November by state Sens. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) and Jamaal Bailey (D-Queens). Rap Music on Trial aims to “enhance the free speech protections of New Yorkers by banning the use of art created by a defendant as evidence against them in a courtroom.”

“The legislation will protect all artists and content creators, including rappers from having their lyrics wielded against them by prosecutors,” a statement released by the senators said. 

If the law were passed, in order to submit lyrics and other creative works as evidence, prosecutors would need to present “clear and convincing proof that there is a literal, factual nexus between creative expression and the facts of the case.”

Hoylman, Bailey, rappers, and many other advocates believe that rap lyrics are often used unfairly in court.

“The use of rap and hip-hop lyrics in particular is emblematic of the systemic racism that permeates our criminal justice system,” Bailey explained in a statement.

Major Artists Sign Letter Backing Legislation

The letter signed by Jay-Z echoed those concerns. It was written by his lawyer, Alex Spiro, and University of Richmond Professor Erik Nielson. Meek Mill, Big Sean, Fat Joe, Kelly Rowland, and Robin Thicke were among the other artists who put their names behind the cause. 

“Rather than acknowledge rap music as a form of artistic expression, police and prosecutors argue that the lyrics should be interpreted literally — in the words of one prosecutor, as ‘autobiographical journals’ — even though the genre is rooted in a long tradition of storytelling that privileges figurative language, is steeped in hyperbole, and employs all of the same poetic devices we find in more traditional works of poetry,” the letter said. 

According to Spiro and Nielson, using rap lyrics allows prosecutors to “obtain convictions even when other evidence is lacking.” They also argued the strategy specifically harms young Black and Latino men, who are “the overwhelming majority of artists in these cases.”

Several high-profile artists have experienced this practice themselves. In their joint statement, Hoylman and Bailey pointed to a 2019 case where Tekashi69’s lyrics were introduced in court to compel him to become a government witness to avoid harsher sentencing. 

Per a report from Rolling Stone, the late Drakeo the Ruler was subjected to something similar while on trial for a 2016 murder case. Before he was acquitted of the crime, prosecutors attempted to use lyrics from his song “Flex Freestyle” in an effort to make jurors think he brought a group of armed people to a party to target the victim.

In the letter, Spiro and Nielson pointed to research that “identified hundreds of cases” where rap lyrics were exploited in court, noting that the genre has the “potential to be highly prejudicial.”

In one study they cited, two groups were given identical violent lyrics, but one group was told those lyrics came from a country song, and the other was told it was rap. Members of the group who believed the lyrics were rap “were significantly more likely to view them as threatening and in need of regulation” than members of those who thought the words came from a country song. 

“Nobody thinks Johnny Cash shot a man in Reno just to watch him die, or that David Byrne is a psycho killer, but routinely rappers have their lyrics used against them in criminal trials,” Hoylman said in a November tweet. 

“As these and other studies suggest, weaponizing rap music against its creators is racially and culturally discriminatory,” the letter concluded. “It is also an affront to the First Amendment protections that everyone in this country should be entitled to.” 

See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (Billboard) (The Gaurdian)

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Britney Spears Sends Cease and Desist to Jamie Lynn Over Book Tour

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Britney’s lawyer claimed that Jamie Lynn’s “ill-timed book” contains “misleading or outrageous claims” about the singer.


Britney Spears Slaps Sister With Cease and Desist

Britney Spears sent a cease and desist letter this week demanding her sister, Jamie Lynn, stop “referencing Britney derogatorily during” her book tour.

The two sisters have been embroiled in a heated war of words over the last week, largely prompted by Jamie Lynn’s new memoir, “Things I Should Have Said.” In the book and during its accompanying press tour, Jamie Lynn has discussed a variety of issues, including Britney’s controversial conservatorship, their father’s struggles with alcoholism, and what it was like to be raised in her older sister’s shadow. 

“We write with some hesitation because the last thing Britney wants is to bring more attention to your ill-timed book and its misleading or outrageous claims about her,” Britney’s lawyer, Mathew Rosengart, wrote in the letter, which was obtained by Variety. “Although Britney has not read and does not intend to read your book, she and millions of her fans were shocked to see how you have exploited her for monetary gain. She will not tolerate it, nor should she.”

The Spears family has been the subject of international headlines over the last year as the legal battle to free the “Toxic” singer from her 13-year conservatorship took off. Britney has been vocal about the fact that she felt largely abandoned by her family while she was in the conservatorship, claiming they did nothing to help her. A Los Angeles judge officially terminated the arrangement in November, giving the pop star newfound control over her life. 

“Having endured a 13-year conservatorship that stripped her of civil rights and fundamental liberties, Britney will no longer be bullied by her father or anyone else,” the letter continued. “Britney was the family’s breadwinner and she also otherwise supported you. Publicly airing false or fantastical grievances is wrong, especially when designed to sell books. It is also potentially unlawful and defamatory.”

Spears Sisters Duke it Out on Social Media

During the press tour, Jamie Lynn has conducted interviews aired on “Good Morning America,” “Nightline,” and the “Call Her Daddy” podcast with Alex Cooper. Britney has taken issue with several stories Jamie Lynn told, including one where she claims Britney locked them inside a room together with a knife because she was “scared.”

“I’ve never been around you ever with a knife or would I ever even think to do such,” Britney wrote in one Twitter post denying the story.

“Hope your book does well, Jamie Lynn !!!!” the singer wrote in another post. “My family ruined my dreams 100 billion percent and try to make me look like the crazy one.”

Jamie Lynn has defended her choice to write the memoir, arguing that she is “speaking my truth to heal my traumas.” 

“I hate to burst my sister’s bubble, but my book is not about her,” she wrote. “I can’t help that I was born a Spears too, and that some of my experiences involve my sister.

Rosengart mentioned this statement in the cease and desist letter. 

“You recently reportedly stated that the book was ‘not about her.’ [Britney] takes you at your word and we, therefore, demand that you cease and desist from referencing Britney derogatorily during your promotional campaign,” he wrote. “If you fail to do so or defame her, Britney will be forced to consider and take all appropriate legal action.”

See what others are saying: (Variety) (USA Today) (Rolling Stone)

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Streamers Stand Up For Pokimane Amid Controversy With Ninja and JiDion

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Ninja and his family have threatened legal action against Pokimane, but many argue she is yet again the target of gender-based harassment.


What Happened Between Pokimane, Ninja, and JiDion?

Pokimane criticized fellow streamer Ninja on Monday for seemingly offering to help JiDion evade his recent Twitch ban, prompting a larger conversation about female harassment on the platform. 

The controversy began last week when JiDion hate-raided one of Pokimane’s Twitch streams. JiDion was initially given a 14-day ban from the platform, but it was eventually extended to a permanent ban, which he vowed to fight against. He and his viewers attempted to enlist the help of Ninja in hopes he might be able to get in touch with Twitch. 

At one point, Ninja said he would consider seeing if there was anything he could do, but warned that JiDion should not spam anyone or “ratio bitches” in the future. While Ninja soon clarified he did not mean Pokimane specifically, rather “bitches in general,” many lambasted the streamer’s choice of words as Pokimane is vocal about the vitriol female creators face. 

“I wonder if Ninja would have said bitches if it was a large male streamer that was hate raided,” Pokimane said during a livestream. “But I digress.” 

During a stream of his own, Ninja also said he texted his Twitch representative for assistance on behalf of JiDion. 

“Why Ninja would help someone evade a ban for harassing me?” Pokimane said in response. “I have no idea. I genuinely don’t know.” 

Jessica Blevins Threatens Legal Action

Pokimane has continued to call out Ninja for aiding a streamer who was facing consequences for harassing her. However, despite his comments during his own stream, Ninja now claims he never actually texted his representative to help JiDion. 


“I swear on my grandfather’s life, who just passed away, that I didn’t text my twitch rep,”
he said in the alleged direct message to Pokimane. “You are making a big mistake.”

Ninja’s wife, Jessica Blevins, likewise allegedly messaged Pokimane about the ordeal. 

“We are considering everything defamation of character at this point and are getting our legal team involved,” Blevins wrote, according to the screenshot shared by Pokimane. “You are spewing lies to tens of thousands of people. You know Twitch, you claim you know his rep, then you know from them that Tyler NEVER reached out to anyone, and AGAIN, just said that to stop the harassment in his chat from jidion’s viewers. We have clarified everything to you. You are actively bringing harassment to Tyler and I right now at the highest level and we are taking this very seriously.”

Pokimane said she interpreted this to mean that Ninja merely pretended to text the representative.  

“I’m willing to accept [that] and cannot disprove,” she tweeted. “I just wanted the clip out there to show what happened.” 

JiDion has since apologized to Pokimane and asked for his followers to put the ordeal behind them. Other major streamers have also taken to Twitter to support Pokimane, citing the constant harassment female content creators are subjected to online. 

Streamers Support Pokimane

“​​If Ninja’s upset about being harassed and ‘misrepresented’… imagine how Pokimane feels every single day being a woman on Twitch,” ConnorEatsPants wrote.

Sad how Pokimane still has to deal with misogyny and harassment in 2022,” Mizkif added. “And It’s even more sad how I have to say this publicly because people are afraid to stand up and say she’s being treated poorly because they’ll be called a ‘simp.’”

Valkyrae wrote that she will “always” support Pokimane, while Annie Fuschia said the streamer has so “much strength” for sticking up for herself. 

See what others are saying: (Dexerto) (IGN) (Game Rant)

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