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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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Comedian Gives David Beckham Ultimatum: Exit Role at Qatar World Cup Or £10K in Donations Gets Shredded

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“Not just the money, but also your status as a gay icon will be shredded,” Joe Lycett said in a video.


Pressure on Beckham

Comedian Joe Lycett posted a video on Sunday saying he would shred £10,000 if soccer star David Beckham does not pull out of his deal to be an ambassador for the Qatar World Cup. 

Ahead of the event, which kicks off on Nov. 20, many have been raising concerns about human rights abuses in Qatar. The country criminalizes homosexuality, and it can be punishable by death. 

Beckham’s deal to represent the country was reportedly worth £10 million, and many are frustrated that the athlete took such a big check from a country with known anti-LGBTQ laws. In his video, Lycett noted that Beckham has been openly supportive of his gay fans and was the first premiere footballer to do a photoshoot with a gay magazine. 

In an attempt to get Beckham to bow out of his role, Lycett, who is pansexual, offered an ultimatum.  

“If you end your relationship with Qatar, I’ll donate this £10,000 of my own money, that’s a grand for every million you’re reportedly getting, to charities that support queer people in football,” he stated. “However, if you do not, at midday next Sunday, I will throw this money into a shredder.” 

“Not just the money, but also your status as a gay icon will be shredded.” 

Beckham’s Reputation “Shredded”

Lycett said he would livestream the money shredding if that’s what the situation comes to. If Beckham does not back out of the World Cup, Lycett noted he will be forced to “commit what might be a crime,” as destroying legal tender is against the law in the U.K.

“Although even then, I reckon I’ll get off more lightly than I would if I got caught whacking off a lad in Doha,” Lycett quipped.

Lycett then linked to a website titled https://benderslikebeckham.com/, which includes a written version of his message, as well as a countdown to when he will either shred the cash or send it to a non-profit. 

Lycett is not the only U.K star to raise concerns about issues in Qatar. Singer Dua Lipa shut down speculation that she would be performing at the World Cup over the weekend by saying she has no intentions to visit the country until “it has fulfilled all the human rights pledges it made when it won the right to host” the event. 

Other stars, however, including BTS’s Jung Kook, are slated to take the stage. 

See what others are saying: (CNN) (The Hollywood Reporter) (BBC News)

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Federal Judge Dismisses Dave Portnoy’s Lawsuit Against Insider

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The online personality called the decision “disappointing” but not “overly surprising.” 


Lawsuit Tossed

A federal judge in Massachusetts dismissed a defamation lawsuit Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy filed against Business Insider, several outlets reported on Monday. 

According to a report from The Washington Post, Chief Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV decided that Portnoy did not successfully prove that the news outlet acted with “actual malice” or “reckless disregard for the truth” when it published two articles about his sexual relationships. 

The first article, published in Nov. 2021, detailed stories from women who said they had “violent” and traumatizing sex with Portnoy. A second piece was published in Feb. 2022 and includes sources who said Portnoy filmed sexual encounters without consent.

Portnoy has repeatedly denied the allegations and maintained that the sexual encounters were consensual and positive. He sued Insider in February following the publication of the second article. 

Per The Post, Saylor tossed the complaint because it did “not allege that Insider’s anonymous sources were fake, or that the articles misrepresented what the women told [Insider’s reporters].”

“Furthermore, plaintiff admits that Insider investigated its first article for months, requested an interview with him, sought his comment before publication, included his denials, and hyperlinked to his news conference and his lawyer’s full denial letter,” the judge’s decision continued. 

Saylor also noted that Insider corroborated their sources’ claims with photos, texts, medical reports, receipts, and accounts from their friends. 

While Portnoy argued that these stories were an invasion of privacy as they pertained to his private sex life and the women involved were not his employees, Insider held that their claims were relevant.

“When a rich, famous, and powerful person uses their power in a way that is harmful to other people, it is newsworthy,” Nicholas Carlson, Insider’s Global Editor-in-Chief, previously wrote in an editor’s note. 

Saylor largely agreed with that, saying that issues of consent and power are part of “legitimate public interest,” including in instances that arise outside “the employment context.”

Portnoy Responds

An Insider spokesperson told The Post that the outlet is “pleased and gratified that the judge dismissed his complaint.”

“We knew from the start that our reporting was careful, fair, and accurate, but it’s gratifying to see that validated in court,” Julia Black, one of the reporters named in the lawsuit, tweeted in response to the news. 

For his part, however, Portnoy has criticized the judge’s decision, calling it “disappointing” but not “overly surprising.” 

“Every single lawyer said it was an uphill battle, every legal expert said it was an uphill battle, that it’s almost impossible for a public figure to prove defamation,” he said in a video posted to Twitter. “The laws are stacked against me.”

Portnoy said that he turned in texts and other evidence he believed would prove the sexual encounters were positive but claimed “the judge didn’t even really look at the evidence.” 

He later read an excerpt from the judge’s decision that said Portnoy “can’t seek to prove actual malice by challenging statements that defendants did not publish.” 

“In other words: Business Insider did not publish any of my shit, I can’t talk about it, it’s not part of the case,” Portnoy explained. “It’s inadmissible.” 

He said he could appeal the decision if he wanted, but added he was not optimistic about how that would turn out for him. He floated the idea of suing the sources themselves, noting he thinks he would stand a better chance in such a case.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Post)

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Megan Thee Stallion, Drake, and More Sign Letter in Support of Restricting Rap Lyrics as Evidence

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The letter claims the use of this evidence is a “racially targeted practice” that “punishes already marginalized communities and their stories.”


“Protect Black Art”

Megan Thee Stallion, Drake, and a slew of other major artists signed an open letter on Tuesday calling for politicians to restrict the use of rap lyrics as evidence in court. 

The letter, titled “Art on Trial: Protect Black Art,” argues that “more than any other art form, rap lyrics are essentially being used as confessions in an attempt to criminalize Black creativity and artistry.”

It follows statements from other advocates who claim that police and prosecutors are eager to interpret rap literally instead of treating it as a creative form of expression. By doing so, critics say they ignore the storytelling techniques, figurative language, and hyperbole that are often used in the genre, and weaponize those lyrics against their creators. 

Last month, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a bill that aims to limit the use of rap lyrics in court by requiring prosecutors to prove lyrics meet certain criteria and do not display a racial bias before submitting them. State legislators in New York are also weighing a bill with similar goals, and on the federal level, a bill titled the “RAP Act” was introduced in Congress over the summer. 

Tuesday’s letter urged state and federal politicians to pass these bills and others like it. It also encouraged prosecutors to drop the practice voluntarily. 

Jack Harlow, Future, DJ Khaled, Camilla Cabello, Coldplay, Alicia Keys, Normani, Travis Scott, and Christina Aguilera were among the slew of other stars who signed the letter. Record labels like Warner, Universal, and Def Jam joined the list, as did platforms like Spotify, Tidal, TikTok, and YouTube Music.

Rap in Court

According to Warner Music Group, experts have found over 500 cases where rap was used as evidence, and that is likely an undercount as several kinds of cases and proceedings were excluded from that figure. On the other hand, those experts found only four instances since the 1950s where non-rap lyrics were used as evidence, and three of those cases were tossed while the other was overturned after conviction.

The letter used Young Thug and members of the Young Stoner Life label, who are currently facing dozens of charges, including ones that accuse the label of being a criminal gang, as an example of this issue.

“The allegations rely heavily on the artists’ lyrics, which prosecutors claim are ‘overt evidence of conspiracy,’” the letter said. “In the indictment, Fulton County prosecutors argue that lyrics like ‘I get all type of cash, I’m a general,’ are a confession of criminal intent.”

The letter claims that using an artist’s words against them in this manner is “un-American” and “simply wrong.” 

“Beyond the obvious disregard for free speech and creative expression protected by the First Amendment, this racially targeted practice punishes already marginalized communities and their stories of family, struggle, survival, and triumph,” it continues. 

Julie Greenwald, Chairman & CEO of Atlantic Music Group, released a statement arguing that the freedom for musicians to form characters and narratives is “essential to the creative process and the role of art in society.” 

“The harsh reality is that Black artistic creativity is being threatened at an unprecedented level, and we must make every effort to stop this unethical, discriminatory approach to prosecution,” Greenwald added.

See what others are saying: (Variety) (NME) (Rolling Stone)

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