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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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Hollywood Figures Back John Boyega After Powerful Black Lives Matter Speech

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Photo: Twitter/The Nikki Diaries

  • Star War’s actor John Boyega gave an emotional speech in support of the Black Lives Matter movement at a protest in London.
  • In it, he stated that he might lose his career for speaking out but didn’t care.
  • Many pointed to the white privilege of other stars, like Ariana Grande and Harry Styles, who can protest without the same fears.
  • Soon after, directors, actors, and Disney’s Lucasfilms showed support for Boyega, promising to have his back or expressing a desire to work with him. 

Boyega’s Emotional Speech 

Star War’s actor John Boyega is one of the many celebrities supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and calling for justice over the killing of George Floyd.

Since protests first broke out last week, he’s made headlines for speaking out against racism on Twitter and Instagram. 

Now he’s in the news again after giving a powerful speech during a demonstration at Hyde Park in London. 

Clips of his speech have spread on social media that show him getting emotional when talking about the struggles Black people face. “I need you to understand how painful this shit is…to be reminded every day that your race means nothing!”

“We are a physical representation of our support for George Floyd!” Boyega continued “We are a physical representation of our support for Sandra Bland! We are a physical representation of our support for Trayvon Martin! We are a physical representation of our support for Stephen Lawrence! For Mark Duggan!”

He also fought back tears when pleading with Black men to take care of Black women. “They are our hearts. They are our future. We cannot demonize our own.”

Along with that, Boyega talked passionately about fighting for Black people around the world to live in freedom.

He also encouraged protesters to keep things peaceful, saying “because you know what guys, they want us to mess up.”

Boyega Notes Career Risk 

Tons of different segments from his speech have been praised, but one moment that seemed to capture a lot of attention was this: “I’m speaking to you from my heart. Look, I don’t know if I’m going to have a career after this, but fuck that.”

That was a very striking comment for people who pointed to the white privilege of celebrities like Ariana Grande and Harry Styles, who don’t have to worry about losing their careers for protesting.

Hollywood Shows Support

It’s hard to deny that the risk is real for Boyega when you considering the fact that Colin Kaepernick lost his football for fighting the same fight. So in response to that, several Hollywood figures made sure to pledge their support for Boyega. 

“BlacKkKlansman” producer Matthew A. Cherry tweeted, “I would work with John Boyega and I urge other Non-Black creators to affirm that they have his back as well.”

Jordan Peele, the Oscar-winning writer behind films like“Get Out” and “Us”, then follow up with “We got you, John.”

Others like Olivia Wilde and Elizabeth Banks said they would be honored to work with Boyega, with similar praise coming from people like Lin-Manuel Miranda, Paul Feig, and dozens of other industry players. 

As far as his Star War’s team, actor Mark Hammil said he had “never been more proud,” while Directors JJ Abrams and Rian Johnson also backed Boyega. 

But the biggest display of support came from the Disney-owned Star Wars Twitter account, which shared a photo of Boyega from the protest along with a statement that said Lucasfilms stands with him. “John Boyega, you are our hero,” it added.

The flood of statements are major signs of solidarity for the fight against racial injustice. They show that key figures in the entertainment industry not only trying to ease Boyega’s fears but are also encouraging him and others to use their celebrity for a greater purpose. 

See what others are saying (Vanity Fair) (Insider) (The Hollywood Reporter

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Emma Watson Responds to Backlash After Blackout Tuesday Post

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  • Emma Watson faced backlash when she participated in #BlackoutTuesday by sharing three black squares with white frames, seemingly to match the style of her Instagram profile. 
  • Some thought this was a form of fake allyship, but others fought back saying Watson has engaged in activism for longer than most celebrities.
  • Watson later posted more, noting that she was waiting for #BlackoutTuesday to end in the U.K. before speaking.
  • Her new posts included statements on how she has examined her white privilege, art and writing from Black activists, and resources for people to become better allies. 

Watson’s Posts Spark Backlash

Emma Watson’s participation in #BlackoutTuesday caused a divide amongst her followers after, prompting backlash from some who thought they were a display of lazy allyship.

On Tuesday, many Instagram users posted black squares on their feed as a show of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Watson followed suit but posted three black squares, each with a white frame surrounding them.

Her most recent three photos before this were a row of all white squares, prompting her followers to think her blackout posts were more about aesthetics than activism. 

Because Watson has such a far reach with her audience, many criticized her for not taking more advantage of that in calling for justice following the death of George Floyd. 

“She thought the best idea was sharing (three black squares)?” one person asked, noting the size of her platform. “…Open your purse, SPREAD INFORMATION”

Fans Defend Watson

However, some fans did rush to Watson’s defense, explaining that she has a longer history of being an activist and ally than most celebrities who are participating in #BlackoutTuesday

“Emma Watson’s done more than most of you all and she’s been doing it since 2015,” said one person on Twitter. “And most of you have been doing it for like… 2 days? And you think you have the right to call her out?”

“She’s been campaigning against inequality and racism for years,” another person added, noting that there are plenty of other public figures who could be called out for “virtue signaling.”

Many brought up Our Shared Shelf, a book club Watson founded that often selects works by female authors of color. Watson has also advocated for gender equality on the global stage in work with the United Nations and G7.

She has also been very open about her feminism and its growth. In 2017, she wrote a post about examining her own white privilege, how that played a role in her feminism, and how she could make sure it does not prove to be a blind spot. 

However, a lot of people thought that because she has such a long history with activism, she should be more vocal during this moment. 

Emma Adds More to Conversation

A few hours after posting the controversial black squares, Watson posted three more photos on Instagram. 

“I was holding off posting until #blackouttuesday ended in the UK.,” Watson explained in the caption of her first post, which featured art by Dr. Fahamu Pecou. She also shared a poem and quote Pecou wrote as part of a Black Lives Matter series.

View this post on Instagram

I was holding off posting until #blackouttuesday ended in the UK.⁣ ⁣ The Artwork of my brilliant dear friend @fahamupecou “White Lies, Subtleties, Micro-Aggressions, and Other Choking Hazards”⁣ ⁣ B R O K E N O P E N (poem + text from the series BLACK MATTER LIVES) by Dr Fahamu Pecou⁣ ⁣ broken⁣ broke and hoping⁣ broke in, hoping⁣ broke.⁣ end.⁣ hoping…⁣ bro! kin hopin’!⁣ broken…⁣ hopin.⁣ broken.⁣ open.⁣ broken open!⁣ (Break)⁣ ⁣ “We can not be broken. We do not break. For too long we’ve been afraid that their violence would end us. But we are still here. Some they took, but they’ve all come back. They never truly left. We never truly leave. Like the police and other systems they’ve weaponized against us, the names of those they tried to silence go off in their ears like nuclear bombs. Names that swell in their throats and linger until they can no longer breathe. So let us haunt their dreams and their waking moments alike. Say their names: Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. Let them see us. Let them hear us. No friends, we have nothing to fear. An army of Egungun warriors walk amongst us. They have tried, and for centuries they have failed to violate us… to silence us. This is not breaking. This is opening. The cracks are windows. The holes are doors. Shine your light through.” – Dr. Fahamu Pecou⁣ ⁣ Say their names #AhmaudArbery #BreonnaTaylor #GeorgeFloyd

A post shared by Emma Watson (@emmawatson) on

“Like the police and other systems they’ve weaponized against us, the names of those they tried to silence go off in their ears like nuclear bombs,” Pecou’s quote read. “Names that swell in their throats and linger until they can no longer breathe. So let us haunt their dreams and their waking moments alike. Say their names: Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd.”

In the following post, she expressed some of her own thoughts. 

“There is so much racism, both in our past and present, that is not acknowledged nor accounted for,” she wrote. “White supremacy is one of the systems of hierarchy and dominance, of exploitation and oppression, that is tightly stitched into society. As a white person, I have benefited from this.”

View this post on Instagram

I stand with you.

A post shared by Emma Watson (@emmawatson) on

“Whilst we might feel that, as individuals, we’re working hard internally to be anti-racist, we need to work harder externally to actively tackle the structural and institutional racism around us,” she continued. “I’m still learning about the many ways I unconsciously support and uphold a system that is structurally racist.”

She then promised to share information and resources that she has found useful in examining race and privilege herself. Her Instagram bio now links to a Google Doc of anti-racism resources that includes guides on how to talk to children about race, as well as podcasts and books that discuss race.

Her Instagram story also encouraged her followers to sign petitions and donate to organizations fighting for justice for George Floyd and other Black victims of police brutality. On Twitter, she has been retweeting articles, allyship guides, information on violence against black women, and other projects demanding justice.

“I see your anger, sadness and pain,” Watson wrote. “I cannot know what this feels like for you but it doesn’t mean I won’t try to.”

While some were upset that it took Watson so long to speak up, some were glad she user her voice more and did research on the matter. 

See what others are saying: (Entertainment Tonight) (Fox News) (Metro)

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Star Samantha Marie Ware Says Lea Michele Made Glee Set a “Living Hell”

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  • Lea Michele was called out by former Glee co-star Samantha Marie Ware, who said Michele made the set a “living hell” and once said she would shit in Ware’s wig.
  • Some of Michele’s former colleagues shared this tweet with messages supporting it, while others echoed Ware’s statement with stories of their own.
  • The topic of racism in Hollywood also made its way to Twitter after someone said Josie and the Pussycats were written off Riverdale because actress Ashleigh Murray was a diva who did not like working with talented women. 
  • Both Murray and co-star Vanessa Morgan denied this. Morgan also made a statement condemning stereotypes being portrayed on television, as well as black characters being sidelined in plots while white characters get more screen time.

Former Co-Stars Call Out Lea Michele

Actress Lea Michele was called out by former co-stars for alleged racist behavior on the set of Glee. 

Michele, who appeared on the show for the duration of its run from 2009-2015, tweeted about the death of George Floyd on Friday. On Monday night, Samantha Marie Ware, who starred alongside her for a duration of season six, shared that tweet and said Michele made her time on the show “a living hell.”

“I believe you told everyone that if you (sic) had the opportunity you would ‘shit in my wig!’ amongst other microagressions that made me question a career in Hollywood,” she added in her all-caps tweet. 

After she shared this, many of Michele’s other former co-stars made posts that either directly or indirectly indicated that they agreed with Ware or had a similar experience.

Amber Riley, who was also a lead on Glee, shared a gif of her sipping from a coffee mug. 

Alex Newell, who was on the show for several years shared Ware’s tweet along with a gif of a RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant saying “Get her, Jade!”

Musician and actor Dabier, who appeared on one episode of Glee claimed that Michele told him he could not sit at a table with the main cast because he did not “belong there.”

“Seeing her message brought back bad memories of being less than on set of glee. Ain’t goin stand for her being fake like she care,” he later added. 

Actors who worked with her on other projects also responded, including Yvette Nicole Brown, who worked with Michele on the short-lived comedy The Mayor.

“I felt every one of those capital letters.” she said in response to Ware’s tweet. 

Brown posted several tweets inr response to this, but never called Michele out on any behavior or detailed a specific experience she had. In one tweet, she emphasized that every person on any set should be respected, and that this starts with main cast actors creating a welcoming environment. 

Riverdale Cast Speaks Out

Michele has not yet responded to the tweets. However, these claims were not the only reason people online were discussing racism in Hollywood. Actors from the cast of Riverdale also spoke out against racial stereotypes often depicted on television. 

This discussion started Sunday when someone tweeted about Ashleigh Murray. Murray played Josie of Josie and the Pussycats for several years on Riverdale and now plays that same character in Katy Keene, another show in the Archie Comics Universe.

In the now-deleted post, someone alleged that Josie and the Pussycats were written off of Riverdale because Murray is a “known diva” and didn’t want to share the screen with other talented women. They also claimed that in Katy Keene, Josie has few scenes with women because of this. 

You clearly have me mixed up with someone else,” Murray responded. I love the Pussycats more than any show ever did. If it were up to me, we’d have our own show.”

Vanessa Morgan, who plays Toni Topaz on Riverdale, also stepped up to Murray’s defense. 

“You don’t know what the fuck your talking about and don’t talk about my friend like that,” she wrote. “Another thing i hate BLACK women being called DIVAS for sticking up for themselves. Maybe the show should write for her like the white characters.”

She also sent another tweet criticizing the the way Black people are represented on television.

“Tired of how black people are portrayed in media, tired of us being portrayed as thugs, dangerous or angry scary people,” she wrote. “Tired of us also benign used as side kick non dimensional characters to our white leads.”

On Riverdale, Morgan’s character usually only has plotlines related to the character she dates, who is a white lead that gets more screen time.

These Riverdale stars were not the only ones creating an open dialogue about race in Hollywood. Lesley-Ann Brandt, who appears on the show Lucifer tweeted on Tuesday morning that leaders in the industry should be reaching out to Black artists to learn about their experiences. 

Murray shared that tweet and added that “these are the ways we can implement real change.

See what others are saying: (Entertainment Weekly) (BuzzFeed News) (Variety)

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