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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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Jodie Sweetin Releases Statement After Getting Pushed By Officers at Pro-Choice Protest: “This Will Not Deter Us”

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“Love everyone out there in the streets fighting for what’s right,” she wrote on Instagram.


Actress Pushed at Protest

After viral footage showed Jodie Sweetin getting pushed to the ground by officers with the Los Angeles Police Department while attending a pro-choice protest, the “Full House” actress said demonstraters “will continue fighting” for their rights. 

Sweetin was attending a protest off the 101 freeway on Saturday following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Photojournalist Mike Ade, who captured the video, said the actress was “trying to lead a group of peaceful protestors away from the freeway” when officers pushed her. Sweetin was standing on a curb when she was pushed and fell down on the cement road. Ade wrote that she was “fortunately…okay.”

Ade shared a handful of other videos depicting officers using similar tactics on other protesters. As these videos started circulating online, many became outraged by the LAPD’s response to the protests.

Sweetin Addresses Incident

Following the incident, Sweetin released a statement where she said the fight against the court’s decision is not over. 

“I’m extremely proud of the hundreds of people who showed up yesterday to exercise their First Amendment rights and take immediate action to peacefully protest the giant injustices that have been delivered from our Supreme Court,” Sweetin said. “Our activism will continue until our voices are heard and action is taken. This will not deter us, we will continue fighting for our rights. We are not free until ALL of us are free.”

Sweetin also shared footage of the incident and other clips of officers clashing with protesters on her Instagram story. She cheered protesters in a comment on a video of the push shared by a social justice group called The Progressivists.

“Love everyone out there in the streets fighting for what’s right,” she wrote.

According to a statement obtained by Deadline, the LAPD is looking into the matter. 

“The LAPD is aware of a video clip of a woman being pushed to the ground by officers not allowing the group to enter on foot and overtake the 101 freeway,” the statement said. “The force used will be evaluated against the LAPD’s policy and procedure.”

See what others are saying: (Deadline) (Rolling Stone) (The Hollywood Reporter)

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Dave Chappelle Decides Against Having Former High School’s Theater Named After Him

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“The idea that my name will be turned into an instrument of someone else’s perceived oppression is untenable to me,” the comedian reportedly said.


Theater Named Announced

Comedian Dave Chappelle opted on Monday to not have the theater at his alma mater high school named after him, according to a report from The Washington Post

The Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington D.C. previously planned to name its theater in honor of Chappelle, as he is a distinct alum and donor. While Chappelle formerly said such a gesture would be “the most significant honor of [his] life,” he announced during Monday’s naming ceremony that it would bear a different title. 

The school’s theater will instead be called the Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression. 

A naming ceremony was initially set to take place in November, but was postponed after the comedian began facing backlash for transphobic jokes in his Netflix special “The Closer.”

Among other things, he said he was “Team TERF,” which stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminist. He also made a joke about Caitlyn Jenner and remarks comparing the genitalia of transgender women to Beyond and Impossible meat.

The jokes embroiled Chappelle in controversy, and reports claimed that some students at Duke Ellington took issue with the comments. When Chappelle ended up visiting the school amid the scandal, Politico reported that one student told the comedian, “I’m 16 and I think you’re childish, you handled it like a child.”

Chappelle Defends Controversial Special 

According to The Post, Chappelle said the criticism against him “sincerely” hurt, but added that “the Ellington Family is my family.” He claimed he did not want the theater being named after him to distract students. 

“The idea that my name will be turned into an instrument of someone else’s perceived oppression is untenable to me,” he said according to Josh Rogin, a columnist for the outlet.

Rogin also tweeted that Chappelle took time out of the ceremony to slam the criticisms levied against him, accusing upset students of promoting someone else’s agenda. 

“These kids didn’t understand that they were instruments of oppression,” he reportedly said. 

“You cannot report on an artist’s work and remove artistic nuance,” Chappelle continued while denouncing the press coverage of his Netflix special. 

According to David Frum, a staff writer for The Atlantic who attended the ceremony, Chappelle suggested he was open to potentially adding his name to the theater at a later date when the community is ready. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Variety) (The Atlantic)

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Chris Evans Says People Upset With Same-Gender “Lightyear” Kiss Are “Idiots”

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The kiss was previously removed from the film until a surge of backlash from Pixar employees prompted Disney to reinstate it. 


Chris Evans Supports “Lightyear” Scene

“Lightyear” star Chris Evans is standing against people who have criticized the same-gender kiss scene in the upcoming Pixar film. 

“The real truth is those people are idiots,” the actor told Reuters this week when discussing negative reactions to the scene’s inclusion. 

“The American story, the human story is one of constant social awakening and growth and that’s what makes us good,” he continued. 

Countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, and more have banned the release of “Lightyear” over the kiss, which is between two women. Right-wing pundits in the U.S. have also slammed it, and user reviews for the picture on websites like IMDB have claimed that movie-going has “become an avenue for political propaganda.”

Evans argued those opinions are outdated. 

“There’s always going to be people who are afraid and unaware and trying to hold on to what was before. But those people die off like dinosaurs,” he said. “I think the goal is to pay them no mind, march forward and embrace the growth that makes us human.”

“Lightyear” hits theaters on Friday starring Evans as the titular Buzz Lightyear. Evans, however, is not playing the action figure made famous in the “Toy Story” movies and is instead playing an animated human astronaut who inspired the toy.

Kiss Scene Almost Never Made it to Big Screen

According to outlets that have reviewed the film, the same-gender kiss is between Alisha Hawthorne, a character voiced by Uzo Aduba, and her wife. 

Multiple reports have stated that Disney was always supportive of depicting a gay couple in the picture, but was more hesitant about showing an on-screen kiss between the two. The studio previously had the scene removed from the film until a swell of backlash prompted it to reinstate the kiss.

The decision came in March amid criticisms over Disney’s slow response to Florida’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill. At the time, a group of Pixar employees wrote an open letter claiming that they have pushed for more inclusion in their films, but “nearly every moment of overtly gay affection is cut at Disney’s behest.” 

Now that the scene made the final cut of “Lightyear,” it has been a large topic of conversation leading up to the film’s release. On Monday, Evans told Variety that the inclusion of the scene makes him “happy,” but he hopes one day, scenes like this will be considered standard. 

“It’s tough to not be a little frustrated that it even has to be a topic of discussion,” he said. “That it is this kind of ‘news.’ The goal is that we can get to a point where it is the norm, and that this doesn’t have to be some uncharted waters, that eventually this is just the way it is.”

See what others are saying (Reuters) (Variety) (IndieWire)

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