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There are a few things in Hollywood – no, in life – that you really shouldn’t joke about: Slavery; Jennifer Lawrence; slavery; The Hunger Games; slavery; and slavery. So you can imagine the uproar that happened when American Hustle director David O. Russell tried a punchline that involved all of the above.
He was riffing, and revealing a truth through an exaggeration, when he told The New York Daily News’ gossip site during a recent awards party interview:
"I personally think they should give her a bit of breathing room over there because they’re printing money. But she’s a very alive person. I’ll tell you what it is about that girl — talk about 12 years of slavery, that’s what the franchise is. And I’m going to get in so much trouble for saying that."
For so many reasons. First, insensitive. Just insensitive. Also, do we even have to point out to Mr. Russell how much J-Law is being financially compensated for her work on Lionsgate’s money-printing film franchise? It goes without saying that Lawrence’s role as Katniss Everdeen turned her into a global sensation, and she wields far more power in the industry now than she did before signing on to become an "indentured servant" to Suzanne Collins’ literary franchise.
We get it, though. Russell was making a joke. A bad one, when you consider – especially – that he’s running the current Oscar marathon alongside a harrowing depiction of actual slavery in Steve McQueen’s masterful 12 Years a Slave. In fact, I’m sure it was the constant exposure to McQueen and his film that even put the term slavery on the tip of Russell’s tongue. We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt there.
The director already has issued an apology for his remarks, according to ScreenCrush, stating:
"Clearly, I used a stupid analogy in a poor attempt at humor. I realized it the minute I said it and I am truly sorry."
Apology accepted? That’s up to you. Personally, I still believe people are allowed to make jokes, and instant apologies aren’t mandatory. Russell’s point might have been that he works with J-Law often, and he’d like to do a LOT more of it, but she’s committed to two more Hunger Games movies, meaning their next collaboration might be years off. That’s unfortunate, but it’s the law of balancing a franchise career with an arthouse-indie-awards career. Look at Russell’s Hustle crowd. Someone joked that the ensemble of Lawrence, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Bradley Cooper should be labeled as Mystique, Batman, Lois Lane, Hawkeye and the dude from The Hangover. Actors have to eat, you know, but that doesn’t make them "slaves" to the studio system, does it?