What would Batman say? (I took this picture myself at a Target one time!)
What would Batman say? (I took this picture myself at a Target one time!)

If only actors didn’t also talk. This has long been my preferred position. If only you could stick them into a drawer between projects, like really gifted ladles, so that they did not have to emerge into the public eye and squander our goodwill. It would be so much easier. Do I care what Shailene Woodley has to say about feminism? No, not really. Do we want to hear from Gary Oldman about political correctness and the direction the country’s taking? (Spoiler alert: “Our world has gone to hell.”)? No, we don’t.

And now, in Playboy, Oldman rants about political correctness. Add one space and it’s not even news.

As you age, things shift. On your body, and in the world at large. Gary Oldman isn’t quite an old man — just 56 — but in the course of the actor’s lifetime, a lot has changed. And I assume that listening to talk radio has not helped.

They say that when you turn 30, something terrible always happens to popular music. They also start rearing kids wrong. People don’t read books the way they used to. The wrong people are in charge and they are leading the country to bad places.

This happens with such alarming regularity that I wonder if it really happens at all.

Gary Oldman knew the interview had gone badly. “This interview has gone very badly,” he said. “You have to edit and cut half of what I’ve said, because it’s going to make me sound like a bigot.”

“You’re not a bigot?” asked the interviewer.

“No, but I’m defending all the wrong people. I’m saying Mel’s all right, Alec’s a good guy. So how do I come across? Angry?”

“Passionate, certainly. Readers will have to form their own opinions.”

And people certainly have been.

The interview is full of curmudgeonly old-man thoughts, complaints about “these helicopter parents who overschedule their children” and how “reality TV to me is the museum of social decay.”

But what’s riled people is this:

I just think political correctness is crap. That’s what I think about it. I think it’s like, take a [bleeping] joke. Get over it. I heard about a science teacher who was teaching that God made the earth and God made everything and that if you believe anything else you’re stupid. A Buddhist kid in the class got very upset about this, so the parents went in and are suing the school! The school is changing its curriculum! I thought, All right, go to the school and complain about it and then that’s the end of it. But they’re going to sue! No one can take a joke anymore.

I don’t know about Mel. He got drunk and said a few things, but we’ve all said those things.

And this was where most of us got off the bus.

He goes on:

We’re all [bleeping] hypocrites. That’s what I think about it. The policeman who arrested him has never used the [N-word] or that [bleeping] Jew? I’m being brutally honest here. It’s the hypocrisy of it that drives me crazy. Or maybe I should strike that and say “the N word” and “the F word,” though there are two F words now. . . . Alec calling someone an F-A-G in the street while he’s pissed off coming out of his building because they won’t leave him alone. I don’t blame him. So they persecute. Mel Gibson is in a town that’s run by Jews and he said the wrong thing because he’s actually bitten the hand that I guess has fed him—and doesn’t need to feed him anymore because he’s got enough dough. He’s like an outcast, a leper, you know? But some Jewish guy in his office somewhere hasn’t turned and said, “That [bleeping] kraut” or “[Bleep] those Germans,” whatever it is?

No, actually. Nobody says that any longer, in normal conversation. Not because we fear the PC Police, but because of the passage of time.

Oldman seems to have gotten hold of the wrong end of the stick. “We all hide and try to be so politically correct,” Oldman concluded. “That’s what gets me. It’s just the sheer hypocrisy of everyone, that we all stand on this thing going, “Isn’t that shocking?” Well, no.

In the words of Charles Krauthammer, a writer Oldman said he admired, “The fact is, however, that words don’t stand still. They evolve.” Words become “tainted, freighted with negative connotations with which you would not want to be associated” to the point that “You wouldn’t even use the word in private, where being harassed for political incorrectness is not an issue.”

It’s not that we’re all sitting around saying things like “[bleeping] Krauts.” That is precisely the point. When was the last time you heard a Pole joke? You don’t. Because it’s 2014.

He’s right: there are two F-words now.

Taboos have shifted. As everything does, when you age.

Zounds is safe. You can call me a “strumpet” all the way down the sidewalk. Time has blunted them. They can’t cut the people who hear them or wound the people who use them. Others have taken their place.

He is, I think, wrong about why people were upset about the rant. “It’s dishonesty that frustrates me most. I can’t bear double standards.” It’s not because we all do use these words all the time, in our secret lives, that people get so indignant when they’re used — but because we don’t. We’ve moved away from them, so we’re genuinely startled when someone we thought had been moving through time with us at a reasonable pace whips one out. (“Did he miss the turning at 1987?”)

What do we do now? Everyone admits he’s a fantastic actor, and most of the pieces I’ve read include a small wail of despair — “a pity because he’s a fantastic actor,” writes the Atlantic Wire. I hope we’ll keep letting him be a fantastic actor.

“All right. Shall I stop talking now?” Oldman asked, winding up the rant.

Yes. Please. I wish he hadn’t started.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.