“Does it say something about the U.S. or the West that we need celebrities and these big names to get people to pay attention to this message, to these stories?” a TV critic asked during Summer TV Press Tour 2012 Q&A session, as celebs Meg Ryan, Diane Lane and America Ferrera sat on stage.
The Hollywood luminaries were there to talk about PBS “Independent Lens” presentation of the documentary “Half the Sky.” Filmed in 10 countries, inspired by the best-selling book of same name, the docu tackles the oppression of women and girls around the world, and in the program, the three celebs are seen traveling to countries where the oppression is taking place.
“I think fame and celebrity just generally is so supremely bizarre that, I mean, no one is really prepared for it,” said Ryan, rom-com darling and star of “Sleepless In Seattle,” “You’ve Got Mail,” “When Harry Met Sally,” “The Doors,” etc. told the critics, in the ballroom of the Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., where, every January, the Golden Globe Awards orgy of celebrititude is held.
“But all you know is that there are occasions where your, whatever, spotlight is on you, you can just saddle up next to something smart and important and that will get some attention. And it’s not like any of us are, you know, any more clear about it than anybody else, I don’t think,” Ryan added.
But, when asked what the oppressed women and people trying to help them in various countries wanted to know about the famous women when they arrived, Lane began to prattle on at length about how well-known she is, even in “conservative Islamic areas.”
Here is her response, in all its self-absorbed glory:
“Well, it’s curious. I will offer up that many years ago, when I did a film called ‘Unfaithful,’ I remembered a concern that I might offend a certain large demographic of people — who shall remain nameless, but we know who they are,” she said.
“And yet, everywhere I went in some of these conservative Islamic areas, they’d all seen the film and they enjoyed the film and they thanked me for their enjoyment of the film, and I was conflicted about that,” she said.
“Because I was grateful that, you know, I wasn’t barred from entry at the airport or something, but rather, that there was an acceptance of another world that maybe is forbidden, certainly in their culture — but that they acknowledge entertainment encompassing things that are outside of the boundaries of their culture,”she said.
But wait — she wasn’t finished:
“So with that forgiveness, I was grateful for their acknowledgment that I am an artist and I provide entertainment and it’s separate from being a woman, being a citizen of the world, being a concerned advocate for their cause, and me coming to them, saying I am such a fan of the work that you do in this world and what you stand for.”
Then, we think some some voice in her head began screaming at her that this was not a documentary about her, but about women who are being sexually mutilated and women who are forced into prostitution at 13 and have an eye gouged out for saying “no” to turning a trick just hours after giving birth, and other atrocities.
Anyway, Lane at least had enough sense to wrap up her Humitarian of the Year Acceptance Speech by adding that she was happy that “I can help just by, like Meg said, standing next to [resue workers] and having people become aware of what you do. So it was a wonderful exchange, yeah.”
Ferrera followed, saying most of the girls she met had not seen anything she’d been in and wanted to know what her mother was like and where did she grow up, and what did she do with her friends, and had she ever seen “Titanic,” and they wanted to sing the “Titanic” tune, “My Heart Will Go On” for her.
After that, Maro Chermayeff said she had thought probably none of the girls would have known who the actresses were when they traveled to various locations for the documentary.
Ryan said she was right. “They just wanted hugs,” she said, adding they told her, “We just want your respect. We just want your respect,” which I thought was so beautiful.”
Lane did not seem amused.