The Cocktail Party Contrarian: Jonathan Glazer Can Say Whatever He Wants, but Thinking More Beforehand May Be Wise

One thing is clear: The director is no master communicator. His jumbled message produced exactly what he claimed he wanted to repair with his ill-crafted speech, ‘dehumanization’ and division.

Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images
Jonathan Glazer during the 96th Annual Academy Awards on March 10, 2024, at Hollywood. Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

Did Jonathan Glazer mean to “refute” his Jewishness on the Oscars stage Sunday night? He says he didn’t, that his comments were misunderstood. I am willing to accept that. 

It would have been ridiculous for him to try. Plenty of Jews reject their Judaism, but refuting it is another matter. The last time Jews tried to do that was during the Holocaust, which ironically is the subject of Mr. Glazer’s winning film, “The Zone of Interest.” My late mother-in-law leveraged her blonde hair and blue eyes to pose as an Aryan girl in Slovakia in the early 1940s. She was publicly “refuting” her Jewish identity — but as a survival strategy, not as a political statement. 

Ironically again, had his intention been to disclaim his “Jewishness,” Mr. Glazer’s public display of self-negation in order to appeal to the broader culture would have refuted his refutation. That kind of behavior is the mark of the modern, Western, assimilated Jew, too many of whom practice self-denial in bids to gain societal acceptance and stave off antisemitism.

Whatever the movie director intended to say, one thing is clear: He is no master communicator. His jumbled message produced exactly what he claimed he wanted to repair with his ill-crafted speech, “dehumanization” and division. 

The point really is that if you are going to hijack the Academy Awards stage to lecture humanity about its inhumanity and to promote your own elevated understanding of right and wrong, perhaps you should take 10 minutes to review the words on your page and think them through carefully. The drumbeat of moral posturing in Hollywood has become so commonplace these days that no one even bothers to put the effort into posturing well. 

Mr. Glazer didn’t do his political fans a favor by fumbling through such a poorly constructed thought, either. He made an empty idea seem even more unserious.

And, of course, the ultimate point is that Ricky Gervais, the former, and best, host of the Oscars, was right. In his 2020 monologue he advised the crowd thus: “So if you do win an award tonight, don’t use it as a platform to make a political speech…if you win, come up, accept your little award, thank your agent, and your God, and f— off, okay?” 

Mr. Glazer should have listened. 

He has the right to believe that because he made a film about the Holocaust, he has some special understanding of Israel’s war against Hamas and its moral dimensions. He has the right to (mis)use the moment and the microphone to say whatever he thinks — but that doesn’t mean that he should. 

Having a right and exercising it carelessly to claim a badge of honor you haven’t earned isn’t very honorable. What is honorable is resisting the urge to speak until you are clear about what you want to say. 

At least Mr. Glazers’ two colleagues who stood silently beside him, and in whose names the director spoke, were clever enough to just stand there. We can only guess as to whether they are self-important and undisciplined — Mr. Glazer confirmed that he is both. His mangled message helped no one, least of all himself.

The New York Sun

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